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Seth Eastman sketchbook

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Vault MSS 773

Scope and Contents note

Brigham Young University Library acquired the Seth Eastman drawing or sketch book from the San Francisco art gallery of W. Graham Arader III in August 1990. The sketchbook contained 59 original pencil and ink drawings on 35 papers glued onto 6 pages (back and front) measuring 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches. The sketches contain notations and two numbering systems, presumably by the artist. The pages were sewn together along one edge.

It was determined that the collection needed conservation work and it was taken to the Conservation Lab in the Lee Library. Cathy Bell dismantled the book, and in consultation with the Archives, separated the papers from the sketchbook and mounted each in its own housing. She also designed two special storage containers for the collection. She noted when she removed the sewing that at least two pages had been cut out of the Book prior to its arrival at BYU. Thus it is possible that the Nauvoo Sketch owned by the LDS Church Museum originally belonged in this grouping.


  • approximately 1850


Conditions Governing Access note

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use note

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the Seth Eastman sketchbook must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

American illustrator, painter, landscape artist, and army officer.

Seth Eastman, illustrator, Indian painter, landscape artist, and Army officer, was born in 1808 in Brunswick, Maine. He died in Washington D.C. in 1875. Eastman graduated from West Point in 1829 after studying drawing under Thomas Gimbrede. He was first assigned to Fort Crawford on the Mississippi River (in Wisconsin), a meeting place for the surrounding Indian tribes. Eastman's sketches document several these meetings. In 1830 he moved to Fort Snelling (now Minneapolis). The next year he was selected for topographical reconnaissance, and in this capacity he began a series of sketches of the frontier forts. He returned to West Point as an assistant teacher of drawing from 1833-1840, studying privately with C.R. Leslie and Robert W. Weir and holding exhibits at the NAD and the Apollo Gallery.

After participating in the Seminole War in Florida in 1840-1841, Eastman returned to Fort Snelling as a captain from 1841 to 1848. There he began seriously to sketch the Indian country, sometimes working from daguerreotypes. After a tour of duty in Texas in 1848-1849, he was ordered to Washington. His wife, Mary Henderson Eastman [1818-1890] wrote and he illustrated a successful Indian chronicle "Dakotah" published in 1849. This book was the prototype of Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha." In 1851 he began his five-year task of illustrating Henry R. Schoolcraft's six volume History and Statistical Information Respecting . . . the Indian Tribes of the United States, authorized by congress to document all of the Indian Tribes of the then United States. This work was published between 1853 and 1856.

In addition to the Schoolcraft reports, Eastman's work appeared in American Aboriginal Portfolio, written by his wife, and published in 1853. His wife and he also wrote and illustrated The Romance of Indian Life in 1853 and Chicora in 1854. Eastman saw active duty again in Texas in 1855, in Utah in 1858, and in the Civil War after which he retired as a general. He was commissioned by Congress in 1867 to paint Indians and views of western forts to hang in the Capitol.


2 boxes (1 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Sketches made with pen and ink. The materials depict scenes of the Mississippe River and of the Mississippi River Valley and nearby areas. The collection consists of two boxes individually matted and numbered.

Arrangement note

The collection consists of two boxes of individually matted papers numbered in the order in which they were found in the sketchbook. Where a paper contains multiple sketches each sketch is lettered.

The leaves containing Seth Eastman's sketches are listed in the order in which they were found in the original sketchbook. Each leaf of the sketchbook is individually mounted, with its reference number in brackets on the bottom right corner of the inside mat. Where a single piece of paper contains more than one sketch, the number refers to the leaf and a letter (a--g) is assigned to each sketch.

Besides the master reference number, each sketch is labelled according to two prior, but incongruent numbering systems. The first of these (apparently the original) matches the rest of the writing on the sketch and is prefixed by "NO. ". The second numbering, usually in the upper right hand corner of the drawing in ink, is shown in this listing in parenthesis. The number in <>, found on the bottom left corner of the inside mat of each leaf, corresponds to its location in the original book, page number and side.

The "title" of each sketch is the whole of the writing found on it. Illegible words are marked with a {?}. Words inside [] are included for clarification and not found on the sketches.

Other Finding Aids note

A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History note

The Arader Gallery provided BYU Library with the following statement of Provenance: "Mr. Arader purchased the collection of Eastman's work from a colleague in New York, Mr. Michael Frost of J.N. Bartfield Galleries. Bartfield Galleries purchased the collection from a Miss Pamela Miller, who is the Great, Great, Great, Grand-Daughter of Captain Eastman."

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Purchased; Arader Gallery.

Appraisal note

Arts and Communications.


Original works by Eastman survive in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.; the Bushnell Collection of Seth Eastman sketches and watercolors, Peabody Museum, Harvard University; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas. The Museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah owns an 1848 pencil sketch of Nauvoo, Illinois by Eastman. This notebook of pencil sketches, purchased in 1990 by the Lee Library of Brigham Young University, is believed to be the oldest extant group of Eastman pencil sketches.Published works containing Seth Eastman's art:(NOTE: Harold B. Lee Library possesses first editions of books marked with *) * Mary H. Eastman, The American Aboriginal Portfolio. Illustrated by S. Eastman, U.S. Army. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Granbo and Company, 1853). * ________. Chicora and Other Regions of the Conquerors and the Conquered (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Granbo and Company, 1854). ________. Dahcotah; or, Life and Legends of the Sioux around Fort Snelling (New York: John Wiley, 1849). * Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. 6 Volumes (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Company, 1851-57.Published works on Seth Eastman include the following:Lois W. Burkhalter, A Seth Eastman Sketchbook (San Antonio: Marion Koogler McNay Institute, 1961).David I. Bushnell, Jr., Seth Eastman: The Master Painter of the North American Indian (Smithsonian Institution Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 87, no. 3 (Washington, D.C., 1932)). Frances Densmore, The Collection of Water-Color Drawings of the North American Indian by Seth Eastman in the James Jerome Hill Reference Library Saint Paul (St. Paul: John James Hill Reference Library, 1954). "A Group of Water Colors by Seth Eastman" City Art Museum of St. Louis Bulletin May-June, 1971, pp. 3-7.Lila M. Johnson, "Seth Eastman Water Colors," Minnesota History 42 (Fall 1971):258-67.John Francis McDermott, The Art of Seth Eastman (Washington: Smithsonian, 1959).________. Seth Eastman, Pictorial Historian of the Indian (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961) ________. Seth Eastman's Mississippi, A Lost Portfolio Recovered (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973).Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, 1850-1900

Processing Information note

Processed; David J. Whittaker & Chris McClellan; July 1993.

Register of the Seth Eastman sketchbook
David J. Whittaker & Chris McClellan
July 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States