A "conversation about America"...
Out of Many is an exhibit displayed in 18 galleries and alcoves chronologically arranged to take the visitor from the days of contact between Native Americans and European explorers through the struggles of independence to the Gilded Age. Major figures such as Pocahontas, Alexander Hamilton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass are among those included in this online highlight tour.
Pocahontas (after 1616) by Unidentified ArtistSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The only Indian seen as one of the nation's founders, Pocahontas survives and flourishes as an example of an early American heroine. Following her conversion to Christianity and marriage to Englishman John Rolfe, Pocahontas journeyed to England with her family to demonstrate the ability of how new settlers and native tribes could coexist in the Virginia colony.
While in England, Pocahontas sat for her portrait, which was later engraved. That print served as the basis for this later portrait. The painter included an inscription beneath her likeness, copied from the engraving, but through an error in transcription, misidentifies her husband as Thomas, the name given to their son.
Dr. John Morgan (1764) by Angelica KauffmannSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
A student of Dr. John Morgan once remarked that Morgan’s name should forever be linked with the birth of professionalism in American medicine. Morgan played a key role in the establishment of America's first medical school. During the Revolutionary War, he served two years as the director-general of the Hospital of the Army. In this position, Morgan confronted daunting medical challenges, including an outbreak of smallpox.
John Singleton Copley Self-Portrait (1780-1784) by John Singleton CopleySmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
While still a teenager, John Singleton Copley was capable of satisfying Bostonians’ desire for realistic portraits. By the time he was twenty, the self-taught artist was painting better pictures than he had ever seen. Increased political turmoil in the wake of the Boston Tea Party of December 1773 spurred his departure for England in June 1774. There, in the flush of new success, he painted his own likeness.
Anne Catharine Hoof Green (1769) by Charles Willson PealeSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
In addition to mothering fourteen children, Anne Green helped her husband, Jonas, run the Maryland Gazette. When he died in 1767, she took over as manager of his printing shop and as the newspaper’s editor. During this period, she was also appointed the official printer of documents for the colony of Maryland.
In this portrait Green is portrayed as a professional printer with a copy of the Maryland Gazette.
Patience Lovell Wright (c. 1782) by Robert Edge PineSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
America’s first native-born sculptor, Patience Wright, modeled portraits of celebrities in tinted wax. Her sculpting career began as a domestic activity with her five children. After her husband’s death in 1769, this pastime became a profession. Not long afterward, a fire destroyed much of her collection, an event that led her to relocate to England. There, Wright pursued portrait commissions and established a museum to display new examples of her work.
When war broke out in 1776, she fell from favor in royal circles because of her open support for the colonial cause. Later proclaiming that "women are always useful in grand events," Wright became an American spy and sent intelligence to Benjamin Franklin in Paris.
Alexander Hamilton (1806) by John TrumbullSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
An early advocate for independence from Britain, Alexander Hamilton enlisted in the army and came to the attention of George Washington, who made him a member of his military “family.” After independence, Hamilton supported a stronger national government. Washington, impressed with Hamilton’s mastery of economics, made him the first Secretary of Treasury. Hamilton’s policies are credited with laying the groundwork for a strong republic.
Samuel F. B. Morse Self-Portrait (1812) by Samuel Finley Breese MorseSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Around 1832 Samuel Morse became fascinated with the idea of sending messages via electric wire. With no scientific or mechanical training, Morse devised an elegant machine that sent coded messages by opening and closing an electrical circuit. At a time when railways and water transportation were binding the country together, Morse did the same with a network of instantaneous communication. Morse’s breakthrough was the gigantic first step in creating ever-faster means of communicating.
Men of Progress (1862) by Christian SchusseleSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
In 1857, the inventor of a coal-burning stove, Jordan Mott, commissioned Christian Schussele to paint a group portrait of eighteen American scientists and inventors who "had altered the course of contemporary civilization." The group portrait did not mark an actual occasion but was designed to honor the achievements of American industry.
The artist sketched study portraits of each of his subjects before putting them all into his final, formal composition.
Men of Progress is a remarkable document of the growth of the American economy by the 1850s as it celebrates the inventions and processes of manufacturing pioneered by men such as Cyrus McCormick, Charles Goodyear, Samuel Colt, Samuel Morse, Elias Howe, and fourteen others.
Lucretia Coffin Mott (1842) by Joseph KyleSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Lucretia Mott held that women had a special position in the reform of society, and she soon began to consider women's rights as essential in furthering the reform platform. She helped organize the Seneca Falls, New York, convention in 1848 that launched the women's civil rights movement in the United States. As she wrote: "Let woman then go on-not asking favors, but claiming as a right the removal of all hindrances to her elevation in the scale of being."
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1853) by Alanson FisherSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Excluded from public professions, cultivated women sought other avenues for their talents. So Harriet Beecher Stowe started a career that made her one of the most popular novelists of the nineteenth century. Stowe's place in American history was sealed with her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-52), which sold 300,000 copies in its first year. Stowe was motivated to write it by the Fugitive Slave Law and the effect that slavery had in destroying the African American family.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1889) by Anna Elizabeth KlumpkeSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a feminist from the start, refusing to include "obey" in her marriage vows to her husband. When she spoke of God, she used the female pronoun. Stanton helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, and she was the longtime president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton spearheaded other feminist goals, such as liberalizing divorce laws and reforming child-rearing methods. But unlike other early feminists, she insisted on the primacy of women's right to vote over other reform objectives, including abolition.
Frederick Douglass (c. 1844) by Unidentified ArtistSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Frederick Douglass became the first nationally known African American in U.S. history by turning his life into a testimony on the evils of slavery and the redemptive power of freedom. Douglass's charisma derived from his ability to present himself as the author of his own destiny at a time when white America could barely conceive of the black man as a thinking and feeling human being.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is not only a gripping nonfiction account of one man's struggle for freedom; it is also one of the greatest American autobiographies. This powerful portrait shows Douglass as he grew in prominence during the 1840s.
Pauline Cushman (1864) by Matthew Brady StudioSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
A brief but harrowing career as a Union spy transformed minor actress Pauline Cushman into a major celebrity. Hailed as the darling of the rebel troops, she gathered intelligence for the North until her duplicity was discovered. Arrested, tried, and condemned to hang, she was rescued by Union forces before the sentence could be carried out. In recognition of Cushman’s service to the nation, she received a commendation from President Lincoln and was awarded the honorary rank of major.
Mary Todd Lincoln (1861) by Mathew Brady StudioSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
When her husband was elected president in 1860, Mary Todd Lincoln welcomed her role as the nation’s First Lady. Yet, her years in the White House proved far from happy. In 1862, Mrs. Lincoln was shaken by the death of the Lincolns’ beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie. Still suffering from that tragic loss, she was utterly devastated by her husband’s assassination in 1865. Mrs. Lincoln never fully regained her equilibrium and spent her remaining years plagued by mental instability.
Mrs. Lincoln posed for this portrait in one of the elegant silk gowns fashioned for her by the talented African American dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley.
Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (1863) by Matthew Brady StudioSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
An ardent abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was still in her teens when she launched her public-speaking career. Dickinson built a following among listeners captivated by her intensity, youth, and dedication to reform. In 1863, she joined Frederick Douglass in promoting African American enlistment in the Union Army. On January 16, 1864, at the invitation of Congressional Republicans, Dickinson became the first woman to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives.
Blind Tom (1882) by George Kendall WarrenSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The musical prodigy, Thomas Greene Wiggins was one of the most celebrated African American concert artists of the nineteenth century. Blind from birth and possibly autistic, Tom was only four when he began performing tunes he had heard played on the piano of the man who enslaved him, James Bethune. Tom made his professional debut as a pianist in 1857, at the age of eight, and was soon earning a fortune for Bethune with engagements throughout the country.
Jane Addams (1906) by George de Forest BrushSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Jane Addams was among the first of the college-educated women of the late nineteenth century to escape the social and cultural constraints limiting professional women to teaching and missionary work. In 1889, Addams established Hull-House in a Chicago slum, the second settlement house in the United States. Within a decade, it offered practical education and a myriad of opportunities to the poor.
Belva Ann Lockwood (1913) by Nellie Mathes HorneSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Belva Ann Lockwood, armed with a law degree, committed herself to the promotion of feminist ideals. She lobbied for a congressional bill permitting women to argue before the Supreme Court. After its passage in 1879, she became the first woman admitted to practice in that tribunal. Lockwood would later realize that although she could not vote, she could seek public office. She was so well respected that the Equal Rights Party nominated her twice as its candidate for president.
Thomas Alva Edison (1890) by Abraham Archibald AndersonSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Abraham A. Anderson's portrait depicts the wealthy entrepreneur Thomas Edison at the height of his career. Edison was world-renowned for his inventions-including the phonograph, incandescent lamp, and movie camera.
Although Edison patented the phonograph in 1877, eleven years passed before he achieved sufficient clarity of sound to make it commercially viable. Using the word "specie" as a test, Edison labored until it could be properly transmitted. "When that was done," Edison reported, "I knew everything else could be done, which was a fact."
Ira Aldridge as Othello (c. 1830) by Henry Perronet BriggsSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The career of Ira Aldridge illustrates the costs that racism inflicted on African Americans and on America itself. Aldridge was one of the great actors of his age-but he was black. Unable to work in America, he moved to England in the 1820s and lived abroad until his death. Aldridge's most famous role was Othello, in which he is shown here, a part that he invested with the poignancy of his own experience.
Andrew Carnegie (1905) by Unidentified ArtistSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
During his lifetime, Andrew Carnegie turned over a staggering $350 million, or nine-tenths of his total wealth, for benevolent purposes. Carnegie's unprecedented generosity was matched only by its social impact. His Teachers Pension Fund raised instructional standards in colleges. His many library endowments provided Americans with a national system of public libraries. The Carnegie Corporation, established in 1911, became the prototype for the great philanthropic foundations of the modern day.
Want to go on a virtual tour?
Take a tour of the Out of Many exhibition through Google Arts and Culture's Street View.