Joseph Henry Sharp lost his hearing when he was young and was forced to leave school. James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales captured the lonely boy's imagination, as did a passing glimpse of an Indian tribe waylaid in West Virginia en route to Washington.
Robert S. Duncanson was one of the few landscape painters of African American descent to achieve international recognition. His father was a Canadian of Scottish descent, and his mother was black.
Thomas Cole apprenticed to a calico designer in Lancashire, England, but moved to Philadelphia with his family when he was a teenager. He traveled around the country, creating signs and portraits in exchange for lodgings, then returned to Pennsylvania to study at the Academy of the Fine Arts.
A prolific industrial designer, artist, and teacher, Viktor Schreckengost's creations have touched on nearly every aspect of American life. The Ohio native designed everything, from children's toys and pedal cars to trucks, bicycles, furniture, and ceramic dinnerware.
- Edmonia Lewis was the first sculptor of African American and Native American descent to achieve international recognition. Her father was black, and her mother was Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indian.
Elizabeth Nourse was raised in a Catholic family in Cincinnati. Her father was a successful banker until the Civil War wiped him out. The women in the family learned skills that would allow them to support themselves.