The Old Print Shop

Amos Doolittle


Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) One of the earliest American engravers on copper. Doolittle was born in Cheshire, Connecticut and lived and worked the majority of his life in or around New Haven. At 12 or 13 years of age he apprenticed to Eliakim Hitchcock, a silversmith and jeweler and later set up his own shop in New Haven. It is believed that he taught himself engraving and later became a prolific producer of engraved prints, including historical scenes, bookplates, portraits, maps and biblical illustrations. Doolittle most important prints were a set of four different views of the battle of Lexington and Concord. Doolittle was a member of the “Governor’s Guard” of New Haven, under command of Captain Benedict Arnold. Upon news of these historic battles, the unit quickly assembled and marched to Cambridge. Upon arrival there Doolittle along with the artist Ralph Earl, visited the battle sites sought out eyewitnesses and minutemen who fought the battles. He asked them what happened, where and when and recorded what he heard. Upon his return to New Haven he quickly engraved and advertised the four prints, both plain and colored. Today these prints are considered to be the only accurate visual recording of the battles and are of the utmost rarity and importance. Other titles of importance include a view of Federal Hall, A display of the United States, A New Display of the United States, The Looking Glass and a set of four images of the Prodigal Son. He also engraved many maps, both as separates and those to be included in atlases. Doolittle trained at least one of his sons as an engraver, as well as James Wilson (1763-1855), who went on to become the first globe maker in America. The papers of Doolittle and his family are in the archives of Yale University, which also owns a number of his engravings.