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 Thomas W. Braidwood  (1814 - 1906)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/New Jersey / Scotland      Known for: Engraver and educator, art school founder

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was submitted by Kate Nearpass Ogden, Associate Professor of Art History at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Thomas W. Braidwood was born on December 6, 1818 at Rock Bank, on the river Clyde, near the city of Glasgow, Scotland. He began his career at fifteen as an apprentice with the printmakers Dalgleish and Falkener in Campsie, Scotland. He left home before turning eighteen and arrived in New York in 1836. There he was successful as an early designer of printed fabrics and wallpapers. After acquiring some capital, he moved to Philadelphia to enter business for himself.

In Philadelphia, Braidwood was elected principal of the School of Design for Women, which had been founded by Sarah J. Peter, wife of William Peter, then British Consul to Philadelphia. After meeting in her home and at various locations, the School was able to purchase its own building at Filbert and Merrick Streets in 1863. Braidwood was principal of the school, whose faculty included J.R. Lambdin, W.E. Tomblinson, Elizabeth Croasdale (later principal), Esther K. Hayhurst, Mary J. Creig, and A.R. Thomas. The last was a professor of anatomy at Pennsylvania Medical University who lectured on artistic anatomy.

The School of Design for Women had as its objective "the training of designers in the principles and practice of the fine arts, with view to the improvement of the artistic quality of our manufactories, by imparting where requisite more symmetry of form, harmonious arrangement of coloring and general appropriateness of decoration." Braidwood obtained a charter for the School of Design and interested a number of Philadelphia’s wealthy citizens in contributing towards its support.

Braidwood served as principal of the School of Design for over twenty years, devoting his energies to its advancement and introducing new and improved methods in the training of his pupils. He was also instrumental in establishing the Northeastern School of Design for Women at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and another school in Pittsburgh. For the School of Design in Philadelphia he obtained plaster casts of antique masterpieces of sculpture from the South Kensington Museum in England.

On March 5, 1865 Braidwood married Anna Louise Colladay of Philadelphia (b.1842), a graduate of the School of Design, who also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. They had two children, Beatrice Braidwood, an artist (born July 1, 1868), and Victor Braidwood (born December 8, 1873). In 1870 the couple moved to Vineland, New Jersey, where they lived on Park Avenue for two years. Braidwood purchased lots on the north side of Peach Street, where he built a home for himself, laying out the grounds with taste and skill. For a time he commuted daily to Philadelphia.

The artist and engraver John Sartain, one of the directors of the School of Design, wished to broaden the scope of its curriculum to include more of the fine arts. Braidwood felt the School should continue teaching primarily the industrial arts, as its founder had intended. This difference of opinion caused Braidwood to resign. He decided to open a school for the study of drawing and painting in Vineland.

The Vineland Art School was held in a studio Braidwood erected upon his grounds. He and his daughter, Beatrice Braidwood, gave instruction to many pupils, some of whom went on to teach at other schools in the area. As a teacher Mr. Braidwood emphasized the importance of the fundamental principles of art and the necessity of accuracy in drawing and in detail.

Braidwood was very active in the cultural and humanitarian institutions of Vineland. In 1875 he helped to found a public library there. Although the library failed after a few years, Braidwood helped secure many of its books for the library of the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. In 1893 he became a member of the Historical Society, served for one year as a trustee, and helped with the Society’s reorganization. He occasionally spoke at meetings, and on October 8, 1895, read a carefully prepared paper on the "Speakers of the British House of Commons."

Braidwood served as president of the Board of Health in Vineland and led its members in seeking out and correcting violations of the sanitary code. He was president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first organization of its kind in that part of New Jersey. Braidwood organized and was president of the Citizens Committee, an association of gentlemen whose influence became a recognized factor in local elections.

The artist lived to the age of eighty-seven. A considerable portion of his life in Vineland was devoted to the cultivation of the grounds around his residence; in teaching and study; and in efforts to promote what he considered the best interests of the community.  Thomas W. Braidwood died at his home on Peach Street on April 6, 1906. The following October, his friend Frank D. Andrews of Vineland read a paper, “Thomas W. Braidwood, born 1818, died 1906,” at the annual meeting of the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society.


Frank D. Andrews, “Thomas W. Braidwood, born 1818, died 1906,” a paper read at the annual meeting of the Vineland (NJ) Historical and Antiquarian Society, October 9, 1906. Accessed online 25 September 2012 at

Frank Ankenbrand, Jr., “Thomas W. Braidwood, 1819-1906,” in Notes on Some Artists of Vineland (Booklet, Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society, 1940), pp. 13-20.

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