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Object Record

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Accession Number 1900.001
Catalog Number 1900.001.006
Object Name Painting
Other Name Portrait
Title Return J. Meigs, Jr.
Description Right-facing portrait of Ohio's fourth governor, Return J. Meigs, Jr. (1810-1814) is seen wearing a dark coat with a thick collar, a white vest with three buttons, and a white high-collared shirt with a ruffle at the chest. He has short dark hair.
Year Range from 1868
Year Range to 1871
Artist Unknown
Notes Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. (1764-1825) was a legislator, jurist and the fourth Governor of Ohio.
Meigs was born in Middletown, Connecticut, on November 17, 1765. He attended Yale College. After graduating in 1785, he studied law and joined the Connecticut Bar. In 1788, Meigs moved to Marietta, Ohio, as one of the town's first residents.

Due to his legal background, Meigs was appointed to a number of governmental positions. The first office he held was as a judge in the Northwest Territory. He assisted Winthrop Sargent and John Gilman in amending Maxwell's Code in 1798. In 1799, he served in the territorial legislature. He actively supported Ohio statehood, and in 1803, became the first chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. He resigned his seat in October 1804 and accepted a position as the commander of American soldiers and militia forces in the St. Charles District of the Louisiana Territory. He also served as a judge in the Louisiana Territory. Meigs returned to Ohio in 1806 but he soon was appointed to the U.S. District Court of the Michigan Territory.

Meigs returned to Ohio in 1808 and ran for governor. Politically Meigs had supported the Federalist Party for some time, but he changed his allegiance to the Democratic-Republican Party. He may have done this because most Ohioans during the early 1800s favored the Democratic-Republicans. Meigs still favored many Federalist policies. He favored the funding of internal improvements and a more diversified economy. Meigs defeated Nathaniel Massie in the race for governor in 1808. However, the state legislature declared that he was not eligible for the office because he had not lived long enough in Ohio. Meigs then was appointed to one of Ohio's U.S. Senate seats after John Smith resigned his position. In 1809, Meigs won the senate seat, but he resigned the next year to run for governor.

In 1810, Meigs ran against Thomas Worthington. Meigs won the election, and as governor, played a major role in the War of 1812. In 1812, he recruited more than 1,000 men to attack the British in Canada as well as the villages of Native Americans loyal to Britain.

In March 1814, President James Madison selected Meigs to be the Postmaster General of the United States. Meigs resigned as Ohio's governor and accepted the appointment. During his tenure, he nearly doubled the number of post offices in the United States. Due to this tremendous growth, the Postal Service experienced some difficult financial times. On two separate occasions, Congress investigated Meigs. Congress exonerated him both times, and Meigs retired in 1823 due to poor health. He returned to Marietta and died there on March 29, 1825.

People Meigs, Return Jonathan Jr., 1764-1825
Smith, William Henry, 1833-1896
Witt, John Henry, 1840-1901
Image size 33" x 26"
Frame size 37.25" x 30"
Frame desc Gilt molded frame with carved beaded line
Provenance In 1867, the Ohio General Assembly passed a joint resolution relative to the governors of Ohio. The legislators resolved that "the secretary of state, on the first Monday of January next, whether the portraits of the governors of Ohio, state and territorial, can be procured, and if so, whether original portraits or copies, and the probable expense of procuring such portraits for the governor's office."

Ohio Secretary of State William H. Smith communicated with Meigs' descendants about acquiring a portrait, but there is no definite information about when the portrait was delivered or who painted it. According to a June 1871 newspaper article, Meigs' portrait was in the governor's office by that time.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board took over the care of the Statehouse and its collections in 1988.
Search Terms Ohio Governor
Ohio Governor's Portraits
Subjects Governors
Portrait paintings
Collection Statehouse Artwork Collection/Governors' Portraits