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Abner Reed

Abner Reed

American artist, engraver, copper-plate printer, painter, illustrator, teacher, and author
Abner Reed
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American artist, engraver, copper-plate printer, painter, illustrator, teacher, and author
Was Painter Engraver Printer Illustrator Author
From United States of America
Type Arts Business Creativity Literature
Gender male
Birth November 1771, East Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Death 25 February 1866, Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio, USA (aged 94 years)
Peoplepill ID abner-reed
The details


Abner Reed (November 1771—February 1866) was an American engraver, copper-plate printer, painter, illustrator, teacher, and author.

Life and career

Abner Reed was born in November 1771 in East Windsor Hill, Connecticut. His education consisted of a few years in the district school learning the rudiments of reading, writing, spelling, and some arithmetic. At the age of fourteen and in his final year of school, he learned the basics of calligraphy by copying German and Old English texts onto paper. This training was very helpful in his growth as an artist.

After finishing his formal education in 1786, Reed entered into an apprenticeship with Samuel May, a local saddler and harness maker. Working for the Mays, Reed saw future possibilities for work when observing saddles with engraved plates with the maker's name brought into the shop for repairs. Inspired, he began to use his calligraphy skills to engrave his own saddle plates.

After finishing his apprenticeship in 1793, Reed moved to Lansingburgh, New York—a small river community just north of Albany. There, he became a teacher at a school and began his graphic art career by engraving illustrations on copper for area printers.

In 1797, Reed and his family moved back to East Windsor, Connecticut, where he continued to work as an artist and also taught at a school. According to a journal he kept, Reed had expanded his business to include "Painting, engraving bank notes, printing, graining chairs, lettering coffins, cartridges, boxes, engraving frontispieces and farming." He was largely engaged in the designing and engraving of bank-note plates, for which he received orders from many banks in the United States and Canada. He also executed several decorative portraits, historical, and map engravings on wood and copper plate.

Around that time, Reed was elected a deacon of the Congregational Church in East Windsor—a position he maintained for nearly fifty years.

Towards the end of 1803, Reed moved his shop to Hartford, Connecticut, which had become an important publishing and printing center by the early nineteenth century. 

Over the years, Reed trained a number of engravers at his print shop, including Asaph Willard (1786—1880), Ralph Rawdon (d. c. 1877), and William Mason (c. 1790—c. 1844).


  • Love Triumphant
  • First Step to Learning
  • Little Children's Spelling and Reading Books
  • Reed's Guide to the Art of Penmanship

Personal life

Reed was married Elizabeth Loring on April 9, 1795. They had six children, including Abner L., Arthur, Waldo, and Maria.


Reed died on February 25, 1866, in Toledo, Ohio, at the age of 94.

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