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Russell, Xanthus, and Mary Smith family papers, 1793-1977, bulk 1826-1977

Smith, family

Collection Information

Size: 5.12 Linear feet

Summary: The Russell, Xanthus, and Mary Smith family papers comprise 5.12 linear feet and are dated 1793-1977, bulk 1826-1977. Correspondence, writings, artwork, financial records, printed material, miscellaneous items and photographs provide documentation of the lives and works of painter, illustrator and poet, Russell Smith, and his son, painter Xanthus Smith, and scattered documentation of the lives of his wife, painter and educator Mary Priscilla Smith, and daughter and painter Mary Russell Smith.

Biographical/Historical Note

Russell Smith (1812-1896) was a native of Glasgow, Scotland whose family came to the United States in 1819 and settled near Pittsburgh. The Smith children were educated at home, and Russell showed an early interest in art. His first formal training in portraiture and landscape painting was in Pittsburgh under James Reid Lambdin. Around 1827, Smith began painting backdrops for theaters and within 6 years had achieved a national reputation for his theatrical painting. In 1835 he moved to Philadelphia to paint for the Walnut Street Theater, and soon received commissions to paint for theaters in Boston and Washington. Around this time, he also began writing poetry. Even while engaged in theatrical work, Smith continued to paint landscapes which were exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Artists' Fund Society of Philadelphia as early as 1834.


The Smith family papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1978 and 1979 by Franklin R. Smith, a family descendent.

Language Note

English .


Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.