Monday, September 14, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: Iconic Images of Custer's Last Stand

The Clements Library has acquired two prints depicting Custer's last stand: John Mulvany's "Custer's Last Rally" (1881) and Cassily Adams' "Custer's Last Fight" (1885). These two iconic images provide the best known representations of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Mulvany, "Custer's Last Rally"

Adams, "Custer's Last Fight"

Both of these images were widely copied and distributed. As can be seen from the text on the Adams print, it was reproduced by the Anheuser Busch brewing company, which distributed it to saloons across America and made it one of the most famous images in American art.

Part of their popularity can be attributed to American fascination with the event itself, which shocked the nation in 1876 when news of Custer's defeat spread. The story of Custer's last stand is one of the most memorable events in American history, partly because it remains controversial to this day. These famous depictions of Custer's last stand contributed to his myth as a heroic figure, although other information about him provides a much more troubling image. Modern reinterpretations of the battles between U.S. forces and Native Americans have given a more sympathetic understanding to the Native American perspective, in which Custer's actions were anything but heroic.

The Clements Library holds a variety of materials related to Native American history and the history of the American West. Search the library catalog or manuscripts finding aids for more information on our holdings.

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