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Historical Biography

Attorney General: John Jordan Crittenden

Crittenden, John Jordan
15th Attorney General, -

Twenty-Second Attorney General 1850-1853

John Jordan Crittenden was born in Woodford County, Kentucky, on September 10, 1787. He graduated from William and Mary College in 1807, and practiced law in Woodford and Logan counties. Crittenden was attorney general of the Illinois Territory from 1809 to 1810. He served as a volunteer in the War of 1812 (1812-1813). Crittenden was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1811. In 1817 he was elected to the United States Senate and served until 1819.

He was appointed United States Attorney by President Adams in 1827, but was removed by President Jackson in 1829. Crittenden was reelected to the United States Senate in 1835. At the expiration of his term on March 5, 1841, he was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President Harrison. After Tyler became President, Crittenden resigned. He was appointed United States Senator in 1842 to complete the unexpired term of Henry Clay, who had resigned. He was reelected at the conclusion of the term, then resigned from the Senate and was elected Governor of Kentucky in 1848. On July 22, 1850, President Fillmore appointed Crittenden Attorney General of the United States. In 1854 he was again elected senator, and on the expiration of his term was elected to the House of Representatives. He died near Frankfort, Kentucky, on July 26, 1863.

About the Artist: John Mix Stanley


Stanley was a portrait and landscape painter who specialized in scenes of Indian life in the West. Born in New York, he travelled extensively throughout the West and settled in Detroit in 1834 where he took up portrait painting. After 1850 he deposited his "Indian Gallery" at the Smithsonian Institution in hopes the Federal Government would purchase it. His hopes were not realized, but he remained in Washington, D.C, for the next decade. Tragically, his collection was almost totally destroyed by fire while being exhibited at the Smithsonian in 1865.

Stanley’s portrait of Attorney General Crittenden was painted in 1856.

Updated October 24, 2022