In 1787, he was apprenticed as a blacksmith and mechanic in New Milford, Connecticut. Influenced by an itinerent English engraver, he took up the craft, literally walked to Hudson, New York, and then removed to Albany where he completed his training under the Huttons, silversmiths in Albany. By age twenty-one he was in business on his own.
During his time in Albany, Fairman was employed by a number of contractors including State Surveyor General Simeon De Witt. He also produced the plates for a number of memorable historical engravings.
He is said to have married Delia (or Delight) Austin (or Wattles) in Albany in 1798. The marriage produced a number of children.
In 1800, his household (probably on Market Street included four young people, his wife and one slave. His engraving business was on the second floor. During his Albany years, Fairman honed his craft which enabled him to become one of the pre-eminent engravers of nineteenth century America.
After 1805, he left Albany for New London, Connecticut and then settled in Philadelphia where he utilized his engraving skills in a number of applications. His portrait painted by artist Thomas Sully is at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
He is said to have served in the War of 1812 as a captain and colonel.
In 1819, he sailed to England and lived there for three years. Afterwards, he returned to Philadelphia.
Called "a noted engraver," Gideon Fairman died in Philadelphia in March 1827 at the age of fifty-one. He was described as: "to the last, a man of uncommon physical powers, beauty of person, and elegance of deportment. He and the late George Murray contributed more than any other persons to elevate the beautiful art of engraving in this country."
Connecticut-born Yankee Gideon Fairman lived in Albany for less than two decades. During his time in the city, he appears to have made significant contributions to the arts which bear more investigation. However, we are unable to pursue his out-of-Albany life.
Sources: The life of Gideon Fairman is CAP biography number 8018. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.
first posted: 9/10/11