The Adoption of the U.S. Constitution in Congress at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Sept. 17, 1787 by John H. Froehlich
Courtesy of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Click here to enlarge.
This painting by John H. Froehlich in 1935 hangs in the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg. According to N. Lee Stevens, the senior curator of art collections at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, “The artist painted this under the CWA and FERA federal programs employing artists to aid museums.”
Stevens kindly provided us with an identification of each of the delegates portrayed in this painting. The above version of the painting comes from pages 68 and 69 of an early 1942 two-page advertisement in an unidentified magazine by Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co., located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Our hunch is that is from the 9 February 1942 edition of Life.)
Froehlich lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He painted scenes of public events, such as the adoption of the United States Constitution. He was from the New England area, but there is very little detail about his life. Froehlich was the President of the Harrisburg Art Club in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania founded in 1904.
The advertisement is entitled “We think this is what they meant.” And the “we think” refers to what “we,” today in World War II America, “think” that “they,” the Founding Fathers of 1787 portrayed in the Froehlich painting, meant by the phrase “to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare,” in the Preamble of the Constitution.
The Froehlich part of the advertisement is on page 68. There are 40 people portrayed in the Froehlich “Adoption” painting. Washington is placed higher than anyone else and is clearly recognizable. And also clearly visible are the windows, presented here as half shuttered, and the rising sun chair made popular by Ben Franklin‘s famous closing remarks at the Convention. (The assemblage of delegates at the adoption is incorrectly identified as the “Congress.” It should be the “Convention.” Franklin is also easily recognizable; he is standing prominently in the group in the left of the painting. Three other delegates are prominent. They are in the forefront and in the middle and located between Washington and Franklin. But who are they? According to curator Stevens they are James Wilson, Nathaniel Gorham and John Rutledge. And who is the studious looking delegate in the front left, finger on chin, feet crossed, document on lap, and two volumes on the floor next to him? Apparently it is James Madison.
The second page of the Westinghouse advertisement addresses the contribution of the company to the war effort and the general welfare. Page 69 lists 12 contributions of the Westinghouse “know how” to the “common defense” and 12 to the “general welfare.” (On the back of the Froehlich painting, page 67, is an advertisement for the 1942 Royal Desserts Recipe Book. The deadline for application is 31 May! On the back of the Westinghouse commentary, page 70, is a story about how seven loyal Japanese Americans in the U.S. Army are teaching 100 U.S. army trainees at Camp Roberts, California to learn jujitsu.)