JOSEPH HOLT was born in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, on 6 January 1807; was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Bardstown, and Centre College, Danville; entered into the practice of law at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, 1828; married Mary Harrison; moved to Louisville, 1832; was assistant editor of the Louisville Advertiser; was commonwealth’s attorney, 1833–1835; moved to Port Gibson, Mississippi, to practice law, 1835–1842; returned to Louisville to recuperate from tuberculosis after losing his wife to the disease; continued to practice law; married Margaret Wickliffe; moved to Washington to serve as commissioner of patents, 1857–1859; served as U.S. postmaster general, 1859–1861; served as Secretary of War, 18 January–5 March 1861; was appointed the first Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, 3 September 1862; prosecuted the John Wilkes Booth conspirators in the Lincoln assassination and was accused of suppressing evidence; issued a pamphlet, Vindication of Judge Advocate General Holt From the Foul Slanders of Traitors, Confessed Perjurers and Suborners, Acting in the Interest of Jefferson Davis, 1866; resigned as Judge Advocate General, 1875; died in Washington, D.C., on 1 August 1894.
Louis P. Spinner, a Washington artist, painted and taught in the nation’s capital during the period 1880–1914. Although substantiating records have not been found, his portrait of Secretary Holt may have been commissioned to replace one done from life by Henry Ulke (1821–1910) in 1873 for the secretarial gallery and lost at a later date. Spinner’s portrait was done about five years before Secretary Holt’s death and appears to be a composite of tinted photography and painting. Although Spinner is thought to have died sometime after 1924, detailed information about him has not come to light.
By Louis P. Spinner
Oil on canvas, 28" x 22", 1889
page created 2 March 2001
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