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Name: Joseph Boggs Beale
Dates: (1841 - 1926)
Nationality: American
Biography: Known as “The Professor,” Joseph Boggs Beale was born in Philadelphia, the oldest child of Dr. Stephen Thomas Beale, a founder of the Pennsylvania Society of Dental Surgeons. His great-grandaunt Betsy Ross was credited as having made the first American flag. Beale’s early life is documented in a diary he kept between January 1, 1856, and July 26, 1865.1 He attended the Locust Street Grammar School and in 1858 entered Central High School, where he studied writing and drawing with Alexander J. MacNeill. Beale enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1860 and later took lessons in oil painting from the landscape artist Isaac L. Williams (1817–1895). Beale successfully competed against Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) for the position of Professor of Drawing and Writing at Central High School in 1862. During the Civil War he enlisted in the Thirty-Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserves and sent sketches of the battle of Gettysburg for illustrated news magazines. Beale resigned from Central High School in 1866 and worked as an illustrator for various periodicals, including Frank Leslie’s Weekly, Harper’s, and the Daily Graphic. He married in 1868 and moved to Chicago to work as a book illustrator but lost all of his drawings in the great fire of October 1871. Beale returned to Philadelphia and worked as a commercial artist for the Frank Harris Lithography Company.

Beale soon started working for the firm of Caspar Briggs & Sons to create original designs for the magic lantern, a popular form of entertainment during the Victorian era that was the forerunner of the slide projector. Over the remainder of his career Beale made 1,804 black-and-white drawings that served as the basis for magic lantern slides. He was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. Beale died in Germantown.2


1. Extracts from Beale’s diary were published by Nicholas Biddle Wainwright, “Education of an Artist: The Diary of Joseph Boggs Beale, 1856–1862,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 97 (1973), pp. 485–510.

2. See Drawings of Joseph Boggs Beale [exh. cat.] (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1936); The Wicked City of the ’90s Shown in Beale Drawings [exh. cat.] (Philadelphia: Atwater Kent Museum, 1940); and Frances Osborn Robb, David M. Robb, Jr., and Dale Roy Lance, Star-Spangled History; Drawings by Joseph Boggs Beale, Magic Lantern Artist, 1841–1926 [exh. cat.] (Galveston, Tex.: American National Insurance Co., 1975).

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