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"Seeing the Elephant" und weitere Werke von Courtney Blazon

"Seeing the Elephant"
50 x 40 inch (w x h)
Pen and Marker on Paper

The Donner Party is known by reputation as the "cannabalistic" group of
roughly 90 westward travelers, making the trek across America to California in 1846, where they were hoping to improve the lives of their families, off to "See the Elephant" (a popular newspaper advertisement hailing the excitement and mystery that awaited those who made their way west). On the advice of someone who had purported to know for certain an easier and quicker route, the group took the infamous 'Hastings Cutoff', and this would prove to be their ruin. They faced tragedy after tragedy, from the loss of cattle in the Salt Lake Desert, to fighting and disagreements and death amongst the group that fractured their already broken spirits, and then onward to the massive delays in their progress causing their eventual sojourn at Truckee Lake, where they made a winter camp and the madness of starvation started to settle as attempts at passage across the pass were thwarted by weather and the group began to eat their fallen brethren in a horrifying attempt at survival. Eventually, after over a year of tragedy and desperation, 48 of the original 87 made it to Sutter's Fort in California. Not all of of those who survived had eaten human flesh, but for many of those who did, including several children, their lives and future experiences were fraught with sadness, deep remorse, and guilt.
Through all this, young Virginia Reed, part of one of the few families who made it through the ordeal intact (along with the Breen family), showed amazing resilience and strength of character. When the group was forced to abandon most of their material goods, she sewed into her petticoats a favorite doll, a silver spoon, and a small family book. When she and her small brother tried to go on one of the relief missions with her mother and other members of the party, she turned around with him and went back alone to the desolate Truckee Lake winter camp when it became clear that the snow was too deep for him. She felt certain she would die, and promised God she would convert to Catholicism if she should make it out alive. When she died in her old age, she had been Catholic for over fifty years.
*Property of artist. Cannot be copied or sold without artist consent.



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