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Building a National Collection
150 Years of Print Collecting at the Smithsonian

Francis D'Avignon, 1813-after 1870
after Tompkins Harrison Matteson, 1813-1884

Distribution of the American Art-Union Prizes, 1847
Lithograph, published by Sarony & Major, 1848
Gift of Mrs. W. W. Buckley, 1961

The American Art Union operated as a lottery between 1839 and 1852, exhibiting and raffling paintings and providing its members with an annual engraving by subscription. It is estimated that more than 50,000 prints were distributed before the lottery was declared illegal and the Union disbanded. Early print collectors George Perkins Marsh and his contemporary Francis Calley Gray were members of the Art Union, although both men specialized in European old master prints.

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