Murder or Self-defense? Recounting the death of Jean Lalime

All that is known for certain is that John Kinzie killed Jean Lalime in June of 1812. There’s much speculation surrounding why Kinzie killed Lalime: Lalime attacked him outside of Fort Dearborn, Lalime was a federal spy reporting on the corruption at the fort, Kinzie wanted to eliminate his competition in the fur-trading industry. There are accounts to support some of these claims, however the majority are incomplete or questionable at best. Even the location of Lalime’s final resting place is unknown.

At the Chicago History Museum I photographed two letters written by descendants of Kinzie. Both letters give slightly differing accounts of the day Lalime was killed. It’s important to give the viewer the context of both of these letters: who wrote them, when, why, and how they were related to Kinzie. The content of the letters losses meaning without their background. The first was written by one of Kinzie’s grandsons, Arthur M. Kinzie in 1884.


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The second letter was written by one of Kinzie’s granddaughters, Elanor Kinzie Gordon in 1908.

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Letters are not an exciting visual, however they do allow the user of the exhibit to examine the evidence first hand. Photographing the letters allows me to transcribe them on my own time instated of sitting in the research center and having to use the original. I’ll use Photoshop to crop and rotate most of the photographs, since WordPress would not accept the photographs edited using Microsoft Office.

One thought on “Murder or Self-defense? Recounting the death of Jean Lalime

  1. These are really cool. One thing I think you could do with Photoshop as well is use the magic wand tool to select portions of the text, which you could then highlight by changing the color, saturation, contrast, etc. to make it easier for your online exhibit’s guests to read, perhaps. You could also make the image translucent and superimpose it over a faint portrait of Ft. Dearborn for a cool “this happened here” effect.


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