Selections from the George Catlin Papers

November 2002
Exhibition prepared for American Indian Heritage Month, November 2002

This small collection of George Catlin papers came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1879 with Catlin’s “Indian Gallery,” his famous paintings from life of Native Americans completed between 1830 and 1836. Joseph Harrison, a wealthy American industrialist, rescued Catlin’s works from London creditors in the 1850s. The papers and paintings then languished in various warehouses in Philadelphia and suffered at least two fires—the ravages of which can still be detected in the papers. Harrison’s widow, Sarah, donated the papers and gallery to the Smithsonian, a final disposition that Catlin, who had always wanted the U.S. government to buy the gallery, would have approved.

Included in the collection are letters, notes, receipts, and printed material, dating from 1821 to 1890, documenting Catlin’s efforts to promote and sell his Indian Gallery. The Catlin papers, which span the multiple disciplines of art, ethnology, cultural anthropology, and American history, embody the Smithsonian’s broad foundation and expansive vision.

In 2000, the Archives of American Art applied to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee for funds to conserve the George Catlin Papers and was awarded a grant for that purpose. Items that had suffered earlier fire damage were cleaned. Tears were mended and some of the more fragile letters, notebooks, certificates of authenticity, catalogs, and broadsides were encapsulated and re-housed in custom-designed archival boxes. The Archives gratefully acknowledges the support of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee in preserving this national treasure for future generations.

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

'Les Indiens a Paris'

'Les Indiens a Paris', ca. 1845

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

George Catlin

George Catlin, 1868

Photograph of George Catlin, 1868, from the George Catlin papers, 1821-1890.

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

George Catlin's Father to George Catlin

George Catlin's Father to George Catlin, 1821 Mar. 21

Creator: Margarita Nieto

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Catlin's Indian Gallery, New York

Catlin's Indian Gallery, New York, 1837

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Catlin’s Notebook (#6)

Catlin’s Notebook (#6), 183-

Creator: Margarita Nieto

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Broadside for “Valley of the Mississipi”, a lecture by George Catlin delivered on April 9

Broadside for “Valley of the Mississipi”, a lecture by George Catlin delivered on April 9, 1850

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

P. Catlin to George Catlin

P. Catlin to George Catlin, 1821 Mar. 21

Creator: P. Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Certificates of Authenticity

Certificates of Authenticity, between 1832 and 1836

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Catalogue of Catlin’s Indian Gallery

Catalogue of Catlin’s Indian Gallery, 1837

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Catlin's notebook #6

Catlin's notebook #6, 183-

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Catlin's notebook #7

Catlin's notebook #7, 183-

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

George Catlin, Fort Gibson, Okla. to D. S. Gregory.

George Catlin, Fort Gibson, Okla. to D. S. Gregory., 1834 Jun. 19

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

George Catlin, Red River, N.M. letter to D. S. Gregory

George Catlin, Red River, N.M. letter to D. S. Gregory, 1834 July 19

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

A Descriptive Catalogue of Catlin's Indian Gallery

A Descriptive Catalogue of Catlin's Indian Gallery, ca. 1840

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Receipt Book

Receipt Book, 1845

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Thomas Sully, Philadelphia, Pa. to George Catlin

Thomas Sully, Philadelphia, Pa. to George Catlin, 1839 July 16

Creator: Thomas Sully

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

William H. Seward, Albany, N.Y. to George Catlin

William H. Seward, Albany, N.Y. to George Catlin, 1839 Oct. 4

Creator: William Henry Seward

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Petition of George Catlin to Congress

Petition of George Catlin to Congress, ca. 1872

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Leaflet accompanying Petition of George Catlin to Congress

Leaflet accompanying Petition of George Catlin to Congress, ca. 1872

Creator: George Catlin

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Selections from the George Catlin Papers

Les Indiens a Paris

Les Indiens a Paris, between 1845 and 1846

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