Born in Warwickshire, England, Thomas Birch immigrated to the United States in 1794, settling in Philadelphia. His father was noted enamilist and miniaturist, William Russell Birch and the young Thomas assisted his father in this intricate work, which no doubt contributed to his technical abilities. The two worked together from 1799 to 1800 as William Birch & Son, designing engraving and publishing topographical views of Philadelphia. Thomas began painting portraits and marine subjects and soon moved to landscapes and seascapes. In 1825, Thomas Cole expressed great admiration for Birch's paintings, which he saw exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Birch employed techniques similiar to those used by the English painters, such as the use of glazes and impasto to achieve dramatic effects in his skies and water. Birch's concern for accuracy involved an initial detailed sketch, followed by brush strokes of color and then final details inscribed with the pointed end of the brush. He would add highlights of pure color for the final touches.
Birch lived and worked in Philadelphia, but also painted in New Jersey and Pointe Breeze, the Delaware River estate of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled king of Naples and Spain. In addition, Birch painted New York Harbor, Cape Henalopen, as well as the Massachusetts and Maine coastlines.