Born in Philadelphia, John Archibald Woodside became the most celebrated sign painter in the Federal era, a time when the quality of commercial signs caused much comment. He also did many easel paintings, and his work was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy between 1817 and 1835. He was likely a student of Matthew Pratt, prominent sign painter. Unlike most sign painters, Woodside was not itinerant, and he prospered by making extraordinary bright, precise, lucid paintings. He also did many allegorical scenes for the sides of fire engines. He is credited with doing the first locomotive decoration.
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