Peter BrittSwiss 1819-1905
Colonel George Davenport 56.0974
Peter Britt's interest in photography is evident in his no-nonsense portrait of Colonel George Davenport. Davenport, who founded the city that bears his name along with Antoine LeClaire, had been a prosperous English fur trader who came to the area in 1810 to arrange for supplies for soldiers at Fort Armstrong and stayed on, settling on the banks of the Mississippi and becoming one of the most influential men in the territory. The portrait is believed to have been painted shortly before Davenport was killed by river pirates at his Arsenal Island home in July of 1845. Britt portrays the Colonel holding a rolled parchment city map of Davenport. The Colonel commissioned a portrait for his family that now resides in the State Archives in Des Moines. Britt painted an exact copy of the commission for himself. It was one of the few possessions Britt transported in 1852 (unframed and rolled up) by oxcart all the way to Oregon where it hung in the study of his Jacksonville home until his death. Sometime before 1845, Britt immigrated to America with his parents, settling in Highland, Illinois. He apparently lived in Davenport for a period of time and painted the portrait of Davenport's founder before journeying westward to Oregon in 1852 where he settled and raised a family. There he became a well-known photographer and successful mining investor. Britt was schooled in the photographic techniques of Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, for whom "Daguerreotype" was named and he made the first photographic records of the Oregon territory.
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