George Catlin

July 26, 1796
December 23, 1872
Home Town:
Wilkesbarre, PA
Later Residences:
Luzerne County, PA
Philadelphia, PA
St. Louis, MO
Paris, France
Clara Gregory Catlin (1828)
Biographical Notes:
George Catlin’s father had been born in Litchfield and trained as a lawyer at Litchfield Law School. His father later became a frontiersman and moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where George was born in 1796. George met trappers, hunters, explorers and settlers who stayed with his family on their travels west.

At age 17, Catlin was sent to Litchfield to study law which he disliked. George preferred to read about natural history, science, arts, Indians and to sketch fellow students and local scenery. After two years of study in Litchfield, George entered the Bar of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania. He practiced law for two years before he “resolved to convert my law library into paint pots and brushes.”

In 1823, Catlin studied art in Philadelphia and established himself ...
“After having covered nearly every inch of the lawyers table with penknife, pen and ink, and pencil sketches of judges, jurors, and culprits, I very deliberately resolved to convert my law library into paint pots and brushes, and to pursue painting as my future, and apparently more agreeable profession.” -- George Catlin, 1885

"His more realistic approach [towards painting American Indians] grew out of his appreciation for a people who, he wrote, 'had been invaded, their morals corrupted, their lands wrested from them, their customs changed, and therefore lost to the world.'" -- Catlin quoted by Bruce Watson in the Smithsonian Magazine, George Catlin's Obsession, December, 2002.

Years at LLS:

Profession / Service
Lawyer; Arts
Admitted To Bar:

Related Objects and Documents
In the Ledger:
help The Citation of Attendance provides primary source documentation of the student’s attendance at the Litchfield Female Academy and/or the Litchfield Law School. If a citation is absent, the student is thought to have attended but currently lacks primary source confirmation.

Records for the schools were sporadic, especially in the formative years of both institutions. If instructors kept comprehensive records for the Litchfield Female Academy or the Litchfield Law School, they do not survive. Researchers and staff have identified students through letters, diaries, family histories and genealogies, and town histories as well as catalogues of students printed in various years. Art and needlework have provided further identification of Female Academy Students, and Litchfield County Bar records document a number of Law School students. The history of both schools and the identification of the students who attended them owe credit to the early 20th century research and documentation efforts of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel and Samuel Fisher, and the late 20th century research and documentation efforts of Lynne Templeton Brickley and the Litchfield Historical Society staff.
Houghton, Josiah. "LLS Law Notebook 1817-1818." Litchfield Law School Collection, Series 1, Subseries 1, Litchfield Historical Society. Available online at

Handwritten list by William Samuel Johnson, "Catalogue of the Students at Law in the school at Litchfield Conn. at & after Aug. 15th 1817..", Connecticut Historical Society, Johnson Family Papers, 1722-1863, Box - Johnson Papers.

Litchfield County Bar Association Records, 1819, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, Litchfield Historical Society
Secondary Sources:
"George Catlin Biography." George Catlin: The Complete Works,

Patterson, Daniel, ed. Early American Nature Writers. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.

Smithsonian Institution Online. Catlin Virtual Exhibition.

Watson, Bruce. "Georgre Catlin's Obsession." Smithsonian Magazine, December 2002.

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