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Collection Overview

Trumbull, John, 1756-1843
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
John Trumbull Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


Consists of selected correspondence and documents of John Trumbull, the American artist known as the "Painter of the American Revolution." One of his historical paintings, Declaration of Independence, was used for the image on the reverse of the U.S. $2 dollar bill.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists chiefly of correspondence and documents of American artist John Trumbull, some of which is related to his paintings of the American Revolutionary War. Other material included is correspondence of Trumbull's father, Jonathan Trumbull, who was governor of Connecticut. John Trumbull's material includes a letter from Edward Everett from the House of Representatives asking Trumbull's opinion regarding providing better preservation to his paintings in the"Rotunda." There are two letters from Thomas Sully of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts requesting to borrow Trumbull's work for an exhibition. In a letter dated 30 October 1841, Caroline Adam De Windt, granddaughter of President John Adams, writes to Trumbull requesting a"pencil sketch" of an extract from his Battle of Trenton painting. This is followed by a letter written in 1842 from the engraver David C. Hinman asking for permission for his employer, the engraver John Warner Barber, to engrave copies of Trumbull's paintings of the Battle of Princeton and the Battle of Trenton for a work to be published illustrating the history and topography of New Jersey. Also included are four letters from the artist's nephew, John M. Trumbull, dating between 1806 and 1807. Other correspondents include the printmaker Peter Maverick, Wolcott Huntington of the House of Representatives, and the author Samuel Swett, who criticizes the accuracy of Trumbull's memoirs and paintings. In addition, there are two promissory notes and four bank checks signed by Trumbull, as well as a subscription receipt, dated 19 July 1790 and signed by Trumbull, for two prints of his The Battle of Bunker's [sic] Hill and Death of General Montgomery.

Jonathan Trumbull's material includes a letter dated 1 July 1768 and sent to Jedediah Elderkin regarding a settlement of Col. Dyer and another letter to Thomas Mumford, dated 7 April 1778, regarding a conflict about a property between a Mr. William Gorton and Governor Bradford.


Folders are organized alphabetically by correspondent or other name.

Collection Creator Biography:

Born in Connecticut in 1756, John Trumbull was the son of Jonathan Trumbull, who became a governor of Connecticut. Trumbull graduated from Harvard University in 1773. As a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, he rendered a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British works, and he witnessed the famous Battle of Bunker Hill. Trumbull was also appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in June 1776 he was deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates. However, Trumbull resigned from the army in 1777. In 1780 he traveled to London where he studied under Benjamin West, the Anglo-American painter of historical scenes. West suggested to him that he paint small pictures of scenes from the War of Independence and miniature portraits, of which Trumbull produced about two hundred and fifty in his lifetime. He is remembered as the"Painter of the American Revolution."

Collection History


The letter to Elderkin was a gift of Julian Boyd, Princeton Class of 1904, in June 1944 .

The 1790 subscription receipt was a gift of Thomas Brown Wilbur on October 10, 1951 .

The letters to Everett, Hinman, Sully, Swett, and De Windt, as well as the checks and other documents, were a gift of Harry Shaw Newman on May 5, 1966 .

The letter of Huntington was purchased on March 4, 1970 .

The letter of Maverick was removed and transferred from the Arthur C. Holden Papers in 1997 .

Custodial History:

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

John Trumbull Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184