Hiram Torrey was born in New Lebanon, New York. Although there is no record of where he studied, he taught painting and drawing at the Washington Female Seminary from about 1847 to 1850. In 1849 Torrey married and late in 1850 they relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he taught and had a studio. He also lived in Reading, Pennsylvania, from 1853 until 1862 and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia in 1855 and 1856. Torrey married for a second time in 1862. At some point afterward, he had taken his family abroad, as it is said that he had a son that was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1870. Thirty years later he died in Delanco, New Jersey.
The scope of Torrey´s oeuvre is difficult to assess. Only two paintings are recorded in the exhibition literature: Peaches and Sunrise Among the Mountains, both shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (in 1855 and 1856, respectively). In the July 3, 1851 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel, the editor, after visiting Torrey´s studio, noted "landscapes, hunting pieces and other paintings," among the artist´s works, but did not name any specific titles.
Torrey, along with artist Francis Daniel Devlan formed the Reading Art Union in 1854. Centered around a studio in the Aulenbach building on Penn Street, the union was a gathering place where artists exchanged ideas and presented their works. He was also a strong Abraham Lincoln supporter, and was the captain of the Republican Invincibles, and was later made United States Consul by President Lincoln. This Wide-Awake/Republican Party or “street gang” marched in support of Lincoln & Hamlin for the Anti-Slavery/Pro-Union Cause. The Republican Invincibles were the antithesis of lawless thugs who operated during the Civil War years. The Invincibles protected the rights of others, opposed slavery and supported the Union. After President Lincoln’s death, Torrey wrote a memorial play; The Tragedy of Abraham Lincoln, in Five Acts, by An American Artist.
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