William Smith Portrait

This Augmented Reality piece uses a portrait of William Smith, originally painted by Gilbert Stuart, as a trigger image. The augmented animation draws information from archival images, maps, and narration to reveal some of the financial and fundraising connections between the University of Pennsylvania and prominent slaveholders in the Americas. Penn’s first provost, William Smith, owned at least one slave and personally engaged in fundraising efforts targeting elite southern slave owners in South Carolina

In the early 1770s, the University was in great need of funds. In 1771, Smith embarked on a fundraising trip to South Carolina. The following year, the trustees sent Dr. John Morgan (the founder of Penn’s Medical school) to the Caribbean on a fundraising trip. Morgan was explicitly instructed by the trustees to solicit donations from Jamaica’s plantation owners.

Dr. Morgan and Provost Smith received donations from almost four hundred individuals. Among them were the most prominent slave owners in the Atlantic world. This fundraising would have accounted for approximately 15% of the school’s financial worth.

Credit: Amy Juang, Kathleen Brown, Arielle Brown, Alexis Broderick Neumann, VanJessica Gladney, Laurie Allen, Paul Farber, Meaghan Moody