In 1858, Irish-American entrepreneur Alexander Turney Stewart originally commissioned a modest-sized painting (measuring a mere 35 3/4 x 59 in.) entitled, The Genius of America, from French painter Aldophe Yvon. Stewart requested that Yvon execute a significantly larger version of the same painting c. 1870, for which he reportedly paid $100,000.

When the mural was completed, the 29.5 feet x 18 feet, 600-pound canvas would not fit in Stewart’s New York City mansion. It wasn't until 1876 that the painting was properly displayed when it was hung in an ornate, one and one-half foot-wide gold frame in the grand ballroom of Stewart's Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York.

When the famous hotel was demolished in 1952, The Genius of America was given to the New York State Education Department by Siegel Brothers, the contractors who razed the building. In the spring of 1953, the mural was restored and installed in its current location at the rear of the stage of Chancellors Hall in the State Education Building.

The original, smaller version of The Genius of America was auctioned off in 1887 as part of Stewart's estate, and ultimately gifted to the St. Louis Art Museum where it currently resides.

Alexander Turney Stewart

Grand Union Hotel

Grand Union Hotel Ballroom
View photographs of The Genius of America as it was originally displayed in the Ballroom of the Grand Union Hotel