After he returned from his South. American campaigns, Mr. Catlin lived, in Brussels, upon the proceeds of his brush, and there began the preparation of his cartoon collection.
Mr. Catlin died of an illness contracted from an exposure which he suffered in Washington, in October, 1872. He was removed thence to Jersey City, where his daughters and his brother-in-law, the Hon. Dudley S. Gregory, were living. His collection of pictures now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution, and constitutes the George Catlin Indian Gallery of the United States National Museum. In his paintings he sought to represent the truth, and invented nothing. He regarded the domestic and every-day customs, habits, and manners of the Indians as the essentials to the proper study of their origin and descent, and aimed to reproduce them thoroughly. His principal books were Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians; written during eight years of travel among the wildest tribes of Indians in North America, first published in 1841, and reproduced in several editions, in English and German, with divers variations of title; and Life amongst the Indians, a book for youth, 1867; also published in French. The list also includes works on the O-kee-pa, a religious ceremony of the Mandans; catalogues of his gallery; a pamphlet on breathing with the mouth shut, giving the results of experiences and observations acquired during his life among the Indians, 1865; a pamphlet concerning a Steam Raft suggested as a Means of Security to Human Life on the Ocean, 1850; Last Rambles amongst the Indians of the Rocky Mountains and the Andes, 1868; The Lifted and Subsided Rocks of America, with their Influence on the Oceanic, Atmospheric, and Land Currents, and the Distribution of Races, 1870; a Letter to William Blackman, concerning his life among the aboriginal races of America; and newspaper, review, and magazine notes and articles.
He put forward in 1832 a suggestion for forming a large reservation of public lands to be a nation's park, containing man and beast in all the wildness and freshness of their natural beauty, saying that he would want no better monument than the reputation of having been the founder of such an institution. In 1845 he published a plan for disengaging and floating quarterdecks on steamers and other vessels for the purpose of saving human lives at sea, and proceeded to take out a patent for it, but found afterward that he had been anticipated. In 1842 he was invited to lecture at the Royal Institution in London, and took advantage of the occasion to introduce a subject on which he had long meditated—that of forming a museum of mankind, to contain and perpetuate the looks and manners and history of all the declining and vanishing races of mankind.