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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part I - Scots in the Settlement and Development of The United States
Scots in Art, Music, etc.


THE first painter of prominence in the United States was John Smibert (1684-1751), who was born in Edinburgh. He was bred a house-painter, but having ambition for something higher, he studied hard in London and afterwards in Italy. In 1728, he came to America, finally settling in Boston. Here he acquired not only considerable fame as a portrait painter but also a substantial fortune by his art. Many of his paintings are preserved in Yale University, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and elsewhere.

We also have in Colonial times, John Watson, a Scottish painter who lived for many years at Perth Amboy, N. J., and died previous to the Revolutionary War; also E. F. Andrews, who left the best portraits of Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington and Dolly Madison, all of which hang in the White House; and Cosmo Alexander, who came to America from Edinburgh about 1770 and took with him in his travels the boy Gilbert Charles Stuart and taught him the rudiments of his art; and who at his death left Stuart in the wardship of his friend Sir George Chambers in Edinburgh.

Gilbert Charles Stuart (1752-1828), one of the most famous portrait painters of America, and next to Sir Benjamin West, the greatest American artist of his day, was born in Narragansett, Rhode Island, of Scottish parents. After the death of Sir George Chambers, he was thrown on his own resources in Edinburgh, and went through many vicissitudes before becoming a distinguished portrait painter in London. In 1792, at the height of his fame, he returned to the United States, and painted portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, John Adams, and many other of the country’s most distinguished sons. His portraits of Washington are considered the best of the Father of his Country.

Dr. Alexander Anderson, the father of wood-engraving in America, was born in New York City, the son of Scottish parents, in 1774. Although educated for the medical profession, his taste lay more in artistic lines. He became a self-taught engraver and attained to the highest skill in his chosen profession, and invented many of the tools used in the art. His earliest work was illustrating the first edition of Noah Webster’s Spelling Book and another little book called the Looking-Glass for the Mind. He died in Jersey City so recently as 1870, in the ninety-sixth year of his age.

George Murray, born in Scotland, died in Philadelphia in 1822, was a pupil of Anker Smith in London, and was the most noted engraver of banknotes of his day. He is best known, however, for his skilful engraving of animals. He also engraved a number of portraits and landscapes, and two of the best engravings of the Battle of Lake Erie bear the name of his firm in Philadelphia.

In the nineteenth century we have the Smillies, a family in which the artistic temperament was highly developed. James Smillie, the first of the family, was born in Edinburgh, in 1807, and settled in New York in 1829. He was recognized as the finest landscape engraver of his time in America, and one of his brothers, William Cumming Smillie, was one of the most prominent bank-note engravers of the continent. Two of James Smillie's sons obtained high rank as artists. James D. Smillie, born in New York in 1835, engraved Darley’s illustrations to Fenimore Cooper’s novels, and became a National Academician in 1876. He was also distinguished as a painter in oil and watercolour, and his ability was such that he was twice elected President of the Water Colour Society. His brother, George Henry Smillie, also born in New York City, in 1840, became a pupil of James Macdougall Hart. He was elected an Associate of the National Academy in 1864, and in 1882 he became a full Academician, and is recognized as a master of oil and water-colour. His A Lake in the Woods (1872), , A Florida Lagoon (1875), and Summer Morning on Long Island (1884), are excellent examples of his talent.

Another Scottish artist who achieved distinction in this country was Thomas L. Smith, who was born in Glasgow in 1835. He studied art in New York, and in 1870 became an Associate of the National Academy. In addition to his painting he has written largely on art subjects.

James Macdougall Hart, among the first American landscape painters, was born in Kilmnarnock, Scotland, in 1828. He removed with his parents to Albany in 1831, where he and his brother, William Hart. born in Paisley in 1823, were both apprenticed to a coachmaker, and both became famous in American art annals. James Macdougall Hart was especially noted for his treatment of cattle in landscape. William Hart was the first President of the Brooklyn Academy of Design and 1870 to 1873 President of the American Water Colour Society.

John C. King (1806-1882), the New England seulptor, famous for his busts of John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Louis Agassiz, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a native of Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Thomas Crawford (1814-1857), many of whose works are preserved in the Capitol at Washington and who was the sculptor of the celebrated fountain in Richmond, Virginia, was born at sea, of Ulster-Scottish parents on their way from the neighborhood of Bally-Shannon, Ireland. He was the father of Francis Marion Crawford, the novelist.

Of the older sculptors of Scottish descent, the most famous are: J. Q. A. Ward, born in Ohio in 1830, whose best work is exemplified in the statue of George Washington at the Sub-Treasury Building, New York, and by his Indian Hunter in Central Park, in the same city. His brother, Edgar Melville Ward, was also a painter of note. Joel T. Hart (1810-1877), a native of Kentucky, whose busts of Henry Clay in Richmond, New Orleans and Louisville, and portrait statues of other famous contemporaries are greatly admired. Alexander Doyle (born 1857), sculptor of the statues of Horace Greeley, in New York, and of John Howard Payne, in Washington; and James Wilson Alexander McDonald (born in 1824), both natives of Ohio, who was as famous a painter as a sculptor. At the present time, no living artist holds a higher place than Frederick MacMonnies, sculptor and painter, whose biography appears elsewhere in this volume.

George Inness (1825-1894), the greatest of American landscape painters, was of Scottish blood, as was James Abbott McNeil Whistler (1834-1903), the great etcher, painter and wit, whose grandfather, in 1803, was the builder of Fort Dearborn, on the present site of Chicago; also John White Alexander (1856-1915), the American portrait and figure painter.

In the field of music and the drama, Edward Alexander McDowell (18611908), professor of music in Columbia University and composer for the pianoforte, was of Scottish descent. The late venerable James U. Stoddart (1827-1907) was born in Yorkshire, spent his youth in Glasgow and came to the United Stales in 1854. His delineation of Scottish and other character parts will be long remembered by all who were privileged to hear him. Of older memory, is James Edward Murdoch (1811-1893), born in Philadelphia, Pa., of Scottish parents. After rising to t.he height of his profession and supporting most of the leading actors of his day, he left the stage and during the war secured more than $250,000 for aid of the soldiers by reciting and lecturing gratuitously for the various aid societies. His two sons enlisted in the Union Army and his youngest son, Captain Thomas F. Murdoch, was killed at Chickamanga.


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