The convention of using the figure of a Native American woman as an allegorical representation for the continent of America or the British American colonies was quite commonplace by the Eighteenth Century. Often meant to evoke the exotic, these depictions embodied British conceptions of the American landscape, as well as the Native peoples and colonial Americans who inhabited it. Two good books on the subject are Troy Bickham’s Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Tim Fulford’s Romantic Indians: Native Americans, British Literature, and Transatlantic Culture, 1756-1830 (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Such a pictogram starts off this rebus, or word puzzle, entitled America to her Mistaken Mother (1794) from the print collections of the Lewis Walpole Library. For the full puzzle, click here. See how well you do in deciphering the message. We’ll post the answer in next week’s Op-Ed entry.
The detail provided above is from the satirical print, The Blessings of Peace (1783), from the Lewis Walpole Library. Benjamin Franklin is depicted here with the Kings of France and Spain. For some additional information on representations of America as Native women, click here.