Photograph of Titian Peale with his signature, from Entomological News vol. 24, 1913, Frontispiece, (The American Entomological Society)

Titian Ramsay Peale, from the Frontispiece of Entomological News Vol.24 1913.

Titian Ramsay Peale Biographical Timeline

(1799-1817)  (1817-1842)  (1843-1873)  (1873-1885)  Sources

EARLY LIFE (1799-1817)

October 10, 1799:

Born Philosophical Hall, Philadelphia

Titian Peale was the youngest son of Charles Wilson Peale and Elizabeth dePeyster (2nd wife)

March, 1810:

The Peale family moved into a country estate of 104 acres a half mile outside Germantown, six miles from Philadelphia (Germantown is now part of the city of Philadelphia).

Titian was schooled in Germantown and Montgomery County, PA., and apprenticed in 1812 to a spindle manufacturer.

Early 1817:

Titian Peale elected into membership in The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadephia (ANSP)


Fall 1817:

Titian Peale joins expedition of ANSP to procure natural history specimens in the Sea Islands and adjacent coast of Georgia and in eastern Florida (then Spanish territory).

Other members of expedition were William Maclure, Thomas Say, and George Ord

Expedition shortened due to hostilities with Seminole and Creek Indians

May 1819-Jan 1821:

Titian Peale participated in the Long Expedition (named for leader Major Stephen H. Long) from Pittsburgh to Rocky Mountains organized to explore the country between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, starting with the Missouri River and it's principal branches and in succession Red River; and Mississippi(above mouth of Missouri)

Peale was appointed assistant naturalist on expedition

Among collections on expedition: several thousand insects, mostly new; 500 species of plants, many new; 122 sketches by Peale. Collections went to Philadelphia Museum (Peale family museum).

Aug 1821:

Peale seeks position on Commander Charles Stewart's expedition to the Pacific

April 1822:

Peale engaged to marry Eliza Laforgue

June 1822:

Titian Peale curates new arrangement for shell collection at Philadelphia Museum

Oct 1822:

Peale marries Eliza Laforgue.

Jan 1823:

Titian Peale redesigns interior of Philadelphia Museum and quadruples space for exhibits

July 1824:

English naturalist Charles Waterton introduces Peale to new method of taxidermy

Peale draws illustrations for C.L. Bonaparte's American Ornithology

Winter 1824-1825:

Peale undertakes collecting trip to Florida for Bonaparte's American Ornithology


Peale accompanied an expedition organized by Dr. Marmaduke Burrows to explore Magdelena River, (in now Colombia, South America). Collections went to Philadelphia Museum


Peale issued prospectus for first part of his work on Lepidoptera Americana, illustrated with his colored plates.

Unfortunately, this project was never carried to completion

Peale was placed in charge of Philadelphia Museum

Titian Peale elected member of American Philosophical Society

Dec 1836:

Peale appointed to the Scientific Corps as one of two naturalists on Wilkes Expedition to South Seas

c. 1838-1842:

Wilkes Expedition underway. Primary purpose to map the South Pacific

Small corps of scientists were charged with recording and observing natural phenomena and collecting specimens

Expedition included Madeira, Brazil, down coast of S.A., round Cape Horn, Chili, Islands of South Seas (among them the Navigator Islands and Fiji), areas of the Antarctic Sea, touched New Zealand, proceeded to N.W. coast of America stopping at Sandwich Islands, San Franciso to Japan, home via Philippine Islands, Singapore and Cape of Good Hope reaching New York in June, 1842

Many of Peale's specimen collections were lost in a shipwreck off the coast of Western U.S. in July 1841

This expedition necessitated a separation from his wife and four children for four years of the expedition.



Family museum failed (Philadelphia Museum)

Collections of the museum sold to P.T. Barnum at auction (including Titian Peale's Florida expedition collection)

Wife Eliza and daughter Florida, died


Peale spent time in Washington D.C. working on text and drawings for vol.8 of Wilkes Expedition reports, Mammalia and Ornithology

Peale's work criticized because all the species listed were not new; a replacement volume published in 1852 by another scientist made use of color plates based on Peale's drawings and field observations

Aug 1848-1873:

Peale worked as Assistant Examiner in U.S. Patent Office, Washington, D.C., eventually became Principal Examiner in the Division Of Fine Arts and Photography.

Became pioneer amateur photographer

Worked on a number of oil paintings based on his explorations (in particular, the Long Expedition)

Continued to prepare text and drawings for proposed volume, "Butterflies of North America" (manuscript of this work presently resides in the Archives of the American Museum of Natural History, New York)

Summer 1850:

Married Lucy MacMullen (from NJ).


Peale requested by Smithsonian to write an essay concerning preservation and natural history displays. TRP declined due to disappointments and dissatisfaction with previous attempts to write on his expeditions.


Kinematoscope patented (Peale and his nephew, Coleman Sellers, developed the instrument). Important forerunner of motion pictures.

Coleman Sellers (nephew) and Peale belonged to original group of enthusiasts who formed first photographic club in U.S. referred to as "Amateur Photographic Exchange Club".


Wrote article appearing in the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution entitled Methods of Preserving Lepidoptera, 404-406, 1863


T.R. Peale figured as one of the founders of the Philosophical Society of Washington



Forced to retire from Patent Office due to age. Moved to Philadelphia.

Peale and wife, Lucy, due to an impoverished status, were forced to live with relatives (grandson Louis T., son of Francis Peale) in Philadelphia and occasionally in a boarding house.

Devoted much of his time on book The Butterflies of North America (started years earlier as Lepidoptera Americana). Parts had to be revised due to subsequent work of other naturalists. Continued to carefully execute illustrations of specimens in oil paint on cardboard and embellished many paintings with fine details of foliage and flowers. Felt passionate about importance of field observations which he wrote about in his introduction to the "Butterflies" book.

Curators at The Academy of Natural Sciences provided him a room to work and for his collections.

Sept. 11 1873:

In letter to Herman Strecker, leading lepidopterist, Peale writes that his Lepidoptera collection was damaged when being transported by rail from Washington,D.C. to Holmesburg, Pennsylvania. He writes that he hopes to repair the damages.

May 15, 1874:

Letter to Strecker, Peale writes that he has repaired the broken glass and fixed the wings of his collection and the damage was not as bad as he had feared.

April 26, 1875:

Letter to Strecker indicates that Peale received some specimens from Strecker that were added to his boxed collections. He also indicates in this letter that he puzzles over "their (the butterflies) God-like names which are fast becoming modernized."

Sept. 23, 1876:

Letter to Strecker indicates that TRP was sent three specimens Argynnis diana (Diana Fritillary butterfly) to draw. Returned specimens in Oct. 1876 to Strecker in letter thanking him for the loan and said he will give him credit in his book (Butterflies of North America).

Due to his high standards for illustration and printing and lack of funds due to impoverished situation, the publication of the book became impossible. (Manuscript remains at the American Museum of Natural History)

March 13, 1885:

Titian Ramsay Peale died in Philadelphia after an illness of one day (pneumonia, according to A. Peale, 1901). He was buried in an unmarked grave in a plot belonging to estate of brother Franklin in Philadelphia's Laurel Hill cemetery. Peale willed much of his valued possessions to his grandson, Louis T. Peale.


Peale's entire collection of butterflies and insects was bequeathed to The Academy of Natural Sciences.

Sources for timeline:

Archives of The Academy of Natural Sciences, Titian Peale Collection.

Archives of the Field Museum of Natural History, Strecker Collection

Poesch, Jessie. Titian Ramsey Peale,1799-1885, and His Journal of the Wilkes Expedition. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1961.

Haltman, Kenneth. 1996. Titian Ramsay Peale's Specimen Portraiture; or, Natural History as Family History, pp. 186-201. IN: L. B. Miller, The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy 1770-1870. Abbeville Press, New York.

Lucas, Frederic A. 1917. A Forgotten Naturalist. American Museum Journal 17(3): 210-212.

Peale, Albert C. 1901. Titian R. Peale 1800-1885. Bulletin Philosphical Society of Washington 14: 317-326.

Portrait and Text, Titian Ramsay Peale. 1913. Entomological News 24(1): 1-3.

Stone, Witmer. 1915. Titian Ramsay Peale. Cassinia: Proceedings of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club 19: 1-13.

This timeline was compiled by Jon Gelhaus in 2004.

Internet Links to Peale Resources

The Academy of Natural Sciences Library
Fifteen plates of Peale's from Lepidoptera Americana

ANSP Library - Archive Collection
Peale holdings in ANSP archvies.

Butterfly Collection of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, which contains the Herman Strecker Butterfly Collection. Peale letter to Herman Strecker dated Dec 20, 1873.

Charles Wilson Peale Family Papers (Smithsonian archives). The gallery has 13 portraits — number 13 is a self-portrait of Titian Peale dated 1875.

Smithsonian Institution - archives Bibliography of publications: Using your web browser's Find/Find Again function, type "Peale" into the search box, and move through the list finding the Peale references. For your convenience, we have listed many of these references in the "Additional Resources" following the links.

The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia Manuscripts guide for Titian Peale and the Peale Family at the American Philosophical Society. Includes letters and other documents.

The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia Many of Titian R. Peale sketches dating from throughout his life and travels can be viewed here. A number of these sketches are of butterflies and moths. They are also available for purchase as prints or transparencies.

Additional Sources of information on Titian Peale

Haifley, Julia Ann Link. "Capital Images: The Photography of Titian Ramsey Peale, 1855- 1885." Master's thesis, The George Washington University, 1976

Haifley, Julia Ann Link. "Capital Images: The Photography of Titian Ramsay Peale, 1855-1885." Records of the Columbia Historical Society . The Fiftieth Volume, 1978.

Poesch, Jessie. Titian Ramsey Peale,1799-1885, and His Journal of the Wilkes Expedition. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1961.

Porter, Charlotte M. "Bibliography and Natural History: New Sources for the Contribution of the American Naturalist, Titian Ramsey Peale." In Contributions to the History of North American Natural History, edited by Alwyne Wheeler. London: Society for the Bibliography of Natural History, 1983.

Porter, Charlotte, M. "The Lifework of Titian Ramsay Peale." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 129:3 (September 1985): 300-312.

Sellers, Charles Coleman. "Peale's Museum and 'The New Museum Idea.'" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 23 (1980): 25-34.

Sellers, Charles Coleman. Mr. Peale's Museum: Charles Wilson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1980.

Yochelson, Ellis L. "Mr. Peale and His Mammoth Museum." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 136 (1992): 487-506.