Indian Peace Medals from the Schermer Collection, National Portrait Gallery

January 26, 2001 – June 4, 2001

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)
1000 Jefferson Drive, SW
Washington, DC

Schermer Hall, West Wing

On view are 19 peace medals presented to Indian tribal leaders by the United States government between 1793 and 1881, along with a British medal depicting George III and given to Canadian allies during the War of 1812. The U.S. medals, usually made in silver and with a portrait of the current President on one side, were often given to secure treaties and cement political loyalties. The pipe and hatchet motif appeared on the medals until 1850 and symbolized peace.

Also on view is a complete 3-volume set of The History of Indian Tribes of North America by Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall, one of the 19th century's most important works on the American Indian. The series, printed in Philadelphia from 1837-1844, includes biographies of Native American leaders and 120 hand-colored lithographic portraits that reproduce painting made by Charles Bird King and other artists.

These objects were donated to the National Portrait Gallery by Lloyd and Betty Schermer.