James Otto Lewis



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JAMES OTTO LEWIS, American (1799-1858)

James Otto Lewis is known for his early first hand portraits of native Americans.      

He was commisioned by the U.S. Government to attend treaty councils and ceremonies.  The original prospectus called for ten installments containing eight hand colored lithographs that sold for $2 each. Lewis worked with the Philadelphia lithographers Lehman and Duval. They raced to get the first group of prints finished as Thomas McKenney was planning his major work on the same subject.  The Aboriginal Portfolio is considered the first color plate book depicting Native American subjects.  As with many of the 19th century American publishing efforts the work ran into trouble as expenses mounted.  The work stalled out at the 9th installment.  Although a few examples are known to contain 80 plates most contain just 72.  Lewis's original watercolors burned in the same fire at the Smithsonian that consumed the paintings used for the McKenney and Hall work.