Observations on Miller

The following comments are based on the sketches by Alfred Jacob Miller as found in the Parke-Bernet Galleries sale book from 1966.

#1 – Antoine Clement had a white dog with lop ears.  His leather shirt has long fringe and Indian quill or bead work.

#3 – Pierre, the mule riding Canadian half-breed, wears a feather in his hat, has long fringe on his pants, he is wearing a cloth coat; probably of blanket by the bulk of it, his bullet pouch is accompanied by a huge powder horn and he is wearing roweled spurs.

#4 – Capt. Walker arrives at Rendezvous with very long hair, the shadow of a beard, fur flapped holsters on his saddle, two pistols in his belt, a highly decorated Metis style bag, pinked edges and long fringe around the sleeve opening of his coat and what appears to be ermine tail decoration hanging from the sleeve.

#6 – One Indian wears a striped loin cloth while the others is white with a dark trim along its edge.

#11 – In this untitled sketch I see a dark brown pipe being smoked by a horse back rider.  Stewart appears to be wearing a stocking cap, another rider wears a wolf eared cap possibly made from fur, another rider appears to be wearing a light-colored(beaver?) fur cap.  This same rider has a striped epishmore(blanket?) and a blue coat.  The man with the pipe leads two animals with empty pack saddles.

#12 – The caravan took a mid-day repose during the heat of the day.  Every one took a nap.

#14 – It may have been uncommon for trappers to carry water with them, priding themselves on their ability to find it when needed.

#15 – Pierre is riding his mule, Stewart has very long fringe on legs and around shoulder, feather in hat is very common, rifle is in a case with fringe on its end, only.  Possibly something to step on or grab to get rifle out of case quickly.

#25 – Two men in breeches and bare footed picket horses, another man uses a wooden mallet to drive a picket pin.  wolf-eared cap wearer looks on.  There is a striped tent in the background.

#26 – wooden tripod over the fire.  Indian pipes had long stems. 24″

#29 – Stewart uses steel stirrups, there is a bare-legged & bare footed trapper riding a horse, the bits on the horse’s bridle hang down out of the horse’s mouth providing leverage for the rider.  Stewart appears to be holding a pistol in his hand as he converses with a Sioux Indian.

#34 – William Drummond Stewart appears to use a hair-on buffalo hide epishmore and he has fur flapped holsters on the pommel of his saddle.  These holsters are visible in several of the sketches of Stewart.

#42 – The Indians are usually shown riding without the use of stirrups.

#61 – The trapper is using a quirt to get his horse to high speed.

#66 – Stewart once killed a Grizzly bear with a hip shot.

#76 – Stewart here is shown giving gifts to Indians.  Beads and what looks like Ostrich feathers?  I know Ostrich feathers were found in North America because the Voyageurs used them as awards and badges for wintering trips and feats of skill.  (After looking at another picture it appears these feathers are from a Peacock.)

#83 – Stewart & Miller probably went as far north as the Tetons after leaving rendezvous and visiting the Wind River Mountains.  Miller entitled one of his paintings “…on a tributary of the Yellow Stone”.

I recently finished perusing “Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist As Explorer”.  These are some of the things I’ve learned from it:

Plate 3 – Some riding saddles used a crupper around the horse’s tail.  The pack mules carried panniers without top packs.  Most rifles are laid across the lap of the riders.

#5 – At the wagon train camp I see 8 tents.  Mostly wedge tents and tipis.  Wooden tripods again in use for cooking over fire.  I see a blanket coat with outside pockets, white with dark stripe.  The cook has his sleeves rolled up to his biceps.  A man wears a blue blanket coat with a dark stripe.  Man on horse at right appears to be smoking a pipe.

#6 – I see blue cloth pants, large flat wooden stirrups for use with moccasins, a crupper and a rear cinch on the saddle, The flat butt plate on the long gun has the look of a trade gun butt.

#9 – Rifles slung across the back of the men while swimming the river on horse back.

#12 – Indian women use saddles with high pommel & cantle & stirrups.  They use a crupper & decorative skirts over the rear of the horse.   Indian men are depicted as riding bare back or with a simple epishmore and no stirrups.

#14 – I see a tipi with the sides raised up to let the heat from the fire escape.  I also see a wedge tent made from a reddish-brown canvas.

#29 – Indians carried pistols for quick use.

#30 – Miller explains in the text how the trappers used their ramrods to steady their rifles for the shot.

#32 – The Indians are brandishing a broad dagger and a pipe tomahawk in a threatening manner.  Stewart is wearing a silk neckerchief or cravat.

#34 – This Indian is shown with a bright blue neckerchief tied on his head, a peace medal around his neck and a white blanket with narrow red stripes around his shoulders.

#39 – The lost greenhorn has a large butcher knife, probably what Miller refers to as a “Bowie knife”.  He wears his bullet pouch tucked under his belt.  Hie horse looks to have a snaffle bit and carries his lead rope wrapped around his neck 7 times.  The greenhorn wears a fur tail of some kind in his hat.

#41 – One hunter wears light-colored buckskins (like smoked brain tan), another wears grey/olive drab buckskins and the third wears a red cloth coat and grey/blue pants.  Two carry large knives with a single row of tacks decorating the sheaths.  One of the rifle stocks shows a nice carved cheek piece.  The buckskins are full of long fringes.

#42 – Here we see a single cinch on the saddle with a crupper.  Stewart carries a small tomahawk or mallet in his belt.

#47 – Here I see a wide-brimmed felt hat with a leather thong or cord to hold it on your head.  A large butcher knife maybe 8″ blade has fallen out of the sheath and lies on the ground.  The second hunter wears a fur hat, light brown and short fur like a beaver skin.  He has four feathers stuck into the side.

#52 – This version of the previous picture shows a leather thong on the rifle.  The knife resembles a long scalper style.  The rifle has an English style patchbox like you would find on a J. Henry rifle.  The second hunter wears a blue coat instead of buckskin and his fur hat is less defined and could be seen as a short brimmed felt hat.

#54 – In “The Trapper’s Bride” I see a blue hooded capote, both trappers are bearded and  one wears spurs over his moccasins.  I see a white blanket with multiple red stripes commonly known as  the Gonagora style.

#58 – In this sketch of Capt. Walker he has a definite beard.  He is using the moccasin style stirrups and has a large patchbox on his rifle.

#61 – Here I see some oxen pulling the wagons to or from rendezvous.  It appears one of the riders is wearing spectacles and has his rifle slung across his back.

#63 – Here I see a striped fly suspended from the trees for shade.  I have seen several of these in different pictures.

These comments are based on the book “Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist on the Oregon Trail”.

Page 33 – Again I see the steel stirrups.  I see here a bullet pouch tucked inside the wearers belt.

Plate 10 – I see wicker pack baskets in use for crabbing at Hawkins Point near Baltimore.

Plate 29 – A trapper who is wearing a fur hat with a brim looks on while the cook prepares a meal on a tripod over the fire.  Many of the wagons in the wagon train are two-wheeled carts.

Plate 30 – In the picture of Antoine, I see heavy fringe around the sleeve opening, a large brass guarded Bowie knife with a grooved wood handle, a white shirt with light blue stripes, his half stocked(?) Manton rifle and a capper around his neck.

Plate 31 – Here is a white and black English Setter type dog accompanying the wagon train.

Plate 33 – A trapper with a hooded coat and a crupper and steel stirrups on his saddle carrying his rifle in a case with fringe on the end only is fording the river.

Plate 36 – a wedge tent and tipis.

Plate 37 – “Our Camp” shows me a couple of wedge tents, 4 wheeled wagons and 2 wheeled carts or “charettes”, and a round cone style tent. (A tipi or a one pole?)   The camp cook has his sleeves rolled up as he cooks with a tripod over the fire while another man watches wearing a white capote with a black stripe.

Plate 38 – The man on one knee has his bullet pouch strapped under his belt.  He is wearing fringed knee breeches.

Plate 39 – depicts a mirage.  Miller says “the men were tormented by thirst while crossing the prairie.”  This tells me they did not carry water with them.  This picture also includes a mule dragging tent or tipi poles.

Plate 44 – depicts a buffalo hunt.  Miller said when they left Westport “they left bread and salt behind.”  They subsisted solely on meat.

Plate 46 – “Only the choicest pieces – the hump rib, the side ribs, the fleeces and the tongue – were kept for the camp; all the rest, including the hide, was left for the nearby wolves.”

Plate 47 – Bill Burrows appears to be a rather stocky, even rotund individual.

Plate 51 – Apparently Stewart was the real subject of killing a cougar with a pistol.

Plate 52 – I see more blue trousers.

Plate 55 – Antoine appears to be wearing shiny boots with spurs and a white coat with dark trim.  Wedge tents in the background.

Plate 60 – Full length leather rifle case with long leather fringe.

Plate 61 – Shows the caravan racing for the water.  Another indication that they did not carry water with them.

Plate 62 – They all drank metheglin, an alcoholic concoction of honey and alcohol that Miller described as “potent and fiery”.

Plate 63 – Trappers with pipes.  Small lop eared dog.

Plate 68 – Stewart is wearing what looks like a metal powder flask.

Plate 75 – depicts a canoe on the lake.

Plate 79 – Black Harris is sporting a beard and smoking his clay pipe.

Plate 80 & 81 – Captain Walker wears a full beard.

Plate 82 – single long spring traps.

Plate 83 – Pierre is wearing spurs.  Wedge tents in the background.

Plate 98 – Indians yelling with hand over mouth to vary sound.  Two of them carry tomahawks.

Plate 101 – Crow Indian bears a spike hawk.

Plate 104 – Indian lodges: large earth and wood structures.

Plate 105 – puppies with lop ears

Cat # 68 – Loading rifle on horseback.  Butt stock is held on foot as ball is rammed home.

Cat #131B – Shows wiping stick with wangs being used as a quirt.  May also show leggings on the nearest trapper.

Cat #156 – Shows Auguste wearing a bear claw necklace.

Cat #447A – Shows Stewart using a Spyglass or telescope.

The following thoughts are based on “The West of Alfred Jacob Miller”:

Plate XXXIX – I see a rolled brim on a felt hat.  Another bearded trapper with a homemade hat of fur, cloth and feathers.  Another crupper on the mule and a tan capote with hood.

Plate XLI – Red undershirt of some kind with red vamped pucker toe mocs.  Another bearded trapper smoking clay pipe from gage de amour.

Plate XLVII – A spike tomahawk.  Green and Blue cloth coats with leather fringe.

Plate XLIX – While crossing the Kansas river the put another mule in tandem with the first on each charetta.

Plate LI – Blue, red and reddish-brown cloth coats.  Rawhide covered saddle with red and  blue saddle blankets and buffalo hide epishmore.

Plate 1 – Miller says there are three classes of trappers – the hired, the free and the trapper “on his own hook”.   “On starting for the hunt the trapper fits himself out with full equipment.  In addition to his animals he procures 5 or 6 traps(usually carried in a trap sack), ammunition, a few pounds of tobacco, a supply of moccasins, a wallet called a ‘possible sack’, gun, bowie knife, and sometimes a tomahawk.  Over his left shoulder and under his right arm hang his buffalo powder horn, a bullet pouch in which he carries balls, flint, and steel, with other knick-knacks.  Bound round his waist is a belt, in which is stuck his knife in a sheath of buffalo hide, made fast to the belt by a chain or guard of some kind, and on his breast a pipe holder, usually a gage d’amour in the shape of a heart,…”

Plate 2 – Miller talks about the 3 Joe Manton rifles Stewart brought.  40 guineas each.  One was given to Antoine.  12 balls to the pound or .72 caliber.  Sumpter is an archaic word for a pack animal.  Hence they said Sumpter mule and we say pack mule.

Plate 4 –  Blanket for a shawl.  Another lop eared dog.  Rifles kept at hand. Ribs cooked on a stick stuck in the ground.

Plate 7 – Elkhorn bows.  “Some curious bows were made from mountain sheep horn backed with sinew, a fine example of which is to be seen in the Nez Perce collection (Fig. 1). The Crow, Hidatsa, and Mandan sometimes used a bow of elkhorn, probably one of the finest examples of Indian workmanship: “They take a large horn or prong, and saw a slice off each side of it; these slices are then filed or rubbed down until the flat sides fit nicely together, when they are glued and wrapped at the ends. Four slices make a bow, it being jointed. Another piece of horn is laid on the center of the bow at the grasp, where it is glued fast. The whole is then filed down until it is perfectly proportioned, when the white bone is ornamented, carved, and painted. Nothing can exceed the beauty of these bows, and it takes an Indian about three months to make one.” (Belden, 112.) All these compound bows are sinew-backed, it being the sinew that gives them efficiency. ”  Taken from: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/plains/material_culture.htm

Plate 8 – Swear at the Indians in French and you cause no offense ’cause they don’t understand.

Plate 9 – another lop eared Indian dog.

Plate 10 – Auguste wears his wolf eared cap and bear claw necklace.

Plate 12 – clay pipe, more beards and spurs.

Plate 13 – Indians are “Poor creatures, they are blessed in not expecting much, and be assured in that, they are rarely disappointed.”

Plate 16 – Snake Indians use re-curve bows.

Plate 19 – Beauty among Indian women is the exception and not the rule.

Plate 20 – The experienced trapper gives his advise on women to a youngster.  Sounds very much like Bear Claw Chris Lapp.

Plate 21 – Half sphere shelter.  Sublette ordered dried meat from the mountains every year even though he now stayed in St. Louis.

Plate 22 – Another lop eared dog.

Plate 26 – Miller says the caravan did not carry water with them and the trappers suffered from its privation.  They smoked their pipes to fight their thirst and considered the pipe as universal medicine.  They used buffalo horns as drinking horns.

Plate 27 – The phrase Mountaineer.  This is also used several times by William Marshall Anderson.

Plate 29 – Miller pictures pantaloons but refers to them as “leggins”.  “Black Harris carried dispatches for the Fur company from the western side of the Rocky Mountains to Fort Laramie for years”.  Of course in 1837, Fort Laramie had only existed for 3 years.

Plate 37 – Antoine is wearing a button up under shirt of some kind.  He has pinked edges on his leather shirt and it is closed with ties instead of buttons.  He wears a gage-de-amour and carries a percussion pocket pistol.

Plate 38 & 40 – 3 foot long pipe stem on Indian pipes.

Plate 41 – Spike hawk, and side seam moccasins on Iroquois Indian.  Regarding them and the French – “There was no great love between them in the beginning, and it pleased Heaven to decrease it upon further acquaintance.”

Plate 42 – Regarding the Indians,  Miller prophesies:  “In a few, very few years, they will be swept from the face of the earth, and places that now know them shall behold them no more – forever.”

Plate 46 – Another lop eared Indian dog, a gun stock war club, Indians smoke Kinnick, Kinncik.  Miller includes a dog poem.

Plate 48 – Indian wearing vertical striped shirt.  English riding saddles.

Plate 49 –  Lucien Fontenelle was the Factor at Fort Laramie.  He left the Fort and accompanied Stewart & Miller west.

Plate 50 – I see Daniel Bromley.  The foremost trapper is wearing shoes, boots or hard sole moccasins.  Trapper at the mule is wearing one of those fur/feathered drape hats.

Plate 51 – Wiping sticks with long wangs are being used as quirts.  No fighting was allowed among the men of the caravan.

Plate 52 – Jean the cook is wearing my blue coat as he pours coffee.  Tin plates and cups are used for dining.  No forks were used.  I see one trapper with a kerchief on his head.  Miller shares the sardine story.

Plate 54 – “He who doth not smoke, hath either known no great griefs, or refuseth himself the safest consolation next to that which comes from Heaven.”

Plate 54 – Miller is very excited about a Carcagieu sighting.  I can understand this as I was very excited to see one myself!

Plate 66 – I use the travois in the same manner as the Pawnees are here depicted.

Plate 67 – Rifle being carried on sling across back.

Plate 70 – AF co. boats look like York boats with their masts and oars.  Miller says they are manned by voyageurs.

Plate 72 – Squaws over 20 years old get fat and ugly.

Plate 74 – Miller says the Indians did not geld their horses and that they had Arabian features.  Did they have Arabian features?  Or did he just say that because that’s the way he portrayed them?

Plate 75 – A bark canoe and another lop eared dog.

Plate 76 – Etienne Provost was with the caravan, probably as trail boss.  Miller says he had a “corpus round as a porpoise”.

Plate 78 – Walker has two ducks or geese tied behind his saddle.

Plate 80 – Sometimes trappers would catch a wild horse by “creasing” him across the neck.  This requires someone who shoots “center”.

Plate 82 – Miller relates the story of a wagon driver being killed by an accidental discharge of a rifle in the wagon in front of him.

Plate 87 – Miller mention using a telescope.

Plate 92 – ditto

Plate 93 – Miller mentions the coming of trains to South Pass as a “forgone conclusion.”

Plate 97 – gives the menu:  Coffee and meat for Breakfast, Meat and coffee for lunch, repeat at night.

Plate 98 – Pie-bald horse was held in high esteem.

Plate 100 – ditto 87

Plate 101 – horses were pitched into the river nolens volens (Willing or unwilling; willy-nilly.)  Hard swearing during a river crossing.  Men would lose their religion as well as their temper.

Plate 103 – another lop eared long-haired light-colored dog.

Plate 104 – When sleeping in the cold they would build a big fire and put their feet to it in a circle.

Plate 106 – Use of ramrod to steady rifle.

Plate 107 – Trapper running a grizzly with his pistol.

Plate 108 – Indians used letters of recommendation from one white to another, even though they couldn’t read them.

Plate 112 – Miller says when they left Westport they left salt and bread behind but they had enough extra sugar, tea and coffee to cache in tin boxes without harm.

Plate 118 – Squaw scraping buffalo hide for tanning.

Plate 119 – This trapper could well be wearing a fur cap with a bill and feathers.  He has a coat or bedroll rolled up and tied behind hi saddle.

Plate 120 –  Mountaineers spoke a lot of French.  Miller uses a lot of French phrases in his notes.

Plate 121 – The Pawnee were big into the robe trade by 1837.

Plate 122 – Some Mountaineers were bee hunters.  shown here with long hair and beards.

Plate 123 – Canadians face hard work good-naturedly and with song.  Kentuckians and Missourians are much better at fighting.

Plate 124 – fringed leather sleeves to just below the elbow.

Plate 125 – Miller recounts the story of Hugh Glass, not very accurately.

Plate 126 – Root digger Indians have lop eared dogs.

Plate 127 – 3 ft. long gun stock type war club, garters over fringed leggings or one coup stripe.  There were three thousand Indians at the 1837 rendezvous.

Plate 128 – Shoshone dogs swimming river.

Plate 129 – Indians drying meat, Sublette ordered dried meat annually, another Shoshone lop eared dog.

Plate 131 – another lop eared dog.

Plate 132 – to carry water with you on the trail would be considered effeminate.

Plate 133 – A honey and alcohol mix was known as Metheglin.

Plate 135 – Shows a 3 legged cast iron kettle.  In the background you can see 4 men dancing around the fire in the moonlight.

Plate 136 – Dipping water with a blackened kettle, another lop eared dog, tipi with sides up to remove heat, birch bark canoe.

Plate 137 – Miller states squaws used saddles and braves did not.

Plate 141 – “There is always something in the misfortune of our friends not disagreeable to us.”

Plate 143 – large rivets on knife handle, odd butt plate on gun, it is flat and held on with two screws,  trapper has beard, mustache and long hair.  tipi walls up.

Plate 147 – Third man from left is wearing a fur cap with a brim.  They wore ponchos made from wool blankets with a 14″ slit cut in the middle.

Plate 152 – Miller says many wanted to become Indians, he uses James Beckworth as an example.  He says no one has greater variety of costumes and equipment.

Plate 154 – August 1837 was very cold.  Heavy coats were required at night.

Plate 155 – Miller tells the story of Antoine grabbing the tail of a wounded buffalo and hanging on until the animal drops over dead.

Plate 156 – Miller says the trapper is simplicity mingled with ferocity.  Their wants are few:  sufficient clothing, a rifle and ammunition.

Plate 159 – Bridger’s armor came from Stewart.

Plate 161 – Here I see a man sitting on his horse backwards as he visits with friends and the hose grazes.

Plate 163 – One man has a big beard, the other has big sideburns.  One carries his knife in front.

Plate 165 – Miller saw both dug out and birch bark canoes.

Plate 170 – another lop eared dog with the caravan.

Plate 173 – a bearded trapper in a striped coat.

Plate 187 – another lop eared Indian dog.

Plate 189 – Indians wearing bull buffalo tails from their breech clouts.

Plate 197 – Trapper with pony tail,  trapper with goatee, trapper with big belly is Etienne Provost, the trail boss.

Plate 198 – Trappers are setting back fires to make a protected area for themselves before the raging prairie fire sweeps down on them.

The following thoughts are based on “Romancing the West:  Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection.”  

The main reason for getting this book is the large color photos of Miller’s artwork.  Most of these are in Ross’ “The West of Alfred Jacob Miller” but are in Black & White.

Page 72-73 – Shows a beautiful enlargement of  “Attrapez des Chevaux”.  On the left hand side you see a trapper with a billed fur hat on his head.

Page 83 – The author gives the names of the two trappers pictured in Ross’ Plate 29 as Auguste and Louis.  They are wearing the hats described by P. L. Edwards as draping down their heads hanging with feathers, claws, horns, etc.

Sentimental Journey:  The Art of Alfred Jacob Miller by Lisa Strong”:

The main reason for getting this book is the large color photos of Miller’s artwork.  Most of these are in Ross’ “The West of Alfred Jacob Miller” but are in Black & White.

Page 77 Plate 16 shows a painting by Karl Bodmer of a man stalking a grizzly bear wearing a scarf on his head “pirate fashion”, heaven forbid!

Page 113 Plate 10 of “The Indian Guide” shows Stewart is holding a wooden boxed compass in his hand.  In a smaller view, from one of the previous books, I thought it might be a pistol.

Page 114 Plate 11 shows a bullet pouch tucked under the belt.

Page 115 Plate 12 shows Stewart using a spyglass/telescope.

Page 167 Plate 2 of a mule throwing off his pack.  Flying in the air are kettles with bails, a frying pan with handle amongst other items.  Another mule is shown dragging tent/tipi poles.

Page 167 Plate 3  Fontenelle appears to be bare bottomed while running from a grizzly bear.

Page 168 Plate 4  Large single long spring traps appear to have teeth in the jaws.

Page 175 Plate 7  The standing trapper appears to have a trade gun based on the size and shape of the trigger guard.  The seated trapper in the golden buckskins has a powder horn around his neck and down his back to keep it away from the fire.  He appears to have some kind of billed or bomber hat that drapes down to his collar made from some kind of cloth with a cross-hatched, checker board, plaid pattern on it.

Page 176  Plate 8 We see a man “Bringing in the wood”.

Page 179 Plate 11 There is a large dog by the fire.

Some concluding thoughts on my study of Alfred Jacob Miller:

In studying the artwork of Miller, I have seen many wonderful references to the material culture of the Rocky Mountain fur trade.  I will use his artwork and notes to develop and justify many of the items I use in my portrayal of a mountaineer.  I am somewhat disappointed that many of his works are “fuzzy”.  They lack the clarity of detail we are looking for.  Others, especially his portraits, are extraordinary in their detail.  We can be thankful of that.

It is my estimation that fully one-third of the white men he portrays are sporting beards.  Most of the beards are short, indicating the men had shaved within a couple of months or kept them trimmed.  As a beard wearer, I can tell you a long beard gets in the way and soon becomes a nuisance.

Miller portrays the Indians as the “Noble Savage”.  He tells us in his notes that Stewart forbade him to depict them any other way.  Does that mean he saw “worthless” Indians or was Stewart trying to prevent stereotypes and prejudices from entering in to the art?

Another thing to be aware of when studying Miller is that he was hired by William Drummond Stewart and made most of his sketches of Stewart’s hunting party.  He has a couple overall, panoramic type pictures of the rendezvous, a few pictures of trappers at work and in camp and a few portraits of specific people, Captain Joseph Walker as example.  Most of his pictures are of Stewart’s party with the caravan and after the rendezvous.  He portrays the same men over and over.  William Drummond Stewart was his employer and his main subject.  Although Stewart spent much time in the west he should not be considered your average fur trapper.  My guess is that 70% of the white men pictured by Miller are the same three men, Stewart, Antoine Clement and Pierre the mule rider.  If you include Auguste the groom, John the cook, Louis the “Rocky Mountain Trapper” and Bill Burrows more than 80% of the white men pictured are these same seven guys.

Miller depicts the wolf-eared cap very often.  I see these worn by Antoine, Pierre, Auguste and Louis.  With these four men depicted over and over it makes the use of the wolf-eared cap seem widespread.  Does anyone else show this type of cap?  Is it mentioned in the text of journals or other artwork?  Was this type of hat peculiar to Stewart’s hunters?  It will be interesting to see what I find as I continue my studies.

Miller portrays his subjects as wearing pucker toe or Ojibwa style moccasins.  These were common in the Great Lakes area and parts east.  According to the map on Nativetech.org [http://www.nativetech.org/clothing/moccasin/mocmap.html]  pucker toe and center seam moccasins were used by the tribes in the north-east and south-east parts of North America, most tribes west of the Mississippi used a side seam or two piece with a hard sole.  Rex Allen Norman in his 1837 sketchbook questions the depiction of pucker toe moccasins by Miller, as does Landry and Chronister in their article about mountain clothing from the Book of Buckskinning Vol.VII.  From my study, I believe Miller shows the pucker toe because many of Stewart’s party were French-Canadians.  Antoine, Pierre,  and Auguste are all described as being French-Canadians or Canadians.  Being on a hunting excursion from St. Louis they may have brought clothing and gear from back home rather than trade from the Indians.  Even if they had to make new moccasins while on the trip it is reasonable to assume they would follow the pattern of their existing items with which they were familiar and comfortable.

I would venture a guess that what we see in Miller of Stewart’s hunting party, the caravan and rendezvous comprises less than 10% of the Rocky Mountain fur trade of 1837.

If you look at the Rendezvous period 1825-1840 his work is probably less than 1% of the activity, material and dress of the mountaineers.  If we look at the wider view of the Rocky Mountain era say 1803-1850, Miller’s snapshot becomes minuscule.  I am concerned by people who use Miller as the “end all, be all” of the mountaineer.  To me their focus is too narrow and they miss out by not including as much period material as possible.  The other mistake I see is using Miller to justify what was not out west.  Just because Miller did not paint or sketch something doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.  If an eye-witness wrote about an item, be sure it was there.  Why doubt our few sources just because Miller didn’t paint it?

With a discerning mind Alfred Jacob Miller’s work will help us build a wonderful re-enactment of the Rocky Mountain fur trade era.  When taken alongside the journals and letters of the eye witnesses and participants we can put together a very accurate picture of the life of a trapper.

About Gabe the Shootist

I am retired from public service, a trained gunsmith, pump mechanic, an old pipeliner, passable electrician, carpenter, truck driver, amateur blacksmith, proof reader, experienced hunter, shooter, reloader, avid canoeist, Renaissance man, jack of all trades, all around good guy (with the caveat: I won't be insulted, lied to or laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them.).
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