J. R. Smith. “Philadelphia” (with paddle wheeler) From John H. Hinton’s The History and Topography of the United States of North America.
Boston: Samuel Walker, . 5 1/4 x 8. Steel engraving by J. Archer. Fourth state with paddle wheel steamer. Very good condition.
John Rubens Smith, an English immigrant, was one of the more important American artists of the early nineteenth century, known for his drawings, engravings, and teaching. Smith was from an artistic family which included his father, John Raphael Smith, artist and mezzotint engraver and publisher, who provided his earliest education. Much of John Rubens Smith’s best work is of American cities and landscape, from South Carolina to New England. This interesting view of Philadelphia, where Smith resided for a time, is one of the better views of the city waterfront, showing the skyline and shipping activity from Kensington. This print appeared as an illustration in Malte-Brun’s A System of Geography in 1834. From its initial publication, through it various manifestations through mid-century, this was one of the most popular views of Philadelphia. It is interesting to note how the general composition was modified to keep the print “up-to-date,” ending with the addition of a paddle wheel steamer drawn very much out of scale in this interesting fourth state of the print.