Mystery Item #1

This entry marks the beginning of a new series of posts on the Filson blog: the Mystery Item.  From time to time, a Filson staff member will choose an item from the society’s collections and challenge the blog readers to identify the item.  The first person to give the correct answer will win an item from the Filson’s bookstore.  Today, Sarah-Jane Poindexter, Assistant Curator of Special Collections, presents a portrait of a famous Kentuckian.

wilkinson, james by jw jarvis

Who is this mysterious individual?

Clue #1:  He was a U.S. soldier and statesman that once held the title of Senior Officer of the United State Army.

Clue#2: After his death in 1825, it was discovered that this mystery person was a paid secret agent for Spain and had sworn alliegence to the country's King.

Please submit your guess in the comments field below.  If the mystery item is not correctly identified, the answer will be posted one week from today.

Aaron Rosenblum

Aaron Rosenblum is an Associate Curator of Special Collections at The Filson Historical Society.

4 comments on “Mystery Item #1

  1. Mary R. Davy

    James Wilkinson

  2. Will

    Is it James Wilkinson?

  3. Krissy Higgins

    James Wilkinson by J.W. Jarvis

  4. admin

    Congratulations Mary!
    You correctly guessed the subject of the mystery portrait: General James Wilkinson. Please email your address to and we will mail you a prize from The Filson bookstore.

    James Wilkinson (1757-1825) was a career military officer, businessman, entrepreneur, schemer, and one of the great rascals in American history. A native of Maryland, he studied medicine in Philadelphia and served as an officer in the Revolution. He schemed against George Washington as a member of the Conway Cabal but escaped punishment. Wilkinson moved to Kentucky in 1783, quickly became one of its leaders, and continued his scheming; not only was he on the payroll of Spain (known as “Agent #13”), but he also was involved in the Burr Conspiracy. He continued in positions of prominence in the army and government until he retired in 1814, one step ahead of a much-deserved court–martial.

    — from “Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark”, by Jim Holmberg


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