Murder of Miss Jane McCrae, 1777 - N Currier 2 - 1846

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Page 68e10.2 Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.





Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

An amazingly early original print that summarizes wonderfully one aspect of the period of domestic terror that has molded so much of American history.

The entire American movie industry - but not the Canadian - is a testament to American inability to solve societal problems of any kind with sensitivity towards others and to do so without reaching for a gun.

This original, hand-painted litho is one of the earliest that came from the founder of the firm, Nathaniel Currier, before he partnered up with Ives in 1857.

It shows how the original Currier and Ives prints were done. These were not calendar art or book plates but were each handled by the original artist of 1846.

The original image was finely cut into a litho stone. It was inked and a paper would be pressed down on the damp surface, and the image pulled off, and left to dry. The resulting print would be in black and white with various degrees of shading in gray between the sharp lines.

An assembly line of painters would then receive each print in turn and apply the paint in the areas she - it was usually women - was expert in, before handing on to her partner who would paint something else.

Murder of Miss Jane McCrae AD 1777 - Nathaniel Currier, 1846
Orig. hand painted lithograph - Image Size - 23 x 32 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
The George Harlan Estate Coll

Contact & Conflict

This hand-painted litho summarizes the period in US and Canadian history when trust broke down between the Aboriginal community and the invading white settlers.

Originally, the settlers who had been few in number, and vulnerable, were keen to have friendly relations with the local inhabitants who certainly could give them pointers on how to stay alive in Wild America.

But Indians were soon drawn into the white alliance systems, with French settlers allying themselves with local Indians to the north while English settlers did the same further south. Since the European nations were often at war the conflict led to local warfare between the colonies and their Indian allies.

British (American) forces attacked Quebec in 169999.

Actually, this period from 1600 to 1814 can be considered somewhat of a high point for Allied Indian white relations. Indians were needed to defend the colonies from attack. When the French were kicked out of Canada, and all of North America became British, Indians were no longer valuable as warriors. And with the Hudson's Bay Company selling off its trapping lands to the Canadian Government in 1869, they had long been unnecessary as vital for the fur trade. When the white man government and corporate elites no longer had need for them as partners, began the decline of Indian power in North America.

As white settlements and farms grew in number, and power, settlers grew contemptuous of Indian rights, and started, more and more to push them out of their traditional haunts, and take advantage wherever they could.

History was on the side of the white man. He had a powerful government behind him wielding legislative power and armies. The Indians were weak, being split into tribes and so could be beaten down a small group at a time by the mighty juggernaut of advancing white settlers backed up by the power of the state.

After all Indians were savages too, not God-fearing Christians like the settlers. Like Charlemagne, with the Germanic tribes in the 8th century, they would convert them with the Bible or the sword... It was the beginning of the American gun culture in solving domestic disputes.

In fact, as domestic bliss settled over the frontier in the US and Canada after 1763, the former Indian allies became the main obstacle to settlement expansion. Indians now became victims of the hostility of the white masters they had served so faithfully in war. Their resistance in this period is expressed in the Currier print left.

Another way Canadians are different from Americans

It was to reach its highest, and most bloody period ever, during the American Civil War in which white northern and southern Americans butchered each other with such ferocity that they suffered more dead - some 600,000 killed - than in all other American wars together, before and since. It was a bloodletting of truly Christian proportions...

Another way Canadians are different from Americans

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005

This print memorializes the famous death (murder or accident?) that had taken place, in 1777, in warfare between English Canadian Indian allies and Americans, during the US War for Independence. Jane was captured by Canadian Algonquians and died under mysterious circumstances.

For decades after, the "Murder of Jane McCrae" fueled wild anti-British sentiment in the United States. Any Americans who looked, or sounded pro-British - read anti-American - was hounded from home and hearth across the eastern seaboard of the United States, their farms confiscated or burned.

Thousands of these persecuted individuals moved across the border, carrying little beyond a few sticks of furniture, and the shirts on their backs, becoming one of Canada's most storied founding peoples, the United Empire Loyalists. They were glad to leave their warring American past behind for the peaceful fields and forests of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, where they proved indispensable for putting the backbone into what was to become Canada.

It is also an enduring testament to a violent strain of pro-white, pro-Christian sentiment that from the beginning has harboured a deadly strain of violence against non-whites and non-Christian peoples, at home and abroad.

It is a testament that the wild sentiments that this event was still able to arouse emotional fever 80 years after the event which for years was used to demonize the British for consorting with such savages.

Over 200 years later Jane McCrae still arouses anger as seen in this posting by a US historian of Indian extraction, replying to a tourist information web site in New York state.

"I am so disturbed by your story of the murder of Jane...
The evidence of the bullet holes proved she was shot and I would say the TRUTH is the tomahawk was the after thought to place the blame on the Indians. Your depiction of Indians is deplorable. Friendly fire killed people then and it kills people today. Over and over Indians were blamed for things they did not do in order to have reason to kill them and steal their land. This statement is disgusting —"Truth is that it was Indians who killed Jane for nothing more than the thrill of killing the poor young girl, a motive that was far to common in Jane's day." —

"The TRUTH IS....Our country was INVADED and the ENEMY was not us.... It was Indians who saved the lives of colonists over and over. They were not SAVAGES as your story promotes.

"I find the inclusion of this story on your web site offensive and
disgusting. I don't expect to get an apology. I am a historian and
writer and well respected in my state as being an authority on Indian
history (being an Indian myself, and with an acceptable white Master
Degree from UCLA) I have done research for 45 years and have found many instances where original writings of explorers and colonists totally contradict the preferred stories of "savage Indians."
I'm sure you won't be surprised that my husband and I will not be
asking you for any information for our upcoming vacation to the
Adirondacks... the reason I was on your site to begin with... and I
will certainly not be consulting with you on area Indian history...."

Another official informational answer to an enquiry from a tourist was that "it is too long ago to be able to tell exactly what happened but we know "an Indian did it...!"

Right, Vanderlyn's oil of the Death of Jane McCrae, 1804.