The First 300

The Peaceable Kingdom

Edward Hicks, whose painting (c. 1828-30) appears on the cover, is known today as one of America’s most recognized folk painters.

man dressed in frock coat with brush and palette in his hands looking at the viewer
Thomas Hicks, Portrait of Edward Hicks (c. 1850), James A. Michener Art Museum. Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

A devout Quaker, Hicks admired William Penn’s “holy experiment” that resulted in the the establishment of religious freedom and self-government in the colony of Pennsylvania. It seemed to be a fulfillment of Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy: “The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Hicks became fascinated with the Peaceable Kingdom theme and painted over sixty with that subject matter (many given as gifts to friends). Like other folk artists, he used popular prints and engravings as source material (like Benjamin West’s great historical canvas Penn’s Treaty with the Indians).

A child, arm around a lion, surrounded by predator and domesticated farm animals points to a scene of Penn's treaty with the Indians by the river
Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (c. 1828-30), The Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

And furthermore, William Penn and George Washington were Hicks’ great heroes. Hicks combined the Biblical menagerie from Isaiah with a scene of Penn purchasing Pennsylvania from the Lenape Indians. Penn’s dealings with the Indians were unique in the sorry history of relations between the white man and native Americans. As a Quaker, he admired Penn’s treaty; the only one between Christians and Indians that was never broken. Born in 1780 (in Bucks County) into an affluent family, his grandfather’s wealth was wiped out by the American Revolution. Following his mother’s early death, Hicks was raised by an upright and dignified Quaker family named Twining. At age 13, Edward was apprenticed to coach-makers where he was trained to paint both coaches and houses. His expertise at lettering trade and tavern signs can be seen on the four rhymed borders. Hicks combined the Biblical menagerie with a scene of Penn purchasing Pennsylvania from the Lenape Indians. The landscape is probably inspired by the Neshaminy Creek near his home in Newtown (though the actual treaty site was on the banks of the Delaware). A respected minister in the Society of Friends, Edward Hicks was also known through his preaching and his published sermons. The artist saw the civil and religious liberties agreed to between the Lenape and the early English and Welsh colonists as a practical realization of the peaceable kingdom on earth. When Hicks died in 1849, all his personal property, including unfinished paintings, totaled $67.