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The Indian Certificate

Alfred Jacob Miller1858-1860

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

"The Sioux's recommendation (who wishes to officiate as a guide) is here being read by our Captain. The Indians in their intercourse with the whites have had sagacity to discover the value of certificates of good character, and procure such testimonials from those whom they have served in order to recommend themselves to others; preserving these papers with great care. It sometimes happens that the writer (knowing that the poor savage cannot read) gives him a character not at all favorable, in short, tells too much." A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837).

In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.

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