Indians of the Northwest

This isn’t actually railroad memorabilia, but most Great Northern rail fans, and many art connoisseurs, will agree that they can’t get enough of Winold Reiss’ work. Shortly after Reiss died in 1953, Walter Foster–publisher of a successful series of “how-to-draw” books–came out with this book of 34 of Reiss’ paintings.

Click image to download a 28.8-MB PDF of this book.

There’s no date on the book, or even any copyright notice (which is why I feel comfortable reproducing it here). Although this is number 116 out of 168 books listed in the back, when I contacted Walter Foster Publishing, which is still putting out art books, they didn’t know when he published this book either.

The book thanks the Great Northern “for the loan of many color transparencies used in this book.” Some of the images are taken straight from the portfolios of Reiss paintings that Great Northern distributed in the 1940s and 1950s, even down to having the same copyright notices printed at the bottoms of the pictures. Others appear to have been photographed in frames, many of them with what appears to be an inventory number on a small circular sticker on the glass. One and only one has a notice thanking the Smithsonian for the use of that painting.

Foster himself added commentary to just two paintings. One of them provided a bit of history about Blackfoot Indians. Next to the other, a painting of Indian sign talkers, he noted,

The sign language has been used since the beginning of time, and some times it may not work for one. On my last trip to Paris I called on several Art Stores to check on my books and to my great surprise, and the denting of my ego, the young saleslady insisted on selling me one of my own books. This year I will take an interpreter along when I visit the foreign lands. Some- times I have trouble convincing the store owner, I have never met, that I am Walter Foster. They either think I am dead or an imposter. One well known jobber asked me to stop and see them as they would like to be a distributor of my books, and I turned them down. They wanted to know why and I said, “the story that is going through the trade is that you have bought me out, and the other is that I am dead, and I happen to know both stories are slightly exaggerated, so sorry.” Now what has this got to do with Indian sign language? Not a darn thing.

This book was successful enough that Foster put out a companion book, Indians and Scenes of the Southwest, featuring paintings by Gerald Curtis Delano. The Santa Fe Railway owned several of Delano’s paintings and featured them on menus, calendars, and other items.

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