John Collins

Birth: 1814


John Collins (1814 - December 17, 1902), the grandson of premier New Jersey printer Isaac Collins, born in New York in 1814, was a Quaker artist, teacher, poet, and author, who worked as a lithographer in Philadelphia and Burlington, N.J. during the mid and later 19th century. Collins was also husband to Anna Baily (b. ca. 1815-1894), and father of six children, of whom four lived to adulthood.

A student at the academy of John Gummere in Burlington and the first class at Haverford School (i.e., College) founded in 1833, Collins entered the lithography profession in Philadelphia in 1836. From 1836 to 1837, Collins established his own print shop at 79 South Third Street, exhibited two art works at the Artist Fund Society, and printed a lithograph of his alma mater Haverford School (1837). Soon thereafter, he printed lithographs for the seminal works John C. Wild's "Views of Philadelphia" (1838) and his cousin's husband Samuel Morton's "Crania Americana" (1839), as well as married.

By 1840, although Collins contributed lithographs to The Oxford Drawing Book (New York, 1840), he sold his studio to his associate Thomas Sinclair. Sinclair would remain the printer of most of his future lithographic endeavors, including the series "Views of Burlington" (1847) and "The City and Scenery of Newport" (1857). In addition, the drawing book would be the first of a number of art instruction books that Collins either authored or to which he contributed lithographs, including Progressive Drawing Book of Flowers for Beginners (1844); My First Drawing Book (1871); and Model Drawing Book for Boy and Girls (1892).

Following the sale of his shop, Collins resided in Philadelphia, New York, and Burlington, where he finally settled in 1846 at his family home at Broad and York streets and pursued a teaching career. He, however, continued his association with lithography and drew a series of lithographs of the West-town Boarding School (ca. 1858) and authored "The Art of Engraving on Metal, Wood and Stone" (1858) in addition to working at the shop of P. S. Duval & Son in 1858. He also wrote an antislavery poem "The Slave Mother" (1855) and traveled to Cuba in 1859 where he made sketches and watercolors of sites from his trip. During the 1860s, Collins still remained active in lithography and served as a floor manager and committee member of the Lithographic Printer's Union Ball of 1863. In 1870, he authored the prophetic poem "1970 - A Vision of the Coming Age."

The ensuing decade saw Collins and his family transplanted to Eastern Tennessee, following a visit to the North Carolina Yearly Meeting to learn about Southern Quakers' lives under Reconstruction. From 1870 to 1878, Collins lived first in Friendsville, Tn. where he may have had a position as principal of the William Foster Institute and then Maryville, Tn. where he returned to teaching. In the South, he continued with his art and drew and sketched the people and sites of his residence. In 1879, Collins and his family, returned to Philadelphia where by 1880 they resided at 602 North Forty-Third Street and by 1885 at 702 North Forty-Third Street.

In his later years, Collins cited his occupation as an artist and in 1883 he lithographed a portrait of Burlington porter Benny Jackson during a visit to his former place of residence. Collins made other trips to Burlington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including reading a historical sketch (published 1893) about Isaac and Rachel Collins at a Collins Family Reunion in 1890, as well as visited Tennessee. Collins also continued with his reform activities and was a member of the Prison Society, the Pennsylvania Peace Society, and the Temperance Society until his death on December 17, 1902 in Philadelphia.


See Duval, P. S. and Sinclair, Thomas; Bisbee and Colesar, John Collins (1979); Census 1880; Philadelphia Business and City Directories, 1838-1883 (intermittently); Groce and Wallace, 140; Last, 176; Library Company of Philadelphia research file; Peters, 144; WWWAA, 699.

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