Alfred Jacob Miller (American, 1810–1874),
The Trapper’s Bride
oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches, 76.2 x 63.5 cm
Museum purchase, 1963.612
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Alfred Jacob Miller became the first artist of his generation to explore the Rocky Mountains when he accompanied Scottish soldier and sportsman, Sir William Drummond Stewart (1795–1871), on an expedition into the American West in 1837. Following a route later designated as the Oregon Trail through old Nebraska Territory, Miller and Stewart attended one of the last of the annual fur trappers’ rendezvous along the Green River in what is now Wyoming. Miller afterward produced a large number of works descriptive of this experience for various clients. Most of these paintings remained in private hands, and it was not until after his death that his reputation as a frontier artist was brought to the attention of a wider public.
One of the best-known paintings in Joslyn’s extensive Miller collection, The Trapper’s Bride represents an American Fur Company trapper taking an Indian wife. Miller painted several versions of this subject, one of which is in the Walters Art Gallery in the artist’s hometown. About this incident the artist later wrote:
The price of acquisition in this case was $600 paid for in the legal tender of the region: viz.: Guns, $100 each, Blankets $40 each, Red Flannel $20 pr. yard, Alcohol $64 pr. Gal., Tobacco, Beads etc. at corresponding rates. A Free Trapper is a most desirable match, but it is conceded that he is a ruined man after such an investment. . . . The poor devil trapper sells himself, body and soul, to the Fur Company for a number of years. He traps beaver, hunts the Buffalo and bear, Elk, etc., the furs and robes of which the Company credits to his account.