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Painter and Pioneer Photographer

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

Samuel F. DuBois was born on 4 May 1808, the son of Reverend Uriah and Martha (nee Patterson) DuBois (See previous blog for more information about Uriah).

From an early age, Samuel exhibited such talent that he was sent to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Sully painted in the British style of "peaches and cream" complexions and lyrical, fanciful backgrounds. His 1824 portrait of President Andrew Jackson was adapted for use on the twenty dollar bill, starting in 1928.

On 31 July 1830, Samuel received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

While Samuel's paintings reflect his formal training, he was also influenced by the more traditional, primitive style of the itinerant American painters. Thus, he tended to depict his subjects more severely than was the current Academy style. As his reputation spread, his work was included in exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy and he completed a well-known series of portraits for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.

In 1837 Samuel maintained a studio on Arch Street, above Fifth, in Philadelphia. By 1840 he returned to Doylestown and began to devote his attention to painting portraits in Bucks County, Wilkes-Barre, and Philadelphia. It is said that his residence at Wilkes-Barre was shortened by an unfortunate affair of the heart.

He was an early pioneer in photography. He opened a daguerreotype studio in Doylestown by 1847 and closely followed the advances and innovations in the art of photography. Daguerreotype was the first photographic process publicly available and was widely used during the 1840's and 1850's. It proved a popular alternative to oil painting as demand increased for portraits among the middles classes.

The Deep Run Mennonite Meeting House, photographed by Samuel on 26 April 1872, a week before it was razed.

A correspondent wrote of Samuel as an artist in the 1 September 1857 edition of the Bucks County Intelligencer:

“It may be doubted if the Commonwealth, in which we live, has three artists superior to our townsman. His portraits are nature itself, standing forth in light and shade, in expression and feature. The coloring is excellent – the proportion exact. When fame shall take him in hand, and, under sanction of her nod, commend him to the world’s admiration, he will not paint better – indeed there will be no need of it then, and he may not paint so well.”

Here are some of his portraits:

Prominent merchant and real estate magnate Isaac Smith and his wife Elizabeth C. Osterhout of Wilkes-Barre, PA painted in 1844. They are on display in the Reference Room of the Osterhout Free Library, which was founded by a substantial portion of his estate.

His maternal uncle, Dr. William Maskell Patterson. He was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania (1812-1828), Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Virginia (1828–1835), Director of the U.S. Mint (1835-1851), President of American Philosophical Society, and a founder of the Franklin institute of Philadelphia and of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia. He was interested in ciphers and regularly exchanged coded correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.

Dr. Samuel and Mary P. Moore. He was a U.S. Congressman from 1818 to 1822. He was appointed by President James Monroe as Director of theUnited States Mint on July 15, 1824, holding this office until 1835. He also owned and operated grist and oil mills, a sawmill and a woollen factory. Samuel painted the portraits in 1848 and are in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' collection.

In addition to the visual arts, Samuel was an accomplished musician who played the violin and was considered the Paginini of Doylestown. He also sang with a local quartet.

For the last twenty-five years of his life, he lived continuously at Doylestown. His small brick home and daguerreotype studio at 19 South Pine Street still stands.

He died 20 October 1889 and was buried in the Doylestown Presbyterian Church Cemetery with his parents.


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