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In the Gallery: Captain Samuel Worthington Dewey, by Thomas Sully, 1834

Mar

26

Written by Jocelyn Boigenzahn, Curatorial Intern

Thomas Sully (American, 1783 – 1872), Captain Samuel Worthington Dewey, 1834, oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 24 7/8 in., Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Bernstein, AG.1998.3.1.

Thomas Sully (American, 1783 – 1872), Captain Samuel Worthington Dewey, 1834, oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 24 7/8 in., Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Bernstein, AG.1998.3.1.

A Philadelphia druggist commissioned this portrait of Captain Dewey, who had recently attracted national attention.  In the summer of 1834, when the American frigate Constitution, commonly known as Old Ironsides, was being repaired in the Charleston Navy Yard near Boston, a figurehead depicting President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was installed upon the ship.  Jackson was unpopular in the financial centers of the Northeast because of his economic reform program and stringent monetary policy, and Boston was no exception.

One evening, a young captain rowed out to the Constitution and sawed off Jackson’s head.  Much of Boston applauded this brazen act of partisanship.  Captain Dewey became a folk hero in the Northeast and a man much maligned by the supporters of President Jackson.

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