Franklin’s Arrival in Philadelphia, 1923
Oil on canvas
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward P. Bass
N. C. Wyeth created this painting as the design for the frontispiece to The Pictorial Life of Benjamin Franklin, a book published in 1923 to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Franklin’s arrival in Philadelphia from his native Boston. The scene depicts the most memorable moment of that particular autumn day in 1723 as Franklin himself so vividly recounted it in his Autobiography (1793):
I was dirty from my Journey; my Pockets were stuff’d out with Shirts & Stockings…I was very hungry...Then I walk’d up the Street, gazing about, till near the MarketHouse I met a Boy with Bread. I had made many a Meal on Bread, & inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the Baker’s…He gave me accordingly three great PuffyRolls. I was surpriz’d at the Quantity, but took it, and having no Room in my Pockets, walk’d off, with a Roll under each Arm, & eating the other. Thus I went up Market Street as far as fourth Street, passing by the Door of Mr Read, my future Wife’s Father, when she standing at the Door saw me, & thought I made as certainly did a most awkward ridiculous Appearance.
Newell Convers Wyeth (1881–1945) grew up on a farm in New England where he developed a deep love of nature. He studied illustration first at the Massachusetts Normal Arts School and later at the Howard Pyle School of Art with the great illustrator Howard Pyle. After a short time at Pyle’s school, Wyeth accepted commissions from Scribner’s and the Saturday Evening Post. Pyle encouraged his students to paint only from experience so Wyeth, wanting to create accurate western scenes for his commissions, made several trips to the West to gain first-hand knowledge of his subject. During his trips in 1904–06, he worked as a ranch hand in Colorado and rode mail routes in New Mexico and Arizona. By 1907, Wyeth was heralded in Outing Magazine as “one of our greatest, if not our greatest, painter of American outdoor life.” His illustrations appeared in many of the most popular magazines such as Century, Harper’s Monthly, Ladies’ Home Journal, McClure’s, and Scribner’s. He also illustrated many books including Kidnapped, The Last of the Mohicans, Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The White Company, and The Yearling. During his lifetime, Wyeth created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books.