Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities

McKenney and Hall Portrait Gallery

McKenney and Hall Portrait Gallery

A collection of McKenney and Hall lithographs are currently on display in the newly renovated Pebble Hill. The portraits on display are the majority of the delegation of Creek Indian headmen who traveled to Washington in 1825 to meet with President John Quincy Adams.

During their stay in Washington, the Creeks lodged at the Indian Queen Hotel, the most popular hotel in the city. Their chief contact with the Adams administration was the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Thomas McKenney, who fell under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of War. The presence of the distinguished Creek delegation provided and unparalleled opportunity for McKenney, who, since 1821, had been developing an “archive” of Indian memorabilia and portraits of Indians who visited the federal city. The “Indian Gallery,” as McKenney’s collection of portraits came to be known, was largely the work of the famous portrait artist Charles Bird King (American, 1785- 1862). The Creeks visited King’s studio to have their portraits rendered, and each sitter was also given a small version of the completed portrait as a souvenir. McKenney’s famous Indian Gallery eventually came to include nearly 150 portraits, the property of the American government. 

When President Andrew Jackson replaced Adams in 1828, he soon fired most of those associated with Adam’s administration, including McKenney. Thus, when McKenney wished to use the portraits from the Indian Gallery to illustrate his forthcoming history of the Indians of America, he did not have easy access. The solution that McKenney and his partner devised proved to be providential for posterity, for they hired Henry Inman, a highly regarded portrait artist, to make faithful copies of the original Charles Bird King portraits. From Inman’s oil copies, the publisher used a new method of print reproduction, lithography, to produce stunning color prints to illustrate McKenney’s now famous three-volume History of the Tribes of North America. The work, coauthored by James Hall, represented a triumph of American art and technology and established American lithography as equal in quality to the finest European productions. 

The Inman portrait of Yoholo Mico, the Principal Chief of Eufaula, an Upper Creek town on the Tallapoosa River, will be on display until the beginning of December. The portrait is on loan from the High Museum of Art.

McKenney and Hall Portrait Gallery

Last Updated: November 08, 2016