Skip to contentU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Home > About FHWA > The Paintings of Carl Rakeman

The Paintings of Carl Rakeman

Carl Rakeman, a native Washingtonian (D.C.) was educated at the Corcoran Art School and art academies in Dusseldorf, Munich, and Paris. His art expression was not confined to any one medium. He was an etcher and a painter in watercolors, oils, and frescoes. He also worked in the field of mural decoration.

In 1921, Mr. Rakeman joined the Department of Agriculture, which at that time housed the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) - predecessor of the present Federal Highway Administration. During his many years with BPR, he painted exhibits for the Good Roads meetings, state fairs, and expositions such as the Brazilian Exposition (1922), the Century of Progress in Chicago (1933), an Overseas Exposition in Paris, the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco (1939) and the New York World's Fair (1940). In addition, he completed the series of 109 paintings depicting historic American roads, trails, and highways.

Mr. Rakeman early in his career was singled out by E. F. Andrews, founder and first director of the Corcoran School of Art (and an established artist in the District of Columbia), as the most qualified artist to copy the White House portraits of President and Mrs. Hayes, referring to him as "a young man of great talent." It was his first commission.

Important Rakeman works can be seen in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere throughout the country, such as in the U.S. Soldiers Home (Tennessee), the Ohio State House (Columbus), and the Hayes Memorial Museum (President Rutherford B. Hayes' home), Fremont, Ohio. He is extremely well represented at the latter, having worked continually for Colonel and Mrs. Hayes, painting numerous portraits of the entire Hayes family, and also restoring fine old paintings already hanging in the former President's home.

Among his most notable works are his murals in Washington, particularly the one adjoining the Senate Committee Room on Appropriations in the Capitol. The ceiling was frescoed by Constantino Brumidi, the highly regarded Italian-American artist. However, the lunettes over the windows, doorway, and fireplace were not decorated, and this work was placed in the hands of Carl Rakeman.

In each lunette Mr. Rakeman placed the portrait of a famous American general: George Washington, Anthony Wayne, Joseph Warren, and Horatio Gates. He framed each with an oval laurel wreath. Flanking each of the portraits are flags of the Colonial period, draped over contemporary helmets and arms. It is the only design in the Capitol showing the Colonial flags.

Mr. Rakeman retired from the Bureau of Public Roads in 1952, and died at the age of 87, in 1965, at Fremont, Ohio.

Following are several of the 109 paintings depicting historic transportation made by Mr. Rakeman while employed by BPR.

"Washington Crossing the Allegheny" "Washington Crossing the Allegheny" - 1753
"The Boston Post Road" "The Boston Post Road" - 1763
"The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road" "The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road" - 1795
"Doctor and Circuit Rider" "Doctor and Circuit Rider" - 1820
"The First American Macadam Road" "The First American Macadam Road" - 1823
"The Erie Canal" "The Erie Canal" - 1825
"The Iron Horse Wins" "The Iron Horse Wins" - 1830
"Our First Iron Bridge" "Our First Iron Bridge" - 1839
"The Pony Express" "The Pony Express" - 1860
"Dudgeon's Steam Carriage" "Dudgeon's Steam Carriage" - 1866
"Rural Concrete Roads" "Rural Concrete Roads" - 1909
"The Lincoln Highway" "The Lincoln Highway" - 1913
"Railroad Crossings Bridged" "Railroad Crossings Bridged" - 1934
"A Highway Masterpiece" "A Highway Masterpiece" - 1939