Many types of scholarly approaches are available to the student of cultural history. One of the more satisfying is the biographical study. In preparing this study I have tried to present a straightforward narrative of the life of a man who could never be singled out as a great or creative leader yet who made the scholar's beloved "contribution" to the science and art of his day. I have followed where the facts have led, and often they shaped their own story. He and his family and friends were nineteenth-century people who did indeed see themselves in a romantic light. At the same time, and in no contradiction to their noble and romantic sentiments, these people were among the vanguard who pushed forward those developments of science, scientific theory, and industry which have shaped the twentieth century. Peale himself was a proud, independent, often difficult individual, possessed with an avid curiosity and zest for life. At times the story of his life reads like an exciting adventure story. His career illuminates many problems and preoccupations of scholarship in the natural sciences in the nineteenth century, including the dichotomy that often existed between the field observer and the "closet" naturalist. His extant journals of the Wilkes Expedition are published here, in Part II, for the first time in their entirety. They provide us with a detailed record of the activities of this artist-naturalist while a member of this remarkable enterprise.
It is a pleasure to name some of the many persons and institutions who have helped to make this study possible: I should particularly like to thank the persons responsible for the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum Program in Early American Culture, under whose aegis I began this study, and the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society, whose generosity made it possible to bring it to completion. Professor Joseph Ewan of Tulane University, Mr. Charles Coleman Sellers of Dickinson College, and Dr. Ernest Moyne of the University of Delaware have each read the manuscript in two different stages and have given invaluable suggestions and counsel. Maurice and Venia Phillips of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia have been generous with their time and counsel and have guided me to pertinent materials. Others who have given helpful suggestions and criticisms or have allowed me to study their collections, or both, include Dr. John Munroe, Dr. and Mrs. Charles M. James, Dr. David B. Tyler, Dr. Anthony N. B. Garvan, Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy, Miss Jacqueline Hoffmire, Mrs. Joseph Carson, Mr. Carl Schaefer Dentzel, Miss Ida Edelson, Mr. Robert R. Peale, Mrs. Coleman Sellers Mills and the late Mr. Mills, Mr. Harry Peale Haldt, Mrs. Joseph Peale, and the late Mr. Edmund Bury. Several of these people have become warm personal friends.
Mrs. Gertrude Hess, Mrs. Ruth Duncan, and Mr. Murphy Smith, all of the staff of the Library of the American Philosophical Society, have been more than helpful . . .