One of the artist's favorite subjects, Pierre was the son of an Indian mother and a Canadian Anglo father. At seventeen, he was one of the most successful hunters on the expedition. He is shown here in repose, probably during one of the expedition’s daily noon breaks.
This is thought to be the original field study of Pierre. It is inscribed “10” and was part of a group of 87 numbered sketches assembled by Miller in 1839 as a special bound portfolio of scenes reminiscent of his 1837 western travels. The portfolio was presented for his patron’s proud display in the Murthly Castle library.
This portrait shows Pierre in his favorite hat, decorated with a turkey feather. This pose was used by Miller for placement in one of the large oils, Trapper’s Camp (CR# 120), that he exhibited at the Apollo Gallery in New York in 1839 and then sent to Scotland for display in Stewart’s castle. Other later versions of this portrait, one an ink wash drawing (CR# 291) and, another, a watercolor (CR# 291B) are, like the oil, more finished. They also picture the hunter facing the opposite direction and wearing two turkey feathers and a fox tail trailing from his hat. In these later portraits, Pierre is accompanied by his favorite mule. Pierre’s favorite pastime was hunting buffalo, a venturous sport that eventually cost him his life.
Peter H. Hassrick
The riding spur on Pierre’s right foot is drawn with reasonable detail, providing a good example of the style and design of fur trade era spurs. The shank of the spur was made with a slight curve on which was mounted a small, six-pointed, star-shaped rowel. This style of spur was a maker’s compromise between Spanish spurs with very long shanks and large, sharp, eight-pointed rowels; and the English riding spur made with a straight shank and a blunt rounded end in lieu of any rowel at all. Spurs in this time period were displayed and sold attached to heavy cardboard-like paper, and the customer could purchase one or a pair. Most spurs were made of shaped, welded iron bar stock, and then plated with tin. A pair of riding spurs would cost a trapper between $2 and $3.
Miller drew this sketch of Pierre wearing what appears to be a shawl collared-style vest made from cloth. So the obvious questions are, did mountain men have access to cloth vests and did they prefer them? In 1828, the Missouri Republican newspaper carried ads from local dry goods merchants. Deavers Emporium in St. Louis carried “ready made vests of silk, velvet ... valencia, Marselles of various patterns,” while the Walsh Company had vests made of more common fabrics such as “black and blue cassimere, cassinet, and Swansdown.” These ads indicate that vests made from a variety of materials could have been available to the Rocky Mountain trapper. Some of the trading post records substantiate this idea. Trader Nathaniel Wyeth's August 1834, list of “Goods Remaining at Fort Hall uncashed” contained “3 striped Worsted Vests, 3 Velvet vests, and 6 in sattinets.” Swansdown and Valencia vests also appear on the 1836 Fort Hall trade records when fur brigade captain, Joseph Thing and trapper James Conner each purchased “1 Valencia vest” for $5, and a Kanaka trapper called “Pig” choose a “Swansdown vest” for $4. An 1834 day book, also shows Joseph Thing purchasing “1 silk vest” for the discounted price of $1.85 while “Capt Walker” (John R. Walker) is charged $3.75 for “1 vest.” Benjamin Sloat was charged $5 for “1 woolen vest” in March of 1836, while Paul Richardson received a 25% discount for the same article because it was “taken while on a hunt” in June of the same year. These mountain men, much like Pierre, demonstrated a preference for contemporary cloth-made vests.
Since Pierre’s leg wear appears to cover his hips, the garment is probably a pair of fringed buckskinned “pantaloons.” The term pantaloons refers to a garment in use from 1790 to 1850, originally made as close-fitting tights, shaped to the leg, and ending just below the calf. Pantaloon trousers, a garment of a slightly different cut, also became fashionable in the early 1800s and was described as a “hybrid, tight-fitting style but moderately loose from the calf down and without side slits. The bottoms were cut square or with the front hollowed out over the insteps.” The style of pantaloons that Pierre is wearing follows the fashion trend of the period in that the lower leg area was held tight by a “stirrup strap” which passed under the wearer’s instep and was attached to the bottom of the pantaloons. Miller has drawn this sketch with such detail that the stirrup strap is clearly visible on Pierre’s right foot. Because Pierre’s pantaloons are shown adorned with long, flowing fringes, it could be surmised that they are made from buckskin.
Jim Hardee & Clay Landry
Chronister, Alan and Clay Landry, “Clothing of the Rocky Mountain Trapper, 1820 to 1840,” Book of Buckskining Vol. 7
Landry, Clay, “Going Indian! The Use of Leggings and Breech Clout by the Euro-American Trapper of the Rocky Mountains”, Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal, Vol 4 (2010)
Devoto, Bernard A., Across the Wide Missouri
Ferris, Warren, Life in the Rocky Mountains
Hanson Jr., Charles E., Trade Goods For Rendezvous. Book of Buckskinning V
UR: 10; LR mat: Pierre
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart (c. 1839); Frank Nichols; [Chapman’s, Edinburgh, 1871]; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power (1900); by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England, [Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY, 1966]; Joseph M. Roebling, Miami, FL; present owner by gift, 1980