John Summerfield, c. 1821-1825, Oil on panel by William Jewett
In 1821, John Summerfield, a young Methodist evangelist, arrived in New York from England to preach a gospel of salvation. A religious revival was stirring in the United States, and Summerfield found a receptive audience. In Washington the crowds that came to hear him were so great that he was forced to move outside and preach on the steps of the Capitol. “When he becomes animated,” a newspaper account reported, “he appears as if the very breathings of the Spirit were on him and his countenance is lighted with a fire bright and holy.”
Summerfield was painted by his fellow Methodist William Jewett before “disease marred his youthful beauty.” He died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-seven, a month after he helped found the American Tract Society, established to carry the gospel across the expanding country.