The "Landing of Nicolet" postcard interpretation of a 1910 mural painting by Milwaukee-based panorama painter Franz Edward Rohrbeck illustrates the mythic landing of the young French woodland explorer Jean Nicolet in 1634 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Nicolet had been living with the Alqonquin tribes (his guides are shown in the canoe behind him) in the wilderness as part of his hot pursuit of fur (mainly beaver) and an ocean trade passageway to China. Native Ho-Chunk people are shown as exotic and cowering while offering the ceremonial calumet while rock star Nicolet, clad in ostentatious silk robe (said to be Chinese damask) accesorized by glistening pistols, asserts his authority. Another artist in another time may have illustrated the spectacle as more peaceable and cooperative, but this performative show of domination apparently resonated culturally in the early 20th century in Northeastern Wisconsin. Based on a mural painting (restored by Conrad Schmitt Studios in 2010) at the Brown County Courthouse (100 South Jefferson Street, Green Bay), this postcard reflects an American social milieu where Native peoples were marginalized and colonialism was rationalized. So culturally canonical was this scene, that a version was used on a U.S. postage stamp in 1934 celebrating the Wisconsin Trecentenary of Nicolet's landing at "Red Banks". The stamp version was based on an earlier circa 1907 mural at the State Capitol in Madison by Edward Willard Deming who is said to have associated throughout his life with Native Americans and hence more clearly articulated the humanity of the natives in his mural. Note the phrase "The first white man"used in the postcard caption with no white guilt. The Wisconsin Trecentenary was also marked by ceremonies and a speech by FDR. The image can be read as evidence of the American power and identity struggles that enabled "the white man" to separate native peoples from their homelands.
|Found: Wisconsin Trecenenary (1634-1934) postage stamp|
|Found: Landfall of Jean Nicolet in Wisconsin (1907)|
by Edward Willard Deming on view in the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison