John Ridge (d. 1839)
By 1835 Major and John Ridge were convinced that the Cherokee Nation’s only hope for survival was migration. They were among the signers of the Treaty of New Echota which exchanged Cherokee land for land in Oklahoma. In 1837 the Ridge family left Georgia for their new home. In 1838 the United States Government forced the remaining Cherokee from their lands. Thousands died along the Trail of Tears west. In 1839 angry survivors of the forced migration to Oklahoma murdered Major and John Ridge.
This print is based on a painting of John Ridge done in Washington, D.C. During the nineteenth century native tribes routinely sent delegations to Washington, D.C., to negotiate with the American government. In 1816 Thomas Lorraine McKenney (1785-1859) was appointed the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. McKenney was eager to record the delegations and their distinctive dress for posterity. He engaged artists such as Charles Bird King (1785-1862), James Otto Lewis (1799-1858), and George Cooke (1793-1849) to paint portraits of these visitors to Washington.
President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was critical of McKenney and his sympathetic treatment of America’s native peoples. In 1830 he removed McKenney from office. Following his dismissal McKenney arranged to have the portraits secretly copied by the artist Henry Inman (1801-1846) and taken to Philadelphia for engraving. McKenney partnered with the author James Hall (1793-1868) and the first volume of “History of the Indian Tribes of North America” was published in 1836. Two more folio-sized volumes would follow.
Eventually the original portraits by King, Lewis, and Cooke, were be deposited in the Smithsonian Institution. A fire at the Smithsonian in 1865 destroyed the vast majority of the original works on which McKenney and Hall’s prints were based.
RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA collection also contains three additional prints from this book: John Ridge’s father, Major Ridge (5507.3); and Creek Chief Yoholo-Micco (5507.2) and his son Mistippee (5507.1); MESDA also has the original portrait of Mistippee by Charles Bird King (3543). This is one of the few paintings commissioned by McKenney to survive.
DESCRIPTION: Hand colored lithograph on paper of John Ridge; taken from original print by James Otto Lewis, originally painted by Charles Bird King. Three-quarter view of John Ridge facing left with head slightly turned center; seated at a table, with feather pen in his right hand, writing on a piece of paper; his left hand rest on the paper. John Ridge wears a navy coat, navy waistcoat, white shirt and white cravat. His face is soft in color with slight tinting of cheeks and lips in pink; his eyebrows are dark, and his hair is dark and short with waves. His gaze is soft with brown eyes.
Printed underneath the image is the following: