Rufus Porters Curious World

Art and Invention in America, 1815-1860

Edited by Justin Wolff, Laura Fecych Sprague

Hardback - £31.95

Publication date:

11 November 2019

Length of book:

152 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271084954

Once called the “Yankee Da Vinci,” Rufus Porter was an itinerant portrait painter and muralist, a publisher and author, an inventor of mechanical improvements, and an impresario who engineered an airship that promised to fly gold rush prospectors from New York to California in three days.

Through his diverse interests in painting, mechanics, aeronautics, and publishing, Rufus Porter helped transform art and science in early America—not unlike his more famous peers, Samuel F. B. Morse and Robert Fulton. This nuanced picture of Porter restores him to the pantheon of great American artist-inventors and corrects common misconceptions about his life and work.

Meticulous and contemplative, this study presents a moving portrait of an American legend—a remarkable, but unlucky, man who worked across multiple disciplines to envision an interconnected nation.

“The exhibition and catalogue bring much needed attention to an insatiably compelling nineteenth-century artist and inventor who has not gotten his due.”

—Diana Jocelyn Greenwold, Panorama