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The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd.Historical Prints

Prints of Historical Figures


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Prints from Delaplaine's Repository of the Lives and Portraits of Distinguished American Characters. Philadelphia: Rogers and Esler Printers, 1815-. Line engravings with stipple.

Joseph Delaplaine wanted to publish portraits and biographies of great Americans to counter the current arguments that people and institutions in America were inferior to those in Europe. He included his contemporaries as well as early voyagers to reflect on the strong and adventurous spirits that were involved in the founding of the New World and the American Republic.



William Penn
Henry Inman. "William Penn." Philadelphia: 1834-35. Engraved and printed by John Sartain. 20 3/4 x 15 3/4. Very good condition.

A classic full length portrait of the founder of Pennsylvania holding his charter from the English king in his right hand and a glove symbolizing elegance and status in his left. The landscape background shows the native Indians as the noble savage, while a peaceful landscape shows a great tree, which could be the treaty oak in Philadelphia, and if so, then the river is the Delaware with an Indian canoe in the far distance. The print was produced by the mezzotint process by John Sartain (1808-1897). Sartain, known as the "father of mezzotint engraving" in the U.S. popularized this elaborate printmaking process when he emigrated to this country from England in 1830. His prints always have a strong and rich texture that enhances their aesthetic qualities considerably, This image is based on a painting by Henry Inman, an artist known particularly for his portraits. Ref.: Ann Katharine Martinez. The Life and Career of John Sartain (1808-1897) , unpublished dissertation at George Washington University (Washington, D.C., 4 May 1986), fig. 13. $950



Henry Clay
James Wise. "Henry Clay." Philadelphia: James Wise, 1844. Mezzotint by John Sartain. 17 x 11 1/2. Some wear at edges of margins. Otherwise, excellent condition.

This full length portrait was issued during the 1844 presidential campaign, which was Henry Clay's (1777-1852) third and last time to be nominated by the Whigs. Fractious debates over the annexation of Texas and Oregon, as well as the policies on slavery had torn the Whig party to pieces, and the election was lost to James K. Polk (1795-1849). Little is known about James Wise (fl. 1843-1860) who worked as a portrait and miniature painter in New Orleans in 1843 and Charleston, S.C. in 1844-5. He also worked in Virginia and St. Joseph, Missouri, according to Croce and Wallace. John Sartain (1808-1897) also engraved a portrait of John C. Calhoun after this artist. Here is classic portraiture conveyed through the elegance that was so well expressed through mezzotint engraving. In a handsome suit, backed by solid pillars and surrounded by books, writing materials, and a terrestrial globe, "The Great Pacificator" stands in the pose of an ancient orator. $650



Canvass Back
"Canvass Back." From Henry L. Stephens. The Comic Natural History of the Human Race. Philadelphia: Samuel Robinson, 1851. Printed in colors by Rosenthal. Ca. 7 x 6. Title trimmed, else very good condition.

An amusing portrait of the painter, Abraham Woodside. From a very interesting series showing well-known individuals and types of mid-nineteenth century Philadelphians. These people are depicted in various animal forms, but with human heads, illustrating the individual's occupation, personality, etc. The people lampooned in these illustrations came from many walks of life, and include politicians, artists, musicians, and businessmen. These prints are wonderful examples of early chromolithography, with great whimsical appeal. $85
GoGo to page with listing of more of the Stephens portraits



Schussele: Irving and Friends at Sunnyside
Christian Schussele. "Washington Irving And His Literary Friends At Sunnyside." New York: Irving Publishing Co. and London: Moore, McQueen & Co., 1864. 20 1/4 x 31. Mezzotint by Thomas Oldham Barlow. Full hand coloring. Numerous tears in margins. Professionally conserved and backed with rice paper. Otherwise, very good condition.

An attractive group portrait of Irving with his literary contemporaries arrayed around him in his study at Sunnyside. From left to right, the figures are: Henry T. Tuckerman, William Gilmore Simms, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Fitz Greene Halleck, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Parker Willis, William H. Prescott, Irving, James K. Paulding, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant, John P. Kennedy, J. Fennimore Cooper and George Bancroft. From a shelf on the wall in the upper right of the image, a bust of William Shakespeare looks down on this impressive gathering.

Interestingly, the Hudson River is visible through the window facing East; this is a convenient fabrication on Schussele's part, because the Hudson passes by the west-facing side of the estate. The curtained alcove at the rear of the image has drapes partly drawn to reveal shelves filled with books. In this alcove was a couch accessible to a weary Irving when he tired from his work. Elsewhere in the scene, books and papers are additional reminders of the pursuits of this distinguished company. $950



Rescue of Wesley
"The Rescue of John Wesley from Fire February 9th. 1709." Signed in the plate “D. Wiest.” Lithograph. 19 1/2 x 25 1/2 (image) plus full and generous margins. Philadelphia: William Smith, 1865-70. A few small spots and browning at extremities, all in all very fine. Ref.: Richard S. Field. “Further Notes on The Rescue of John Wesley, Philadelphia Style.” In Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, Spring 1989.

John Wesley (1703-1791) was ordained a priest in 1728, and in 1729 took over his brother Charles’s leadership in the Methodist Society at Oxford. On the night of 9 February 1709 the six year old boy John was saved from a vicious fire at his home, and since then many considered him a special person. As leader of the Methodists he went to the British colony of Georgia as a missionary to the people in the back country and the Indians from 1735 to 1737. From 1738 to 1751 he made many trips throughout the British Isles visiting Ireland and Scotland as well as England and Wales preaching to large crowds. His works and those of George Whitefield had a profound impact on the American Revolution as part of the dissenter influence on America, and that work continues to this day.

This print celebrates a major event in the generation of the Methodist Church and was sold to Americans from the end of the Civil War up to the time of the Centennial Celebration that took place in Philadelphia in 1876. William Smith was a prolific publisher of prints in the second half of the nineteenth century and used work by D. Wiest of whom very little is known. Besides depicting a famous event, this print also shows the old methods of fire fighting as a bucket brigade is seen in the left corner while neighboring men form a human ladder to save the young family member who dives out of his window in a nightshirt. Animals are also saved while women and children stand back on the right side behind a prominent elder fervently praying. An exciting American print. $450



After photograph by Rockwood. "John Hall." New York: A.H. Ritchie. 10 1/2 x 8 7/8 (image). Engraved by A.H. Ritchie. Chine appliqué. Light water stain across bottom of image. Else very good condition.

One of the best historical print makers of the mid-nineteenth century, Alexander Hay Ritchie is particularly known for the clarity and richness of his engravings. John Hall, born in Ireland in 1829, was pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City and in 1882 became the first Chancellor of New York University. $125



Paul Auguste Rajon. [Alfred, Lord Tennyson]. 15 3/8 x 11 1/2 (image). Engraved and signed in pencil by Gustave Mercier. Chine appliqué. Paul Adolphe Rajon (1843-1888) was a French painter and printmaker, who began his career as a photographer while studying in Paris. Devoting himself to etching, his works were mainly reproductions of paintings by contemporary artists or by Old Masters, although he also produced original portrait etchings of contemporary writers including Tennyson. He enjoyed financial and critical success in France and England, and, through his acquaintance with the American print dealer Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) in New York, his fame also spread to the United States. Gustave Mercier (1858-1898) was a French-born engraver who also worked in New York, where he died.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is often described as the English poet most representative of the Victorian age. He succeeded William Wordsworth as Poet Laureate of England in 1850. Tennyson is buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. $175



John Hay
"John Hay." [Title in facsimile Signature]. Steel engraving. 18 x 15 (image) plus platemarks and margins. Credit to Max Rosenthal, Philadelphia, 1906. Excellent condition. Strong impression.

John M. Hay (1838-1905) was well known as a writer of literary works of poetry and fiction; however, he was a very serious writer in his historical and analytical works. During the Civil War he was a secretary to Abraham Lincoln along with John Nicolay, and the two wrote a ten volume biography of Lincoln in 1890. Later as Secretary of State he negotiated treaties with China, the first complete Canadian boundary treaty, and treaties leading to completion of the Panama Canal. He enjoyed a close relationship with Henry Adams the American historian and political theorist. This strong portrait conveys his reputation one year after his death. $400




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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated March 15, 2014