Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène, approximately 1736-1784

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Artist.

From the description of Papers, 1770-1783. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 156975997

Artist and antiquarian.

From the description of Papers of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, 1774-1784. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71064130

Portrait painter, curator and naturalist; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Born in Geneva, Switzerland. Came to America in 1765 after spending several years in the West Indies collecting natural history specimens. Elected curator, 1768, of the American Philosophical Society, and set up a natural history museum. He collected Revolutionary War ephemera and literature.

From the description of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière papers, 1560-1786, (bulk 1721-1786). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122390476

Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, collector, artist, and historian, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on September 18, 1737 to Jean-Henri and Judith-Ulrique Cunegonde Delorme Ducimitiere. “Du Simitière was a restless man, forever traveling, forever collecting, forever projecting grand schemes in solitude,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, Introduction).

In 1757, Du Simitière sailed from the port of Amsterdam and arrived on St. Eustasius, a Dutch island. It was during this trip that his collecting began. According to the Library Company of Philadelphia, Du Simitière’s collecting, the main purpose of his travels, “cast a very wide net: books, newspapers, manuscripts, broadsides, prints, fossils, coins, medals, Indian artifacts, rocks, plants, and some animals-mostly dried insects and reptiles preserved in alcohol.” Paul Sifton’s research indicates that Du Simitière may have served in the military and that he probably had some training in art prior to his travels. He sketched specimens and scenery during his travels. He became a naturalized citizen of New York in 1769 and settled in Philadelphia in 1774.

Early in his collecting career, Du Simitière gathered materials regarding the natural and civil history of the West Indies and North America, however, after approximately 1770, he appears to have narrowed his focus to North America’s political history. Indeed, his collection particularly focuses on “relations with the Indians in the settlement of the West; and popular, democratic uprisings, including the Leisler Rebellion in New York in 1688, the Zenger freedom of the press trial, the Paxton Rebellion, the Stamp Act crisis, and finally the American Revolution,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction). His attention to collecting ephemeral documents during the American Revolution was extraordinary and he “gathered every pamphlet, broadside, and newspaper he could get his hand on which related to the conflict,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction).

Du Simitière attempted to publish “Memoirs and Observations on the Origin and Present State of North America,” which was based upon his gathered material, however, the United States Congress did not provide either approval or financial support. According to the Library Company of Philadelphia, this “rejection was … a psychological and financial blow from which Du Simitière never recovered.” Painting, instead of serving as a hobby, became his means for supporting himself and he submitted designs for seals for the United States, New Jersey, Delaware, and two other states; painted miniatures; taught drawing; painted portraits; and served as a translator for Congress as he spoke fluent English and several other languages.

Opening the first public museum in Philadelphia, Du Simitière presented his collected gatherings in the form of the American Museum in May 1782 at his home near Arch and Forth Streets. Unfortunately, the cost of upkeep exceeded the proceeds from tickets costing fifty cents. Du Simitiere died in October 1784 at the age of 47. Following his death, the contents of the American Museum were auctioned and the Library Company of Philadelphia purchased the bulk of the manuscript materials in 1785 for 104 pounds.

Du Simitière was “respected and occasionally even honored (Member and Curator of the American Philosophical Society, an honorary Master of Arts from Princeton), but he was never really embraced by his adopted country,” (Library Company of Philadelphia, introduction).

Bibliography:

Library Company of Philadelphia. Pierre Eugène Du Simitière: His American Museum 200 Years After, 1985.

Sifton, Paul Ginsburg. Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1737-1784): Collector in Revolutionary America . University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1960.

From the guide to the Pierre Eugène du Simitière collection, 1492-1784, (Library Company of Philadelphia)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène, ca. 1736-1784. Papers, 1770-1783. Library of Congress
creatorOf Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène, ca. 1736-1784. Papers, 1660-1770 [microform]. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Selected art related letters from Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Society Collection, 1760-1935. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Sifton, Paul G. Thesis on Pierre Eugène Du Simitière [manuscript], 1960. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Gordon, Thomas F. Papers, ca. 1813. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
creatorOf Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène, ca. 1736-1784. Pierre Eugène Du Simitière papers, 1560-1786, (bulk 1721-1786). Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Pierre Eugène du Simitière collection, 1492-1784 Library Company of Philadelphia
creatorOf Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922,. Papers of the Baker and Wheeler families, 1763-1954. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Petition of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, 1777 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Jared Sparks collection of documents concerning the American Revolution, 1740-1866 . Houghton Library.
creatorOf Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène, ca. 1736-1784. Papers of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière, 1774-1784. Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Barbé-Marbois, François, marquis de, 1745-1837. person
associatedWith Clinton, George, 1739-1812. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Erskine, Robert, 1735-1780. person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gérard, Conrad Alexandre, 1729-1790. person
associatedWith Gordon, Thomas F. person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Historical Society of Pennsylvania. corporateBody
associatedWith Kinloch, Francis, 1755-1826. person
associatedWith Leisler, Jacob, d. 1691 person
associatedWith Maylem, John, 1739-1762? person
associatedWith Morris, Robert, 1734-1806. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Pennsylvania. Assembly corporateBody
associatedWith Pennsylvania. Militia corporateBody
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Reed, Joseph, 1741-1785. person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Scudder, Nathaniel, 1733-1781. person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Sifton, Paul G. person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron von, 1730-1794. person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sullivan, John, 1740-1795. person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
United States
Subject
Artists--Pennsylvania
Indians of North America
Native Americans
Natural history
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
Museum curators
Elections
United States--History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763
Natural history--Catalogs and collections
New England--History
Currency question
New York (State)--History
Portrait painting--18th century
Poets, American
West Indies--History
Naturalists
Portrait painters
Pennsylvania History
Shorthand
Arts
Natural history museums
Occupation
Antiquarians
Engravers
Artists
Naturalist
Function

Person

Birth 1736

Death 1784

Male

French

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SNAC ID: 16522910