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MS Eng 509.2

Hamilton, Henry, d.1796. Henry Hamilton drawings of North American scenes and Native Americans: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: pf
Call No.: MS Eng 509.2
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Hamilton, Henry, d.1796.
Title: Henry Hamilton drawings of North American scenes and Native Americans,
Date(s): 1769-1784.
Quantity: 1 collection (0.5 linear feet (2 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: These drawings are Hamilton's view of Native Americans and North American scenes, sketched during his military service in North America. His portrait drawings of Native Americans are considered the "earliest and largest collection of life portraits of Native Americans of the Upper Great Lakes."

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

*2001M-11. Mrs. Caroline Isabella Hamilton Rice, of Grange Erin, County Cork, Ireland; received: 1902 Mar. 28.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt with the assistance of Tom Ford

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There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use:

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Preferred Citation for Publication:

Henry Hamilton Drawings of North American Scenes and Native Americans (MS Eng 509.2). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

See also HOLLIS database for other materials owned by the Houghton Library relating to Henry Hamilton and his family.

Biographical / Historical

Hamilton's father was Henry Hamilton (1692-1743), MP for Donegal, County Cork, Ireland. Henry Hamilton was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1734? as the fourth of seven children. He spent his youth in Cork and was commissioned into the 15th Regiment of Foot in the British Army. He earned distinction in the British victories at the battles of Louisburg and Quebec in the French and Indian War.
Hamilton was the British Lieutenant-Governor at Detroit from 1775-1778 and was the man responsible for implementing British Indian policy in the Old Northwest during the American Revolution. He was called the "Hair-Buyer General" by his adversary George Rogers Clark, referring to Hamilton's alleged practice of offering bounties for American scalps, but many historians have since dispelled much of this legend. In August of 1778, Hamilton learned that the Virginians under Colonel George Rogers Clark were descending the Ohio River to invade Illinois country to occupy posts there, including Vincennes on the Wabash River. Hamilton mounted an expedition to counterattack and drive the Virginians from Vincennes. He set out in September and October via the Maumee and Wabash Rivers but by February 1779 Clark retook Vincennes and took Hamilton prisoner. Hamilton was taken by the Americans to Williamsburg, Virginia and held in jail until parole was arranged in October of 1780. He was then taken to New York where he was exchanged for an American prisoner in March of 1781 and he arrived in London in June.
Hamilton was sent back to Quebec from 1782 to 1785 as Lieutenant-Governor and later Deputy-Governor. He was Lieutenant-Governor, then Governor of Bermuda from 1785-1794, and Governor of the Dominica from 1794-1796. In March of 1795, at the age of 61, Hamilton married Elizabeth Lee (25 years old), daughter of Colonel Lee of Banbury, Oxfordshire. They had only one child, Mary Anne Pierpoint Hamilton, who died unmarried on 1871 Dec. 12. Hamilton died in 1796 at Antigua while still holding office.
Hamilton's older brother was Sackville Hamilton, a Privy Councillor and Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was this brother's great-granddaughter, Mrs. Rice, who donated the Hamilton material to Harvard.


For additional information concerning these drawings of the Native Americans, see: Martin W. Walsh. "The Native American Sketches of Henry Hamilton." Michigan History Magazine, May-June 1997, pp21-27; and Brian Leigh Dunnigan. Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit, 1701-1838. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001.


Arranged into the following series:

Scope and Contents

The portrait drawings of Native Americans has been called the "earliest and largest collection of life portraits of Native Americans of the Upper Great Lakes."(Walsh) The drawings of Native Americans were probably "executed between late autumn of 1775 and the late summer of 1778, drawn at Hamilton's Detroit headquarters where he dealt extensively with the leadership of the various Great Lakes nations."
Through Hamilton's annotated drawings as well as his manuscript journals, "a positive evaluation of Native American character and culture emerges which contradicts the stereotype of the imperious British officer. He maintained a healthy curiosity and strove for an objective, scientific view of the alien culture. Nowhere is this better seen than in his unofficial recordings of Native American life and character and especially in this collection of portrait drawings. The portraits, however, are not mentioned in Hamilton's most detailed document, his Journal for 1778-79, the period of Clark's conquest of Illinois country." (Walsh)

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