This circa 1815 print entitled, Perry’s Battle on Lake Erie, depicts the most pivotal maneuver of the Battle of Lake Erie, illustrating the moment when Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry transferred his men from the heavily-damaged USS Lawrence to the U.S. Brig Niagara. Aboard the Niagara, Perry ordered an attack that broke the British line and forced the surrender and capture of British ships. This War of 1812 naval victory paved the way for an army campaign that eventually drove the British into Canada.
Portrait painter Thomas Sully partnered with Philadelphia engraver Francis Kearny to create a series of prints, including this one, depicting battles from the War of 1812. Philadelphia engraving firm Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., along with publisher James Webster, produced this hand-colored print of Sully and Kearny’s drawing. The print is inscribed at the bottom: “This representation of the Battle on Lake Erie, is respectfully inscribed to Commodore Perry, his Officers and gallant Crews; By their humble servant, JAMES WEBSTER.” In the years during and immediately following the War of 1812, numerous artists and firms published prints of dramatic scenes from the war that illustrated how the public viewed the conflict, and conveyed the destruction wrought by both the American and British forces.
Spurred by resentment over British interference with American international trade as well as America’s desire to control territorial expansion in North America, the War of 1812 provided the young United States its first opportunity to affirm its status as an independent nation. Though the war itself ended in 1815 with many of the most contentious issues left unresolved, decisive American victories at Lake Erie, and later at Baltimore and New Orleans, inspired a fierce sense of national pride among the American people, many of whom viewed the war as America’s second battle for independence.
Selected by CAP Curator Jennifer Gleim, Perry’s Battle on Lake Erie appears in The State Museum’s Pennsylvania Icons exhibit.
About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.