After the Harmonists
Lichtenberger StoreMaximilian-Bodmer Print Collection "Travels in the Interior of North America" 1832-34.
The former Lichtenberger Store was built in 1845; original two stories, brick, it was enlarged and remodeled in 1870 and 1901. It now houses a unique collection of original aquatints and lithographs by Swiss artist Johann Karl Bodmer and other documentation of an important expedition to the Western United States. This 1832 expedition, headed by Rhenish naturalist Alexander Philip Maximilian, Prince of Wied, has connections to the New Harmony scientific community, due to a six months' stay in town.
History of Expedition
In 1832 the Rhenish naturalist Alexander Philip Maximilian, Prince of Wied, who previously had researched Brazil's Indian tribes, plants and animals, headed up another expedition, this time to explore natural history and native populations of North America's northwest. Accompanying him was the Swiss artist Johann Karl Bodmer and David Dreidoppel, a hunter-taxidermist. Bodmer, hired by Maximilian, was to document the trip with sketches and paintings, assist with the scientific collecting, and join in the hunt for wild game as food, for Maximilian wanted to live off the land.
The group arrived in Boston July 4, 1832 and continued to New York and Philadelphia and westward to Pittsburgh. They "encountered Landsleute [fellow countrymen] of all walks of life." A German friend in Pittsburgh accompanied the Prince to the village of Economy, PA where he met George Rapp. The expedition arrived in New Harmony in October 1832; Maximilian planned to stay for only a few days, but illness forced him to stay the winter.
He chronicled the entire expedition in his voluminous diariesone of the earliest records of the Upper Missouri region. In these journals he recorded that the enforced stay was not disagreeable due to the kindness shown him by the town residents, particularly the scientists Say and Lesueur. Maximilian commented that he "derived much instruction and entertainment from my intercourse with two highly-informed men. Mr. Thomas Say and Mr. Lesueur." So he stayed well beyond his recovery and spent much of his time reading books on backcountry America, including recent works by Cass and Schoolcraft. His reading was punctuated with daily conversations, walks, or hunting excursions with Say and/or Lesueur. They made frequent trips down the Wabash, where they stopped at various islands, including Fox Island and Turkey Island. They hunted birds for food, observed plants and animals, and collected specimens. Say, Lesueur, and Maximilian also discussed Say's specimen collection of insects and shells and Lesueur's portfolio of drawings of New Harmony and an earlier expedition to Australia. Karl Bodmer spent December and January traveling to New Orleans, completing sketches and watercolors at sites along the way. While in New Harmony the expedition stayed first at the Lafayette Hotel (Community House Number Three - Tavern) and then the New Harmony Hotel (Community House Number Two).
They departed for St. Louis in March 1833. From there they traveled 250 miles up the Missouri River. Along the way they studied local flora and fauna. Bodmer painted numerous scenes and landscapes. The group encountered various Indian tribes and spent one month with the Blackfeet at Fort McKenzie (Montana), and five months with the Mandan and Minatarre Indians at Fort Clark (North Dakota). Maximilian was able to make thorough studies of the tribes, while Bodmer completed numerous portraits not only of individual Indians but of ceremonies and dances as well. After traveling as far north as Fort McKenzie they retraced their route south, passing through New Harmony, where they stayed for two days in June 1834. From there they traveled back to New York and returned to Europe in July 1834.
The years in which they visited America (1832/34), were pivotal in the history of American expansionism, for it was a time that saw the rapid development of the back country frontier. In 1833 mass migration along the overland trail to Oregon and California was begun in earnest. It was the beginning of the end of the unspoiled West. The pioneers poised to move out into the trans-Mississippi country in 1832 knew little about the area. Very few illustrations or objective accounts had been published by explorers of the region. George Catlin ventured west in 1832 with an expedition party and began to produce some of the first true likenesses of the Native Americans and the country beyond the Mississippi. But these portraits were not exhibited until 1833. And Thomas L. McKenney was also in the midst of publishing The Indian Tribes of North America which included lithographs of his portraits of Native Americans. However, Bodmer's paintings are thought to surpass all those previous in their accuracy and attention to detail, as well as their sensitivity to the nuances of the people and places of frontier America, especially the Native Americans. Bodmer was able to capture individual personalities, rather than just ethnological types.
Maximilian's two-volume account of their expedition, Travels in the Interior of North America, was published from 1838 to 1841. Separately, but to accompany the book, 81 aquatints from watercolors by Bodmer were published. In some cases the aquatints differ noticeably from the original watercolors; many of the serene faces of the Indian portraits assumed more wild and frenzied expression to fit the preconceptions of European viewers. Some landscapes were altered to infuse them with a more romantic allure.
For over a century Bodmer's aquatints remained one of the most valuable and definitive portrayals of the Plains Indian and the American Frontier. His work, along with Maximilian's studies, form the primary account of what became virtually lost culturesthe Mandan and Blackfeet Indiansthat were decimated by smallpox in 1837.
The entire collection of Maximilian's diaries, notebooks, correspondence, and over 400 original watercolors and sketches by Bodmer was purchased from the current Prince of Wied by M. Knoedler & Co. in 1957; it was sold to Northern Natural Gas Co. of Omaha, NE, which gave the collection to the Joslyn Art Museum of Omaha. Bodmer's work was included with Maximilian's property because it had been a condition of employment for Bodmer that all his work would be given to Maximilian as an integral part of the exp edition's scientific documentation.
The small principality of Wied had been a Rhenish countship, ten miles north of Coblenz. In 1784 the house of Wied was elevated to a principality. Prince Maximilian was a scientist, who first traveled extensively in Brazil, describing Indian tribes, plants and animals.
Other Resources: Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) naturalist, ethnologist
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