From the Anonymous Lady to the Peales and the Sullys: Philadelphia’s Professional Women Artists of the Early Republic

The Colonial and Revolutionary periods in Philadelphia saw little art production by women outside the home. Not only did the religious and social culture of Philadelphia demand that women make the home and children their primary focus, but also there were no formal schools for instruction in either the fine or applied arts. Apprenticeships with painters, printmakers or sculptors were usually...
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Natural History Trails

Charles Willson Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, although relatively short-lived, influenced the development of similar projects elsewhere. In 1827, the year Peale died, the Harmony Society at Economy in Pennsylvania opened one of the first natural history museums west of the Alleghenies. Like Peale’s museum, the Harmonist effort was largely exhausted by the middle of the 19th century, and its...
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Monster Bones: Charles Willson Peale and the Mysterious Nondescript Animal

On October 14, 1800, a New York City newspaper called Mercantile Advertiser published a rather lengthy news/opinion piece on some large and very curious bones that had been unearthed on a farm belonging to John Masten, located about 14 miles from the New York state village of Newburgh. The unidentified author observed that “these huge bones irresistibly force upon us by the power of associating...
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Editor’s Letter

The cover of this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage is graced with the famous 1822 painting titled The Artist in His Museum, in which Charles Willson Peale portrayed himself at age 81 in the museum he established in Philadelphia, located at the time in the Long Gallery on the second floor of the Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall). In the painting, Peale lifts a curtain,...
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From the Executive Director

Why do we tell stories? And why do we read them? Of course, they may be interesting, but how do they inform our lives today? Within this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, you will find stories illustrating the best of human spirit — determination, curiosity, resourcefulness, bravery, loyalty and generosity. The Pennsylvanians featured in this issue — Charles Willson Peale, the Pennsylvania...
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Thomas Say: Pennsylvania Entomologist

Thomas Say was a keen observer of living things. In a scientific era that cherished primacy in classification and description, Say was renowned for his work. He named approximately 1,500 North American insects and scores of other species. This accomplishment alone could justify scientist Benjamin Silliman’s assertion that Say “has done more to make known the zoology of this country,...
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Biographer of the Feathered Tribes: Alexander Wilson and American Ornithology

“As it has fallen to my lot to be the biographer of the feathered tribes of the United States,” Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) wrote to William Bartram (1739-1823) on August 4, 1809, “I am solicitous to do full justice to every species; and I would not conceal one good quality that any one of them possesses.” At the age of 43 Wilson – weaver, peddler, poet, teacher...
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From Wilkes-Barre to the Wild West: George Catlin, Indian Painter

His early exposure to American Indians indelibly impressed northeastern Pennsylvania native George Catlin (1796–1872). His mother Mary “Polly” Sutton Catlin (1770–1844), married in 1789 to Putnam Catlin (1764–1842), formed his earliest impressions of Native Americans. With her mother Sarah Smith Sutton (1747–1834) she was captured and held captive at the age of seven by Iroquois. The day was...
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The Consequences of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania

One of the more interesting and controversial aspects of the American Revolution concerns its consequen­ces upon colonial institutions and society in general. Was the society left almost unchanged by a movement fun­damentally conservative in its causes, or was it profoundly altered by a revolution radical in its results, if not in its origins? Specifically, what happened to the society of...
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The New Taste in Pennsylvania

Like the nation itself during the so-called “Federal” period, the arts in Pennsylvania reached a crescendo in their development that had an unexpected unity, a strong purpose, and a national style. Despite great varia­tions in the Germanic and English traditions, Pennsylvania emerged from the revolutionary period reasonably cohesive. City and country perspectives, naive and...
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