Christmas 1953: The Piasa Bird

North of Alton, IL

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The Piasa Bird woodblock print card

The card’s interior


The Piasa Bird is a Native American dragon depicted in a mural painted by Native Americans on bluffs above the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois. The Piasa Bird was said to have the head of a fox with the beak of an eagle, surmounted by horns. It was covered in scales of every imaginable color and the flapping of its wings produced a sound like thunder.

The original Piasa illustration on the bluffs no longer existed by the time the Turners created the Piasa Bird print. They had wanted to do a woodblock print of the Piasa Bird for some time, “but our problem was increasingly complicated by the question, ‘which Piasa Bird?’ We have copies of six different versions of this legendary bird, and there seems to be some evidence favoring the validity of each one.”

In the end, the Turners reproduced an 1841 lithograph of the Piasa Bird by John Casper Wild. The Turners’ full research on the Piasa Bird is accessible in their Christmas 1953 note.

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