Henry and Lucretia Clay


Henry Clay (1777‒1852) was an American statesman, orator, and politician, known as the “Great Pacificator” and the “Great Compromiser” for his efforts to hold together the Union at a time of growing sectional strife. He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of a Baptist minister who died when he was only four. He studied law in Virginia, but moved to Kentucky where he opened a law office in Lexington. In 1803 he was elected to the Kentucky legislature and in 1806 to the U.S. Senate, even though he was younger than the constitutionally mandated age of 30. Concluding that the Senate was too sedate and dignified for the rough-and-tumble debate in which he specialized, he chose to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he won in August 1811. He was immediately elected Speaker of the House, and in that capacity forged the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which postponed the national conflict over slavery for a number of decades. He later served as secretary of state and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency against Andrew Jackson in 1832. In 1799 Clay married Lucretia Hart, shown here. The couple had 11 children, six of whom (all daughters) died at a young age. It was not a happy marriage, however; Lucretia hated life in Washington and remained at their home in Kentucky. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Edward Anthony, New York


Title in Original Language

Henry Clay and Wife

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 photographic print : carte-de-visite, albumen paper ; 8.6 x 5.4 centimeters


  1. Robert V. Remini, "Clay, Henry," in American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Last updated: March 22, 2016