Art From the President's House: A Portrait of John McClintock

Several notable paintings and portraits decorate the walls of the President's House of Dickinson College. Two favorites are the portraits hanging in the living room, of John McClintock and his first wife, Caroline Augusta.

The portraits were given to the College by the Longacre family of Philadelphia, descendants of Caroline Augusta. Caroline's portrait was painted by Theodore Pine in 1850, when Caroline was thirty-six. Who painted John, and the year are unknown, but the work seems to have been done between 1836, when the McClintock's were married and 1850, when Augusta died.

As a young adult John McClintock was described by his friend and biographer, George R. Crooks, in the following way:

In person he was of medium height, florid in complexion, alert in movement, and winning in manner. His voice, though not of great compass, was melodious, and his bearing graceful. A stranger, seeing him for the first time, was struck at once with the large size of the head, and the almost spherical roundness of the forehead. His facility in the acquisition of knowledge ... gave him the assurance of rapid success.1

John McClintock was a highly intelligent, industrious, and religious man who served as a distinguished member of the Dickinson faculty for eleven years and who made his mark on the town of Carlisle. A brief sketch of his life and accomplishments provide insight to the nature of college life in the 1830s and 1840s, the influence of religion, and how the college and the town of Carlisle were coping with the major issue of the day: slavery.

John McClintock arrived in Carlisle in summer of 1836, as an assistant professor of mathematics. Dickinson was lucky to attract him: he also had an offer for a full professorship from LaGrange College in Alabama, and that school gave him a choice of teaching either mathematics or languages. He chose Carlisle, primarily because of its location near his hometown of Philadelphia. He was only twenty-two years old and had already packed years of study and hard work into his brief life. In fact, he had worked so strenuously as a Methodist minister that he was forced by poor health to resign his post and find an easier way to make a living.

What drove him to work so hard as to jeopardize his health permanently by the age of twenty-two? The answer seems to be family values, his own insatiable desire for knowledge, and a deep belief in God. John was born in 1814, of parents who had only a few years before immigrated from Ireland and settled in Philadelphia. His parents, John and Martha, were active members of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. The church was a center of social and religious life for tl1e entire family.

McClintock's formal education began when he was eight. As a student in the Grammar School of the University of Pennsylvania, he studied Latin and Greek under a Dr. Wylie, one of the most distinguished Greek scholars of the day. However, his school days did not last long. At age fourteen, he reluctantly went to work in his father's city goods store. He missed the challenge of the classroom. He wrote to one friend, "Many a scolding have I suffered for sales made below cost, while my mind was wandering to the scenes I had so deeply studied in the Songs of Anacreon or the Aeneid of Virgil."2 When he was sixteen John moved on to another job. With the help of his father, he secured a position as bookkeeper in the Methodist Book Concern in New York. There he worked under the supervision of the Reverend Dr. John Emory, and began a friendship that had great impact on his life.

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