Francis Bicknell Carpenter was born north of the village of Homer on
August 6, 1830. He received part of his education at the Academy on
the Green, which was the precursor to the present Homer Central School.
Through the support of a benefactor, Paris Barber of Homer, young
Frank Carpenter, at the age of fifteen, set up his first studio in Homer and
started doing portraits in oil of local people. The Homer School District,
since 1854, has been the proud owner of what is known as Carpenter’s
“Trustee Paintings,” some eleven portraits of members of the early
trustees and administration of the Academy first chartered by the State
of New York in 1819.
Carpenter went on to paint just about everyone who made the news in
pre-Civil War America. Four U.S. Presidents sat for him, including
Abraham Lincoln. His greatest artistic accomplishment was the nine foot
by fourteen foot oil painting on canvas entitled “The First Reading of the
Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet,” which now hangs in the
U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. This painting by “the most
important artist ever to portray Abraham Lincoln” might not have been
accepted by the government of the U.S. had it not been for behind-the-
scenes efforts of his good friend from Homer, William O. Stoddard.
Carpenter wrote a book, Six Months in the White House, which is still
cited by Lincoln scholars. By paint and print, Carpenter contributed to
America’s understanding of Lincoln, the man and the war president.
Carpenter died May 23, 1900, and is buried in the Glenwood Cemetery in
Homer that was designed by his friend and benefactor, Paris Barber.