John Rubens Smith. “A South East View of Merchants Hotel. Nth. Fourth St. Philada.” [Above Market].
Philadelphia: J. R. Smith, [1837?]. Restrike, probably early twentieth century. 12 x 18 7/8. Aquatint by J.R. Smith. Hand color. Horizontal line in sky due to scratch or crack in copper plate. Very good condition. Fielding: 1464.
John Rubens Smith (1775-1849) was a celebrated early nineteenth-century American artist, especially well known for his influence as a teacher, and for his talents as a topographical draftsman. He came from London to the United States in 1809, settling in Philadelphia in the 1830s.
This finely detailed view of Fourth Street above Market was probably the result of a commission from the proprietor of the Merchants Hotel, Joseph M. Sanderson. Sanderson was a well known Philadelphia hotel keeper who operated several such inns in the 1830s and 40s. Sanderson commissioned Smith to do this print as an advertising vehicle. The result for us is an exceptionally good piece of visual history, that is, a precise account of the businesses and activities that lined Fourth Street during the period. Merchant's Hotel was a premier early 19th-century hotel visited by several presidents and used as James Buchanan's presidential campaign headquarters in 1856. The building was razed by fire in 1966.