National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
In 1846, the newspaperman John L. O'Sullivan coined the phrase "manifest destiny" to describe America's mission to "overspread the continent allotted [to us] by Providence." A member of the U.S. Topographical Corps, the "Great Pathfinder" John C. Frémont made that destiny a reality with his many explorations of western routes to the Pacific. In 1846-47, Frémont fought to capture California from Mexico, but his insubordination led to his dismissal from service, an act that only added to his appeal as spokesman for western Americans. Personally and politically well-connected (he was the son-in-law of powerful Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton), Frémont was a senator from California and then ran for president in 1856 as the Republican Party's first candidate. He was an unsuccessful Civil War general, losing Abraham Lincoln's confidence when he issued a premature announcement emancipating Missouri's slaves.
(Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York); purchased 1972 NPG.