Rare Lithograph Portrait of David Crockett
Printed on India Proof Paper
153. [CROCKETT, DAVID]. OSGOOD, S[amuel] S[tillman](artist) & [Cephas G.] Childs & [George] Lehman (lithographers), [Albert Newsam] (attributed as drawing Osgood’s portrait on stone). David Crockett. [below lower neat line] Printed by S.S. Osgood. | On Stone. | Childs & Lehman. Lithry. Philadelphia. Lithograph bust portrait printed on India proof paper, mounted (as issued) on beige wove paper support sheet, with lithograph facsimile of Crockett’s handwritten statement: I am happy to acknowledge this to be the only correct likeness that has been taken of me. David Crockett [below facsimile signature] Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1831 by S.S. Osgood in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1834. Portrait: neat line to neat line: 23.6 x 19.2 cm; overall sheet size of portrait: 37 x 30 cm; mounting sheet: 37 x 30 cm. Professionally conserved. Mild foxing and staining, a few tears expertly mended (no losses). Overall very good. Rarely offered. Known locations: National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian), Center for American History (University of Texas, Austin), San Jacinto Museum of History Association (Houston), Library of Congress. With the print is a Xerox copy of a letter to the former owner indicating the print came from Joseph A. Heckel, print dealer of New York City, documenting that the collector paid $10.00 for it in 1949. We traced another offering (Dr. Rosenbach in 1948 for $10.00).
An extremely rare and handsome portrait of the iconic American frontiersman and indelible hero of Texas who perished at the Alamo and caused generations of young and old boys to be afflicted with Crockett-mania. Catalogue of American Portraits in The New-York Historical Society I, pp. 176-177. Dictionary of American Portraits, p. 140. Mitchell, The Unequalled Collection of Engraved Portraits belonging to Hon. James T. Mitchell…. (Philadelphia, 1908) #285. Peters, America on Stone, Plate 33, p. 42: “The Crockett portrait is interesting as a type—with endorsement lithographed on the paper on which the print is pasted, apparently to catch the trade of those who would think the autographs original”; pp. 136 & 139: “[Childs is] one of the outstanding American lithographers…an able man at all his crafts, entangled with many others over a period of time, producing a very great amount of extremely important Americana. His work in book illustrating alone is pioneer and of utmost importance”; p. 138 (in the historical sketch on the firm of Cephas G. Childs and George Lehman, with an amusing assessment of Crockett): “The facts in the life of David Crockett are about as unimportant as the facts in the life of Robin Hood—if there ever was such a person. Yet it is interesting to note what it was that so caught the fancy of young America. Crockett was a Tennessee frontiersman—strong, independent, frank, generous, footloose, and almost illiterate. He married at eighteen, and failed dismally as a farmer and Mississippi flatboat man, but was a brilliant scout in the Creek War of 1813-1814, a mighty hunter of bears in western Tennessee, and a local hero. He was sent to Congress, almost as a joke (showing that Americans liked this kind of a joke as early as 1827), but found himself out of his métier and finally went to fight for the independence of Texas. He was killed at the defense of the Alamo, in 1836, at the age of fifty.”
As usual, Ron Tyler provides the best overview and even-handed historical details in his unpublished manuscript on Texas lithographs of the nineteenth century:
Regarding the makers of this print: The image is after an original art work by Samuel Tillman Osgood (1808-1885), a portrait painter born in New Haven who studied in Europe, settled in New York, and is thought to have died in California (Mantle Fielding, p. 685). Lithographer Cephas G. Childs (1793-1871) is discussed by Peters above (Mantle Fielding, pp. 150-151), as is Childs’ partner George Lehman (d. ca. 1870), noted for his series of views of Pennsylvania towns (Mantle Fielding, p. 531). The transfer of the painting to the lithograph stone is attributed to Albert Newsam (1809-1864), the celebrated deaf-mute artist and lithographer who studied with George Catlin and Hugh Bridgport (Peters, America on Stone, pp. 296-300 & Mantle Fielding, p. 664)
This handsome print of David Crockett, above and beyond its Texas implications, is a fairly early example of a lithograph portrait created in the United States. Bass Otis’ portrait of Abner Kneeland, which appeared in 1818 as the frontispiece to his Series of Lectures, is widely conjectured to be the earliest U.S. lithographed portrait. (It is not fully established whether Otis actually used a lithograph stone or some other method.) The most notable early use of lithography for portraiture in the U.S. was John and William Pendleton’s series of portraits of the first five U.S. Presidents (1828). The present 1834 Crockett portrait is noteworthy and desirable for its highly sophisticated technique at such an early stage of American lithography. It was printed on thin, high-quality India proof paper, providing a finer image with more depth than could be obtained on ordinary paper. Because the technique of printing on India proof paper is extremely time-consuming, expensive, and challenging, images were seldom printed in this way. It is refreshing to find such a technically proficient and aesthetically pleasing image of David Crockett, given the flood of cheap, excessive popular culture material on him, from the lurid Crockett almanacs to modern comic art.
Included with this lot is Thomas B. Welch’s (1814-1874) stipple-engraved print on heavy wove paper of Crockett after Osgood’s painting: Oval bust portrait with facsimile of Crockett’s autograph below, in lower portion in image: Painted by S.S. Osgood | Engraved by T.B. Welch. Oval: approximately 11.3 x 8.5 cm; oval set in shaded rectangle: 12.3 x 8.8 cm; overall sheet size: 30.4 x 23.8 cm. A few minor stains The engraved portrait is illustrated on p. 140 of Dictionary of American Portraits. For more on Welch see: Groce & Wallace, p. 670 (biography of Welch). Mantle Fielding, p. 1009. Frank Weitenkampf, American Graphic Art, New York: Henry Holt, 1912, (pp. 117-118, discussing Welch’s use of mezzotint and stipple engraving).
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