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For the Record Free Land? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America. Was the Land Really Free?. The Age of Exploration.

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For the Record Free Land? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America

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the age of exploration
The Age of Exploration

The Age of Exploration came after the Middle Ages and at beginning of the Renaissance. Many different European countries paid for explorations for different reasons. Some of the reasons they explored were:

  • To find a sea route to the spices of Asia
  • To find gold, silver, and precious stones
  • To expand their knowledge of the world
  • To control a larger empire
  • To expand Christianity
  • To find animal fur
William Henry Powell1823-1879DISCOVERY OF THE MISSISSIPPI BY DE SOTOWhat reasons for exploration do you see in this image?

When you look at the previous image what issues come to mind both for and against Western European exploration?

William Henry Powell’s dramatic and brilliantly colored canvas was the last of the eight large historical paintings in the Rotunda commissioned by the Congress.

It shows Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando De Soto (1500–1542), riding a white horse and dressed in Renaissance finery, arriving at the Mississippi River at a point below Natchez on May 8, 1541. De Soto was the first European documented to have seen the river.

recording the original inhabitants
Recording the Original Inhabitants
  • What form /medium can public records take? Are there different mediums from different times?
  • Who made records of the original inhabitants of the “New World”, what did they record and what was the method of the record?
  • From whose point of view are the records?
  • Describe the Native American’s view of landownership and how it varied from the European immigrants?
chief standing bear
Chief Standing Bear

Standing Bear, born in 1839, was a Ponca Native American chief who successfully argued in U.S. District Court in 1879 in Omaha that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus.

*Chief Standing Bear is a historical figure portrayed in the “Free Land” Chautauqua.

karl bodmer prince maximilian
Karl Bodmer & Prince Maximilian

In 1832 Karl Bodmer accompanied German Prince Maximilian on his tour of America.

Today Bodmer’s paintings and Maximilian’s journal give valuable information to Native Americans whose ancestors inhabited the shores of the Missouri River.


Karl Bodmer painted this image

nine years before Chief Standing Bear’s birth.


George Catlin was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Following a brief career as a lawyer, he produced two major collections of paintings of American Indians and published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central and South America. Claiming his interest in America's 'vanishing race' was sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia, he set out to record the appearance and customs of America's native people.Catlin began his journey in 1830 when he accompanied General William Clark on a diplomatic mission up the Mississippi River into Native American territory. St. Louis became Catlin's base of operations for five trips he took between 1830 and 1836, eventually visiting fifty tribes. Two years later he ascended the Missouri River over 3000 km to Ft Union, where he spent several weeks among indigenous people still relatively untouched by European civilization. He visited eighteen tribes, including the Pawnee, Omaha, and Ponca in the south and the Mandan, Cheyenne, Crow, Assiniboine, and Blackfeet to the north. There, at the edge of the frontier, he produced the most vivid and penetrating portraits of his career. Later trips along the Arkansas, Red and Mississippi rivers as well as visits to Florida and the Great Lakes resulted in over 500 paintings and a substantial collection of artifacts.

standing bear was five years old when catlin was painting in nebraska
Standing Bear was five years old when Catlin was painting in Nebraska

The Last Race

Mandan O-Kee-Pa Ceremony

White Cloud,

Head Chief of the Iowas



Pilgrims vs. Homesteaders

  • Compare the motivation of the Pilgrims and the Homesteaders for acquiring “Free Land”. What records were kept to validate ownership?
  • What were the ramifications of changes in ownership of land from Natives Americans to immigrants and from the government to citizens?
  • Explore the concept: Who is to blame for the displacement of the Native Americans? Were the pilgrims or homesteaders responsible? Were their motives pure?
  • Did Europeans in general assume the land was free?
pilgrims vs homesteaders
Pilgrims vs. Homesteaders
  • Pilgrims

  • Homestead
  • How did the Native Americans’ view of landownership encourage the concept of Free Land?
for the record
For the Record

Edward Hicks was born in Pennsylvania in 1780. His mother died when he was 18 months old, and his father, a British loyalist, was forced to flee in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. Family friends took in the abandoned child and gave him religious instruction; from this early time, religion became central to his life. At age thirteen Hicks was apprenticed to a coach maker and spent the next seven years learning to make and paint coaches.

Hicks was soon recognized as a minister and, like other Quakers, began to travel thousands of miles to spread the word, uncompensated in any material way. Eventually he established himself in Milford, Pennsylvania, where he painted coaches, signs and decorated household objects. By 1820 he had begun easel painting, and scenes based on the biblically inspired theme of “The Peaceable Kingdom" became his specialty. Hicks continued to travel and preach and to paint until his death in 1849. He also painted the homes of friends as a record of what they had accomplished for the next generations and included historical references in his works.

for the record1
For the Record

Nebraska photographer Solomon D. Butcher produced, over the course of nearly forty years, a record of the settlement of the Great Plains that is both unique and remarkable. Born in 1856 in what was to become the state of West Virginia after the Civil War, Butcher came with his family to the plains of Nebraska in 1880.

This restless young man soon found that he was not up to the rigors of a homesteader's life. He had tasted just enough of it, however, to develop a profound admiration for those with the grit to survive and prosper on the Nebraska prairies. In 1886 Butcher was struck with an idea that was inspired. Realizing that the period of settlement would soon be over, he set out to create a photographic history of pioneer life. Between 1886 and 1912 Butcher generated a collection of more than 3,000 photographs.

Though he died in 1927 believing himself a total failure, Solomon D. Butcher's work has survived to become the most important chronicle of the saga of homesteading in America.

edward hicks solomon butcher comparison
Edward Hicks & Solomon Butcher Comparison
  • Compare images of various private residences from American Folk Artist Edward Hicks and photographer Solomon Butcher. How are they similar?
  • What was the purpose of these images?
  • Looking at the images what can you learn about the people in the images?
  • Does anything seem out of place?

The Residence of David Twining,1848

RawdingHomestead Sylvester

Look at the man plowing. Who is he?Compare his life to the Shores family.Remember that Edward Hicks was from Pennsylvania.

The Shores Family

for the record2
For the Record

Edward Hicks and Solomon Butcher would be surprised that their images are still being viewed.

As you compare their work on the consider the following questions:

• Why are these images iconic?

• Are they iconic because they represent the life on the plains and in the United States, or just because they are the only images we have?  

• What make some photos, buildings or paintings iconic?

was the land really free
Was the Land Really Free?
  • What were the results of the Age of Exploration, Homestead Act, the Pacific Railway Act, and the Morrill Act on the European Immigrants and the Native People?
  • What new opportunities were available as a result of the 1862 legislation? Who benefited? What “costs” were involved?
  • What is our responsibility today?
for your record
For Your Record
  • If you were going to make a record of what you, your family or your community has accomplished for future generations what form would that record take?
  • What information would you include and how would you ensure that it would last for generations?
make a record
Make a Record…

Make a record of you, your family or your community. (Below are some suggestions but there is no one right or wrong way to complete this task.)

  • Digital/photographic images (share them on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags#NEChautauqua or #NEFreeLand)
  • Video images
  • Do a painting or drawing or use some visual arts medium
  • Keep a scrapbook
  • A journal or other sort of written record

Share your “records” with us! –