David J. Kennedy (painter)

David Johnston Kennedy (1816 (1817?)-1898) was a railroad agent and amateur painter who produced higher than 1,000 watercolors of Philadelphia. Today, his works are valued by historians as images of a gone era.

Born in Port Mullin, Scotland, Kennedy worked various jobs, including as a stonecutter, and took a few painting lessons. In 1833, his relations emigrated to Ontario, Canada. Two years later, he moved to Philadelphia, and stayed briefly bearing in mind his married sister. In 1836, he moved another time to Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked for a dry goods amassing and clever painting, mostly miniatures, in his spare time. But he soon fell ill, and returned to Philadelphia, and next to Canada in 1837. After recovering, he moved encourage to Philadelphia, where he married Morgianna Corbin, the granddaughter of noted physician Benjamin Say. His wife's associates found him a job as a clerk in the additional office of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad at Broad and Cherry Streets. He worked for the Reading for higher than two decades, rising to be a purchasing and general agent. Failing eyesight irritated him to retire in 1861, but he continued to paint until his death.

During his half-century of painting, he captured grand houses, railroads, street scenes, and supplementary buildings in and on the order of Philadelphia; of particular note are the pictures he did of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The paintings are appreciated for their detail, for the comments he often left on them, and for "recording an environment that was very gruffly changing during the decades he was observing it."

Today, many of his paintings are held by Philadelphia-area historical societies. The largest collection, held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, consists of 40 boxes, two folders of indices and inventories, eight volumes and one oversized folio. Overall, it covers 66 linear feet.

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