“The Revenant” and Robert Campbell

If you like the movies no doubt you have heard of the new Hollywood film The Revenant, starring Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hardy. The film just won the 2016 Golden Globe Award for best drama and DiCaprio received the best actor award.  It has also just yesterday received 12 Oscar nominations.

The film is an account of the travails of Hugh Glass, a mountain man who in 1823 was badly mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. Glass survived and made a grueling 250-mile trek to safety. Glass’ exploits became cemented in legend, inspiring three movies, two books (including Michael Punke’s 2002 novel The Revenant, which inspired the film), and numerous songs. While The Revenant is fictionalized, many of the events and characters are real, and showcase the life of mountain men. The Museum of the Mountain Man has an excellent account on the real Hugh Glass; we here present to you how Robert Campbell fits in with The Revenant.

Hugh Glass did not have a dog with him, and came out much the worse-for-wear after his fight.

Hugh Glass did not have a dog with him, and came out much the worse-for-wear after his fight.

Campbell was only then arriving in the West when Glass was busy being mauled by a bear. Campbell was in the employ of John O’Fallon, a St. Louis-based businessman charged with supplying an army fort at Council Bluffs, Iowa. His first posting was across the Missouri from Council Bluffs, at Bellevue, Nebraska. During the cold winter that followed, Campbell’s struggles paled in comparison to Glass’, yet neither had an easy time. Glass was attempting to survive while badly wounded and alone in the wilderness; Campbell began having lung issues which would plague him for most of his life. Things were so bad for Campbell that, upon his return to St. Louis in spring 1824, he was advised by a doctor to go into the Rockies. The doctor added, “I have before sent two or three young men there in your condition, and they came back restored to health and healthy as bucks.” It is likely that Hugh Glass would disagree with the sentiment that the Rockies could make you healthy and long-lived.

Although there is no evidence that Glass and Campbell ever met, Glass’ epic story would have been told and retold around many a fireside among the fur traders. Campbell also personally knew many of those involved. William Sublette, who became Campbell’s best friend and business partner, was among those hired alongside Glass in 1823. Another famous mountain man, Jedediah Smith, commanded Glass and 39 other men during the battle with the Arikara Indians that opens the film. It was Smith who hired Robert for the fur trade in 1825.

Jim Bridger was perhaps the most accomplished of all the Mountain Men, and is believed to have attended every Rendezvous.

Jim Bridger was perhaps the most accomplished of all the Mountain Men, and is believed to have attended every Rendezvous.

Like Glass, Jedediah Smith was once mauled by a bear. Unlike Glass, Smith was carried out of the wilderness by his party.

Like Glass, Jedediah Smith was once mauled by a bear. Unlike Glass, Smith was carried out of the wilderness by his party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Bridger is the figure who is most central to both Glass and Campbell’s experiences. At 18 years of age, Bridger was in the party when Glass was attacked by the bear. According to some later accounts, Bridger may have been one of the two volunteers who stayed with Glass, but thinking him dead, hastened to catch up with the party. It was a good thing for Campbell that Glass forgave Bridger rather than taking his revenge, as Bridger and Campbell would work closely together for the next decade and maintain a relationships for the rest of their lives.

Campbell and Sublette built Fort William in 1834. The army took it over later and renamed it Fort Laramie, using the site to sign an historic--and controversial--treaty with several native tribes.

Campbell and Sublette built Fort William in 1834. The army took it over later and renamed it Fort Laramie, using the site to sign an historic–and controversial–treaty with several native tribes.

Both men were lieutenants in the Smith, Jackson, & Sublette Company beginning in 1826, leading bands of trappers into the mountains for the winter before heading to the rendezvous. While Campbell had a good head for numbers and management, Bridger was unsurpassed in his knowledge of mountain life, making their partnership a useful one. Their relationship continued even in later life, with both men attending the 1850 meeting that resulted in the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Glass and Campbell followed very different trajectories in their time in the West. Although Glass clearly had the stamina and skill to survive in the mountains, he never rose very high within the fur company’s hierarchy. Glass seems to have broken from the companies and worked as a free trader. He played a minor role in bringing the American Fur Company, a rival company to Campbell and Sublette, to the 1830 Rendezvous. Glass later began working out of Fort Union and later Fort Cass, both outposts of the American Fur Company.

Robert Campbell's buckskin jacket.

Robert Campbell’s buckskin jacket on display at the Campbell House through April 1.

In contrast, Campbell was made a lieutenant in just his second year in the west. In 1830, Sublette first asked Campbell to join as a partner, but he did not accept until 1831. Campbell achieved his own fame for his role in the 1832 Battle of Pierre’s Hole, which led to a role in Washington Irving’s book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville. Two years later, Campbell and Sublette embarked on a risky strategy by challenging the American Fur Company directly by building Fort William just a few miles from Fort Union, Glass’ old trading point.

The future was bright for Campbell, but not for Hugh Glass. Glass was killed in an encounter with some Arikara Indians in 1833, a somewhat ignominious end (if predictable) for a man who so often defied death. Still, his legend lives on, and if you find yourself in a movie theater, be sure to check out the epic of Hugh Glass, then head online to the Museum of the Mountain Man or downtown St. Louis to the Campbell House for the real deal!

In honor of this movie event come to Campbell House before April 1 to see Robert Cambpell’s magnificent buckskin jacket on display in his bedroom.  Contact us for an appointment.

Interested in learning more?  Hear fur trade historian Dr. Jay Buckley discuss the fur trade, Hugh Glass and the role of Campbell House in this fascinating story on NPR’s St. Louis on the Air with Don Marsh. 

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The Wandering Chimney Pots

As the cold winter weather approaches it is a perfect time to take a closer look at what else, chimney pots.

If you have visited the Campbell House recently, you may recall three chimney pots as part of the Lucas Place exhibit. As we moved the chimney pots back into storage, we thought it might be interesting to recount their history. For supposedly stationary objects, these pots have moved around quite a bit, perhaps emphasizing the truthfulness of the old adage, “Not all who wander are lost.” This, then, is the tale of the wandering chimney pots.

The three chimney pots, from left, are A, B, and C for this article's purposes.

The three chimney pots, from left, are A, B, and C for this article’s purposes.

 

But what is a chimney pot? A chimney pot is made of terra cotta and is placed on top of the chimney to expand the length of the chimney inexpensively, and to improve the chimney’s draft. A chimney with more than one pot on it indicates that there is more than one fireplace on different floors sharing the chimney.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chimney pots were never the subject of historical photographs at Campbell House. Luckily, however, there are just enough photos of the side and rear of the house that their presence can be discerned. In one of the 1885 photographs, for instance, the chimney pots can be seen sticking up above the carriage house. Upon closer examination, the octagonal pot (we’ll call it Pot B for now) sits on the rearmost chimney, servicing the kitchen and rear third floor. The round pot (henceforth Pot A) is on Mrs. Kyle’s Bedroom’s chimney. Interestingly, in another angle of the house, another round pot can be seen on the rear parlor chimney. Pot A could be either one of these.

Notably, there are no pots of the Pot C variety. To find them, we have to fast-forward to 1930, when suddenly there are eleven of them. For some reason, when those pots went up, the decision was made to save pots A and B, and place them together on the rearmost chimney on either side of Pot C. As grateful as we are for the decision to save them, we can’t help but wonder: why put the fanciest two pots on the least visible chimney?

It’s easy to overlook the chimneys in this photo, but looking closely reveals that two of the three pots on the rear chimney are different in size and shape. Pots A and B have moved again!

 

Whatever the reason, pots A and B remain on the back chimney in this photo from the 1960s. The C pots, however, have been rearranged, possibly by the museum. Now, two C pots rest on each of the parlor chimneys, providing better symmetry than was present in the 1930s.

Although hard to make out, Pot A is circled in red, and Pot B in blue.

Although hard to make out, Pot A is circled in red, and Pot B in blue.

 

The pots are rearranged yet again after the museum’s first restoration in 1968. Evidently looking for the best aesthetics, the museum plopped pot A on the rear parlor, and pot B on the front parlor. It may have been at this point that pot B was plugged by cement, although for what reason (and why only this pot) is unknown.Campbell House, early 1990s

 

Despite decades of exposure, the collection of chimney pots survived whatever Mother Nature threw at them, suffering little more than staining and discoloration. That all changed in 1998, when a strong gust of wind sent one pot, of the “C” type, hurtling towards the ground below. Luckily, no one was injured, although the pot lost much of its upper third. This pot now lives in the basement.

Its a hard life, being a chimney pot.

Its a hard life, being a chimney pot.

 

When The Restoration began in 1999, the pots were moved yet again. With scaffolding thrown up around the whole house, the decision was made to temporarily remove pots A and B for their safety. Naturally, the pots have never returned to the roof. For some reason, pot C was also moved off the roof.

This brings the saga of the chimney pots back to where we began, with the pots heading towards storage. Given their propensity to move around, though, maybe we’d better keep a close eye on them…

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MEET THE INTERNS>>EMILY

Last (but certainly not least) for this semester’s interns is Emily. Take it away…

What are you studying and where? I am majoring in history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis

Emily is hard at work giving tours and working on our National Historic Landmark application. Click her picture to learn more about internship and volunteer opportunities at CHM!

Emily is hard at work giving tours and working on our National Historic Landmark application. Click her picture to learn more about internship and volunteer opportunities at CHM!

Why Campbell House? I was contacted by a professor about the possibility of doing an internship at the Campbell House. After a little research on the house, I thought it would be a great place for experience.

What are you working on at CHM? Gaining more knowledge on the Campbells and their home in order to give tours and editing/updating an application to be a National Historic Landmark (Editor’s Note: Emily is picking up where several of our interns have left off. Its a lengthy process, so we’ll be at it for a while, but right now it is Emily’s torch to bear!).

When you aren’t having a blast at Campbell House, what are you doing? When school is in session, I mainly focus on that and work. Not a lot of free time…When I do have free time, I mainly just hang out with friends or go to Blues games when it’s the season (Let’s go Blues!).

What is your favorite thing about CHM so far? The fact that visitors receive a docent-led tour. When I visited before I started the internship, I was very happy with this aspect. Tours are much more interesting to me than looking on my own.

iPhone or Android? Android

Favorite Color? Blue

Favorite Band/singer? The Beatles

Andy Warhol said that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. What happened in your 15 minutes? That’s tough…I guess one of my proudest achievements is receiving the department award in Spanish during my senior year. At a ceremony my Spanish teacher said great things about me which was very nice!

If you found yourself in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, transformed into an insect, what would it be and why? This is probably lame, but I would say a butterfly because I feel like seeing a transformation of yourself could be very exciting and powerful!

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