Francis Hopkinson Smith was one of those ridiculously gifted and talented people of history, achieving fame and success through his three successive careers. He was a remarkably good engineer, he published and illustrated his own books and was a sought after painter.
Though born to an unusually gifted father, Smith would not be able to afford college tuition. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and then entered into a career as a clerk in a foundry office. He soon tired of his employer's unfair business practices and started an engineering firm with his friend James Symington. They worked together for the next thirty years, completing projects such as the Race Rock Lighthouse and the base for the Statue of Liberty.
During this time he painted as a hobby, and began making friends with the artists of the New York Tile Club. He soon illustrated several books about the group, and several more about his own travels and experiences. All of the publications were popular and he soon earned a reputation for his artwork. He began to travel, taking painting excursions to Europe, and widely exhibiting his increasingly popular works.
Finally, he began his third career which evolved from his many artistic travels. He would frequently tell stories after dinner, and was encouraged to put some of his fictional tales in print. His first book was a tremendous success, and he gave up his engineering work to pursue painting and writing full time.
Smith won many awards during his career as a painter including medals at some of the country's largest exhibitions. He was also a member of numerous organizations and clubs including the American Academy of Arts and Letters.