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By Dawn’s Early Light Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War

on display in the Princeton University Art Museum

By Dawn’s Early Light showcases a rich variety of Jewish voices and imagery from the first decades of the American Republic. Among the more than 170 objects displayed are some of the earliest novels, poems, religious works, paintings, photographs, newspapers and scientific treatises produced by Jews in the United States.

Based on gifts and loans to the Princeton University Library by Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953, the exhibition also features loans from nearly two dozen museums, synagogues and private collections around the country. Together, they provide a window into an era of cultural vitality and change, illuminating the extraordinary creativity of American Jews in the new republic and the birth of American Jewish culture.

In response to the challenges of liberty, Jewish men and women adapted American intellectual and artistic idioms to express themselves in new ways for diverse patrons and audiences. Many Jews who achieved renown in this age of experimentation wrote, published and painted for the broader American public. Others turned to the written word to reach the nation’s growing—and widely dispersed—Jewish population.

Chief organizing curator for the exhibition is Professor Adam D. Mendelsohn, Director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; Co-curator is Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library in Charleston, South Carolina, and Director of the College’s Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture.

By Dawn's Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War has been organized by the Princeton University Library. The exhibition has been made possible by gifts from Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953.

A wide variety of images are available on request. For more information, contact Erin Firestone, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the Princeton University Art Museum at 609.258.3767 or

Selections of American Judaica are also on display in the lobby of Firestone Library as a compliment to the By Dawn's Early Light exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum.


A 352-page catalogue, with 13 scholarly essays and 75 full-color illustrations, accompanies By Dawn’s Early Light and will be available for purchase at the Art Museum Store.

Updated information regarding the paintings of Carvalho

Since the closing of the exhibition, curator Dale Rosengarten has discovered new findings about the paintings of Carvalho.  Link to her document 'Crediting Carvalho.'