John Colter

John Colter was America’s first mountain man. In 1803 he was the second man to join the Corp of Discovery. After going to the Pacific and back with Lewis and Clark, Colter immediately headed west again to trap beaver. Traveling alone much of the time and living off the land, he is credited with the discovery of the wonders of Yellowstone. Later he would fill in details on Meriweather Lewis’s maps for Thomas Jefferson. His Indian encounters have been immortalized in movies and songs.

 Shortly after reenlisting in the army to serve with Nathan Boone’s Rangers in the War of 1812 John Colter died when he was just 37. The few items he owned at the time were sold at auction.  The only

Winslow Homer’s “The Army of the Potomac – A Sharp-Shooter on Picket Duty”

This is an original copper plate used for the printing of images in Harper’s Weekly newspaper. Premier 19th century illustrator and artist Winslow Homer is remembered for this image, perhaps more than any other. Printed in the November 15, 1862 issue, it is the most collected and difficult to find of all Winslow Homer Civil War prints. The image is popularly referred to simply as “Homer’s Sharpshooter.”

By itself, the copper plate is an impressive piece of history. To display and showcase it, the plate has been mounted in a cove recess of black suede and accented by a surrounding inlay of mottled copper. The aged copper frame reinforces the theme of this unusual piece of historic art.

Framing Historic Objects and Items

Consistent with the drawing and the theme, the artwork is wrapped in Confederate gray wool – both the mat and seamless liner which provides depth for the .58 cal. “minnie ball”. The weathered frame and fillet are reminiscent of the fence line where the VMI students prepared for their part in the battle. This is a preservation framing with artwork and artifact mounted with fully reversible techniques. Museum glass allows full appreciation of the artwork and artifact detail.


17710 Kenwood Trail Lakeville  MN 55044

Before Battle by Martha Iler

In 1864 cadets from Virginia Military Institute were asked by Confederate Gen. John Breckenridge to serve in reserve for an expected clash with Union forces. On May 15, after marching 81 miles in 4 days, the Corps of Cadets filled a critical void in the line, withstood an artillery barrage, then led the charge that resulted in a Confederate victory at the Battle of New Market. Their service marks the only time in the nation's history when an entire student body fought as a unit in pitched battle. That service entitles VMI cadets to be the only school in the United States to parade with fixed bayonets, and to fly a battle streamer on its flag.

In this drawing by Martha Iler, a young cadet prepares to load his Enfield prior to the fight. He is reaching for a bullet like the authentic artifact shown below the picture.

Apollo 11

Autographs are more interesting when they are displayed in historical context. The photo at the top of this collection is autographed by all 3 astronauts on the mission where men first walked on the moon. It is accompanied by a medallion, patriotic pin, mission patches, a hologram, and a replica of the plaque that is now at the landing site on the moon.

There is a lot to look at in this display. The main point of interest is definitely the photograph at the top signed by each of the astronauts. But each of the other elements has a story of its own. And collectively it tells a story of both the astronauts and the trip itself. Autographs create a direct link to people we may never get to sit down and visit with. But putting those signatures into a setting that reinforces an event makes the connection that much stronger.

physical connections to John’s life are a few corps of discovery pay records that he signed and a stone he is believed to have carved during his stay in the mountains during the winter of 1808. These items are all owned by the U.S. Government. So decendents are only left with stories and second hand commemorations of his life and adventures.

 These framed menus come from the John Colter Grill in Grand Teton National Park. One menu was acquired in 1960 by John’s great-great-great grandson. Thirty-one years later he returned with his children and collected the second. Even the John Colter Grill is now gone, replaced by the John Colter Food Court. While these menus have no physical connection to the old mountain man, they are treasured by the owner for their spiritual connection to an honored ancestor.