This paper deconstructs the folklore surrounding an early twentieth-century zinc figure of an American Indian that stands in the center of the village of Mount Kisco, New York. The identity that “Chief Kisco” has assumed over the past hundred years elides the nature of the origins of the statue, which was intended not as a statement of communal identity, but rather as the exact opposite. As a ready-made art object, the statue was emblematic of a new network of commodified goods that transformed the cultural geography of the United States; as it was utilized in Mount Kisco, the statue was a piece of temperance propaganda with strong nativist undertones that tapped directly into the class, religious, and ethnic divisions running through the turn-of-the-century village.
The Many Lives of Chief Kisco: Strategies of Solidarity and Division in the Mythology of an American Monument
Madeline Bourque Kearin is a PhD candidate in historical archaeology in the department of anthropology at Brown University and holds a master’s degree in art history and archaeology from New York University. She is the vice president of the Louis A. Brennan Lower Hudson Chapter New York State Archaeological Association and served as codirector of its excavation of the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church Site in Mount Kisco, New York, from 2013 to 2015. She has worked for several years on projects with the Mount Kisco Historical Society, including the restoration and commemoration of the Spencer Optical Factory site and the digitization of the society’s archives.
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Madeline Bourque Kearin; The Many Lives of Chief Kisco: Strategies of Solidarity and Division in the Mythology of an American Monument. The Public Historian 1 August 2017; 39 (3): 40–61. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2017.39.3.40
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