Men of Progress

Men of Progress, 1862, Christian Shussele (1824-1879), Oil on Canvas

In 1856 Jordan Lawrence Mott, the New York ironware manufacturer, commissioned Christian Shussele to do a painting portraying selected Men of Progress, which was to include Mott himself and eighteen of his contemporaries. The men were never actually assembled as they are shown; as was customary for such large portraits, each sat separately for the painting, which took six years to complete.

The Men of Progress, though all worthies, are a peculiar convocation mainly representing the fancies of Mott, who positioned himself between Peter Cooper and Joseph Henry in the imaginary scene. Joseph Henry, inventor of the first motor, held no patent–he regarded them antithetical to a spirit of free inquiry, as a corrupting form of self-indulgence to which no "true man of science" would resort.

Yet Henry is shown in apparent fellowship with Henry Morse, who had patented and commercialized devices conceived by Henry, and whom Henry detested. Other men in the portrait were more significant as entrepreneurs than inventors, including Mott himself, a major manufacturer of anthracite stoves.


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