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:         Sartain, John, 1808-1897                                                                   

Title:               Papers

Dates:             ca.1830-1896

Call No.:         Col. 398, Mic. 2930.1

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

Quantity:        1 box, and 1 folder

Location:        9 C 2






Engraver, portrait and miniature painter John Sartain was born in London in 1808. Left fatherless at the age of eight, Sartain was responsible for the support of his family.  At age eleven, he took a job as assistant scene painter to an Italian pyrotechnician working at Charles Kemble’s Theater and at Vauxhall Gardens in London. 


In 1823, Sartain became an apprentice to engraver John Swaine, with whom he worked for seven years in heraldry and letter engraving.  His work drew the attention of William Young Ottley, an art historian then writing a book on early Florence painters.  Ottley commissioned Sartain to finish 14 plates for the book and to create 18 new ones.  Sartain also learned to paint; he studied miniature painting with Henry Richter.


Sartain married Swaine’s daughter Susannah in 1830 and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they had eight children, among them engravers Emily (1841-1927), Henry (1833-1895), and William (1843-1924).  His first important commission was to engrave a portrait of Bishop White painted by Thomas Sully.  He became active in engraving for various magazines including Gentleman’s Magazine, The Casket, and Godey’s Lady’s Magazine.  Beginning 1841, Sartain produced a number of engravings for Graham’s Magazine, and in 1849, deciding to try his hand at publishing, he, along with William Sloanaker, purchased a magazine for $5,000.00.  They changed the title to Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Art.  Among its noted contributors were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edgar Alan Poe.  Meeting with financial failure, the magazine ceased publication in 1852, leaving Sartain with a debt that took him seven years to repay.  Needing money, Sartain began work as a general engraver, engraving banknotes as well as many works by prominent painters.


Besides engraving, Sartain took up art administration, working for 23 years as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where his most noted achievements were gallery arrangements and special exhibitions.  He was also a member of the Artists’ Fund Society and served as vice president for the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where his daughter Emily worked.  In 1876, Sartain was chosen to head the art department for the Centennial Exposition.


After finishing his autobiography, The Reminisces of a Very Old Man, Sartain died in Philadelphia in 1897.  The book was published posthumously, two years later.





This collection contains letters to and from John Sartain, concerning both business and personal matters; prospectuses for his engravings; contracts issued by his son William for engravings; and engravings by Sartain.  The engravings primarily depict portraits, and mythical and religious scenes painted by such noted artists as Poussin, Le Brun, Sully, Stuart, and West.


The commonplace books on microfilm  (Mic. 2930.1) are attributed to Sartain's daughters, Emily and Harriet.  The scrapbooks on microfilm are mainly comprised of newspaper clippings that document activities of Philadelphia artists through reviews of other people's work and publicity surrounding the opening of exhibitions.





The collection is arranged in the following series: Letters, Prospectuses, Contracts, and Engravings.





The materials are in English.





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





Purchased from various sources.






            Sartain, Emily, 1841-1927.

            Sartain, William, 1843-1924



            Engraving, American - Pennsylvania - Philadelphia - 19th century.

            Art, American – 19th century.

            Artists – Correspondence - Pennsylvania - Philadelphia.

            Business records - Pennsylvania - 19th century.

            Magazine illustration – 19th century.

            Advertising flyers.

            Engraving – Printing - Specimens.










Location: 9 C 2



Series I: Letters


77x636            To John Sartain from George R. Birch, Philadelphia, June 9, 1871.  Offers sketches made by his father, Thomas Birch.


2017x47a-b     to Alfred Andrews, New Britain, Conn., from John Sartain, Philadelphia, Feb. 13, 1875.  Mentions engravings of various members of the Hart family, and delay in publication of Andrews’ work.  With envelope, endorsed “Sartain about engravings.”

                        [note: Alfred Andrews published Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart and His Descendants in 1875.]


76x416            To Emily from John Sartain, Philadelphia, Sept. 2, 1885.  Personal news and news of friends whom he saw in Atlantic City.  Met with Mrs. Taylor, the brewer’s widow, who owned several early paintings by Sartain.


68x116.1         To E. Leslie Gilliams from John Sartain, Philadelphia, May 7, 1889.  Of an item Sartain did not forget, but rather could not find.


68x116.2         To E.C. Stedman from John Sartain, Philadelphia, May 22, 1893.  Sartain is sending the requested portrait of Charles G. Leland.


68x83.2           To Mr. Dreer from John Sartain, Philadelphia, January 9th, 1896.  Accepts social invitation for himself and Emily.


73x112a-b       To Mr. Willcox from John Sartain, Philadelphia, December 11, 1896.  In regards to bank note engraving: describes process.  Offers referrals to other engravers.  (Sartain says he only engraved one banknote die, for Charles Toppan, in 1832. He drew designs for other banknotes, to be engraved by others.)  Eventually asked Leutze and Christian Schussele to take over drawing designs.


67x135.1         To J.H. Richardson from John Sartain, Philadelphia, June 26, 1897.  Concerns places for Richardson to publish and advertise his book on the opening of the Erie Canal.


76x414            To Charles G. Leland, 406 Walnut St., from John Sartain, n.d.  Sends copy of a plate “Raffaelle and the Fomarina[?]” which is for the March edition of a magazine.  Please prepare his article on this as soon as possible.


76x415            To Charles Leland from John Sartain, n.d.  Requests location of materials on Puck.






Series II: Prospectuses


66x127            “Death of the Rev. John Wesley.” “Sartain’s Splendid Engraving from Claxton’s Great Painting.”  n.d.  Includes small version of the engraving, titled “Deathbed of the Rev. John Wesley.”  The engraving was to be furnished by the Methodist Book Establishment, New York.


68x178.2         “J. Sartain’s Magnificent View of Ashland, The Residence of the Late Hon. Henry Clay, Engraved (by Permission) from Hamilton’s Celebrated Picture,--Painted from Daguerreotypes by Hewitt.”  Text only.  To be published by F. Hegan, Louisville, Kentucky.  Addressed to William H.[?] Bliss, April 15, 1833.


71x209.3         “John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots.”  Painted by Leutze, Engraved by J. Sartain.  May 1, 1848.  Engraved for the members of the Philadelphia Art-Union.


99x53              “Death of the Rev. John Wesley.”  Another copy of 66x127, above.





Series III: Contracts for engravings by William Sartain


74x219            [blank] agrees to pay C. D. Symonds of Boston for a framed steel engraving by Wm. Sartain of “Washington and Family.”  n.d.


74x364            Wm. Symonds agrees to pay C. D. Symonds of Boston for a framed steel engraving by Wm. Sartain of “Lincoln & Family.”  n.d.  

                        On back: names of M. Barrett of East Gloucester, F.W. Parsons, and George Elwill, with other notes.





Series IV: Engravings


64x80.4           “The Washington Monument.”  Original design by W. Strickland.


69x157.39       “Thomas Chalmers, D.D. & L.L.D.” 


69x157.50       “Rev. John B. Gildea.”  Original painting by Cha. E. Gebhard


69x157.55       [no title] Autographed “Your Obt. Sevt., Z. Taylor.”  “From a sketch made by Capt. Eaton, Aid de Camp, Camargo, Mexico, August 15th, 1846.” “Engraved by J. Sartain, for Grahams Magazine.”


69x157.56       [no title] Autographed by Commodore Wm. Bainbridge.  Original portrait by G. Stuart.


69x157.62       “Almira Lincoln Phelps.” “On steel by John Sartain.”  Pasted onto same sheet as engravings by H.W. Smith (portrait of man by J.S. Templeton, with illegible signature) and G.E. Perme & Co. (“Egypt and the River Nile” by W.H. Bartlett).


69x157.86       “All-beauteous Lady Arabell.”  Original by Lawrence.


76x83.2           “The Flag of the United States, First Hoisted at the Island of St. Thomas by Capn. Hugh Montgomery, on the news of the Declaration of Independence, 1776.”  “Drawn and Engraved by J. Sartain.”


81x61*            “Guttenburg’s [sic] First Experiment in the Art of Printing.”  Original by H. Selous.  On the broadside “Ledger Carriers” Annual Presentation For the Year 1854.”

                        (trex 8553)

                        [* oversized; in separate folder]


82x199            “Scene on the Delaware.”  Original by Shaw.  Hand colored.

                        [note: this passed through the shop of C.W. Unger, whose papers are in Col. 497]


88x215.8         “Little Red Riding hood [sic].” Original by Sir T. Lawrence.


88x215.21       “Major-General Worth.”  Autographed by General Worth.


88x215.28       “Charles 1st.” Original by Vandyke.


88x215.50       “A Page from an Olden Chronicle.”  Original by N. Compertz.


88x215.53       “Time Clipping the Wings of Love.”  Original by Le Brun.


88x215.54       “Esmeralda.” Original by Steuhen.


88x215.56       “The Holy Family.”  Original by N. Poussin.


88x215.57       “Christ Blessing the Little Children.”  Original by Benjamin West.


88x215.58       “Madeline.”  Original by Geo. Jones.


88x215.66       “The Family of Cromwell Interceding for the Life of Charles I.”  Original by Alfred Johannot.


88x215.68       “Titus Battering the Walls of Jerusalem.”  Original by Martin.


88x215.76       “Christiana and Mercy in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” Original by Daniel Huntington.




Related Materials:


M-2930           Sartain family scrapbooks and untitled books from the Archives of American Art.


Microfilmed records of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  Mic. 768, 773, 786, 790, 791, 792, 809.


Col. 164, Thomas Sully Papers for six letters from Sully to Sartain.  See the Sully finding aid for a full description and location.


Sartain, John. The Reminisces of a Very Old Man.  New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1899. NE539 .S34


Martinez, Anne Katherine.  “How to be a Successful Artist in Antebellum America: The Career of John Sartain,” paper for Delaware Seminar, Dec. 1991.  Copy of this paper is filed with the paper copy of this finding aid.


Martinez, Anne Katherine.  The Life and Career of John Sartain: A Nineteenth Century Philadelphia Printmaker.  George Washington University: Ph.D. Thesis, 1986.

            RBR NE539 .S34


Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Arts.  Volume 7 (1850).  RBR AP2 .S34