Thomas Sully’s Jonathan WIlliams

Engineers are seldom recognized for their achievements.

The Strawfoot

Though born in Boston, Jonathan Williams was very much part of Philadelphia society. He rests today in Laurel Hill Cemetery. Though born in Boston, Jonathan Williams was very much part of Philadelphia society. He rests today in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

I was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Museum yesterday. Imagine my shock when I turned a corner and came across this large portrait of Jonathan Williams. The name may not be familiar to everyone, but Colonel Williams was the engineer who modernized Governors Island’s Fort Jay and built Castle Williams. And those were just a few of his many accomplishments. I have never understood why Williams is not a better known figure in American history. He was a grand-nephew of Benjamin Franklin and a good friend of Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson appointed Williams first superintendent of West Point in 1801. Williams codified many of the Military Academy’s early practices and incorporated a curriculum strong on science and engineering. This should not be a surprise; Williams and his great-uncle shared a…

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