New Hampshire Engraved Printing Plate “John Langdon” First President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate
c. 1840-80 (Mid-19th Century), Engraved Steel Printing Plate, Portrait of “John Langdon,” Signer of the United States Constitution, the town of Langdon, New Hampshire is named after him, Engraved After the painting by James Sharples, Sr., Choice Extremely Fine.
John Langdon (1741-1819) from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was an early Patriot of the American Revolutionary War and served in the First Continental Congress from 1775 to 1776 and Signed the United States Constitution. He served as the First President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate on April 6, 1789 under President George Washington. Langdon became Governor of New Hampshire and turned down a nomination for Vice Presidential Candidate in 1812. He later retired until his death in 1819 (see much more on our website). This historic, original Printing Plate is certainly one-of-a-kind measuring 7" x 10" in polished Steel that remains in near mint condition it is still perfectly able to use for printing additional images, even today. The engraving itself appears to be After a Pastel, attributed to James Sharples, Sr. (c. 1795), currently in the collection of the Independence National Historical Park. This Steel Plate is etched in mirror image for printing, with his name in facsimile below the central oval portrait image. It is amazing that this rare plate has survived, instead of being melted down & recycled. A remarkable, superb quality original Printing Plate portrait of this historic American patriot and Signer of the United States Constitution.
John Langdon’s father was a prosperous farmer and local politician, whose family had emigrated to America before 1660 from Sheviock, Caradon, Cornwall, and was among the first to settle near the mouth of Piscataqua River, a settlement which became Portsmouth, one of New England's major seaports. Langdon attended the local grammar school, run by a veteran of the 1745 siege against the French at Fortress Louisbourg in Canada.
After finishing his primary education, Langdon served an apprenticeship as a clerk. He and his older brother, Woodbury Langdon, rejected the opportunity to join in their father's successful agricultural pursuits, and went to sea instead, apprenticed themselves to local naval merchants.
By age 22, Langdon was captain of a cargo ship called the Andromache, sailing to the West Indies. Four years later he owned his first merchantman, and would continue over time to acquire a small fleet of vessels, engaged in the triangular trade between Portsmouth, the Caribbean, and London. His older brother was even more successful in international trade, and by 1770 both young men were among Portsmouth's wealthiest citizens.
British control of the shipping industries greatly hurt Langdon's business, motivating him to become a vigorous and prominent supporter of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s. He served on the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence and a nonimportation committee, and also attended various patriot assemblies. In 1774, he participated in the seizure and confiscation of British munitions from Fort William and Mary.
Langdon served as a member of the First Continental Congress from 1775 to 1776. He resigned in June 1776 to become agent for the Continental forces against the British and superintended the construction of several warships including the Raleigh, the America, and the Ranger, which was captained by John Paul Jones. In 1777, he equipped an expedition against the British, participating in the Battle of Bennington and commanding Langdon's Company of Light Horse Volunteers at Saratoga and in Rhode Island. War ended in 1783.
In 1784, he built at Portsmouth the mansion known as the Governor John Langdon House. Langdon was elected to two terms as President of New Hampshire, 1785–86 and 1788-89. He was again a member of the Continental Congress in 1787 and became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, serving as a member of the New Hampshire delegation. Langdon was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from March 4, 1789, to March 4, 1801. He was elected the first President pro tempore of the Senate on April 6, 1789, and also served as President pro tempore during the Second Congress.
During the 1787 Constitutional debates in Philadelphia, Langdon spoke out against James Madison's proposed "negative" on State laws simply because he felt that should the Senate be granted this power and not the House of Representatives, it would "hurt the feelings" of House members.
Langdon later served as a member of the New Hampshire Legislature (1801–05), with the last two terms as speaker; he served as governor from 1805–12, with the exception of 1809-10. Langdon declined the nomination to be a candidate for vice president with President Madison in 1812, and later retired. He died in his hometown of Portsmouth in 1819, and was interred at the Langdon Tomb in the North Cemetery.
The town of Langdon, New Hampshire is named after him, as well as Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin, a town with several streets named after founding fathers.
It has been written that the history of New Hampshire from the beginning of the Revolutionary War until the beginning of the nineteenth century was little more than the history of John Langdon. While that is an overstatement, few other men were as influential in both state and national politics as was Langdon. On December 14, 1774, he became one of the first prominent Americans to risk hanging when he led the raid on Fort William and Mary. From that day until 1812 when he retired from public life, Langdon remained a dominant political figure.