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Seth and Mary Eastman

Seth and Mary Eastman

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Seth Eastman and his second wife Mary Henderson Eastman (1818 – 24 February 1887) were instrumental in recording Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 life. Eastman was an artist and West Point graduate who served in the US Army, first as a mapmaker and illustrator. He had two tours at Fort Snelling, Minnesota Territory
Minnesota Territory
The Territory of Minnesota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 3, 1849, until May 11, 1858, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Minnesota.-History:...

; during the second, extended tour he was commanding officer of the fort. During these years, he painted many studies of Native American life. He was notable for the quality of his hundreds of illustrations for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's six-volume study on Indian Tribes of the United States (1851–1857), commissioned by the US Congress. From their time at Fort Snelling, Mary Henderson Eastman wrote a book about Dakota
Dakota
- Ethnology and linguistics :* Sioux sub-tribes:**Eastern Dakota**Western Dakota* Dakota language, either of two regional varieties of the Sioux language- Geography :United States*North Dakota, a state*South Dakota, a state* Dakota, Illinois, a village...

 Sioux life and culture, which Seth Eastman illustrated.

When the Eastmans were based in Washington, DC before the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Mary entered the literary "lists" and wrote the bestselling Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is
Aunt Phillis's Cabin
Aunt Phillis's Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is by Mary Henderson Eastman is a plantation fiction novel, and is perhaps the most read anti-Tom novel in American literature. It was published by Lippincott, Grambo & Co of Philadelphia in 1852 as a response to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, published...

 (1852). Defending slaveholders, she responded as a Southern planter
Planter
Planter may refer to:*A flower pot or box for plants**Jardinière, one such type of pot*A person or object engaged in sowing seeds**Planter , implement towed behind a tractor, used for sowing crops through a field*A coloniser...

 to Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

's anti-slavery work. Her novel was one of the most widely read anti-Tom novels and a commercial success, selling 20,000–30,000 copies.

Having retired as a brigadier general
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

 for disability during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Seth Eastman was reactivated when commissioned by Congress to make several paintings for the US Capitol. Between 1867 and 1869, he painted a series of nine scenes of American Indian life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. In 1870 Congress commissioned Eastman to create a series of 17 paintings of important U.S. fortifications, to be hung in the meeting rooms of the House Committee on Military Affairs. He completed the paintings in 1875.

Early life and education


Seth Eastman was born on January 24, 1808 in Brunswick, Maine
Brunswick, Maine
Brunswick is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States. The population was 20,278 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metropolitan area. Brunswick is home to Bowdoin College, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, , and the...

, the eldest of 13 children of Robert and Sarah Lee Eastman. He persuaded his parents to let him go into the military. Sixteen when he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York
West Point, New York
West Point is a federal military reservation established by President of the United States Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It is a census-designated place located in Town of Highlands in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 7,138 at the 2000 census...

 in 1824, he graduated in 1829 to enter the Army as a second lieutenant in the 1st Infantry Regiment.

Career



Eastman made his career with the U.S. Army. He became an accomplished artist and used his skills in early mapmaking and recording Army activities. In 1830 he was assigned to Fort Snelling near what became Minneapolis in present-day Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

. A large installation with 20 officers and up to 300 enlisted men, the fort was deep in American Indian
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 territory on the upper Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. While stationed there for three years, Eastman learned the Sioux language
Sioux language
Sioux is a Siouan language spoken by over 33,000 Sioux in the United States and Canada, making it the fifth most spoken indigenous language in the United States or Canada, behind Navajo, Cree, Inuit and Ojibwe.-Regional variation:...

 and captured many scenes of American Indian life in the territory. He painted and sketched prolifically.

From 1833 to 1840, Eastman was assigned to West Point, where he taught drawing (used for mapmaking). In 1841 Eastman was appointed commander of Fort Snelling and returned to Minnesota. While stationed there for several years with his wife and growing family, he continued to study and paint Native American life. Son Frank was born in 1844, daughter, Virginia in '47 and Son John McC. '49 [U.S. Census 1870] He learned much about the Dakota
Dakota
- Ethnology and linguistics :* Sioux sub-tribes:**Eastern Dakota**Western Dakota* Dakota language, either of two regional varieties of the Sioux language- Geography :United States*North Dakota, a state*South Dakota, a state* Dakota, Illinois, a village...

 culture particularly. He painted and drew pictures of the Sioux villages of Kaposia
Kaposia
Kaposia was a seasonal American Indian settlement, also known as "Little Crow's village," after a long line of tribe Chiefs named Little Crow.-History:The settlement was within the limits of the modern city of South St...

 and Little Crow
Little Crow
The Little Crow is an Australian species of crow, very similar to the Torresian Crow in having white bases to the neck and head feathers but slightly smaller and with a proportionately smaller bill...

, as well as settlements in present-day Scott
Scott County, Minnesota
Scott County is a county located in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It was organized in 1853 and named in honor of General Winfield Scott. As of 2010, the population was 129,928. Its county seat is Shakopee...

, Wabasha, and Winona counties.

Hearing that Congress had authorized a study of Indians by the explorer and former US Indian agent
Indian agent
In United States history, an Indian agent was an individual authorized to interact with Native American tribes on behalf of the U.S. government.-Indian agents:*Leander Clark was agent for the Sac and Fox in Iowa beginning in 1866....

 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Eastman asked to be assigned as illustrator. Finally in 1849 at age 41, he had the chance. Captain Eastman and his family settled in Washington, and he began to work on what would be hundreds of pictures to illustrate the massive Schoolcraft study, published in six volumes from 1851–1857. Son Harry was born 1854 [U.S. Cencus 1870]

It was a monumental work that for Eastman consumed five years. During that time, he completed some 275 pages of illustrations to accompany Schoolcraft’s six-volume Information Regarding the History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. When Volume I came off the press in early 1851, Eastman could take just pride in his accomplishment. His precise and exquisitely executed illustrations of Indian life, painted almost entirely from his frontier sketches, proved that he was singularly the best-qualified person in the country to undertake this epic work.


Near the end of his career, at the rank of Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

, Eastman was commissioned by the House Committee on Military Affairs to paint pictures of seventeen important forts. He completed these paintings between 1870 and 1875. One controversial painting was Death Whoop
Death Whoop
Death Whoop is an oil on canvas painting by Seth Eastman that depicts a Native American warrior holding up the scalp of a white person. Though it was part of a collection of Eastman paintings commissioned by the United States Congress, because people found it disturbing, it was removed twice from...

, which was twice removed from display because of negative comments from viewers, as it portrayed an Indian's scalping a white man. In the 1930s the paintings were displayed again in the Capitol Building
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

.

Seth Eastman used color and realism to depict Dakota
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 and other Native American scenes. His paintings were without the Anglo-centric stereotyping and dilution
Media bias
Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the...

 found in other paintings within that genre.

Works

  • Seth Eastman, Treatise on Topographical Drawing, New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1837. His textbook on the techniques of map-making and map-reading was made mandatory for all topography classes at West Point. Eastman created symbols for use on all maps, and explained how to draw height, width, and depth on a two-dimensional sheet of paper.
  • Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Historical and Statistical Information Regarding the History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (six volumes), Illustrated by Seth Eastman, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1851–1857.
  • Memoir of General Seth Eastman, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.: [s.n.], 1875. He recounted his life in the military, his art, his second wife Mary and their children. He did not mention his first wife Wakanin ajin win or their daughter Winona.

Marriage and family



During his first posting at Fort Snelling near what is now Minneapolis, Seth Eastman in 1830 married Wakanin ajin win (Stands Sacred), the fifteen-year-old daughter of Cloud Man, a Dakotah (Santee Sioux) chief. Eastman was reassigned from Fort Snelling in 1832, soon after the birth of their daughter Winona (meaning First-born daughter). He declared his marriage ended when he left, as was typical of many European-American men who abandoned Indian women and their children. His daughter Winona was also called Mary Nancy Eastman, and later named Wakantakawin in the Sioux tradition of marking life passages.

She married a Santee Sioux and had five children, dying at the birth of the youngest, later known as Charles. After adopting Christianity, her husband and two of their surviving sons took the Eastman surname. Winona's eldest son Rev. John (Marpiyawaku Kida) Eastman became a Presbyterian missionary at Flandreau, South Dakota
Flandreau, South Dakota
Flandreau is a city in Moody County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 2,341 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Moody County...

. Her second son Dr. Charles Eastman
Charles Eastman
Charles Alexander Eastman was a Native American physician, writer, national lecturer, and reformer. He was of Santee Sioux and Anglo-American ancestry...

 was the first Native American certified as a medical doctor, after earning his degree at Boston University
Boston University
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. With more than 4,000 faculty members and more than 31,000 students, Boston University is one of the largest private universities in the United States and one of Boston's largest employers...

. He also worked for Native American rights and wrote several popular books about his growing up in Dakota culture. Some were translated into European languages and published on the Continent.

In 1835, while stationed at West Point, Seth Eastman married a second time, to Mary Henderson, daughter of a surgeon there. She and her family were from Warrenton, Virginia
Warrenton, Virginia
Warrenton is a town in Fauquier County, Virginia, United States. The population was 6,670 at the 2000 census, and 14,634 at the 2010 estimate. It is the county seat of Fauquier County. Public schools in the town include Fauquier High School, Warrenton Middle School, Taylor Middle School and two...

. They had five children together, some born during Eastman's extended assignment in the West when he returned to Fort Snelling for seven years as commanding officer. The couple were both interested in Dakota culture. Mary Eastman collected traditional stories and legends during their time at Fort Snelling, as preparation for a later book which her husband illustrated.

Mary Henderson


Mary Henderson was born in Warrenton, Virginia
Warrenton, Virginia
Warrenton is a town in Fauquier County, Virginia, United States. The population was 6,670 at the 2000 census, and 14,634 at the 2010 estimate. It is the county seat of Fauquier County. Public schools in the town include Fauquier High School, Warrenton Middle School, Taylor Middle School and two...

 in 1818 to a family of the elite planter class. She moved with her family to West Point, New York
West Point, New York
West Point is a federal military reservation established by President of the United States Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It is a census-designated place located in Town of Highlands in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 7,138 at the 2000 census...

 when her father was assigned as a surgeon
Surgeon
In medicine, a surgeon is a specialist in surgery. Surgery is a broad category of invasive medical treatment that involves the cutting of a body, whether human or animal, for a specific reason such as the removal of diseased tissue or to repair a tear or breakage...

 at the military academy. There she met and married Seth Eastman in 1835 when she was seventeen. As Henderson noted in her novel Aunt Phillis's Cabin
Aunt Phillis's Cabin
Aunt Phillis's Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is by Mary Henderson Eastman is a plantation fiction novel, and is perhaps the most read anti-Tom novel in American literature. It was published by Lippincott, Grambo & Co of Philadelphia in 1852 as a response to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, published...

 (1852), she was a descendant of the First Families of Virginia
First Families of Virginia
First Families of Virginia were those families in Colonial Virginia who were socially prominent and wealthy, but not necessarily the earliest settlers. They originated with colonists from England who primarily settled at Jamestown, Williamsburg, and along the James River and other navigable waters...

 (FFV) and had grown up in slaveholding society.

In 1841 Seth Eastman was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed commander of Fort Snelling. He and his family lived there for years. This was when Henderson Eastman wrote Dacotah, or Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort Snelling (1849), which Seth Eastman illustrated. She used her time at Fort Snelling to record and preserve the local culture. Among the legends she collected from the Dakota was a version of the death of the lovelorn Princess Winona
Princess Winona
Princess Winona is the central Native American character in a "Lover's Leap" romantic legend set at Maiden Rock on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin in the United States. Princess Winona leaps to her death from Maiden Rock rather than marry a suitor she does not love.-The legend:There are several...

. She sent her book to the US Congress in 1849; it is online on Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

.

After the Eastmans returned to the East
Eastern United States
The Eastern United States, the American East, or simply the East is traditionally defined as the states east of the Mississippi River. The first two tiers of states west of the Mississippi have traditionally been considered part of the West, but can be included in the East today; usually in...

, they lived in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

  In the years of tension before the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, many writers published novels that dealt with each side of the slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 issue. After the stir caused by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...

's anti-slavery Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman....

, Mary Henderson Eastman defended southern slaveholding society by writing what became a best-selling book: Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is
Aunt Phillis's Cabin
Aunt Phillis's Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is by Mary Henderson Eastman is a plantation fiction novel, and is perhaps the most read anti-Tom novel in American literature. It was published by Lippincott, Grambo & Co of Philadelphia in 1852 as a response to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, published...

 (1852). It sold 20,000–30,000 copies, making it a bestseller and one of the best-known of the anti-Tom novels produced in that period.


Works

  • Mary Henderson Eastman, Dacotah, or Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort Snelling, Illustrated by Seth Eastman, New York: J. Wiley, 1849.
  • Mary Henderson Eastman, Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is
    Aunt Phillis's Cabin
    Aunt Phillis's Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is by Mary Henderson Eastman is a plantation fiction novel, and is perhaps the most read anti-Tom novel in American literature. It was published by Lippincott, Grambo & Co of Philadelphia in 1852 as a response to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, published...

    , Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1852
  • The Iris: An Illuminated Souvenir for 1852, edited by John S. Hart, Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1852. (Mary Eastman wrote many of the entries, mostly about Indian life. Her articles were collected and republished the following year under the title below.)
  • Mary H. Eastman, Romance of Indian Life: With Other Tales, Selections from the Iris, An Illuminated Souvenir, Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1853.

See also

  • Elbridge Ayer Burbank
    Elbridge Ayer Burbank
    Elbridge Ayer Burbank was an American artist who sketched and painted more than 1200 portraits of Native Americans from 125 tribes. He studied art in Chicago and in his 30s traveled to Munich, Germany for additional studies with notable German artists...

  • George Catlin
    George Catlin
    George Catlin was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West.-Early years:...

  • Paul Kane
    Paul Kane
    Paul Kane was an Irish-born Canadian painter, famous for his paintings of First Nations peoples in the Canadian West and other Native Americans in the Oregon Country....

  • W. Langdon Kihn
    W. Langdon Kihn
    Wilfred Langdon Kihn was a portrait painter and illustrator specializing in portraits of American Indians.He was born in Brooklyn, New York, son of Alfred Charles Kihn and Carrie Lowe Kihn...

  • Charles Bird King
    Charles Bird King
    Charles Bird King is a United States artist who is best known for his portraiture. In particular, the artist is notable for the portraits he painted of Native American delegates coming to Washington D.C., which were commissioned by government's Bureau of Indian Affairs.-Biography:Charles Bird King...

  • Joseph Henry Sharp
    Joseph Henry Sharp
    Joseph Henry Sharp was an American painter and a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, of which he is considered the "Spiritual Father". Sharp was one of the earliest European-American artists to visit Taos, New Mexico, which he saw in 1893 with John Hauser when he visited in 1893...

  • John Mix Stanley
    John Mix Stanley
    John Mix Stanley was an artist-explorer, an American painter of landscapes, and Native American portraits and tribal life. Born in the Finger Lakes region of New York, he started painting signs and portraits as a young man, but in 1842 traveled to the American West to paint Native American life...


Further reading

  • John F. McDermott, The Art of Seth Eastman: A Traveling Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, 1959–1960, Washington, D.C.: 1960?
  • Patricia C. Johnston, "The Artist's Life, The Indian's World," in American History Illustrated, vol. 13, no. 9 (Jan. 1979): pp. 39–46.
  • Frances Densmore, The Collection of Watercolor Drawings of the North American Indian by Seth Eastman in the James Jerome Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1961.
  • "Eastman, Cloud Man, Many Lightnings: An Anglo-Dakota Family", compiled by William L. Bean for the Eastman family reunion, 1989, Lincoln, Neb.: W.L. Bean, 1989.
  • Lila M. Johnson, "Found (and Purchased): Seth Eastman Water Colors," in Minnesota History, v. 42, no. 7 (Fall 1971): pp. 258–267.
  • "Historic Minnesota In Centennial Exhibition", in Bulletin of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, v. 38, no. 10 (Mar. 5, 1949): pp. 46–52.
  • Marybeth Lorbieck, Painting the Dakota: Seth Eastman at Fort Snelling, Afton, Minn: Afton Historical Society Press, 2000. Illustrated with Eastman's work, this account gives in-depth biographical information as well as the history of the Dakota tribes in the Midwest.

External links