Making an Impression: James Barton Longacre (1794-1869)

James Barton Longacre (1794-1869)

James Barton Longacre (1794-1869) made a significant impact on American visual culture as an artist, portraitist, and engraver in the 19th century. He was also the fourth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. Born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, he moved to Philadelphia at a young age to begin working in a trade. His artistic talent led him to become the apprentice of George Murray (d. 1822), who owned an engraving firm. While there, Longacre demonstrated his skill as a portraitist.

In 1819, Longacre started his own engraving business. He partnered with James Herring (1794-1867) to create a series of biographies complete with illustrations titled The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans. It relied heavily on Longacre for the illustrations of the important figures, which he drew from life. His travel across the United States to capture the subjects for the series allowed him to meet many political leaders and solidify his name as an impressive portrait artist.

Longacre became Chief Engraver of the United States Mint in 1844 and remained in that position until his death in 1869. He left behind an extensive body of work, including sketches, engravings, and watercolors, now in the collection of The Library Company of Philadelphia. This exhibition seeks to highlight some of the many engaging examples of his work throughout his life.

Curated by Alexis Jimenez, Archival Project Intern

To see a magnified view, please click on the exhibit images.