Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In 1985, by coincidence, I learned about this elderly man that was an unknown folk artist. He was disabled and lived rather modestly in an old trailer in an urban setting. He worked in several mediums but his wood carvings were his favorite.

I was able to buy several carvings of women and men, painted and full bodied, about eight inches tall. Then he asked me if I would be interested in a tall Indian carving. The Indian carving was a small replicate of a full-sized cigar store Indian that once could be found displayed outside of tobacco stores. The full-sized cigar store Indian was popular in the early to mid-twentieth century in the U. S. and perhaps before and also on the continent.

The notion was that since tobacco was introduced by Native Americans an interpreted facsimile would be used in selling tobacco products. Therefore, the rather unlikely representation of an American Indian was born. Although we are aware that such figures as the cigar store Indian were carved with a "western eye" and therefore are not representative of true American Indian culture. But these Indian carvings were part of the American culture of the time even with this misrepresentation of the native culture. Such is culture -- you have a ying and yang relationship. I did buy the carving.

This all happened 24 years ago. I was younger and not as fully into folk art as I am today. I eventually sold the small fugures for practically pennies and then gave the Indian to my son.

Today, I realize that I should have found out the history of this amiable folk carver named Fredrick Hyatt. So many questions I could have asked! Opportunity missed.

Post Photos: Folkways Notebook


  1. Wow, this piece is quite a piece of work, literally. Obviously the gentleman was very talented.

  2. Farmchick -- He was a great elderly carver yet unknown to the general public. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I am really in awe of people who can sculpt and/or carve. It's always seemed to me that of all the arts, those are probably the hardest to do, and that kind of talent just blows me away. The detail in your cigar store Indian is fantastic. I assume he painted as well as carved it? Amazing! What a shame he seemed to work his magic in relative obscurity and for little compensation, but I'd like to think his compensation came in other forms, and generously.

    I'll be posting some photos of my mom's miniature general store soon (hope to squeeze it into this month, but it may have to wait till January), in which she has a mini carved, painted cigar store Indian about 5-6" tall. He shows up fairly well in the photos, but I'll be sure to point it out in my captions, too. They're not the best quality photos (glossy finish prints I had to scan), and I hope to get some better ones next summer with my digital camera, but they're pretty good. I think you'll enjoy them!

  4. Laloofah -- Mr Hyatt was an undiscovered artist way up in years when I met him. He lived in a trailer park, as he called it, and got around in a wheelchair. He had a sunny personality and a large smile. He drew with pastels and had many native American drawings that were superb. His trailer was full of his artwork. Yes, he carved and painted the Indian. I will be putting the only other piece I have left of his work on my blog soon.

    I look forward to seeing your mother's general store. Did you ever try to take your glossy photos with a digital -- For me, they turn out better than scanning.

  5. You mean use my digital camera to photograph the glossy prints? Nope, never have done that! Unfortunately, I've sent the prints back to my mother already! Bummer.

  6. Laloofah -- Yes, use your digital camera to take any new, old, glossy etc. photos. You will probably have to play with it at first to get your glare out or the light just right. I don't use a scanner anymore -- want to buy a used scanner? ha ha. -- barbara