Table of Contents
A Guide to the John Trumbull Papers at the Connecticut Historical Society
John Trumbull was born on June 6, 1756 in Lebanon, Connecticut, the youngest son of Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut, and Faith Robinson of Duxbury, Massachusetts. Trumbull graduated from Harvard College in 1773, and upon returning to Lebanon was asked by the State Governor, his father, to prepare maps for adjusting land claims in the town of Westmoreland (now in Pennsylvania). This experience in land surveying was of importance in his brief duty as second aide-de-camp under George Washington in Pennsylvania.
In 1775 Trumbull began his military career as adjutant to the First Regiment of Connecticut under General Joseph Spencer; he was appointed major of the brigade in Roxbury later that year, a position he held until promoted to deputy adjutant-general (with rank of colonel) in General Philip Schuyler's Northern Department. At Ticonderoga Trumbull played a significant role in strengthening defenses of the "Gibraltar of America." Trumbull left the Continental Army in 1777 after a dispute over the date of his commission.
Trumbull returned again to Lebanon to paint; and in 1780 he traveled to London, England to study art under Benjamin West. Shortly after his arrival he was arrested and placed in jail on charges of treason. He was subsequently released and deported from England.
In 1794 Trumbull returned to England as an American commissioner under the Jay Treaty between Great Britain and the United States, and in 1800 Trumbull was married to Sarah Hope Harvey. He lived in New Haven from 1804 until 1808, and in England until 1815, when he came finally to settle in New York City.
In 1817 Trumbull was commissioned to paint larger versions of his Revolutionary War paintings for the Capitol, which work he completed in 1824. In 1831 he donated his art collection to Yale College; his donation formed the basis of the nascent Yale University Art Gallery.
John Trumbull died in New York City on November 10, 1843
Brief list of Trumbull's significant paintings
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill (1786)
The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack of Quebec (1786)
The Declaration of Independence (1786-1794)
The Resignation of George Washington (1824)
The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (1821-1831)
The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown (1787)
Collection consists predominantly of correspondence with family members and other individuals. The letters are largely of a personal nature, particularly those to his family, but many are concerned with his work as an artist. In the correspondence series are two volumes of letters. The first volume and a half relate to John Trumbull: his work as an artist, requests for prints, and family correspondence. The second half of volume two contains letters written to Benjamin Silliman: there are letters introducing students who wish to study with Silliman; notification of an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from Bowdoin College; correspondence from chemical societies; and discussion of Silliman's publications. None of the Silliman letters concern any member of the Trumbull family. The collection also includes financial records, containing a receipt book for prints of The Declaration of Independence and his accounts with Hartford Bank. An interesting piece is a genealogy given to Trumbull by Uncas showing Uncas' ancestry from Tamaquashad, Chief Sachem of the Pequots. Additional items include fragments cut from letters and other manuscripts bearing Trumbull's signature.
Materials are organized into one series.
There are no restrictions on access to the collection.
Use of the material requires compliance with the Connecticut Historical Society's Research Center's regulations.
Hopkins, Samuel Miles, 1772-1837.
Sigourney, Lydia Howard Huntley, 1791-1865.
Trumbull, David, 1752-1822.
Trumbull, Jonathan, 1710-1785.
Wadsworth, Catherine, 1744- .
Wadsworth, Harriet, 1769-1793.
United States History Revolution, 1775-1783 Pictorial works.
Holographs; holographs, signed; printed forms completed in manuscript.
Item, Collection Title, Collection number (Box #, Folder #). Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut.
Collection was processed by Ruth Blair and Marilyn Paul-Lewis under an NHPRC grant (#89-003) in September and October 1998. Further re-arrangement was completed by Stephen Yearl and Marilyn Paul-Lewis. Original EAD instance compiled by Stephen Yearl in October 1998. Updated to EAD 2002 in December 2010.
An index of catalog cards is available for item level access to Trumbull related material in other CHS collections. Access is through writer, recipient and date. The card catalog is located in the Research Center reading room.