The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family

Volume 5: The Autobiography of Charles Willson Peale

Charles Willson Peale; Edited by Lillian Miller, Sidney Hart, David C. Ward, Lauren E. Brown, Sara C. Hale, and Leslie K. Reinhardt

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February 9, 2000
560 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
83 b/w + 13 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300075472
Cloth

Published for the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

This autobiography, written by Peale when he was in his eighties, spans American history from the 1740s to the 1820s, an era in which Peale was a primary actor in many of the young nation’s significant cultural and political events.

Peale begins by describing his difficult early years as an apprentice to a saddlemaker, and he then tells how he became an artist, one who eventually painted more than one thousand portraits of the generation that won American independence and established the Republic. He writes of his service in the Philadelphia militia during the American Revolution and of his fighting at the Battle of Princeton. He explains his involvement in Philadelphia’s radical republican politics and the difficulties this caused his family. He discusses his involvement in the founding of such cultural institutions as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and his museum of natural history and art, the latter an institution he hoped would be his legacy. He recounts his experiences as a farmer and agrarian reformer and as an inventor (of fireplaces, a vapor bath, and the first American bridge design). Finally he includes a great deal of material on his wives and children, providing a matchless account of an American family in the early Republic.

Sidney Hart is editor and David C. Ward is senior associate editor of the Peale Family Papers, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The late Lillian B. Miller was editor of the Papers.

“An outstanding archival work involving art, medicine, and natural science via a memorable autobiography of the Revolutionary period, Peale’s autobiography, . . . provides invaluable personal commentary from a reliable and alert participant witnessing events at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. . . . The book, which is stimulating reading, advances the range of today’s American studies.”—Choice


“[A]n expertly edited book. . . . It is no exaggeration to state that the Selected Papers has contributed enormously to the surge of Peale scholarship over the past two decades. Important articles, dissertations, and exhibitions would simply have been unthinkable without the rich expanse of primary documentation that these volumes have made available. The Autobiography presents an exciting new source of fodder to students of early American cultural, social, and political history.”—Wendy Bellion, Documentary Editing


“This volume is not simply a good read or even an excellent book. It is an outstanding work, for it tells a human interest story set in a time that tends to be glossed over in American history.”—Ellis L. Yochelson, ISIS



“An invaluable reference source that will long be consulted by historians and other scholars.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family
Volume 4, Charles Willson Peale: His Last Years, 1821-1827

Charles Willson Peale; Edited by Lillian Miller

View details
The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family
The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family
Volume 4, Charles Willson Peale: His Last Years, 1821-1827

Charles Willson Peale; Edited by Lillian Miller

View details