"The Nineteenth Century Gallery of Distinguished Americans" Opens at the National Portrait Gallery

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"The Nineteenth Century Gallery of Distinguished Americans" opens at the National Portrait Gallery. In this exhibition of art of the Jacksonian era produced by one of the finest engravers and portraitists of the nineteenth century, James Barton Longacre, the National Portrait Gallery acknowledges its 130-year-old debt to a publication, "The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans" (1834-39). In 1831 James Herring, a portrait painter and promoter of the arts, persuaded the American Academy of Fine Arts to support the publication of the book. His partner in the venture was James Barton Longacre, a well-known Philadelphia engraver who, from 1844 until his death, was Chief Engraver to the United States Mint. The publication was to build "a monument of national gratitude ... and indicate to the world the high destiny of the republic" through portraits and biographies of great Americans. It was hoped to collect the portraits at the Academy for the use of artists and scholars, a goal not realized until the 1968 opening of the National Portrait Gallery. The first volume of the book appeared in 1834; the fourth and final one in 1839. Paintings by 50 artists, among them Stuart, Copley, Trumbull, Sully, Leslie, and Durand were executed by 24 engravers. These engravings often became the best known likenesses of America's great. The present exhibition represents the largest number of the original portraits, their copies, and engravings ever gathered together, including portraits done by Longacre and not included in the published volumes.


  • Longacre, James Barton
  • Herring, James 1794-1867
  • American Academy of the Fine Arts
  • National Portrait Gallery (U.S.)
  • The Nineteenth Century Gallery of Distinguished Americans (Exhibition) (1969: National Portrait Gallery)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 405, Box 1, Folder 1969, Calendar of Events, February 1969.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


February 22, 1969


  • Engraving
  • Openings
  • Portraits
  • Exhibitions

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