Back to News

McKenney and Hall’s ‘Great National Work’: Portrait Prints, U.S. Indian Policy and the Making of a Continental Empire

At the time of its publication, McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844) was the most elaborately illustrated book ever printed in the United States. With a total run of 120,000 plates, the book’s production was crucial to the development of Philadelphia’s graphic printing industry. Originating as a portrait collection of Native leaders assembled by the U. S. War Department in the midst of efforts toward indigenous removal, History signaled an emerging relationship between the state-sanctioned and commercial production of images in the antebellum United States. Tracing the social, political and material histories of the McKenney and Hall portraits from treaty signings that took place in Anishinaabe and Dakota lands in the 1820s, to being printed in Philadelphia lithography studios, and then distributed into the hands of subscribers, this talk draws attention to connections between an expanding republic of print production and circulation and the expansion of the United States’ continental empire.

About the Speaker
Julia Grummitt is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department at Princeton University, where her dissertation research examines visual aspects of early 19th-century U.S. statecraft, tracking an evolving relationship between print production and U.S. territorial expansion. With broad interests in print history, histories of the book and visual and material culture, Julia has previously written about post-industrial American cities and 19th-century Canadian national parks, receiving her M.A. from Trent University (Ontario, Canada) in 2013 and her B.A. (Honors) from the University of King’s College and Dalhousie Universities (Nova Scotia, Canada) in 2009. Her current research has been supported by fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the Library Company of Philadelphia where she was the 2018-2019 recipient of the William Helfand Fellowship in American Visual Culture.

Leave a Reply