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Seeing America

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Portrait of a Dark-haired Man Reading the "Genesee Farmer"

ca. 1839
30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)

Asahel Lynde Powers
United States (Springfield, VT, 1813 - 1843, Olney, IL)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Virginia Jeffrey Smith Fund
Accession Number: 2001.1
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

The artist of the painting signed the back of the canvas with a flourish “Asahel Powers.” Powers was a self-taught portrait painter who traveled throughout the countryside in search of portrait commissions. Unfortunately, history has lost the name of this dapper gentleman who, we infer by the books and writing cabinet visible behind him, was a learned man of means. His interests and likely profession are further indicated by "The Genesee Farmer" in his hands, a popular journal dedicated to agriculture and horticulture founded in Rochester in 1831.

This portrait broadly tells the story of early Euro-American settlers who were cultivating and living off of the land of the Genesee Valley. It does not capture the story of the Indigenous people who had lived in those lands for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the European settlers. Coincidentally, this portrait was painted during the infamous Trail of Tears, a brutal upheaval in American history over land rights in which the military forcibly moved over 60,000 Indigenous people (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Osage, and Seminole, including thousands of their Black slaves) to an undesirable stretch of prairie land, now in Oklahoma. During the forced march, many thousands of men, women, and children suffered and died from exposure, disease, and starvation.

[Gallery label text, 2021]

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Web Links See links to web pages and lesson plans
Seeing America Inservice Materials from a teacher in-service presentation Spring 2008
Seeing America Chapter on Asahel Lynde Powers' Portrait of a Dark-haired Man Reading the “Genesee Farmer,” written by Jessica Marten.
Engraving of first Reynolds Arcade Engraving of first Reynolds Arcade, showing sign for the Genesee Farmer Office. From the Rochester Images Project, direct url =
James Vick, seedsman. Portrait of James Vick, Publisher of the Genesee Farmer, from the Rochester Images Project, direct url =

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