Stephen Parrish was born in Philadelphia in 1846 into a devout Quaker family that tolerated his love of art. In 1867 he traveled briefly to Europe to spend time at the Paris Exposition and in the museums of London and Paris. When he returned to Philadelphia he ran a coal business and then a stationary shop, for a number of years.
Despite his lack of formal training, Parrish decided to become an artist in 1877. By 1879 he had only sold two paintings, but the “Etching Revival” had just begun in America and in the latter months of 1879, Parrish took his first etching lesson from Peter Moran. He discovered a love and a natural aptitude for the medium of etching and spent the next eleven years making etchings in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Parrish sometimes revisited earlier sketches and drawings and consequently, images of places that he had traveled to appeared throughout his career. Parrish taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was a full member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in London and the New York Etching Club.