Washington Reviewing Army at Valley Forge, William T. Trego
The design of this souvenir sheet, which incorporated five, 31-cent stamps that can be removed from the sheet and used for postage, is the painting by William T. Trego, Washington Reviewing Army at Valley Forge. This is one of four souvenir sheets issued during the American Bicentennial celebration, specifically at the time of the INTERPHIL '76 international philatelic exhibition in Philadelphia, PA.
William B. T. Trego was born in Yardley, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1858, the son of the artist Jonathan Kirkbridge Trego. At the age of two William's hands and feet became nearly paralyzed, either from polio, or from a doctor administering a dose of calomel (mercurous chloride).
Trego's family moved to Detroit in 1874 where William was enrolled in the local school, but an incident where 16 year old William burned off all his hair with a gas jet made his father decide to teach William in his studio from then on. Despite his crippled hands, young William showed an aptitude for art, learning to paint with a brush jammed in his right hand while he guided it with his left.
William Trego first received public attention when he exhibited a painting titled The Charge of Custer at Winchester in 1879 at the Michigan State Fair. His depiction of George Armstrong Custer's charge at the Third Battle of Winchester was described by the Cleveland Press as "one of the best historical paintings of the kind that has ever been produced by an American artist."
Later that year, Trego used the proceeds from the sale of The Charge of Custer at Winchester to enroll himself at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied at PAFA for three years under Thomas Eakins, in courses that included instruction on aspects of the human figure, including anatomical study of the human and animal body and surgical dissection. Trego did not appreciate Eakins' rigorous, terse teaching style, and would later remark:
In an 1882 Academy exhibition, Trego won the first Toppan Prize for his work, Battery of Light Artillery en Route, and the painting was subsequently purchased for the Academy by Fairman Rogers. In 1883, Trego received what he thought was a snub from the Academy when the art jury for the Temple Competition of Historical Paintings, a competition intended to help revive historical painting by limiting entries to depictions of the American War of Independence", decided there were no paintings of sufficient quality to merit a 1st or second place, and awarded Trego 3rd place for his painting of George Washington and his troops called The March to Valley Forge. Trego sued the Academy on the grounds that if his painting was the best overall, it should receive first place (and he should get the $3,000 prize money). In 1886 he lost the case, with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling the jury was well within their rights under the contract of the exhibit to award prizes as they saw fit.