Chappel, Alonzo - portrait of Silas Wright

Although this miniature portrait is unsigned, there is a metal plaque on the front that states "Silas Wright - Alonzo Chappel - American 19th Century". The sight size is 145 mm x 120 mm and it is painted in sepia tones, as would be most suitable for an engraver to copy, when asked to engrave a portrait.

This various portraits shown here may initially look a little confusing, but it is interesting to follow through how Silas Wright's portrait was copied and then reproduced in a number of different ways.

Research has included correspondence with an authority on the artist, who endorses the attribution.

Alonzo Chappel (1828-1887) was one of the premier American portrait artists of the 19C who painted large oil portraits of many famous people.

Alonzo Chappel is not normally thought of as a miniature painter and given the specialised nature of this item, it is possibly the only example of a miniature by him. Although, it does seem possible he may have also provided miniature portraits to support other engravings.

For more about Chappel, including a portrait of him, see Middle Island In a 1848 biography of Silas Wright by Jabez D Hammond, there is the engraving, shown here, which is said to be engraved by F Halpin as a copy of a daguerreotype.

Silas Wright (1795-1847) was Governor of New York and was regarded by many as suitable for higher office., but he died quite young. For a comprehensive site about Silas Wright, including newspaper reports of some of his speeches, see

Amongst the other items shown here is the cover of a piece of music written especially for his inauguration called "Gov. Wright's Grand March".

Prior to becoming Governor, Wright was a Senator, noted as an orator, and known as "Cato of the Senate".

The panic of 1837 made Wright's position as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee one of importance. Wright fought for the establishment of an independent treasury system and through his efforts, the bill to that end was enacted in 1840. As can be seen from the Customs Fee stamps and Gold Certificate shown below, the importance of this was recognised some forty years after his death.

Some historians are of the view Silas Wright could have been a presidential candidate if he had not died at an early age.

There is also a painted miniature portrait of Silas Wright by Washington Blanchard (1808-?) that is perhaps also an influence on the source of the engraving.

This portrait, together with the wife of Silas Wright, is in the New York Historical Society collection and can be seen at

In 1882 the US Treasury decided to issue the $50 Gold Certificate. A copy of it is shown here, together with a close up of the bust portrait.

To assist the engraver, it appears Alonzo Chappel was asked to paint the miniature portrait in this collection and he based it on the Halpin engaving in the Hammond book.

Also shown here is an original printer's proof of the portrait, from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Apart from the $50 Gold Certificate, a set of seven Custom House Fee stamps were issued in 1887 that also have Wright's portrait on them.

This special envelope commemorating the 140th anniversary of the birth of Silas Wright was issued in 1935.

It has a postmark of Canton, where he lived, dated May 24.

There is also a postmark for Lisbon dated 25 May as it was mis-sent to Lisbon, when it was actually addressed to Nicholville.

An actual example of his signature, "Silas Wright Jr" is also shown here.

The home of Silas Wright is the subject of this 1932 postcard.

The house still exists and is now the home of the St Lawrence County Historical Association. More about it, including interior photographs, can be seen at Silas Wright House - SLCHA

For more about him, including a photo of his grave, see 255

Much later  - A kind visitor has sent the following information about Silas Wright;
I was researching the Albany daguerreotypist Daniel E. Gavit today and came across your blog about Silas Wright, Governor of NY.  I also came across a mention in an 1845 Utica, NY paper that notes:
"Daguerreotype - Messrs. Walker & Gavit take a splendid Frame of Daguerreotype Portraits for exhibition at the State Fair.  The likenesses are remarkably faithful and the pictures, in their finish show a great improvement in this department of the Fine Arts.
From the American Citizen.   One of the best daguerreotypes we have ever seen, is a portrait of Gov. Wright, taken a few days since by Messrs. Walker & Gavit of this city.  It is an admirable likeness."
I though it might provide some insights related to your blog on the portraits of Silas Wright.
Here is a link to the is a pdf of the newspaper but is search-able, though poorly scanned:

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