[Junction of the Yellow-Stone River with the Missouri
1842·Paris, Coblenz and London
by BODMER, Karl (1809-1893)
Paris, Coblenz and London, 1842. Aquatint engraving by Salathé after Bodmer, proof printed in black, brown and blue, and without the imprint or the English title. Small chip to upper right corner. A very rare experimental proof of the Salathé plate, with three colours used to ink different areas of a single printing plate. This title was printed from two different plates, one engraved by Salathé with six pronghorn antelope in the foreground and the French title starting 'Réunion...', the second by L. Weber with nine antelope in the foreground, a further seven in the mid-ground and the the French title starting 'Confluent...' The travelers, aboard the steamer Assiniboine arrived at Fort Union, just above the junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, on 24 June 1833, after a journey of seventy-five days up the Missouri River from St.Louis. They stayed until 6 July, when they departed upriver by keelboat for Fort McKenzie. Fort Union was the uppermost point of steamer traffic at the time of Bodmer's visit and like most fur company posts on the Missouri at this time, was situated on a low open prairie sufficiently large to accommodate the large encampments of numerous Indians during the height of the trading season. Karl Bodmer's images show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian's servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. Well-armed with information and advice, the party finally left St.Louis, on the most important stage of their travels, aboard the steamer Yellow Stone on April 10 1833. They proceeded up the treacherous Missouri River along the line of forts established by the American Fur Company. At Bellevue they encountered their first Indians, then went on to make contact with the Sioux tribe, learning of and recording their little known ceremonial dances and powerful pride and dignity. Transferring from the Yellow Stone to another steamer, the Assiniboin, they continued to Fort Clark, visiting there the Mandan, Mintari and Crow tribes, then the Assiniboins at Fort Union, the main base of the American Fur Company. On a necessarily much smaller vessel they journeyed through the extraordinary geological scenery of that section of the Missouri to Fort Mackenzie in Montana, establishing a cautious friendship with the fearsome Blackfeet. From this, the westernmost point reached, it was considered too dangerous to continue and the return journey downstream began. The winter brought its own difficulties and discomforts, but Bodmer was still able to execute numerous studies of villages, dances and especially the people, who were often both intrigued and delighted by his work. The portraits are particularly notable for their capturing of individual personalities, as well as forming a primary account of what were to become virtually lost cultures. Graff 4648; Howes M443a; Pilling 2521; Sabin 47014; Wagner-Camp 76:1. (Inventory #: 15567)
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