David C. Lithgow


Historical illustrator/artist David Cunningham Lithgow is said to have been born in Sheffield, England in 1868. This minister's son then emigrated from Glasgow to New York with his sister Jesse in 1888. Two years later, he relocated to Albany, opened a studio, and married a daughter of long standing rural Albany area families. David C. Lithgow portrait, St. Andrew's Society of Albany

The prolific Lithgow lived in the region until his death in 1959.

Lithgow's work is important to the PCALHW in that his scenarios depicted important historical events critical to the early Albany story. All appear to have been based on some historical research and sensitivity. But, from my vantage point, they all require strong leaps of faith for adequate historical credibility. Our first (and principal) rationalization for using his images is that a particular piece typically offers the only known visualization of a major event in the city's history. In addition, his scenes are people-rich - a particularly appropriate recommendation for our people-first approach to the past. Also, they are handsomely colored. I enjoy them - hope you do as well!

Adaptations of a few of Lithgow's prints adorn the following webpages on this site:

The Albany Congress
Victorianizing the Past
The Anti Ratification Riot 1788

Sculptor, Painter, Muralist, Author. This offering only scratches the surface of his contribution. I believe David C. Lithgow bears much more investigation!

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of David C. Lithgow has no CAP biography number. Bios: This sketch is of a historical character who lived outside of our criteria for study and inclusion. Hence, we have not pursued his life in the same way we have approached the defined "People of Colonial Albany." This brief sketch of an important someone who came after is based on a synthesis of available sources. These include: HMGFM;

His historical murals on the ceiling of the lobby in the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building in Albany consider wide range of topics and personages (thirty-two famous New Yorkers). The accompanying narrative includes substantial information on his life.

Some of his more Albany-relevant pieces have been catalogued online by the University at Albany Archives. A simple Google search for Lithgow's images yields what I find to be an incredible (but probably not nearly comprehensive) gallery of his works. In addition, he illustrated at least one historical publication.

This un-attributedimage of Lithgow is from the St. Andrew's Society of the City of Albany website.

Copied from HMGFM: David Cunningham, son of Rev. William and Catherine (Cunningham) Lithgow, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, November 12, 1868. His preparatory education was obtained in the Glasgow public schools supplemented by a course at Glasgow Technical College. Having artistic talent and desire he became a pupil at the Haldean Academy of Art, at Glasgow, where he pursued his studies until 1887, when he went to London and enrolled as a student at Kensington School of Art under Sir Frederick Leighton. After completing his studies he came to the United States in 1888, establishing himself in New York City, where he remained until 1890. In that year he came to Albany where he opened a studio and still continues (1911) in landscape and portraiture. He is a member of the Albany Club and a charter member of the Albany Art League. In religious faith he is a Baptist. He married, February 10, 1890, at Altamont, New York, Amelia, daughter of Edward and Augusta (Crounse) Kneeholes, both old Albany county families. Child,

Recent note entitled "Unrolling the David C. Lithgow Murals"

Many long-time visitors of the State Museum remember when the museum was located in the Education Building in Albany and recall vivid, compelling murals adorning various halls and galleries.

These murals, created by artist David C. Lithgow in the 1930s, portrays the history of New York State with scenes depicting exploration, trading, charter making, and the birth of a new nation. Lithgow created these murals for the New York State Building at the 1939 World's Fair. Lithgow, a prolific artist and Albany native, is also the artist of the Museum's Iroquois Indian life groups.

One of the murals - Charter Making - shows the historic Albany Congress of 1754 at which Benjamin Franklin proposed a 'Plan of Union' for the colonies.

When the Museum moved out of the Education Building and into its current space in the Cultural Education Center in the late 1970s, the murals were removed and placed in storage for possible future use.

Last month, Museum staff unrolled these murals for a conservator to provide an assessment for possible future use. The murals are in good condition and plans are underway to prepare them for future display. "Unrolling the David C. Lithgow Murals" at the New York State Museum. (Link not available October 2018)

first opened 8/20/14; integrated posting 3/1/18