The "People of Independence" exhibit provides a glimpse into the lives of those who prized order and reason, yet lived in a world marked by disease, slavery, and the fear of the unknown.
More than 100 portraits by painter Charles Willson Peale form the core of the collection. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Peale asked those "worthy Personages" who exhibited the republican virtues of public-spiritedness, self-sacrifice, and civic virtue to sit for him. These portraits, as well as other works by his son Rembrandt and his brother James were once exhibited in Peale's Philadelphia Museum, located on the second floor of Independence Hall.
By the time Peale died in 1828, his museum was struggling financially and in 1848, the City of Philadelphia purchased 86 of Peale's portraits at auction. Additional portraits have been added to the collection through the years, including a number by British pastel artists James and Ellen Sharples.