John Denison Crocker was born in Salem, CT in 1822 and spent most of his life in Norwich, CT where he died in 1907.
At twelve, Crocker was apprenticed to a silversmith. He left that trade to work at the shop of a furniture maker and restorer. While there, he was captivated by a portrait brought to the shop for varnishing. At the age of seventeen he became determined to become a portrait painter. Sources describe that Crocker sought advice, and perhaps lessons, from the respected artist Charles Lanman of Norwich. Since Crocker moved for a short time to New York City, he would have been exposed to the painters of the Hudson River School as a further influence.
Although he started as a portrait painter, he soon turned to landscapes, where he documented his native southeastern Connecticut. He spent time in the Catskills and is known to have painted at least one New Hampshire scene titled View of New Hampshire.
In addition to painting, Crocker produced a cure-all called “Crocker’s Magical Stomach Powders” which was purported to be “a sure cure for Indigestion and all Bowel Difficulties.” In addition to his powder, Crocker was an inventor. In 1865 he was granted a patent for a new “file-cutting” machine.
Courtesy of Slater Museum, Vivian F. Zoe, Director
Smithsonian Inventory of American Paintings
Zoe, Viviam F., John Denison Crocker, Renaissance Man, The Muse, Newsletter of the Slater Memorial Museum, Fall 2005.