Titian Peale II (1799-1885) 

 

Jennifer Lindbeck, Class of ’98, Dickinson College and Ashton Nichols, Department of English

 

Youngest son (and sixteenth child) of artist and naturalist Charles Willson Peale, Titian Peale II showed an early interest in natural history. He was born on November 2, 1799 (not long after the death of his brother Titian) and died in 1885. Titian was first exposed to the study of natural history while assisting his father on his many excursions in search of specimens for the Peale Museum. The family moved to Germantown, outside of Philadelphia, where the young boy began collecting and drawing insects and butterflies. Like his brothers, Titian helped his father in the preservation of the museum’s specimens for display, including contributions from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Titian’s drawings were published in Thomas Say’s American Entomology as early as 1816, and he was soon after elected to the Academy of Natural Sciences. Later in life, Titian contributed to the museum collection with many animals and plants he had collected during travels to the West and the Rocky Mountains. By the 1830′s, after Charles Willson Peale’s death, Titian had became head curator and naturalist at the museum. In 1831, Titian published a pamphlet known as Circular of the Philadelphia Museum: Containing Direction for the preservation and preparation of objects of natural history. He developed an effective method for storing butterflies in glass-fronted cases; as a result, parts of his collection have been preserved until the present day. His meticulous collection of over 100 separate butterfly species was often praised for the brilliance and vibrancy of the insects’ colors. The Peale museum continued to gain a worldwide reputation, as evident in a European review of the museum by Prince Maximilian: “the Museum of Mr. Titian Peale, which contains the best collection of natural history in the United States is the only American collection of any interest to me and worthy of attention.” While under Titian’s management, the museum acquired a rare rhinoceros for display. In 1838, two years after Darwin had returned from his voyage on the Beagle, Titian took leave from his work at the museum to sail aboard the Peacock as chief naturalist. Other members of the crew included Horatio Emmons Hale, philologist; James Dwight Dana, author of Zoophytes (1846); Dr. Charles Pickering, physician and naturalist; Joseph P. Couthouy, conchologist; William Rich and William D. Brackenridge, botanists; and Alfred Agate and Joseph Drayton, artists. The expedition set sail for the Cape Verde Islands, touring Rio de Janeiro, Rio Negro, Cape Horn, Valparaiso, Antarctica, Lima, the Tuamoto Archipelago, the Society Islands, Australia and Tahiti. Titian, as chief naturalist, collected and preserved various specimens of natural history, many of which he packed and shipped back to museum. Titian had also been on an expedition in 1818-21 during which he acquired a wild turkey for the museum’s collections. Titian I (Charles Willson Peale’s oldest son) had published Drawings of American Insects, Showing them in their several states before his death in 1799. Unlike his deceased older brother, however, the second Titian’s work on insects, The Butterflies of North America, was never published, although the manuscript still resides at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. On May 1, 1843, financial pressures led Titian Peale to sell the bankrupt museum at a sheriff’s sale to Isaac Brown Parker. The youngest Peale went on to work for the U. S. Patent Office and to become a pioneer American photographer.

 

Titian Peale links:

Butterfly boxes on display at The Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia)

 

 

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