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Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry
Artist
Thomas Le Clear, 11 Mar 1818 - 26 Nov 1882
Sitter
Joseph Henry, 17 Dec 1797 - 13 May 1878
Date
1877
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 117.5 × 84.5 × 3.5 cm (46 1/4 × 33 1/4 × 1 3/8")
Frame: 135.9 × 103.5 cm (53 1/2 × 40 3/4")
Topic
Printed Material\Book
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Chair\Armchair
Costume\Dress Accessory\Tie\Bowtie
Joseph Henry: Male
Joseph Henry: Education\Educator\Professor
Joseph Henry: Science and Technology\Scientist\Physicist
Joseph Henry: Education\Administrator\Smithsonian Institution\Secretary
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.64.10
Exhibition Label
Born Albany, New York
In December 1861, the Smithsonian became embroiled in the escalating wartime battle over abolition. The eminent physicist Joseph Henry, first secretary of the Smithsonian, carefully guarded the institution’s nonpartisan reputation for scientific research and publication. Unaware that he was dealing with an antislavery pressure group, Henry allowed the recently formed Washington Lecture Association to present a series of talks in the Smithsonian’s public lecture hall.
Henry was horrified by the openly political speeches, which attacked the Lincoln administration for its inaction on emancipation. But it was not only the politicization of the Smithsonian that troubled him. Although his scientific research had benefited years earlier from the “indispensable” assistance of Sam Parker, a free man of mixed race, Henry barred Frederick Douglass from taking the stage with the other abolitionist speakers. He later explained, “I would not let the lecture of the coloured man be given in the rooms of the Smithsonian.”
Nacido en Albany, Nueva York
En diciembre de 1861, ya empezada la guerra, la Smithsonian se vio envuelta en la disputa por la abolición. El eminente físico Joseph Henry, primer secretario de la Smithsonian, protegía con celo la imparcialidad de la institución en la investigación científica y las publicaciones. Sin saber que era un grupo de presión antiesclavista, Henry permitió a la recién creada Asociación de Conferencias de Washington presentar una serie de charlas en el salón de conferencias públicas de la Smithsonian.
Henry se horrorizó con los discursos abiertamente políticos, que atacaban al gobierno de Lincoln por su inercia con respecto a la emancipación. Pero no solo le preocupaba la politización de la Smithsonian. Aunque antes había recibido la ayuda “indispensable” de Sam Parker, un liberto de raza mixta, para sus investigaciones científicas, Henry impidió a Frederick Douglass dirigirse al público junto a los otros oradores. Más tarde explicó: “No iba a permitir el discurso del hombre de color en las salas del Smithsonian”.
Provenance
Commissioned by the Smithsonian, 1877; held by NCFA; transferred 1964 to NPG.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 111
Exhibition
Civil War Gallery Rehang
On View
NPG, East Gallery 111