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Thomas Willing

Thomas Willing (1731–1821) was an American merchant, a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress, and the first president of the First Bank of the United States. After studying abroad in England, he returned to Philadelphia in 1749, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits, in partnership with Robert Morris. They established the firm Willing, Morris and Company in 1757. This exported flour, lumber and tobacco to Europe while importing sugar, rum, molasses, and slaves from the West Indies and Africa; their partnership continued until 1793. Despite voting against the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776, he later contributed £5,000 to the revolutionary cause.

This picture is a 1782 oil-on-canvas portrait of Willing by American artist Charles Willson Peale. He is depicted here in front of shipping on the Atlantic Ocean, the source of his wealth and status. He holds in his hand a snuff box, an emblem of his business interests and patriotism; it bears a profile of his close friend George Washington and contains powdered tobacco, one of his most profitable exports. The painting is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Painting credit: Charles Willson Peale

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