Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Trumbull Collection, 1768-1829

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, September 2012

Summary Information
Title: John Trumbull collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1768-1829
Bulk dates: 1818-1829
Extent: 27 items
This collection contains correspondence, financial documents, and engravings related to American painter John Trumbull. Among other topics, Trumbull's outgoing letters concern prints of his painting The Declaration of Independence .
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1935-1944, 1992. M-270, M-305, M-509, M-2769.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.


The John Trumbull collection includes Phillips Mss. 36126, 36132, and 36133.

Preferred Citation:

John Trumbull Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, on June 6, 1756, the son of Jonathan Trumbull and Faith Robinson. His father served as governor of Connecticut from 1769-1784. Trumbull studied privately in Lebanon and attended Harvard College. After his graduation in 1773, he returned to Lebanon, where he taught school and furthered his artistic studies, which he had begun prior to his matriculation at Harvard. From 1775-1777, he was a member of the 1st Regiment of Connecticut Militia, and he briefly served as an aide to George Washington. Trumbull resigned his army commission in 1777 and moved to Boston, where he continued to educate himself in the fine arts. Around 1780, he traveled to London to study under Benjamin West (1738-1820), who became a close acquaintance. Though Trumbull was imprisoned for several months on suspicion of espionage and forced to return to the United States, he returned to London after the war. He lived in England, France, and the United States throughout the rest of his life. Professionally, Trumbull gained fame for his portraiture and a series of historical paintings about the Revolutionary era. He served as the president of the American Academy of the Fine Arts, 1817-1836.

On October 1, 1800, Trumbull married Sarah Hope Harvey (1774-1824). They had no children, but he fathered one illegitimate son, John Ray, with a servant woman named Temperance Ray. John Trumbull died in New York City on November 10, 1843.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains 13 drafts and letters; 11 accounts, receipts, and checks; 1 document; and 2 engravings related to American painter John Trumbull. Among other topics, Trumbull's outgoing letters concern prints of his painting The Declaration of Independence.

John Trumbull composed 12 drafts and letters between 1776 and 1825. He wrote twice to his father, about his army commission (September 2, 1776) and about European opinions on the Revolution (July 8, 1781). Most of the remaining outgoing correspondence pertains to prints of Trumbull's paintings, especially The Declaration of Independence. One letter, from Mathew Carey to Trumbull, December 16, 1825, relates to a book that Carey believed Trumbull inadvertently "pocketed."

Financial records (11 items) include accounts, receipts, and checks, most of which are related to Trumbull's advertising and personal financial affairs. The collection also holds a copied deed concerning Jonathan Trumbull's land in East Haddam, Connecticut (January 30, 1768). Two engravings include a portrait of John Trumbull and his The Declaration of Independence.

Subject Terms

    • Advertising--Costs.
    • Connecticut. Militia. Regiment, 1st.
    • Painters--United States.
    • Real property--Connecticut.
    • Trumbull, Jonathan, 1710-1785.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Trumbull, John, 1756-1843.
    • United States. Declaration of Independence--Signers.
    • Carey, Mathew, 1760-1839.
    • Trumbull, John, 1756-1843.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Checks (bank checks)
    • Engravings (prints)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    John Trumbull collection,  January 30, 1768-November 3, 1829, and  undated [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds many additional materials related to John Trumbull, including items in the following manuscript collections:

    Engravings of John Trumbull's paintings may be found in the Graphics Division.


    Jaffe, Irma B. "Trumbull, John." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000. DOI: 17-00873

    Wright, Conrad Edick, et al. Biographical Sketches of Those Who Attended Harvard College in the Classes of 1772-1774. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1999.