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"
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.