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Kit Barry <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 9 Dec 2014 23:37:00 -0500
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Forum Members:

The following is not directly related to Scott’s question, but out of discussion, a relationship may arise between 
his questions and this:  In late 19th century advertising trade cards, Blacks, Chinese, Jewish, and Irish were 
the most used ethnic groups in images. Most of the images were clearly negative stereotypic at the expense of whichever group was being used for a specific trade card. 

In a much lesser number of occurrences, the Native American was used in advertising trade cards. But of the images used, only a minority were presented in negative stereotype. The majority of images were reasonably accurate  depictions of the American Indian in his natural environment without negative distortion. For example, in 50 years, I have only found 2 trade cards depicting the Native American drinking alcohol. (A common element in the depiction of Irish or Germans.) Given the well known relationship between the Native American and alcohol at the time, this seems odd that alcohol would not have been a target as was the watermelon insult with the Blacks.

So, two points:  Why is there such a disparity between gentle Native American advertising imagery and other ethnic groups depicted harshly?

And, the advertising trade cards were being distributed to the public at the very same time we were actively killing the American Indian. This seems an odd, if not tricky, path to be walking.

In other words, there seems to be inconsistency, attitude conflict and confusion as to how we were looking at the Native American in the late 19th century. Perhaps this thread will find its way to what Scott is asking after.

Kit Barry

The Ephemera Archive for American Studies

On Dec 9, 2014, at 10:43 PM, Scott Holmes <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I have long wondered if Twain had ever changed his opinion of the
> American Indian.  I don't know if this represents a change or not but in
> chapter 14 of Following the Equator he notes that he never saw an
> Australian "Aboriginal" or "blackfellow". He goes on to say "We have at
> home an abundance of museums, and not an American Indian in them.  It is
> clearly an absurdity, but it never struck me before."