In The Image of A.J. Miller by Shawn Webster


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With artwork by Lee Teter and H. David Wright

In this book, Shawn Webster recreates the clothing and accoutrements shown in the sketches and paintings of early 19th century artist Alfred Jacob Miller. Miller spent his lifetime sketching and painting the lives of the Rocky Mountain Trappers and Native Americans of the Western Fur Trade.

From the Introduction:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe this to be true.

However, in the early 1800's all pictures were in the form of drawings and paintings, which leaves the viewer to figure out what he or she believes the artist is trying to show.

This is the case with Alfred J. Miller's artwork. Miller is the only artist known to have painted and sketched the daily happenings of the Rocky Mountain trapper in the year of 1837. To students of the western fur trade, especially those interested in the beaver hunters of the period 1820-40, Miller's sketches provide a rare glimpse into the daily happenings, dress, equipment and mode of travel of the famed "mountain men".

By the time Miller arrived in the mountains in 1837, many of the legendary mountain men were already there. However, Miller chose to record the more common happenings and the less famous men for his paintings, perhaps because he was working for Captain William Drummond Stewart. Aside from Captain (Joseph Rutherford) Walker and Jim Bridger in his suit of armor, Miller did not choose the other famous mountain men as subjects. Happily, this leaves us with a better picture of some common details that future artists would leave out.

What we will try to do in this book is to take Miller’s most clear and complete drawings and paintings, then reproduce in photographs the clothing and equipment items that they show. So in a sense we are doing a sketchbook, but using photography. The many sketchbooks available today are a valuable source of information. However a small drawing or sketch can only give the viewer so much information. A good clear photograph can tell a more complete story.

We will only reproduce items we can clearly see and identify in each of the works we have chosen to use. We will identify each of Miller's drawings or paintings used, and include any other information that might help the reader get a better understanding of what he or she is seeing.

There are a lot of items used by the mountain men that can be documented in the form of written journals, trade lists and old fort documents, which Miller does not show. We are only going to reproduce items that Miller saw and chose to use in his paintings. This is not meant to imply that the clothing and equipment items found in other sources are not authentic.

More and more people these days are trying to do re-enactments with a better understanding and with more authentic equipment than ever before. If this book will help any of these folks, even a little, then it will have served its purpose.