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Titian R. Peale Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Mss .P43

Scope and Contents

The Titian Ramsay Peale collection consists of approximately 500 objects. The majority of these are prints/illustrations (200), but there are also over 100 photographs and 65 drawings. Though the collection is attributed to Titian Peale, a number of other family members may have contributed objects, including Albert Peale and Coleman Sellers. There are also objects that belonged to the Hoffmire family, who are the major source of acquisition. There are currently only 29 drawings and paintings documented as completed during the U.S. Exploring Expedition, but the majority of the collection is undated or assigned approximate dates. There is also realia, which includes objects Peale brought back from his time in the South Pacific. Overall, it is difficult attributing any of the other specific expeditions as the origins for many items.

Significant items in this collection include T.R. Peale portrait, U.S. Vincennes; Self-portrait; Lepidoptera: larva, food-plant, pupa, &c.; Zoology; A catalogue of the specimens of Mammalia and birds collected by the South Seas Surveying and Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 39, 40, 41, 42; Calling card album; Falls of Wailua (Hawaii); Schooner Flying Fish, U.S.N.; Kalueau Pele from the Black Ledge (painting); Hills South of Papeete, Tahiti; Kilauea Pele from the Black Ledge (drawing); Volcano of Kaluea Pele, as seen from the side of Mauna Loa; Crater of Kiluea Pele


  • Majority of material found within 1818-early 20th century


Conditions Governing Access

Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted

Biographical / Historical

Titian Ramsay Peale was born in Philadelphia in 1799, the youngest son of Charles Wilson Peale. His father was a naturalist and portrait painter, naming his sons after legendary artists. At age 17, Titian Peale began to work at the Philadelphia Museum, which his father had founded. He went on several expeditions as a naturalist and artist, including trips to Florida, the Rocky Mountains, and Colombia. His most notable expedition, however, was to be his journey to the South Seas under Charles Wilkes. The U.S. Exploratory Expedition lasted from 1838 to 1842, but on Peale’s return to Philadelphia, he found his museum in dire financial straits. It was eventually sold, and he moved to Washington D.C. in 1849, working as an examiner to the United States Patent Office. During his later life, he practiced photography and worked on his manuscript on butterflies. Upon his retirement in 1872, he returned to Philadelphia where he passed away in 1885.

Albert Charles Peale (1849-1914) was a mineralogist, geologist, and paleobotanist and Titian Peale’s grandnephew. He worked with the United States Geological Survey, before settling in Washington D.C.

Coleman Sellers (1827-1907) was a mechanical engineer, inventor, and professor, who obtained thirty patents during his career. He was a member of the American Photographic Exchange Club along with this uncle Titian Peale.

John Hoffmire was the nephew of Titian Peale's second wife, and the majority of the collection was donated by the Hoffmire family.

Biographical / Historical

Titian Ramsey Peale Timeline (1799-1885)

-1799: Born in Philadelphia

-1818: First expedition to Georgia and Florida with George Ord, Thomas Say. Sponsored by Academy of Natural Sciences.

1819: Long expedition to Missouri and Rocky Mountains

1822: Marries Eliza Laforgue

1824: Sent to Florida by Charles Lucien Bonaparte to create illustrations for his “American Ornithology”

1831: Burrows expedition down Magdalena River

1838-42: U.S. Exploring Expedition

1840: Eliza and daughter Florida die

1850: Marries Lucy MacMullen

1849-72: Moved to Washington D.C. and worked at Patent Office as an examiner, after having to close Philadelphia Museum.

1873-1885: Lived in Philadelphia, collecting and working on his illustrations


24 Boxes

519 Items

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Majority are in good condition, a few documents are torn or have frayed edges, but all are preserved in mylar

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Hoffmire Family, Elizabeth Shehadi, Farrel

Physical Description

Various types of photographs, prints, paintings, illustrations, drawings, 5 books, and realia


Peale Expeditions

Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Expedition (1817-1818): Having become a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Titian Peale was chosen to join this expedition to the Sea Islands and coasts of Georgia and Florida. The goal was to procure specimens for the Academy and other members of the expedition included William Maclure, Thomas Say, and George Ord.

Long Expedition (1819): Major Stephen Long appointed Titian Peale as assistant naturalist on this expedition exploring the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Peale collected and drew specimens as well as sketched the landscapes. During this expedition, Peale was one of a party that made the first ever ascent of Pike’s Peak.

Charles Lucien Bonaparte Expedition (1824): Bonaparte sent Peale to Florida to draw birds, which would illustrate his book “American Ornithology.”

Burrow’s Expedition: Peale accompanied Silas Burrows down the Magdalena River in Colombia. During this lesser-known and brief expedition, Peale collected specimens and may have made sketches, though very few have been confirmed as originating from this trip.

U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-42): Peale was appointed as one of two naturalists on this, his most famous expedition. Under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes, they travelled to Brazil, Chili, islands in the South Seas including Fiji, New Zealand, and then back to the Northwestern United States. They then sailed to Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Africa, before returning to New York in 1842. Unfortunately, most of Peale’s specimens were lost in a ship wreak during the expedition. He completed many sketches, which he used to create illustration plates for his volume on Mammalogy and Ornithology. However, he and Wilkes argued over the preface, and Wilkes suppressed Peale’s original volume, which was rewritten in 1852 by John Cassin. This is sometimes referred to as the Wilkes Expedition.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420