Thomas Jefferson University

Portrait: Joseph B. Townsend


Joseph B. Townsend (1822-96) was a paradigmatic Philadelphia lawyer for more than fifty years. He was elected a trustee at Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical College) in 1878 and served as chairman of the board from 1894 until his death in 1896. 

Townsend was born in 1822 in Philadelphia, and was admitted as an attorney of the Philadelphia courts in 1842. He served as vice chancellor (1891) and then chancellor (1894) of the Law Association of Philadelphia, and was a respected authority on trusts, estates, and real estate. In addition to Jefferson Medical College, he was active in the management of Pennsylvania Hospital, and received an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a manager of the Western Savings Fund Society. He was succeeded on Jefferson’s board by his attorney sons, James P. Townsend and Charles C. Townsend. 

Joseph B. Townsend’s posthumous portrait was painted two years after his death by Emma F. Leavitt Randall. Although the artist was dependent on photographs, the attorney’s bust-length portrait is surprisingly lifelike. His ample girth, ruddy complexion, and amiable expression correspond to descriptions of the attorney as kindly, lively, affectionate, and a lover of the outdoors. The fluidly brushed strokes give an animation and energy to his face, white hair and beard, and costume. 

About the Artist

Emma Leavitt Randall (artist) was a Philadelphian who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and exhibited portraits there steadily between 1885 and 1897. In 1893, she married Dr. Burton Alexander Randall, an eminent clinical professor of diseases of the ear at the University of Pennsylvania.  

Source: Julie S. Berkowitz, Adorn the Halls: History of the Art Collection at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia: TJU, 1999.