The Eastern Penitentiary


This hand-colored lithograph shows a view looking over farmland toward the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania. In the foreground, a man and two boys survey the pastoral scene before the splendid gothic prison building. The penitentiary was built in 1823–36 after the designs of John Haviland and opened in an unfinished state in 1829. Located at 2101–99 Fairmount Avenue, it was one of the largest and most expensive structures of its day and was most unusual in having flush toilets and heating in the cells. The print is by John Caspar Wild (circa 1804−46), who also produced other views of the penitentiary, as did Samuel Cowperthwaite, James F. Queen, and George Lehman—whose image of the prison is very similar to this one. Wild was a Swiss-born artist and lithographer, who arrived in Philadelphia from Paris in 1832. He produced paintings and prints of Philadelphia and other American cities, including Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and Davenport, Iowa. His works are important historical records of these cities before the era of large-scale industrialization and rapid urban growth. This work was first published in 1838 by J.C. Wild & J.B. Chevalier as Plate 6 in Wild’s “Views of Philadelphia.” The lithographic stones for the views were acquired by John T. Bowen and reissued in 1838, and in 1848 with hand coloring.

Date Created

Publication Information

J.T. Bowen, Philadelphia


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print : lithograph, hand-colored ; 14 x 18 centimeters


  • Digital catalog number: POS 201.4


  1. Philadelphia on Stone Biographical Dictionary of Lithographers,
  2. John Caspar Wild, Philadelphia on Stone Biographical Dictionary, Library Company of Philadelphia,

Last updated: February 26, 2014