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In 1857, the inventor of a coal-burning stove, Jordan Mott, commissioned Christian Schussele to paint this group portrait of nineteen scientists and inventors of the United States who “had altered the course of contemporary civilization.” Schussele represents the group gathered around a table discussing Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph device, with other inventions and diagrams scattered about the room. The portrait did not commemorate an actual occasion but was meant to honor national achievement. Schussele began by sketching each figure individually before designing the group composition. In the background, he included a painting of the men’s famed eighteenth-century predecessor, Benjamin Franklin.

Men of Progress pays tribute to the remarkable growth of the U.S. economy by the 1850s. It celebrates the inventions and processes of manufacturing pioneered by men such as Cyrus McCormick, Charles Goodyear, Samuel Colt, Elias Howe, and Joseph Henry, first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Details

  • Title: Men of Progress
  • Creator: Christian Schussele
  • Date Created: 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: w190.5 x h128.3 x d5.1 cm (Stretcher)
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, 1942
  • External Link: https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.65.50
  • Classification: Painting

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