Joseph Harrison, Jr., was a Philadelphia engineer, financier and art collector. He was born to Joseph and Mary Crawford Harrison in Philadelphia, who were able to provide him with only minimal formal education. After apprenticeships with manufacturing companies, he eventually became a foreman for the firm Garrett & Eastwick, later becoming a partner with in that enterprise. In 1841 the firm built the locomotive Gowan and Marx, whose performance attracted the attention of Russian engineers researching North American railroad equipment. Harrison and his partners were invited to St. Petersburg, where Harrison, Eastwick, and Baltimore engineer Thomas Winans were subsequently contracted by the Russian government to build locomotives and freight cars. As a result, Harrison spent most of the years of 1843-1850 in Saint Petersburg. He then lived mainly in London and Paris, returning to Philadelphia in 1852. There he built a mansion on Rittenhouse Square (destroyed in the 1920s). One wing of the mansion was a gallery for Harrison's art collection, which included Gilbert Stuart's Vaughan portrait of George Washington [now NGA 1942.8.27], Benjamin West's depiction of William Penn's treaty with the Indians, and Charles Willson Peale's The Artist in his Museum [both now at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts]. Harrison also had in his collection George Catlin's American Indian Gallery, [now at the Smithsonian Institution] which he had acquired in England in 1852. Harrison was a leading figure in the Philadelphia art world. He was elected to the board of the Pennsylvania Academy in 1854, and was one of the original ten commissioners of Fairmount Park. In 1869 Harrison published a volume entitled The Iron Worker and King Solomon, which included poetry, observations on life in Russia, and an autobiography. Harrison's letter books are at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Harrison married, on 15 December 1836, Sarah Poulterer of New York, with whom he had seven children.
Wilson, James Grant, and Fiske, John, eds. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. 6 vols. New York, 1888: III: 100
Malone, Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography. 20 vols. New York, 1943: VIII: 345-346
Wainwright, Nicholas B. "Joseph Harrison, Jr., a forgotten art collector." Antiques 102 (October 1972): 660-668