Prairie Meadows Burning, 1832
11 x 14 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Prairie fires, sometimes natural and sometimes set by Indians, cleared out saplings, shrubs, and dead brush and promoted regeneration of nutritious grasses that attracted buffalo herds. The most dramatic fires occurred in the tallgrass, where prairie grasses grew as tall as men. Catlin described such a conflagration as a "raging tempest
rolling over the land its swelling waves of liquid fire."