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John Houston MIFFLIN

Painter / Photographer / Writer

Born: 17 February 1807, Columbia, Pennsylvania USA

Died: 13 February 1888, Columbia, Pennsylvania USA

Father of the more 'famous' Lloyd Mifflin, John Houston Mifflin was an artist by profession. He was educated at the Friends Westtown Academy in Philadelphia, then studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Anxious to study portraiture at its best, he took off to Europe like many did at that time. Prior to his departure in 1836, he produced a book, Lyrics, which he had printed and distributed to his friends as a token of his friendship. Though these poems were not considered particularly good, they are readable and serve to indicate the genesis of the talent passed on to Lloyd. Later on, in 1900, Lloyd honored his father's memory by having Lyrics properly published.

While in Europe, he produced a series of letters which, taken together, constitute an almost complete journal of his stay. They are long, descriptive letters apparently intended for publication, at least in part, as he refers to 'publication possibilities' in the Augusta Chronicle. The 'journal'—which it came to be known—not only gives us a complete picture of the man who wrote them, a charming portrait of an artist as a young man, but it offers us a valuable commentary on the sights and customs of Europe and a rather fascinating eyewitness account of London and Paris as seen by a young Pennsylvania gentleman with an observant artist's eye.


Upon his return to America, he seems to have become infatuated by the new technology, photography... the daguerreotype, specifically. There's evidence to support that he learned the new process from Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia. Cornelius has, since, become known as the man who created the very first 'selfie' in 1839. With this new process learned, he took off for Georgia in hopes of making a living as an itinerant artist and, now, photographer. Before Europe, in 1838, he'd already tested the waters thereby painting small portraits for willing patrons. One could easily argue that John Houston was one of the very early photographers applying this new trade.

By 1846, he began manufacturing printer's ink. Perhaps, the birth of his son, Lloyd, caused him to become more practical as his family was growing. More likely, he became preoccupied with the poor health of his wife. Subsequently, this was also about the time he lost his passion for painting. 

An example of John Houston Mifflin's painting style

Download the PDF to read John Houston's 'LYRICS'

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