of the most important of these artists was
James E. Taylor. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1839, Taylor graduated
from Notre Dame, and then fought with the Tenth New York volunteers
in the Civil War. In 1862 he joined the staff of Leslie’s
Illustrated newspaper as a "Special Artist" and
war correspondent. His first major assignment was to accompany
General Phil Sheridan during the Shenandoah Valley campaign
on 1864. During this assignment, Taylor distinguished himself
as an illustrator, a skill which enabled him to establish friendships
and professional relations with many generals and high-ranking
government officials. This provided him with an inside track
to information and photographs at the same time that the United
States began its process of Westward expansion.
Man Careful Of His Horses (Oglala Sioux) in treaty negotiations
with U.S. government representatives.
the spring of 1867, the U.S. government sent a peace commission
to treat with the Indians at Ft. Laramie, Wyoming Territory.
Contrary to previous treaties, settlers had established a route
known as the Bozeman Trail through sacred Indian lands and hunting
grounds and the U.S. government wanted to insure their safety
by establishing military posts along the way. The peace commission
was largely unsuccessful. Indeed it touched off "Red Cloud’s"
war as military troups started to establish forts before any
agreements had been made. The negotiations themselves were recorded
by the famous Civil War photographer, Alexander Gardner. This
extremely rare series of photographs includes the only known
image of the smoking of a peace pipe during negotiations, one
print of which is preserved in the Taylor album (above).
same year, the government sent another commission to treat with
the Indians at Medicine Lodge, Kansas. At stake was the opening
up of the trans-Mississippi West to railroads and settlers.
The treaty negotiations were the largest such gathering with
an estimated 5,600 people, and newspapers were understandably
eager to cover this landmark occasion. Although no photographers
were present, at least nine reporter/illustrators were sent
to cover the story including Henry M. Stanley, the famous African
explorer, and James Taylor. Taylor also signed as a witness
to the treaty made with the Kiowa and Comanche. Many of Taylor’s
works were published in Leslie’s marking a refocusing
of the publication on western stories and earning Taylor the
nickname, "The Indian Artist."
E. Taylor. Photograph from the collection of Richard W. Taylor.
Wesley Powell and
his exploring party on the Green River, May, 1871. Notice the
camera beside the boat on the left.
detail of camera.