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Date posted:  June 14, 2022

Thomas Moran (1837–1926) and his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), both began their artistic careers while living in a crowded household where more than a dozen people went about the business of their lives. Several of those family members were pursuing careers in the arts. The aspiring artists formed an important support system for one another, and there was probably a healthy competitiveness among them. Moreover, the busy Moran home in Philadelphia presented a setting for lively artistic discussions during the couple’s formative years as artists.

The patriarch, Thomas Moran Sr., unable to secure work as a handloom weaver in an industrializing England, traveled to the United States in 1842 hoping for a better life for his family. Impressed by what he found, Moran Sr. sent for his wife and seven children two years later,[1] and they eventually settled for several years into a home in Kensington, a suburb of Philadelphia. Moran Sr. worked in a textile mill but also delivered newspapers for the Philadelphia Public Ledger, and his wife, Mary Higson Moran, worked as a handloom weaver in the home.[2] By the early 1850s one of their children had died and three more had been born. By 1860, one of the newest additions to the family would also die.[3] As the children married, their spouses and their children often stayed in the family home for the first five or six years of their wedded life,[4] and Mary Nimmo joined the family in 1863.[5]

The Moran household in Philadelphia knew loss and times of poverty, although not the deprivation they had suffered in Great Britain. Their improving standard of living brought hope to the parents that their children would attain a better life in the United States. Later, many of the family remembered little of the hardships but a home replete with schoolbooks, music, storytelling, amateur dramatic productions, and artistic discussion as aspiring painters, etchers, and photographers eventually occupied the household. Although the artists all came and went from their studios as they began establishing their careers, they must have filled the home with evidence of their endeavors. They all reportedly began collecting and sharing their art books and journals, as well as props such as tapestries and costumes, early in their careers.[6]

Edward Moran was the oldest of the children, and the first to pursue a career in art. Best known for his seascapes, Edward gave two of his brothers, Thomas and Peter Moran, their earliest instruction in oil painting. Edward’s efforts at establishing a professional career, however, were perhaps the most important part of educating his siblings, as developing an artistic résumé during the nineteenth century meant understanding the vagaries of the art market. Peter, although a noted painter of animals, immersed himself in etching by the 1870s, and he and his wife Emily Kelley pursued the medium years before Thomas and his wife Mary Nimmo. Moreover, Peter taught art and took an active part in various art organizations in Philadelphia throughout his career. John Moran pursued a career as a photographer and was an early proponent of photography as an artistic medium, revealing another interesting facet of the nineteenth-century art world.[7] Examining aspects of the careers of three of Thomas Moran’s siblings provides a glimpse into the artistic community as it developed in the United States during the nineteenth century—a world in which Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran pursued their artistic careers.[8]

Edward Moran (1829–1901): Establishing a Professional Reputation

“He taught the rest of us Morans all we know about art and grounded us in the principles we have worked all our lives. It is scarcely probable that any of us would have been painters had it not been for Edward’s encouragement and assistance,” eulogized Thomas Moran in Brush and Pencil’s tribute to Edward Moran upon his death in 1901.[9] Moreover, Edward helped support the family during their early years in Philadelphia, working as a power-loom boss at one of Kensington’s mills, which kept him employed for seven years. In his free time, he began sketching and painting. One of his supervisors at the mill admired his work and introduced him to the artist James Hamilton (1819–1878) around 1853. Hamilton, after seeing some of Edward’s drawings, encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist and probably taught him the fundamentals of painting. One of the most prominent marine painters in Philadelphia, Hamilton may have introduced Edward to the portraitist and landscape painter G. D. Paul Weber (1823–1916). Weber helped complete Edward’s artistic education by introducing him to the business of art. Weber was a well-established artist who exhibited regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), bringing his work to the attention of important collectors in the city, from whom he received lucrative commissions.[10]

Edward took an important step in receiving professional recognition as an artist in 1854, when PAFA selected for its annual exhibition his oil painting View of the Susquehanna (location unknown); a year later, the Academy approved one of his earliest marines, The Storm (Washington and Lee University), for display. Exhibiting one’s paintings at a well-established venue such as PAFA got an artist noticed by potential buyers and critics as well. Founded in 1805, PAFA is one of the earliest art museums and art schools in the United States. The school did not hold formal classes until 1810, when it also began an annual exhibition in the late spring for the work of its students, instructors, and local artists.[11] Commercial art galleries in Philadelphia also provided a venue to display artwork, and Edward marketed his paintings through the James S. Earle and Sons Gallery.[12] An artist, however, also needed reviews in the newspapers and periodicals to establish a professional reputation. Art collectors bought and commissioned art as an investment, but also as a mark of prestige. Thus, the art and artist should have a pedigree; that is, an exhibition record at juried shows at well-known venues (such as PAFA), accompanied by positive reviews. Moreover, artists increasingly sought training at art academies as an indicator of professional achievement. For Edward and his brothers, none of whom received formal training, being accepted for exhibition at PAFA meant their artwork was acceptable to the faculty and the directors.[13]

During this period, Edward lived and worked in his studio at 308 Callowhill Street. Although he sold some of his paintings, he supplemented his income through employment as a lithographer for the Philadelphia firm of Herline and Company.[14] His younger brother Thomas joined him at the Callowhill studio in 1856, although he still lived at home with his parents. Edward encouraged Thomas, who had been creating and selling watercolors, to exhibit them at PAFA, and to work in oils. A year after Thomas joined Edward in his studio, he exhibited his first oil painting at the Pennsylvania Academy. The year 1957 was momentous for Edward as well, as he received commissions from several wealthy Philadelphia collectors, including Harrison Earle, Townsend Ward, and George Woodnut. Edward’s first foray into the art world outside Philadelphia also occurred in 1857, as he presented his work at the National Academy of Design (NAD) in New York City. By 1858, he was also showing his work at the Boston Athenaeum.[15]

At midcentury, the art community recognized PAFA, along with the NAD and the Boston Athenaeum, as the leading art institutions in the United States, and Edward was exhibiting his work at all three.[16] Presenting his work at NAD, however, was perhaps the most significant development. The annual juried shows at NAD began in 1826 and were an established part of the exhibition circuit for aspiring artists on the East Coast. Although Philadelphia was still an important cultural center, New York City would eclipse it in the second half of the nineteenth century. Moreover, the publishing world, which produced some of the most significant art criticism of the era, found a home in New York City.[17]

Edward continued to show his work at the annuals in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City, opening the doors for his younger brothers. For not only was Thomas pursuing a career in the arts, but so was Peter. Peter shared a studio with Edward as early as 1859 and exhibited his first painting at PAFA that year.[18] Beyond Edward’s exhibition record, and a trip to England in 1862 with his brother Thomas to study the work of J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) firsthand,[19] we know little about any of his other activities until 1868. That spring, PAFA, which followed the floor-to-ceiling exhibition style typical of the era, “skied” (placed near the ceiling) Edward’s entries in the annual. The day before opening, in a gesture of protest, Edward cut one of his paintings from the frame and painted over his three other works with an opaque wash. He also asked for a formal apology. PAFA responded by stating it would no longer allow Edward to show his works in its exhibitions until he apologized for his actions. No one ever apologized, and Edward’s artworks never again appeared in PAFA’s annual exhibitions.[20] Beyond Edward’s initial request for an apology, neither he nor any of his brothers ever made a statement about the incident. His siblings continued to exhibit their work at PAFA. The incident could have been disastrous for Edward’s career, and it was for a few years. The press, however, enjoyed reporting on his antics, and he continued presenting his work in both Boston and New York City. Timing would also play a role in Edward’s ability to reestablish a professional career.[21]

In 1870, PAFA closed its doors for several years during renovations, leaving all the city’s artists without one of their most important exhibition venues, and some chose to relocate closer to New York City. Early in 1871, Edward moved there, and he began to reestablish his artistic career. His choice of subject helped him attract new patrons. Although his early seascapes often portrayed dramatic scenes of shipwrecks, his later paintings of the 1870s focused on scenes of yacht racing, such as Livonia and Sappho (Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts), which proved very popular with New York’s wealthy collectors.[22] He also began creating moody, atmospheric marines, such as Foggy Afternoon, New York Bay (Heckscher Museum of Art, New York), which were admired by critics. By 1872 Edward was exhibiting regularly at NAD, and his career was back on track.[23]

John Moran (1831–1902): A New Medium for Art, and Government-Sponsored Work

During the 1860s, John Moran became noted for his photography, producing albumen prints of historic and public buildings in Philadelphia, and landscape views from along the Schuylkill River, Wissahickon Creek, the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, and the Delaware Water Gap.[24] These were areas his brother Thomas also sketched, and art historian Anne Morand suggests the brothers probably explored these locales together. Thomas perhaps helped his brother set up his photographic equipment, which was rather cumbersome.[25]

An albumen print is the positive photograph, several copies of which are made from a master negative created on a glass plate coated with a colloidal substance such as albumen and then light-sensitized. John would have brought with him perhaps a half dozen glass plates, the camera—a wooden box that could have been as large as one foot by one foot—and a tripod. To take a picture, John placed the plate in the camera, opened the shutter to expose the plate, and then removed the plate; he then fixed the image with a chemical agent. The fixative had to be brought along with all the other equipment, but John would develop the positive photographic print later in his studio.[26] Thomas learned to assist his brother, and this served him well when he accompanied the government-sponsored surveys to the American West as these expeditions included an official photographer. Thomas worked with photographer William Henry Jackson during Ferdinand V. Hayden’s geological survey to the Yellowstone region, and then with John K. Hillers during John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Thomas may have had the idea to request inclusion as a guest artist on these surveys because of his brother John.

John spent most of his career in and around Philadelphia, but he was the first of the brothers to join a government-sponsored expedition.[27] Over a year before Thomas joined the Hayden survey, John accompanied the U.S. Navy expedition to the Isthmus of Darien (now called the Isthmus of Panama) in 1870.[28] The federal government was attempting to find a location for an interoceanic canal and the earliest explorations of the Isthmus as one of several potential routes took place in 1854. To construct a canal there that would link the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, they would have to cross though a dense stretch of jungle. The initial U.S.–sponsored exploration of the region, led by Navy lieutenant Isaac Strain with a company of twenty-seven men, became lost for weeks in the tropical forest. They walked in endless loops following water sources, but died one by one from disease and starvation. With seven of his crew dead, Strain and three of his strongest men made their way to the Pacific, reaching it forty-nine days later, and then turned around immediately to lead a rescue mission to retrieve their companions. Strain never recovered from the ordeal, and died in Colón, Panama, in 1857. Harper’s Monthly chronicled the expedition he led in 1855.[29] The federal government attempted an exploration of the Isthmus again in 1870, and John would have been well aware of the danger when he joined the expedition, this time led by U.S. Navy commander Thomas O. Selfridge Jr. He returned unscathed, with plenty of stories to tell, which delighted the family for years.[30] In 1874 he traveled to Tasmania and South Africa, again with the U.S. Navy, on a government expedition to track the transit of Venus across the sun. This was a rare event, occurring only four times every 243 years, and was well documented by 1761. The U.S. Naval Observatory sent eight naval expeditions out to different global locations in 1874 to collect more data and photographs of the event to gain a better understanding of the scale of the solar system.[31]

Although the bulk of John’s photography falls into the category of what art historians consider “documentary,” such as the photographs of Philadelphia architecture and his work for the government expeditions, he was an early promoter of photography as a fine art. Although artists could see the value of photography as a tool that could supplement their field sketches, both they and the public viewed photography as more of a science than an art because of the cumbersome equipment and the chemicals involved. Moreover, where was the creative imagination in the seemingly mechanical process? In February 1865, John delivered a lecture before the Philadelphia Photographic Society entitled “The Relation of Photography to the Fine Arts,” in which he argued that the contemporary relegation of photography to the mechanical arts and science did not explore the aesthetic possibilities offered by the medium. John stated that the mechanical arts and science pursue goals that are speculative and practical, but landscape photography, for example, was neither. It was not documentary, as it expressed a human being’s “unselfish delight in nature which is the foundation of all the beautiful of fine arts, and which distinguishes them from science or mechanic arts.”[32] Moreover, “the exercise of the artistic faculties are undoubtably necessary in the production of pictures from nature, for any given scene offers so many different points of view.”[33] One cannot help but wonder if this discussion of aesthetics resulted from John’s interactions with his brothers Edward and Thomas after they returned from their trip to England in 1862.

For Thomas and Edward, the trip to the British Isles was a revelation. Besides studying the work of J. M. W. Turner in the National Gallery in London, the brothers also spent three months sketching outdoors as they visited the places Turner had worked. Both brothers learned Turner did not record what was before him, but rearranged his composition in what, to him, was the most artful manner.[34] Edward noted in an article he wrote for Art Amateur years later that Turner was “very inaccurate—willfully so. He would move a steeple from left to right of a given point without scruple, but his changes were always possible changes; his knowledge of the forms of land and sea and cloud was so thorough that he could do pretty much as he pleased with them, and yet keep within the bounds of naturalness.”[35] Both Edward and Thomas learned art was about interpretation, with visual information gathered from different points of view, rather than meticulous fidelity to nature, a lesson that was not lost on their brother John as he argued for photography to be considered a fine art in his 1865 lecture.

Peter Moran (1841–1914): Teaching and Art Associations

Peter Moran lived in Philadelphia throughout his artistic career, working as a painter, etcher, and art teacher. After completing grammar school, he entered an apprenticeship with the lithographers Herline and Hensel. Edward Moran had worked for the firm’s predecessor, Herline and Company, and provided Peter with an introduction. Peter, however, became disenchanted with lithography and a year later joined Edward in his studio and learned to paint from him. Peter remained with Edward through 1863 and began exhibiting his paintings alongside those of both Edward and Thomas at PAFA as early as 1859.[36]

By the mid-1860s, Peter added teacher to his résumé. His older brother Thomas and his brother-in-law Stephen J. Ferris taught evening classes at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women for several years.[37] In 1866, however, Thomas was off to Europe, and Peter took his place as the lecturer on landscape painting.[38] Peter maintained his teaching position at the school for twenty-four years, longer than any other instructor. Scholars suggest Peter possibly met his future wife, the etcher Emily Kelley (1850–1900), while teaching at the school, as the two married in 1867, a year after his initial appointment.[39]

Besides his teaching duties, during the 1860s and 1870s Peter joined many art clubs in Philadelphia. Although his brothers also belonged to various art associations in the city, Peter aspired to be part of their governing bodies. In 1867, the board of the Philadelphia Artists’ Fund Society elected Peter as a member of the council; the following year, it named him a full officer. The group had a distinguished thirty-year history of supporting local artists and was an important exhibition venue, providing artists with opportunities to get their work seen quarterly, much more frequently than PAFA, which only held annual exhibitions. Peter was also a member of the Philadelphia Society of Artists, the Art Club of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Sketch Club. Due in part to his involvement in the art community, when the Philadelphia Press ran an article on artists in the city in March 1870, Peter received more coverage than anyone else. [40] Moreover, Peter’s involvement with these organizations and his teaching duties at the School of Design for Women provided important exhibition opportunities and financial support for him when PAFA closed its doors in late 1870 for its rebuilding project. Although Thomas and Edward moved to Newark, New Jersey, and New York City in 1871 and 1872 to further their careers, Peter maintained a home and studio in Philadelphia.

Late in 1874, when PAFA reopened, it sponsored a major print exhibition featuring almost one thousand European etchings. Opening night on the evening of December 21 was so popular that more than two thousand Philadelphians attended, and Peter was probably one of them, as he had taken up etching around this time. Peter was sharing a studio with his brother-in-law, Stephen Ferris, who scholars believe taught him to etch. Ferris and Peter exhibited their etched works in their studio in 1875, and the press covered the event, lauding their efforts with positive reviews. Encouraged by the reception, both men presented etchings at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and Peter won a medal.[41] In 1880, the two founded the Philadelphia Society of Etchers (PSE), which held monthly meetings to discuss the practice and promotion of etching.[42] The group elected Peter as its first president, and Ferris served as the first secretary. One of the most important actions the PSE initially took was establishing a category for honorary membership—individuals with a vested interest in the arts who were not artists.

Among the first of the honorary members was James L. Claghorn, the president of PAFA, which secured the group an important exhibition venue. By 1882, the etching club was holding its annual exhibitions at PAFA.[43] Sylvester Rosa Koehler—an important print connoisseur, the editor of The American Art Review,[44] and curator of prints at both the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Smithsonian’s National Museum—was also among the original honorary members.[45] Koehler was a significant resource as he promoted the work of PSE members by introducing them to the public through articles in The American Art Review, and by organizing print exhibitions featuring their work in other cities.[46] These honorary appointments, even though they might seem to present conflicts of interest, were not unusual. Most art clubs during this era included critics, gallery owners, museum board members, and directors of art schools among their honorary members.[47] These were, however, groups of white males who often excluded women and people of color from membership. The PSE did offer etching classes that women could attend, and they could present their work at PSE events, but the organization did not offer them membership. Indeed, Peter’s own wife, Emily Kelley, was not a member of the PSE, nor was his sister-in-law, Mary Nimmo Moran. Nor was membership extended to the painter and etcher Emily Sartain (1841–1927), who was the principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where Peter and Ferris taught.[48] It is unclear, however, if the women actively sought membership.

Peter’s duties as an instructor at the School of Design for Women grew under Sartain’s leadership.[49] By 1886, he taught classes in not only landscape painting, watercolor, and etching but also composition. His class sizes increased from twenty to forty, and by 1888, most of his classes saw enrollments of over eighty students. As art historian David Gilmour Wright observed, Peter Moran’s legacy includes his efforts to promote etching through the PSE and the impact he had on art education for women, as he taught more than four hundred students, many of whom established professional careers.[50] Yet Peter’s involvement with the PSE also complicates Wright’s observations about his efforts to educate female artists. Even as the etching club’s founder, Peter apparently did not actively advocate for including women as members.[51] Women’s exclusion from art organizations, such as the PSE, however, was a complicated issue.

The Moran brothers could devote all of their time to their careers, but their wives had household chores and children to tend, leaving them little time for art clubs. The connections through the various art organization enjoyed by the Moran brothers could be mutually beneficial for them, and by extension for their spouses, even if they were not officially members of those groups. The men could keep the women abreast of exhibition opportunities and developments in the art world. Both Mary Nimmo Moran and Emily Kelley Moran had successful artistic careers, and some of the credit for that is probably the result of the Moran name opening doors for them. Mary Nimmo Moran began exhibiting her paintings in 1869 at PAFA, along with her husband and his brothers.[52] Mary took up etching later than her sister-in-law Emily Kelley but both exhibited their etched works in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City.[53] In fact, on the strength of her etched work and exhibition record, Mary Nimmo Moran would eventually be the first woman elected for membership in the New York Etching Club and London’s Royal Society of Painter-Etchers.[54]

Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran both began their pursuit of careers in the fine arts while living in a household where other aspiring artists came and went regularly, either from that home or nearby residences. The professional connections made by the artists in the family undoubtably benefited the couple. From Edward Moran, they learned some of their initial lessons about survival in the art world, from how to create art to where to exhibit one’s work, and perhaps also the importance of not incurring the disdain of important exhibition venues. John Moran’s involvement in government-sponsored expeditions may have inspired Thomas to pursue his involvement with the western surveys, a move that arguably made the latter’s career. Both Thomas’s and Mary’s careers as etchers benefited from Peter Moran’s connections to Sylvester Rosa Koehler, who did so much to promote etching in the United States during the late nineteenth century. In addition, Peter and his wife, Emily Kelley, like Thomas and Mary, were partners in art, supporting each other’s efforts while simultaneously pursuing their own careers.

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021


[1] Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 11.

[2] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:3–4, 163–64; Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 13–14. See also Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 34. The family first settled in Baltimore but soon moved to suburban Philadelphia, moving several times but generally residing in the suburbs northeast and northwest of the city. They are listed in the 1850 census as living in the 3rd Ward or Kensington, north-northwest of the city center. According to Vittoria, the family moved to Crescentville, northeast of the city, in 1858, and the 1860 census lists them in Crescentville.

[3] Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 182. Besides the parents, the Moran family comprised Edward (1829–1901), John (1831–1902), James (1833–1850), Sarah (1835–?), Thomas (1837–1926), Elizabeth (1839–?), Peter (1841–1914), William (1846–1871), Mary (1849–1933), and James II (1852–1860).

[4] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:6–7, 15, 21n65, 164, 168–69. In 1862 the artist Stephen J. Ferris (1835–1915) joined the family when he married Elizabeth; they had one son, Gerome (1863–1930), and they all resided in the family home until 1870. In 1863, Thomas married Mary Nimmo; the following year Paul Nimmo (1864–1907) was born, and in 1867 a daughter, Mary Scott (1867–1955), and they all lived in the family home until 1868. They later had another daughter, Ruth Bedford (1870–1948). John married Sara Melvina Smith (1835–1919) in 1867, and they lived in the household until 1874. Also in 1867, Peter married Emily Kelley, and they had a son, Alfred (1868–1873); they remained in the home until 1874. They later had a second son, Charles (1875–after 1918). Edward moved out as early as 1859, but in 1869 his first wife died, and he moved back to the family home with his two sons, Edward Percy and John Leon, until 1871, when he married a socialite from Kentucky, Annette Palmetier (1835–1904). Also living in the home until 1879–80 were the oldest sister Sarah and her husband, grocer Valentine Strausse; they had one child, Edward Strausse (1861–1863), who died at the age of two.

[5] Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 47.

[6] Benson, “The Moran Family,” 68.

[7] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:15. The youngest of the Moran children, William and Mary also pursued careers in photography, William in the studio with John, and Mary as a photographic assistant.

[8] The Gilcrease collection contains works by several members of the family, including Harbor Scene (01.2471) by Edward Moran; Pastoral Scene with Cows (14.459), Herding Cows (14.389), Man with Umbrella Herding Cows in the Rain (14.66), and A Hiawatha Scene (14.390) by Peter Moran; Landscape with River Road (14.320), Landscape with Bridge (14.321), and Two Riverscapes (14.374) by Emily Kelley Moran; and The Cooper’s Shop (14.354), Elizabeth Moran Ferris (14.366), and Self-Portrait (14.343) by Stephen J. Ferris, Elizabeth Moran’s husband.

[9] Thomas Moran quoted in Coleman, “Passing of a Famous Artist, 191.

[10] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 13–17, 67.

[11] Goodyear, “A History of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,” 5–10.

[12] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 17–21, 33, 67.

[13] Morgan, New Muses, 9–11, 17, 84–85. Morgan focuses on the development of the art world in the United States during the post–Civil War era, but he does provide a review of the antebellum period. See also Dearinger, “Annual Exhibitions and the Birth of American Art Criticism to 1865,” 53–55.

[14] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 17, 67. Thomas Moran engaged in lithography from 1859 to 1869.

[15] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 18–19, 64.

[16] Goodyear, “A History of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,” 27.

[17] Dearinger, “Annual Exhibitions and the Birth of American Art Criticism to 1865,” 55, 57–58.

[18] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 21.

[19] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 21– 26.

[20] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 29–30, 64.

[21] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 30.

[22] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 36–38.

[23] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 40–42, 49–50, 55–57. Edward’s sons achieved some success as artists: Edward Percy became known for his portraits of women, and John Leon was appreciated for his etchings. Both enjoyed creating historical works and made studies after historical textiles and dress. See also Gatling, The Moran Family, 2–3, and Benson, “The Moran Family,” 77–78.

[24] Reilly, “The Early Work of John Moran,” 65. You can find John Moran’s photographs in the collections of both the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

[25] Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 16–18, 25–27.

[26] Newhall, The History of Photography, 13–25.

[27] Peter Moran also accompanied a government-sponsored western expedition when, in 1890, census official Thomas Donaldson appointed him as a special agent for the Eleventh Census to create illustrations of Indigenous people living in Wyoming. Donaldson envisioned publishing for the Bureau of the Census an illustrated document chronicling the condition of Indigenous people throughout the United States. See Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:86–87.

[28] Reilly, “The Early Work of John Moran,” 65.

[29] Manthorne, Tropical Renaissance, 43–45, 61–63. See also McCullough, The Path Between the Seas, 22–23. The article by J. T. Headley, “Darien Exploring Expedition, under Command of Lieut. Isaac C. Strain,” appeared in three parts in Harper’s New Monthly: vol. 10, no. 58 (March 1855): 433–58; vol. 10, no. 59 (April 1855): 600–615; and vol. 10, no. 60 (May 1855): 745–64.

[30] Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 81–86. Vittoria posits John’s photographs of Darien may have provided Mary Nimmo Moran with a source for the tropical vegetation she depicted in illustrations for The Aldine in 1877 and 1879. Nimmo Moran visited Florida in 1877, however, with her husband, Thomas, and could have been inspired by some of the tropical plants that she saw and sketched there.

[31] Reilly, “The Early Work of John Moran,” 65, 67n7. Dick, “The Transit of Venus,” 100, 102–3. The transits, which occur in pairs, were first observed in the years 1631 and 1639, 1761 and 1769, and 1874 and 1882, with the most recent in 2004 and 2012. The plates from the 1874 expedition are lost, but those from 1882 can be found by searching for “transit of Venus plates” on the Naval Observatory/Naval Oceanography Portal website.

[32] J. Moran, “The Relation of Photography to the Fine Arts,” 33.

[33] J. Moran, “The Relation of Photography to the Fine Arts,” 34.

[34] Schweizer, Edward Moran, 21– 26.

[35] E. Moran, “Marine Painting,” 101.

[36] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:4–5. Early in his career Peter was known for his animal paintings, although he tried his hand at seascapes and landscapes.

[37] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:8–9, 46–49. In 1848, Sarah Worthington King established the Philadelphia School of Design for Women to train women who needed to earn a living. Tuition was free, and the initial curriculum included mechanical drawing, wood engraving, and lithography, with painting and etching eventually added. See also Peet, American Women of the Etching Revival, 14.

[38] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:46. Thomas traveled to Europe in June with his wife, Mary Nimmo, and their son Paul. The school’s prospectus for fall 1866 lists Thomas Moran as instructor, an impossibility as he was in Europe. The spring prospectus corrected the error, listing Peter as “Teacher of Landscape Painting, Elementary and Advanced.”

[39] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:8, 46–49.

[40] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:9–12, 21n56. Edward Moran, Thomas Moran, and Stephen J. Ferris were also members of the Artists’ Fund Society but not officeholders, nor were they always as active in the other organizations.

[41] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:23–27. Ferris, along with Thomas Moran, learned the fundamentals of etching in 1860 from John Sartain (1808–1897), although Thomas would not vigorously pursue the medium until the mid-1870s.

[42] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:95–104.

[43] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:63–69.

[44] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:70. Koehler wrote several articles on etching for The American Art Review, including twenty-six installments of “The Works of the American Etchers.”

[45] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:70.

[46] Peet, American Women of the Etching Revival, 9–11, 47–48. Koehler promoted the careers of both male and female etchers. On November 1, 1887, the exhibition The Women Etchers of America opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Organized by Koehler, it was the first comprehensive display of the work of female printmakers in the United States. Emily Kelley Moran presented eighteen etchings and her sister-in-law, Mary Nimmo Moran, dominated the exhibition, presenting fifty-seven of her etched works.

[47] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:57–59.

[48] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:47–48, 55–59.

[49] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:32–45. During his summer breaks from teaching, Peter made a series of trips to the West, including one with his brother Thomas in 1879. Peter returned on his own in 1880, 1881, and 1890. Although some sources indicate Peter visited the West in 1864, Wright corrects this misperception. Peter did travel in 1864, but it was to England. Peter’s depictions of the region focused on Indigenous people, especially the pueblo communities of the Southwest. He recorded in paintings and etchings the daily life of Indigenous people as they went about tending to their animals and crops. Although the landscape and architectural settings were different, the everyday lives of the pueblo residents, as Peter portrayed them, were not all that far removed from the scenes he created of Anglo-Americans tending to their chores in farming communities on the East Coast. His depictions lent a humanity to the Indigenous people of the Southwest, and they remain among his most popular works.

[50] Wright, Domestic and Wild, 1:46–49.

[51] There were a few formal women’s art associations such as the Ladies’ Art Association in New York City, founded in 1867, and the National Association for Women Artists Inc., formed in New York City in 1889. Graham, “American Women Artists’ Groups: 1867–1930,” 9–10.

[52] Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 3–4, 93–96.

[53] Peet, American Women Artists of the Etching Revival, 47–48, 61. Koehler organized the first exhibitions of works by women etchers, such as Boston’s 1887 The Women Etchers of America, which proved so popular it went on to New York City the following year. Nimmo Moran and Kelley Moran displayed their work at both.

[54] Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 184–87.



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