The Winterthur Library

 The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera

Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum

5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Delaware  19735

Telephone: 302-888-4600 or 800-448-3883





Creator:         Peale family                                                   

Title:               Papers

Dates:             1784-1864

Call No.:         Col. 396         

Acc. No.:        [various – see detailed description]

Quantity:        2 boxes

Location:        9 C 3






This well-known family of American born painters was headed by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and his younger brother, James (1749-1831).  Many of their sons and daughters became prominent artists, both in America and abroad.  Among them are Rembrandt (1778-1860), Rubens (1784-1865), Titian Ramsay (1799-1885), Sarah M. (1800-1885), James Jr. (1789-1876), Margaretta Angelica (1795-1882), Maria (1787-1866), Mary James (1827-1902), Raphaelle (1774-1825), and Anna Peale Claypoole (1791-1878).  While most of the family members are represented in this collection by photographs of portraits of them or their works, the autographed papers of only three family members are represented here: Charles Willson, Rembrandt, and Rubens. 


Charles Willson Peale was born in 1741 in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.  He became an apprentice to a saddler in Annapolis before moving to Pennsylvania around 1764 where he studied with the German painter, John Hesselius.  In Pennsylvania, he advertised as a saddler, chaisemaker, silversmith, sign painter, and clock and watchmaker and repairman. Charles Willson moved to Boston around 1768 where he furthered his career as a painter and reportedly studied with John Singleton Copley.  He then went to London to study painting with Benjamin West and learned the technique of mezzotint and sculpture as well.  By 1769, Charles Willson had returned to Annapolis, Maryland, for a brief stay before moving permanently to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


By the start of the American Revolution, Charles Willson was active in politics and the military.  He served as captain of the volunteers at the Battle of Trenton, and it was during this service that he met and painted many heroes of the war, including George Washington, whom he ultimately painted fourteen times. After the war, his interest in politics continued, and in 1779, he became a representative for Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania State Legislature.


Besides politics, Charles Willson was interested in promoting the fine arts and natural history.  In 1794, he established a short-lived art association called “The Columbian,” and in 1805 became one of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He also studied natural history and during an archaeological dig in 1801, he and his sons were the first to uncover a mastodon.  Wishing to display many of the artifacts and animal specimens he had collected, he founded a museum that featured wildlife displayed with painted backdrops.  The museum also displayed his portraits of noted Americans.  It museum was originally located in the American Philosophical Society building in Philadelphia, but in 1802 moved to Independence Hall where the entire second floor was used as a portrait gallery.


Charles Willson was married three times, first to Rachel Brewer, then to Elizabeth DePeyster, and finally to Hannah Moore.  He fathered seventeen children before his death in 1827.


Rembrandt Peale followed the footsteps of his father.  Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, while his father was in an army encampment, Rembrandt began painting at a young age.  He completed his first portrait in 1791, and by 1795 he had painted his first portrait of George Washington; for an account of this event, see Rembrandt’s lecture on the portraits of George Washington, accession 63x53.  Having been taught by his father, the public greatly anticipated his work, but it was not well received, and Rembrandt moved to Charleston, South Carolina.  In 1801, he moved to London to study with Benjamin West at the Royal Academy, but became ill and returned to the United States to take up farming, only to find himself greatly in demand as a painter.  He again went abroad in 1807, this time to Paris, where he became court painter for Napoleon.  He returned to Philadelphia to paint his most important work, “Court of Death,” in 1820.  In 1822, he moved to Baltimore where he, along with several brothers, established the Peale Museum and Gallery.  After a brief visit to France and Italy in 1829, Peale moved to New York in 1834, but later returned to Philadelphia where he spent the remainder of his life.


Besides his paintings Rembrandt Peale was noted for being a founding member of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1805, a founding member of the National Academy of Design in 1826, and one of the first artists to produce lithographs, experimenting with the process through the Pendleton Brothers of Boston as early as 1826.  In his later years, Rembrandt wrote articles for periodicals, texts on painting technique, and lectured on various topics, including his father and the other portrait painters of George Washington.


Rubens Peale was Rembrandt’s younger brother.  As a painter, he was noted for his still life and animal paintings, but his weak eyes prevented him from a long career as a professional artist.  Instead, Rubens worked as the manager of the Peale Museum in Philadelphia from 1810-1822.   In 1822, he moved to Baltimore with his brothers to found the Peale Museum there, which he directed until 1825. Rubens then went to New York City to establish another Peale Museum, which he operated until it was financially ruined by the Panic of 1837.  Rubens returned to Philadelphia where he resided on his father’s estate until his death in 1865.





This collection contains original documents and approximately 70 historic black and white photographs of paintings of and by Peale family members.  Original documents are from Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, and Rubens Peale.  Most documents are business letters concerning exhibits, transportation of paintings, and works in progress.  Photostats of two letters from Charles Willson Peale to Thomas Jefferson and a copy of Practical Treatise on Painting in Oil Colors (London: B. and J. White, 1795) annotated by Rembrandt Peale, are included.  Of particular interest is a manuscript in Rembrandt Peale's hand of his lecture entitled "Washington and his Portraits."  In this lecture, delivered several times between 1858-1860, Rembrandt Peale described George Washington and the circumstances in which various artists, including himself and his father, painted him.        





The materials are arranged by the name of the person to whom they pertain, either Charles Willson, Rembrandt, or Rubens Peale.  Oversize materials are in Box 2.





The materials are in English.





Collection is open to the public.  Copyright restrictions may apply.





Materials are from various sources.    





List of related materials is at end of finding aid.  As well, check WinterCat for books by or about members of the Peale family.






            Washington, George, 1732-1799.

            Peale, James, 1749-1831.

            Peale, Titian Ramsay, 1799-1885.

            Peale, Sarah Miriam, 1800-1885.

            Peale, James, 1789-1876.

            Peale, Margaretta Angelica, 1795-1882.

            Peale, Mary Jane, 1827-1902.

            Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.

            Shippen family.

            Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827.

            Peale, Rembrandt, 1778-1860.

            Peale, Reubens, 1784-1865.



            Natural history.

            Natural history museums.

            Art museums.

            Art, American.

            Painting - Prices.

            Portrait painting, American.

            History in art.

            Photography of painting.

            Artists - Correspondence.

            Art auctions - Catalogs.

            Painting - Technique.

            Painting - History.

            Painting - Reproductions.

            Painting, American.

            Lectures and lecturing.

            Artists - United States.

            Painters - United States.


            Portrait painters.






Location: 9/C/3



Box 1


72x42              Historic photographs of portraits of Charles Willson, Rembrandt, Rubens, James,

                        Sarah, Martha, Elizabeth and her husband, William Augustus Patterson, Sybilla

                        Peale and her husband, Andrew Summers, Angelica Peale Robinson, Margaret

                        Triggs Peale (wife of Charles Willson), Elizabeth de Peyster Peale (second wife

                        of Charles Willson), Hannah Moore Peale (third wife of Charles Willson),

                        Margaret Francis Shippen, and Edward Shippen, among others. (one oversized

                        photo, of an unidentified man, is in Box 2) (Trex number 3781)


Charles Willson Peale:


65x43             Letter. To Titian Peale from Charles Willson Peale, Belfield, December 25, 1819.   Discusses family news; Charles writes about his paintings and copies of paintings. (Trex no. 1900)


 67x70             Letter. To William Paca from Charles Willson Peale, Philadelphia, November 15, 1784.  Concerns packing and shipment of a portrait of George Washington; payment arrangements for the painting; political persuasions. (Trex no. 2697)


Ph 971             Photocopies of Benjamin Rush account books with entries for payment of

Ph 972             portraits by Charles Willson Peale, 1785, 1795. (Trex no. 4748-4749)


Ph 1082           Photostats of 2 letters.  To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, [Baltimore],  March 4, 1806 and April 5, 1806.  The first letter discusses politics; mutual friend, Philip DePeyster; and packing of polygraphs Peale was making for Jefferson.  The second letter reports the condition of antelope skins shipped to Peale; drawings of antelope and elk made by Peale; descriptions of antelope, elk, and deer; charges for the polygraphs; and construction plans for building the Academy of Fine Arts. (Originals are owned by Library of Congress).  (Trex no. 4864)



Rembrandt Peale:


65x77              Letter. To Tristram Coffin from Rembrandt Peale, Philadelphia, July 3, 1860.  Discusses chromolithograph of his painting “Court of Death.”  (Trex no. 1956)


65x21.1           Letter. To Colonel Stockholm from Rembrandt Peale, Philadelphia, March 15, 1809.  In regards to a misplaced letter to be delivered to Mr. Randall.  (Trex no. 1876)


65x21.2           Letter. To Messrs. Cary and Lea from Rembrandt Peale, n.d. Describes a book which he wrote that included sketches. (Trex no. 1877)


68x16.1           Letter. To Dear Madam from Rembrandt Peale, n.d. Discusses an unidentified work in progress. (Trex no. 1287)


71x5                Letter. To Theodore Dwight from Rembrandt Peale, n.d.  Advertises opening of his portrait room.  (Trex no. 3510)


75x178            Letter. To G.H. Moore from Rembrandt Peale, Philadelphia, February 29, 1860.  In regards to packing cases and an illness that left him too weak to lecture.  (Trex no. 6696)


76x118            Letter. To Dear Sir from Rembrandt Peale, Philadelphia, May 26, 1859.  Requests information about an annual exhibit closure.


78x127            Letter. To Benson Lossing from Harriet Peale (Mrs. Rembrandt), Philadelphia, March 20, 1866.  Forwarded monochrome of George Washington.  Mentions visit from Lossing's daughter and other personal matters.  [also a typescript]


80x20              Practical Treatise on Painting in Oil Colors. London: B. and J. White, 1795.  (246 p.; missing covers)  This book was owned by Rembrandt Peale.  His signature and the date 1795 appears on the title page.  Inside, Peale has made numerous hand-written notes about colors and paints, for example, “Used only in water color painting” or “use none but madder and the best English.”   (Trex no. 8289)  [note: this book has a record in WinterCat]

                        [note: this volume is housed in Box 2]


12x124            “Portrait of Washington,” a pamphlet with letters of testifying to the accuracy of Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of Washington; last page is an advertisement for his lithograph of the portrait.  [note: this pamphlet has a record in WinterCat]


Ph 1037           Photostats.  Auction catalog of “Original Paintings by the Late Rembrandt Peale,” Philadelphia, November 18, 1862.  Held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  M. Thomas & Sons, Auctioneers.  Includes a number of portraits of George Washington.  Some pictures are by other artists.  (Trex no. 8289)


[no number]     Newspaper clipping about convalescence of Rembrandt Peale in his 83d year.



Rubens Peale:


66x138            Letter. To Charles Peale from Rubens Peale, Riverside, July 5, 1862.   Details a letter from Burd; family news; personal news; farm activities  (Trex no. 2554)



Box 2: Oversized items:


60x4.2             Bond and warrant of attorney.  Charles Willson Peale to Edward Stiles for $800.00.  Philadelphia, June 9, 1794.  (Trex no. 1148)


63x53              Lecture. “Washington and his Portraits by Rembrandt Peale,” delivered in

Ph 1061                       Boston, New York, and other unnamed places, 1858-1860.  Personal encounters with Washington--description of the man; history of his father, Charles Willson, painting him.  Also describes his own paintings of him, how they were made, number of copies, where they were sold.  Later, an unidentified person made notes of purchases at auction of Rembrandt’s belongings.  (Trex no. 1600)


74x131            “List of names on museum petition, alphabetically arranged,” n.d.  This was found in the book Peale’s Museum Gallery of Oil Paintings … Catalogue of the National Portrait and Historical Gallery, …, which is located in the Rare Book stacks.   


80x20              Practical Treatise on Painting in Oil-Colors [see under Rembrandt Peale for full description]


84x49a-b         a phrenology lecture in the hand of Rembrandt Peale, discussing the painting “Madonna della Seggiola” and a picture by Greuze (from the context of the lecture, it is obvious that Peale was showing his audience copies of these paintings), n.d. but probably after 1829






Mic. 884          Scrapbook on the Peale family collected by Coleman and Charles Mills.  Contains clippings, genealogical materials, and correspondence about the Peale family.  Original is privately owned.


Mic. 915          Peale family sketchbooks, 1786-1864.  Includes drawings of animals, landscapes, etc.  Originals owned by American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA.  See the WinterCat record for Mic. 915 for more details. 


Mic. 2051        Rembrandt Peale’s Notes of the Painting Room.  Includes instructions for

                        painting.  Original in the Sartain Collection, volume 24, owned by the Historical

                        Society of Pennsylvania.






Col. 56                        Richard T. Haines Halsey research notes on Charles Willson Peale.  See finding aid for complete listing.


 Col. 66           Carson collection of autographs of American artists.  It contains numerous letters, receipts, and other autographs by the Peale family.  For a complete listing, see the finding aid for this collection.  (Trex no. 1693)


Col. 211          Miscellaneous Prints which includes engravings of paintings by Peale family members.  See Access database finding aid for complete listing.


Col. 252           a collection of diaries by John Cogdell that describe the Peale Museum.  (Trex no. 1671)


Col. 315           a scrapbook of American painters created by Thomas Clarke.  It contains photos and research correspondence.  (Trex no. 2755)


RBR ND237.P35C*   Miller, Lillian B., ed. The Collected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and

                                    His Family.  Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, 1980. This is

                                    a collection of microfiche that includes a printed guide and index

                                    containing family history.


RBR N 674 T45*        Peale, Charles Willson.  Peale’s Museum Gallery of Oil Paintings

                                    … Catalogue of the National Portrait and Historical Gallery, illustrative

                                    of American History … formerly belonging to Peale’s Museum …

                                    [a catalog for the auction held October 6, 1854, by M. Thomas & Sons]