James Skivring Smith (born circa 1825)
A native of Charleston, South Carolina, James S. Smith was eight years old when he reached Liberia in 1833. He was orphaned within a year of his arrival when his parents succumbed to the so-called "African fever" (most likely malaria) that claimed so many immigrants' lives. Little is known of Smith's early years in Liberia, but as a young man he studied medicine under Dr. James W. Lugenbeel, the white physician charged by the American Colonization Society with providing medical care to the immigrants. After completing his medical training in the United States, Smith returned to Liberia and served as the ACS physician, first in Sinou County (1849) and then at Bassa Cove in Grand Bassa County (1850). He found the Bassa region to his liking, and he urged immigrants to settle there rather than in Monrovia and its more densely populated environs. Smith was first elected to the Liberian Senate from Grand Bassa County in 1855 and later became secretary of state. As the running mate of presidential candidate Edward J. Roye, he captured Liberia's vice presidency in the election of May 1869. When Roye was removed from office in October 1871, Smith succeeded him and served as Liberia's sixth President from November 1871 until January 1872.
In this daguerreotype, Smith is seated at slant-topped desk that is reminiscent of those pictured in the watercolor rendering of the Liberian Senate.
Attributed to Augustus Washington
Sixth-plate daguerreotype, circa 1857
Image courtesy Prints and Photographs Division
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Click here to view the Liberian Senate watercolor.