I recently purchased a print of a painting by Edwin Willard Deming. Deming was born in 1860 at Ashland, Ohio. When he was six months old his parents moved to western Illinois, which was on the frontier at the time. Deming grew to be a talented artist who, in the latter third of the nineteenth century painted and sculpted the Native American lifestyle.
The above painting is one of many that illustrates the children’s book, Indian Child Life, written by Deming and his wife Therese. The book was published in 1899. The painting is of two Winnebago Indian children sitting on a blanket as they point and look at two male ivory-billed woodpeckers in a nearby tree.
My limited research on Deming has turned-up nothing on the source of the reference material he may have used for the birds in the painting. In the story that appears with the painting the birds are referred to as, “Two great, big woodpeckers, with great red heads.”
Perhaps Deming had see a woodcut or painting of ivorybills, or perhaps he had seen a specimen. From what I have read Winnebago Indians in the 1800’s occupied parts of Illinois and Okalahoma. Since Deming lived in the area throughout his early years, he may have indeed seen ivorybills in the wild himself. Whatever the source, he did not use the name, Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the painting. The fact that two males are represented in the painting makes me think that Deming only had knowledge of male ivorybills, and perhaps was unaware that females have a black crest.
No matter the source nor the limit of Deming’s knowledge of Ivory-bills, I am very happy to add this print to my collection of ivorybill memorabilia.
To see an electronic version of “Indian Child Life,” with color illustrations, go to: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32301/32301-h/32301-h.htm
To read more about Edwin Willard Deming, go to: