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The Donation of Benjamin West’s
Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple

Prepared by Nicholas Campellone, Temple University

Temple University and Cultural Institutions in the Philadelphia area created an Internship for perspective teachers to work in Archives with Archivists in the field. They wanted prospective teachers to experience working in an historical institution and doing research before student teaching so we become better teachers. For this project, I was assigned to Pennsylvania Hospital to work with the Pennsylvania Hospital Curator-Lead Archivist and prepare a project for National History Day (NHD). I worked with the Benjamin West Collection and tried to relate the collection to the theme for National History Day which is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.

The collection on Benjamin West’s donation to the Pennsylvania Hospital was an intriguing collection to work with. The collection is about the process the hospital went through to acquire the donation of “Christ Healing the Sick” painting. The idea of a world renowned painter donating one of his pieces to an institution, like a hospital was revolutionary, fitting into the NHD theme for this year. I have learned a lot about the whole process and have truly come to admire Benjamin West and his donation of Christ Healing the Sick to the Pennsylvania Hospital.

Story of Benjamin West and Christ Healing the Sick


Benjamin West
Benjamin West was born on October 10, 1738 in Pennsylvania. He was a painter of historic and religious subjects. His painting of “Christ Healing the Sick” can be seen at the Pennsylvania Hospital today.

Samuel Coates
Samuel Coates, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. on Aug. 24, 1748. He was the most instrumental person in Pennsylvania Hospital receiving the Benjamin West painting of “Christ Healing the Sick.” Samuel Coates was a dedicated Manager, putting his personal attention into the hospital affairs and the administration of the institution for over forty years.

Henry Clay

John Q. Adams

James Monroe

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan for The Donation of Benjamin West’s Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple Project (PDF)



  • January 21 1801 Committee’s report on suitable places for painting
  • July 7 1801 Benjamin West Letter to Hospital about painting
  • July 8, 1801 Benjamin West to Samuel Coates discussing the dimensions of the painting and rationale for painting
  • October 29 1801Joshua Gilpin discussing proper place to exhibit the piece
  • April 15 1807 Joseph Wharton discusses direction of the hospital once piece is acquired
  • April11, 1807 Joseph Coates to Samuel Coates discusses sale of West’s first painting
  • April 29, 1811 Benjamin West to Coates explains the necessity of the painting
  • Oct 6, 1811 Gilpin Letter about West and second painting
  • March 17 1814 West to Wharton discusses separate housing for painting
  • May 10 1815 Phineas Bond to Samuel Coates discusses charitable donation of painting
  • June 25 1815 William Savery Warder discusses completion of “Christ healing the Sick”
  • Feb. 13 1816 Caleb Cresson interview West on painting
  • Feb. 26 1816 William Dillwyn to Benjamin West discusses accommodations at the hospital
  • March 10 1816 Benjamin West want picture house for painting
  • April 29 1816 West to Wharton on Pleasure of the Picture House for the piece
  • 1817 Booklet for the description of “Christ Healing the Sick”
  • June 21 1817 John Sergeant to managers about shipping of West Painting
  • July 30 1817 E.D. Williams shipping receipt for painting
  • Aug 1, 1817 West to Pennsylvania Hospital discusses his gift of his painting and exhibiting it
  • Oct. 1817 Managers asking Treasury for remission of duty on painting
  • Jan 12 1818 Sergeant to S. Coates about Remission
  • Jan 14 1818 Henry Clay, John Q Adams and James Monroe admitting West Painting duty free
  • Feb 25 1818 Copyright of description of piece by John Robinson
  • Feb9 1820 Reuben West to Coates, Benjamin West is ILL
  • May 22 1820 Robinson asks for miniature portrait of West near the Painting
  • October 28 1843 Academy of Fine Arts asks to borrow West Painting
  • Aug. 15 1950 Discussion on Grecian Front to the Picture House


For more information on National History Day, please visit the National History Day website.

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