Both authors ... saw their book as a way of preserving an accurate visual record of a rapidly disappearing culture. The text, which was written by Hall based on information supplied by McKenney, takes the form of a series of biographies of leading figures amongst the Indian nations, followed by a general history of the North American Indians. The work is now famous for its color plate portraits of the chiefs, warriors and squaws of the various tribes, faithful copies of original oils by Charles Bird King painted from life in his studio in Washington (McKenney commissioned him to record the visiting Indian delegates) or worked up by King from the watercolors of the young frontier artist, James Otto Lewis. All but four of the original paintings were destroyed in the disastrous Smithsonian fire of 1865, so their appearance in this work preserves what is probably the best likeness of many of the most prominent Indian leaders of the early 19th century. -- Reese.
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