Inauguration of the New Building of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Philadelphia, John Sartain, Art Museums and Indians in Florida, this program details the ceremonies of the opening of this new building for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Of interest, is an anecdote told by one of the distinguished Directors of visiting St. Augustine, Florida where the once-chained “savages” are being appropriately civilized:

I am no artist. I please myself sometimes with the idea that I have in me a latent faculty for Art, but a recent experience bids me take care how I entertain any such conceit. A few weeks ago I was in that most ancient of our American cities, St Augustine. I found there in the old Spanish fort some fifty Indians Belonging to Western tribes. They had committed outrages, atrocious even for savages, and had been delivered up to our Government. The Government sent them down in chains to be kept in the fort. The chains had disappeared, aid the savages were clad in our American uniform, and the women of St. Augustine were visiting and teaching them. They were mostly engaged in making bows and arrows for children, and in other innocent occupations. I found among them two or three with blank books and pencils, drawing animals and other objects, which shows, by the way, how natural is the love of the Fine Arts, which brings us together to-day. I fancied I might give one of these artist savages some instruction. So I took his book and drew a horse. Drawing horses was my specialty in my childhood. I thought my representation of a horse decidedly superior to the Indian’s, as in my drawing the legs showed some indications of joints, which the savage’s did not at all. So I returned the book to him, anticipating a look of grateful acknowledgment. But, instead of thanks, he applied his India-rubber to my horse, exclaiming, ‘No good! no good!’ while he pronounced his own work ‘heap good’ … [(pp.8-9)]


This anecdote, meant to be humorous, refers to Fort San Marco in St. Augustine, Florida;  the birthplace of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School founded in Carlisle, Pennsylvania by military veteran Richard Henry Pratt in 1879.

Richard H. Pratt (1840–1924) was a veteran of the U. S. Civil War. He went out west after the war to lead African American soldiers in the U. S. Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment, better known as the Buffalo Soldiers. Pratt was later stationed at Ft. Griffin, Texas where one of his responsibilities was to command the Indians, or Native Americans, who had been enlisted as scouts for the army.

In cooperation with several Indian tribal chiefs during the Red River War, the army captured a number of Indians who were resisting federal authority in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. In May 1875, Pratt was assigned the duty of transporting some 72 Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indian prisoners to Fort San Marco, the old Spanish fortress at St. Augustine, Florida later known at Fort Marion. Pratt took a paternal interest in his charges. During their exile, he sought to assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world through education.

Fine Arts. Philadelphia. Sartain. And subdued Native Americans in Florida becoming caricatures within a passing anecdote, to inaugurate institutional American Museum art, in the year of the Centennial.


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