| Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans|
|by Edward Eggleston|
|Very simply told stories of warriors, statesmen, explorers, scientists, inventors, men and women of letters, and others. Featured are Marquette in Iowa, Penn and the Indians, Thomas Smith and the beginning of rice culture in South Carolina, Franklin and the ants, Putnam and the wolf, and dozens of other stories. Ages 7-9 |
HOW BENNY WEST LEARNED TO BE A PAINTER
 IN old times there lived in Pennsylvania a little
fellow whose name was Benjamin West. He lived in a
long stone house.
He had never seen a picture. The country was new, and
there were not many pictures in it. Benny's father was
a Friend or Quaker. The Friends of that day did not
think that pictures were useful things to make or to
 Before he was seven years old, this little boy began to
draw pictures. One day he was watching the cradle of
his sister's child. The baby smiled. Benny was so
pleased with her beauty, that he made a picture of her
in red and black ink. The picture of the baby pleased
his mother when she saw it. That was very pleasant to
Painting Baby's Portrait
He made other pictures. At school he used to draw with
a pen before he could write. He made pictures of birds
and of animals. Sometimes he would draw flowers.
He liked to draw so well, that sometimes he forgot to
do his work. His father sent him to work in the field
one day. The father went out to see how well he was
doing his work. Benny was nowhere to be found. At last
his father saw him sitting under a large poke-weed. He
was making pictures. He had squeezed the juice out of
some poke-berries. The juice of
 poke-berries is deep
red. With this the boy had made his pictures. When the
father looked at them, he was surprised. There were
portraits of every member of the family. His father
knew every picture.
Flower and Fruit of the Poke-Berry
Up to this time Benny had no paints nor any brushes.
The Indians had not all gone away from that
neighborhood. The Indians paint their faces with red
and yellow colors. These colors they make
they prepare them from the juice of some
plant. Sometimes they get them by finding red or yellow
earth. Some of the Indians can make rough pictures with
The Indians near the house of Benny's father must have
liked the boy. They showed him how to make red and
yellow colors for himself. He got some of his mother's
indigo to make blue. He now had red, yellow, and blue.
By mixing these three, the other colors that he wanted
could be made.
But he had no brush to paint with. He took some long
hairs from the cat's tail. Of these he made his
brushes. He used so many of the cat's hairs, that her
tail began to look bare. Everybody in the house began
to wonder what was the matter with pussy's tail. At
last Benny told where he got his brushes.
Making a Paint Brush
 A cousin of Benny's came from the city on a visit. He
saw some of the boy's drawings. When he went home, he
sent Benny a box of paints. With the paints were some
brushes. And there was some canvas such as pictures are
painted on. And that was not all. There were in the box
six beautiful engravings.
little painter now found himself rich. He was so
happy he could hardly sleep at all. At night he put the
box that held his treasures on a chair by his bed. As
soon as daylight came, he carried the precious box to
the garret. The garret of the long stone house was his
studio. Here he worked away all day long. He did not
go to school at all. Perhaps he forgot that there was
any school. Perhaps the little artist could not tear
himself away from his work.
But the schoolmaster missed him. He came to ask if
Benny was ill. The mother was vexed when she found that
he had stayed away from school. She went to look for
the naughty boy. After a while she found the little
truant. He was hard at work in his garret.
 She saw what he had been doing. He had not copied any
of his new engravings. He had made up a new picture
by taking one person out of one engraving, and
another out of another. He had copied these so that
they made a picture that he had thought of for himself.
His mother could not find it in her heart to punish
him. She was too much pleased with the picture he was
making. This picture was not finished. But his mother
would not let him finish it. She was afraid he would
spoil it if he did anything more on it.
The good people called Friends did not like the making
of pictures, as I said. But they thought that Benny
West had a talent that he ought to use. So he went to
Philadelphia to study his art. After a while he
sailed away to Italy to see the pictures that great
artists had painted.
At last he settled in England. The King of England was
at that time the king of this country, too. The king
liked West's pictures. West became the king's painter.
He came to be the most famous painter in England.
He liked to remember his boyish work. He liked to
remember the time when he was a little Quaker boy
making his paints of poke-juice and Indian colors.
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