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A View of Charles-Town

Smith, Samuel __Engraver ||Leitch, Thomas __After
Place Made:
London Great Britain
Date Made:
ink on paper
HOA: 17 3/8; WOA: 28 3/4 plus title
Accession Number:
Thomas Leitch, an English marine artist, arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1773 and began work on a view of the city looking east from across the Cooper River. The South Carolina Gazette on October 25, 1773 and October 31, 1774 carried an advertisement from Leitch that:

“PROPOSALS for publishing by SUBSCRIPTION, a View of Charles-Town: THIS View has been taken with the greatest Accuracy and Care by Mr. LEECH, who is now employed about painting a finished Picture from the Drawings already made by him. –The Picture will be ready to send Home by the next Ships, expected from London, in order to be engraved; and will be so exact a Portrait of the Town, as it appears from the Water, that every House in View will be distinctly known; –and that nothing might be wanting to render it most complete, the two greatest Artists in the World– Messrs. WOOLETT and SMITH have been engaged and have undertaken to engrave it. Mr. LEECH cannot support the Expense of such a Work without Assistance, and therefore proposes to all Lovers of the Polite Arts, opening a Subscription, at so low a Price as a GUINEA a Piece:– Half to be paid down at the Time of subscribing, the other Half on the Delivery of the Print.”

Leitch followed through with this plan and sent the completed painting to London where it was engraved and printed.

Leitch captured Charleston just before the American Revolution at the height of its prosperity. By compressing the horizon between the vast sea and sky, Leitch emphasized the size of the city and scale of its buildings. Leitch’s view also, perhaps, alludes to the trouble brewing between the American Colonies and the mother country. Months before he painted his view Britain passed the Tea Act. The resulting boycott dramatically reduced merchant activity in Charleston Harbor. In this image we see only a single English ship.

RELATED OBJECTS: The painting by Thomas Leitch after which this print was engraved is also in the MESDA collection (MESDA acc. 2024.30). For an earlier view of Charleston see Bishop Roberts and W.H. Toms 1739 View of Charles Town (Loan from Colonial Williamsburg, MESDA acc. 5862.1) and our 1762 single-plate copy of that view (MESDA acc. 848.3). For an image that is roughly contemporary to Leitch’s view see Pierre Charles Canot’s 1768-1770 A View of Charles Town after Thomas Melish (MESDA acc. 2024.32)

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton