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Alfred Thomas Agate (February 14, 1812, in Sparta, New Yorkmarker – January 5, 1846, Washington, D.C.marker) was a noted Americanmarker artist, painter and miniaturist.

Agate lived in New Yorkmarker from 1831-1838. He studied with his brother, Frederick Styles Agate, a portrait and historical painter. He later went on to study with Thomas Seir Cummings.

Agate was a brilliant artist, capable of drawing landscapes, portraits, and scientific illustrations. Although he was a talented and trained artist, his landscape sketches were masterful, full of minute detail. For much of his landscape drawing, in order to save time, Agate used a camera lucida, a device which projected the scene onto a piece of paper for purposes of tracing. By the late 1830s, Agate was exhibiting his work at the National Academy of Designmarker in New York, and established himself as a skilled painter in oils.

While serving as a member of the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, Agate created many artworks during his service with the expedition. He was especially good at botanical illustrations, and was the designated portrait and botanical artist of the expedition. Agate created the first known picture of Mount Shastamarker.

In 1841, Agate Passagemarker near Bainbridge Islandmarker, Washingtonmarker was named by Lt. Charles Wilkes in honor of Agate. Agate Island in Fijimarker was also named in honor of Agate.

Agate lived in Washington, D.C.marker from 1842 onward, but unfortunately Agate's health suffered severely from the expedition and he died of consumption at the age of 34.

Agate contributed more than half (173 of 342) of the sketches and paintings reproduced as lithographs illustrating the five volumes of the expedition's reports. Some of the most interesting, though all of Agate's work is considered to be of the highest order, are those of the Oregon Territorymarker, including a look into a Chinook Lodge, an Indian Burial Place, an Indian Mode of Rocking Cradle, and a picture of the tragic wreck of one of the expedition's sailing ships at the mouth of the Columbia River.

On Agate's death in 1846, the drawings passed to his widow, Elizabeth Hill Kennedy Agate, who later married Dr. William J. C. Du Hamel of Washington, D.C. In 1926, one of her daughters from this marriage, Elizabeth A. Du Hamel, sold them to the Naval Historical Foundation. The Naval Historical Foundation donated Agate's artwork to the Navy Art Collection in 1998.

Agate was held in such high regard by his peers that the distinguished botanist, Asa Gray, head of the Harvardmarker botanists who used Agate's drawings and the expedition's specimens for the botanical reports, named a new genus (and species) of violet after him, Agatea violaris.


  • Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1963.

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