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David Hunter Strother (September 26, 1816 – March 8, 1888) was a successful 19th century American magazine illustrator and writer, popularly known by his pseudonym, "Porte Crayon" (French, porte-crayon: "pencil/crayon holder").


Early life

Strother was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). He studied drawing under Pietro Ancora in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniain 1829, and studied painting under Samuel F. B. Morse in New York in 1837-1838. After travels in the Midwest in 1838-1839, he embarked for Europe in the fall of 1839. Residing primarily in Italy, he returned to the United States in the spring of 1843. During the mid-1840s, under the direction of John G. Chapman, Strother learned the craft of woodcut illustration in New York. He illsutrated a variety of publications before winning fame as both the author and illustrator of a series of humorous travelogues which appeared in Harpers Monthly magazine. Commencing in 1853 and published under the Pen name "Porte Crayon," these articles included The Virginia Canaan (1853), Virginia Illustrated (1854-1855), "North Carolina Illustrated" (1957), "A Winter in the South" (1857-1858)and "A Summer in New England" (1860-1861).

Civil War

Despite his Virginia upbringing, Strother supported the Union during the Civil War. Though he hoped to remain neutral he eventually joined the Union Army and was assigned as a topographer due to his detailed knowledge of the Shenandoah Valley. During this time, Strother recorded his experiences in the war, which he would later publish in Harper's Monthly as "Personal Recollections of the War." His accounts are considered to be unique and are highly praised for their objective viewpoint. On June 12, 1864, Col. Strother was chief of staff to his cousin General David Hunter, and was involved in the shelling and burning of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He was promoted colonel of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry and involved in 30 battles, though never wounded, and was appointed a brevet brigadier general in 1865. Following the war, he was Adjutant General of the Virginia Militia and a member of the VMI Board of Visitors; in that capacity he actively promoted the reconstruction of VMI.

Gay Head (1860); Engraving by David Hunter Strother.

Postbellum career

After the war, Strother wrote articles on a wide range of subjects including politics, race relations, and Chief Sitting Bull. He also made many drawings of people he met or observed going about their daily lives. In 1879, Strother was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be the General Consul to Mexico. He served in this capacity until 1885 after which he returned to West Virginia. He died in Charles Town three years later. The New York Times published an obituary in which it is stated that his pen name Porte Crayon was a household during the summit of his career. Strother is buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Martinsburg, West Virginia.


  • Kennedy, Philip Pendleton (1853), The Blackwater Chronicle, A Narrative of an Expedition into the Land of Canaan in Randolph County, Virginia, Redfield, New York; Illustrated by David Hunter Strother.
  • Strother, David Hunter (1853), "The Virginia Canaan", Harper's Magazine, 8:18-36.
  • Strother, David Hunter (1857), Virginia Illustrated, containing "A Visit to the Virginian Canaan" and "The Adventures of Porte Crayon and his Cousins"; New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers
  • Strother, David Hunter (1872–73), "The Mountains", Harper's New Monthly Magazine, v. 44-51. A fictionalized travelogue based on actual experiences in the mountains of West Virginia.
  • Strother, David Hunter (18??), "The Old South Illustrated", edited with introduction by Cecil B. Eby, Jr, University of North Carolina Press, 1959.
  • Strother, David Hunter (1961), Virginia Yankee in the Civil War: The Diaries of David Hunter Strother; Edited by Cecil D. Eby, University of North Carolina Press.
  • Strother, David Hunter (2006), Porte Crayon's Mexico: David Hunter Strother's Diaries in the Early Porfirian Era, 1879-1885, Edited by John E. Stealey III, Kent State University Press.


  • Mount Porte Crayon, in eastern West Virginia, is named from Strother's pseudonym.
  • A noted folk painting, Meditation by the Sea (ca. 1862), is based on a Strother engraving.

See also

  • Sinks of Gandy
  • Seneca Rocks
  • Canaan Valley
  • Blackwater Falls


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  • Eby, Jr., Cecil D. (1960), "Porte Crayon": The Life of David Hunter Strother, University of North Carolina Press.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900) "Strother, David Hunter" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography New York: D. Appleton 
  • O'Donnell, Kevin E. "Book and Periodical Illustration." American History through Literature, 1820-1870. Ed. Janet Gabler-Hover and Robert Sattelmeyer. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 144-48.
  • Cuthbert, John A. and Jessie Poesch, David Hunter Strother; One of the Best Draughtsmen the Country Possesses, West Virginia University Press, 1997.
  • McElfresh, Earl B., Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers in association with the History Book Club, 1999, page 251.

External links

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