Thomas Cole’s Story

Beloved children’s book author and illustrator Hudson Talbott teamed up with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site to present Thomas Cole’s story online for free to children of all ages. The story introduces the 19th-century artist and founder of America’s first major art movement now known as the Hudson River School to a new generation of young readers.

Thomas Cole was an economic migrant displaced by the Industrial Revolution in England who fell in love with the American wilderness and advocated for the preservation of this nation’s landscapes.

Thomas Cole’s story is a 14-page excerpt from the print publication Picturing America: Thomas Cole And The Birth of American Art with select content exclusive to the online publication. Picturing America is published by Penguin Random House and available to order on our website.

Discover Thomas Cole’s story using the arrows below. 

The Story Behind The Story

Thomas Cole’s Story, which children and their families can flip through and enjoy together, was created to show kids that historic characters like Thomas Cole were real people with exciting stories to tell.

The idea for the project arose when Betsy Jacks, mother of two and Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, was planning a family trip to another historic site. She searched at length for a kid-friendly introduction to the place they would soon be exploring, but alas, a scouring of the internet turned up nothing.

“To make the most out of our visit to the historic site, I wanted to get my kids engaged before they even stepped in the door,” said Betsy.

Betsy took stock of the offerings at the Thomas Cole Site and turned to the internationally beloved author and illustrator, Hudson Talbott. Hudson said he would love to create an engaging introduction to Thomas Cole for the website, and then Hudson had a thought: why stop there? He took the idea to his editor at Penguin Random House and they loved the idea too! In a flash, the first children’s book on Thomas Cole was in the works.  The book, entitled “Picturing America: Thomas Cole and The Birth of American Art” and published in 2018 is the first book to bring the father of American art to young readers. Hudson and Betsy worked together to make the abbreviated digital story, available on this page for free.

The full 32-page book can be ordered in our gift shop. 

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This project was funded in part by a grant from the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.





About The Author

Hudson Talbott has written and illustrated over 25 books for young readers including the Newbury Honor Book SHOW WAY (by Jacqueline Woodson), ALA Notable Book LEONARDO’S HORSE (by Jean Fritz) and WE’RE BACK! A Dinosaur’s Story, which was adapted into an animated film by Steven Spielberg. Hudson’s book RIVER OF DREAMS – The Story of the Hudson River, was named the New York State Children’s Book of the Year in 2009. It is the companion book to PICTURING AMERICA. Hudson lives in the Hudson Valley in New York and has been a member of the board of trustees of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site since 2005. To learn more about his work please visit

About Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole is widely known as the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, America’s first major art movement, but there is so much more to the story. Most people do not know that Thomas Cole was an immigrant from a struggling family, and that he grew up in industrialized Northern England. Thomas Cole’s story shows us how Cole fell in love with the American wilderness, especially the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills, which proved to be his ultimate muse. Through his paintings and writings, Cole made an impassioned plea to value and preserve America’s natural landscapes. His message profoundly influenced our national identity and resonates deeply with us today.

Jennifer GreimThomas Cole’s Story