Who was John Wickham? Wickham was a Richmond lawyer who rose to national prominence as one of the defense attorneys for politician Aaron Burr during his 1807 trial for treason. The city of Richmond was selected by the federal government as the site of the trial based on an earlier ruling by Supreme Court Justice John Marshall regarding Burr’s actions at Blennerhassett Island. The Burr trial was the biggest trial in American history at that time and drew approximately 5,000 spectators doubling the population. Boarding houses, private homes, and the few hotels all filled to overflow and many resorted to camping in tent cities along the James River.
This miniature profile portrait by the French émigré artist St. Memin captures an accurate likeness of John Wickham, who in 1812 developed his town lots in Court End with the construction of a neoclassical home that would eventually become the Valentine Museum.