MONUMENTAL BATTLE SCENE AT WESTERN FRONTIER
31 ½ x 41 ½ inches sheet, 38 ½ x 49 inches framed. Chromolithograph (tiny tear on right edge, toning consistent with age). Small margin directly under picture reads: “Entered According To Act Of Congress By Adolphus Busch March 30th 1896 In The office of The Librarian Of Congress At Washington, D.C.” Annotations below identifies important figures in the composition including Captain T. W. Custer (brother of general George Armstrong Custer) and Sioux Warrior who killed Custer. Texts on the very bottom identify title, printer, and place of printing, and include the following note: “The Original Painting has been Presented to the Seventh Regiment U.S. Cavalry By Anheuser Busch Brewing Association, St. Louis, Mo. U.S.A.”
This monumental chromolithograph is the oldest and most well-known piece of American Breweriana known to exist; it was introduced by the American brewing company Anheuser-Busch to commemorate the infamous Battle of the Little Bighorn. Based on the 1884 painting by Cassilly Adams, this print features an iconic scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, today famously known as Custer’s Last Stand, the most prominent military action during the Great Sioux War of 1876. This battle took place on June 25-26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in Montana, and involved an armed engagement between the American 7th Cavalry Regiment and the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. The vivid colors and striking details in facial expressions and costumes further heighten the drama and emotional intensity depicted in this print.
The present lithograph opens to a riveting and graphic scene. General George Armstrong Custer is featured at the center of the composition, standing tall and waving a saber with an air of dignified determination. The remaining officers of his cavalry are all locked in various violent struggles with Native American fighters. General Custer’s brother, Tom Custer, appears to have fallen in battle in the foreground; he lies immobile while a Native American warriors stands over him with a spear. The Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho fighters clearly outnumber Custer’s men in the composition, with numerous ones armed with scalping knives, tomahawks, clubs, spears, and rifles in the foreground, all poised for battle, while more appear to arrive on horseback from the background.
Anheuser-Busch was founded in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1876, the company introduced Budweiser, with the ambition of transcending local tastes, and successfully made Budweiser the first national beer brand of the United States. In the 1880s and 1890s, Anheuser-Busch launched a series of marketing campaigns in which they produced items such as corkscrews, pocketknives, postcards, and prints bearing their brand name--the present chromolithograph was the most iconic of these items, eventually becoming "one of the most popular pieces of artwork in American history" (Herbst, 38).
Reference: Henry Herbst, “St. Louis Brews: 200 Years of Brewing in St. Louis, 1809 - 2009,” (St. Louis: 2009)
You are warmly invited to visit our gallery at 1016 Madison Avenue in New York City to view this work whenever it might be convenient.