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Accession Number 1900.001
Catalog Number 1900.001.014
Object Name Painting
Title Portrait of Joseph Vance
Description Front-facing image of Ohio's thirteenth governor, Joseph Vance (1836-1838). Vance wears a dark coat, with a high-collar white shirt and a black tie. His gray hair is parted on the left.
Date 1869
Artist Birge, Laura C., 1846-1928
Notes Joseph Vance (1786-1852) was Ohio's thirteenth governor. He was born in Catfish, Pennsylvania, (modern-day Washington, Pennsylvania). His father, Joseph C. Vance, was a Revolutionary War veteran originally from Virginia. The family moved from Pennsylvania to Kentucky in 1788 and then into the Northwest Territory in 1801. In 1805, Vance moved to the new community of Urbana, Ohio.

Vance had grown up in relatively unsettled parts of the country and had few opportunities to attend school as a child. His lack of formal education bothered him throughout his life. In spite of not having attended school, however, Vance became successful through his willingness to work hard.

As a young man, Vance was a salt peddler. He traveled throughout remote parts of Ohio selling salt to the local settlers. In 1807, Vance married Mary Lemon, whose family also lived in Urbana. When Vance's father died in 1809, Vance took over the family farm. Aside from his time serving in various political offices, Vance worked as a farmer for the rest of his life.

Vance first entered politics as the secretary of the board of county commissioners. He also formed his own rifle company, which became part of the Ohio militia during the War of 1812. Vance earned much respect for his contributions during the war and rose from the rank of captain eventually all the way to the rank of brigadier general by the war's end. In addition, Champaign County voters first elected him as a state representative in 1812. Vance served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1812 to 1814, 1815 to 1816, and again from 1819 to 1820. Vance was first elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1821, a position that he held until 1835. As a congressman, Vance voted in favor of legislation that provided funding for Western improvements. He also became known for his support of abolitionism.

Vance was elected as Ohio's governor in 1836, becoming the first Whig Party candidate elected in the state. During his term as governor, Vance supported state funding for public schools and canal construction. He also worked to abolish capital punishment in Ohio. He had an excellent reputation as governor until he supported the extradition of someone accused of helping escaped slaves to stand trial in Kentucky. Although Vance had previously been known for his anti-slavery views, the extradition seriously affected his campaign for reelection in 1838. Ultimately, Wilson Shannon was elected as governor instead.

Vance's retirement from politics did not last long. The citizens from the tenth district elected him to the Ohio senate from 1839 to 1841, before electing him to the U.S. House of Representatives once again from 1843 to 1847. He was a prominent and well-respected figure in Congress. Vance was known for his views against the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War.

Vance remained active within the Whig Party, traveling as a delegate to the national convention in 1848. He also was elected to the Ohio Constitutional Convention of 1850. The convention proved to be Vance's last public service. Returning home from the convention, Vance suffered a stroke. The last months of his life were spent at his home near Urbana, where he died on August 24, 1852.
People Birge, Laura C., 1846-1928
Smith, William Henry, 1833-1896
Vance, Joseph, 1786-1852
Signed Name "Laura C. Birger" [sic]
Sig Loc Reverse after artist's (incorrectly traced)
Image size 27" x 22"
Frame size 36" x 31.5"
Frame desc Elaborate gilt frame
Material Oil Paint/Canvas/Wood
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."

William Henry Smith, Ohio's sixteenth secretary of state, was tasked with contacting the descendants of all governors to date. He corresponded with families and sometimes traveled the country to meet them.

The artist, Laura C. Birge, reportedly used an engraved likeness of Vance on a Ohio State Bank bill note.

At some point in time the portrait was vandalized when someone wrote "I love John Glenn" on it.

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