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Madison at 83 by Longacre

This portrait was the last painted of James Madison during his lifetime. James Barton Longacre visited Madison at Montpelier in July of 1833. Longacre was working on a collection of "distinguished Americans" for a series of bound biographical sketches and portraits. (Madison is in Volume III.) Following their time together at Montpelier, Longacre wrote to Madison that their visit was "beyond most other events" of his life.


The portrait is oil on wood. On July 1, 1971 the painting was purchased from the estate of Mary Madison Lee by Dr. and Mrs. George Shackelford. Mary Madison Lee is linked to the Madison Family through her father's family. Her 7th or 8th great-grandfather was Colonel James Taylor, II who also the great-grandfather of James Madison, Jr.


James Barton Longacre (1794-1869)


Longacre was a portraitist and an engraver. He became the chief engraver for the U.S. Mint following the death of Christian Gobrecht and served in that position from September 16, 1844, until his death on January 1, 1869.


Self-portrait by Longacre earlier in his life. (Smithsonian Institution.)


Longacre was born on August 11, 1794, on a farm in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to Sarah and Peter Longacre. His mother died in his youth and at the age of 12, after apprenticing in a book shop, he began demonstrating notable artistic skills. Those skills gained him an apprenticeship with George Murray. Murray was a principal in a Philadelphia engraving firm that originated with first United States Mint Chief Engraver Robert Scot.


Longacre's skills earned him a reputation as a proficient engraver, opened his own firm in Philadelphia in 1819. He provided elaborate book illustrations and other detailed artistic works – endeavors that helped him meet some of the most prominent figures of his time, including South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, who had served as vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. In 1827 he married his wife, Elizabeth Stiles, with whom he had five children. Financial disaster struck during the Andrew Jackson administration called "the Panic of 1837."


The panic of 1837 was a financial crisis in the United States that triggered a multi-year economic depression. Fiscal and monetary policies in the United States and Great Britain, the global movements of gold and silver, a collapsing land bubble, and falling cotton prices were all to blame. Evidence of the panic’s effects ranged from mild to severe and can be found in higher rates of unemployment, bankruptcies, hunger, urban unrest, and deflation. ("The Economic Historian", Stephen Cambell, 8/15/2022)



Longacre declared bankruptcy and traveled around the nation selling books while his family remained in Philadelphia. The close of 1837 found Longacre back in Philadelphia working for an engraving firm known as Toppan, Draper, Longacre. In later 1844, Senator Calhoun exerted his influence and Longacre was nominated for the chief engraver position for the U.S. Mint. His appointment was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 7, 1845.








James B. Longacre later in life serving as Chief Engraver for the U.S. Mint.

Image from usacoinbook.com











SOURCES:

"James B. Longacre: Prolific Coin Designer, a Legendary Legacy", Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez, May 20, 2020. www.pcgs.com, Accessed 8/23/2023.


"James B. Longacre, US Coin Chief Engraver and Designer", James B. Longacre - US Coin Designer and Engraver (usacoinbook.com), Accessed 8/23/2023.


Museum Collection, The James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage.




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