Russell Smith painted in a style reminiscent of the Hudson River School. As a child, he was brought from Scotland by his parents, who settled in Pittsburgh. He began his career painting commercial signs and backgrounds for theatrical productions. In his early 20s, he moved to Philadelphia, where he married a painter and raised two children who also became painters.
Pennypack Creek passes through the northeast section of Philadelphia before emptying into the Delaware River. It draws its name from the Lenape word pënëpèkw, meaning “downward-flowing water” or “deep, dead water; water without much current.” With the advent of steam power, the mills that operated along its banks closed, and much of the land around it was acquired by the city for parkland.