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MHS (Maine Historical Society)
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Part I: The Early Years

This Exhibit Contains 30 Items
1
Portrait, Ann Cascoline Merrill Staples, ca. 1835

Portrait, Ann Cascoline Merrill Staples, ca. 1835

Item 14677 info
Maine Historical Society

Middle-class families -- like the Merrills, Staples, and others -- hired artists to paint portraits that documented appearances of loved ones and demonstrated their place in society.

Ann Cascolina Merrill married Ai Staples in 1832.

They may have had this portrait painted when they achieved some success in the chandlery business.

It is attributed to William Matthew Prior.


2
Panorama, Falmouth, ca. 1786

Panorama, Falmouth, ca. 1786

Item 18696 info
Maine Historical Society

Portland Before the Revolution

In the decade before the Revolution, Falmouth Neck was an active port settlement with nearly 200 inhabitants, two churches, a subscription library, and several taverns.

It also was the center of the British mast trade, an important resource for the Royal Navy.


3
First Parish Church, Portland, ca. 1886

First Parish Church, Portland, ca. 1886

Item 18704 info
Maine Historical Society

The First Parish Church, or Old Jerusalem, was built in 1740 and stood until 1825.

This model represents the style of architecture that was common in Portland in the mid 18th century.

Although Falmouth Neck was a thriving port actively involved in trade with Europe and other North American cities, only a handful of wealthy inhabitants could afford luxury items such as painted portraits, joined furniture, or fancy textiles.

Most fine and decorative art objects were imported from Boston or England.


4
Codman and Savage's House in 1775

Codman and Savage's House in 1775

Item 18703 info
Maine Historical Society

Among the great homes of late 18th century Portland were those of Richard Savage, the controller of Customs; and Deacon Richard Codman, a leading merchant.

Savage's home was built about 1763, but its owner, a British official, was mobbed in 1771 and driven out of town.

Codman's residence was built in 1762.


5
Congress Street, Portland, 1800

Congress Street, Portland, 1800

Item 14879 info
Maine Historical Society

Shown, from left, are the Daniel Davis house, Rev. Samuel Deane house, and the First Parish Meeting House (Old Jerusalem) in Portland in 1800.

The land around the houses served as farmland, suggesting the town was not yet densely populated.


6
Silver tankard, ca. 1770

Silver tankard, ca. 1770

Item 18371 info
Maine Historical Society

During the Colonial period, John Butler was one of a small group of artisans who set up trade in Falmouth Neck.

The tankard is a rare example of his work.

Butler settled on the Neck in 1761. His home was destroyed in the bombardment of 1775 -- along with most structures on Falmouth neck. The attack did not injure many people, but did severely damage the local economy -- including Butler's business.

Butler died in Westbrook in December 1827 at age 95, having been supported by the town for several years.


7
Samuel May portrait, ca. 1780

Samuel May portrait, ca. 1780

Item 18355 info
Maine Historical Society

Gradually, after the Revolution, people returned to Falmouth and rebuilt their homes. Merchants repaired wharves and the waterfront and maritime trade again became the basis of the local economy.

With this recovery came opportunity for artisans to provide materials for the emerging elite.

The portraits of a prosperous Boston couple, Samuel May (1723-1794) and his wife, Abigail, are good examples of late Colonial-early Federal portrait painting.

Samuel May was a builder and lumber dealer.


8
Abigail May portrait, ca. 1780

Abigail May portrait, ca. 1780

Item 14668 info
Maine Historical Society

Abigail Williams May (1733-1811) of Boston had family ties to Portland.

The identity of the artist who painted the portraits of her and her husband is unknown, but the portraits probably were done in Boston.


9
A new and correct plan of Portland, 1823

A new and correct plan of Portland, 1823

Item 6893 info
Maine Historical Society

Itinerants and Mechanics

The first phase of Portland's artistic flowering began in the late 1780s and was part of a cultural pattern that spread throughout the new republic.

Itinerant artists from large urban centers as well as those newly arrived from Europe and Canada traveled between cities and towns and offered an array of artistic services -- they cut silhouettes, painted portraits, or taught penmanship and other art methods to residents of the city.

One of America's most celebrated and influential engravers, Abel Bowen (1790-1850) began his operations in Boston in 1805.

In 1822, in the hope of increasing his business, he set up shop in Portland. His business here lasted only one year, but he did some excellent work, including the new map of the town.


10
William McLellan Sr., Portland, ca.1800

William McLellan Sr., Portland, ca.1800

Item 18426 info
Maine Historical Society

Capt. William McLellan Sr. (ca. 1735-1815) was the son of an ambitious immigrant jack-of-all-trades.

During the Revolutionary War, McLellan was owner and master of the sloop Centurion, one of the ships destroyed by the British during the Penobscot expedition in 1779.

After the war, he was a leading Portland merchant.

John Brewster Jr., who painted McLellan's portrait, was the son of a Connecticut physician. Brewster, born deaf, trained as a painter and traveled the New England coast as an itinerant artist from 1796 to 1833.

He advertised in Portland in 1805, 1806, and 1821 and eventually settled in Buxton.


11
Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Store, 1882

Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Store, 1882

Item 18352 info
Maine Historical Society

Peleg Wadsworth, a noted Revolutionary War general, built his home and store on Congress Street in Portland beginning in 1785.

When he moved to Hiram in 1807, his daughter Zilpah and her husband, Stephen Longfellow, and their children, including the future poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, moved in.

The Longfellows added a third floor about 1815 and the store probably was dismantled at that time.


12
Dentist advertisement, Portland, 1789

Dentist advertisement, Portland, 1789

Item 17527 info
Maine Historical Society

Josiah Flagg rented space in the Wadsworth store and offered a curious range of services from dentistry to making hair devices.

Flagg also offered to paint miniatures, most likely on ivory.


13
Stephen Longfellow IV, Portland, ca. 1801

Stephen Longfellow IV, Portland, ca. 1801

Item 18707 info
Maine Historical Society

Stephen Longfellow (1776-1849), future father of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is known to have had a miniature painted about 1801, about the time he was betrothed to Elizabeth Wadsworth (1799-1802). She died before they were married.

The portrait almost certainly was made by the same artist who painted Elizabeth's miniature. The works have been attributed to John Roberts.


14
Elizabeth Wadsworth, Portland, 1801

Elizabeth Wadsworth, Portland, 1801

Item 7276 info
Maine Historical Society

On October 18, 1801, Elizabeth Wadsworth's sister Zilpah wrote, "Should you like to see Betsey's (Elizabeth's) miniature? I hope to have it in my power to show you a very good likeness though I can not say as yet how good it will be, for it is not finished. It is taken by Roberts."

Itinerant artist John Roberts advertised in Portland newspapers in August 1801, March 1902, and March 1803, offering to paint Masonic aprons, miniatures, and full portraits.

Portrait miniatures painted with watercolor on fine sheets of ivory served as portable rembrances and were modestly priced.

In 1803 Roberts proposed "opening a school for instructing young ladies and gentlemen in the elegant and useful art of Drawing figures, Landscapes, Fruits, Flowers. Ornaments, &c., &c. and pledges himself to use his endeavors to merit and success."

Apparently this school did not work out, for the artist went to New York, was seized with apoplexy and fell, fatally fracturing his skull.


15
Grenville Mellen, Portland, ca. 1820

Grenville Mellen, Portland, ca. 1820

Item 18708 info
Maine Historical Society

Traveling artists introduced a variety of styles, techniques, and genres and continued to do so through the Civil War.

Grenville Mellen (1799-1841) was the eldest son of Maine's Chief Justic, Prentiss Mellen.

He graduated as Harvard class poet in 1818 and briefly joined his father's law firm in Portland.

However, he preferred poetry and was soon contributing verse to local and national magazines (along with his friend Henry Longfellow).

He contracted tuberculosis and died in the New York home of former Portland bookseller Samuel Colman Sr.


16
Prentiss Mellen miniature

Prentiss Mellen miniature

Item 6887 info
Maine Historical Society

Prentiss Mellen (1764-1840) was born in Sterling, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard in 1784, and began his legal practice in the District of Maine in 1792.

A superb lawyer, he also served on the Governor's council and was elected to the U.S. Senate.

When Maine became a state, Mellen was appointed the first Chief Justice.

His son Grenville became a poet and his son Frederic a painter.


17
Francis Douglas, Portland, ca. 1815

Francis Douglas, Portland, ca. 1815

Item 18709 info
Maine Historical Society

The English-born profilist William Bache immigrated to Philadelphia about 1793 and later worked in many cities on the east coast.

From February to May 1815, he advertised from a room on Middle Street in Portland.

Silhouette makers like Bache offered an inexpensive way to capture the likeness of the sitter, while a frinely rendered portrait made by a skilled painter captured the scale and color of the subject and cost much more.

Patrons included Francis Douglas (ca. 1783-1820), editor of the Eastern Argus, one of the papers in which Bache's notices appeared, and James Deering (1766-1850), a patron of Charles Codman and other pioneering artistis.


18
John Holmes, Alfred, ca. 1823

John Holmes, Alfred, ca. 1823

Item 18710 info
Maine Historical Society

William King no doubt produced hundreds of Maine profiles, including that of noted lawyer and politician John Holmes.

Holmes was one of the political leaders of the effort to separate Maine from Massachusetts between 1815 and 1820, the year Maine became a state.


19
Mary L. Deering, Portland, ca. 1815

Mary L. Deering, Portland, ca. 1815

Item 18711 info
Maine Historical Society

Mary Louisa Deering (1805-1878) was the tenth of eleven children in her family and lived her entire life in the Deering mansion.

Her father, James Deering (1766-1850), was a leading Portland merchant and patron of artists including Charles Codman. His large estate is now the site of the University of Southern Maine.


20
William Goold, Westbrook, 1831

William Goold, Westbrook, 1831

Item 18712 info
Maine Historical Society

Most professional silhouette artists used machines to cut accurate portraits.

A few, most notably the great "Master" Hanks, used scissors alone.

Hanks came to Portland in 1828 as part of a countrywide tour.

Local worthies William Goold (1809-1890), the Rev. Asa Rand, and Chief Justice Prentiss Mellen had their likenesses cut.

For 25 cents, the public gained admittance to Hanks' "Papyrotomia or Gallery of Cuttings" in which he offered to make silhouettes of city skylines, flowers, and architectural or military subjects.


21
Maine State House in 1820

Maine State House in 1820

Item 14660 info
Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum

Anna M. Bucknam's extraordinary watercolor is important as a unique view of Congress Street during the time Portland served as the state capital.

It is a superb example of the female academy style of work and includes a precise rendering of the architectural details of city buildings.


22
Poole genealogy, Portland, 1807

Poole genealogy, Portland, 1807

Item 6401 info
Maine Historical Society

Twelve-year-old Joanna Poole probably made this needlework sampler as a student in one of Portland's female academies.

Exercises like this developed the artistic interests and abilities of young students.


23
Libby Family Register, 1830

Libby Family Register, 1830

Item 18705 info
Maine Historical Society

James Osborne (or Osborn) (ca. 1800-ca. 1840) opened a Portland studio about 1830. He probably began as a house or ornamental painter, but by 1827 was producing charming watercolors of local family groups and historical scenes.


24
Boxer and Enterprize

Boxer and Enterprize

Item 131 info
Maine Historical Society

Osborne's innocent style owes a debt to the female academy style of mourning pictures that incorporate actual and imagined elements.

This painting memorializes the September 5, 1813 battle between the U.S. Brig Enterprise and the British Brig Boxer off Monhegan Island.

The Boxer's commander, Captain Samuel Blyth, 29, was killed in the opening exchange of cannon fire. Enterprise Captain William Burrows, 28, was mortally wounded a short time later. They are buried side by side at the Eastern Cemetery in Portland.


25
Penmanship sample, John Neal, ca. 1813

Penmanship sample, John Neal, ca. 1813

Item 18353 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1808, teenager John Neal of Portland took to the road with a traveling penmanship master, William W. Rockwell.

The two had a falling out and Neal became an itinerant portrait painter.

In 1812, Rockwell was back in Portland teaching his trade while Neal was off to Baltimore and then London.

Neal kept an interest in penmanship, giving public support to writing instructor Professor Wrifford in 1836.


26
Portrait, Isaac Ilsley, 1826

Portrait, Isaac Ilsley, 1826

Item 14961 info
Maine Historical Society

New Hampshire-born Henry Cheever Pratt (1803-1880) studied with painter Samuel F. B. Morse before embarking on his career as an itinerant artist.

In 1825 and 1826 he worked in Portland where he had much success painting portraits.

The following year, Pratt opened a studio in Boston. In 1845, he accompanied the artist Thomas Cole on his painting expedition to Mount Desert.

Isaac Ilsley was collector of the Port of Portland.


27
Birthplace of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1896

Birthplace of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1896

Item 12230 info
Maine Historical Society

Charles Quincy Goodhue sketched the birthplace of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

This house was located in Portland on the corner of Fore and Hancock Streets.

At the end of the 19th century, Goodhue worked to recreate Portland as it looked before the fire of 1866.


28
Lolling chair, 1805

Lolling chair, 1805

Item 18716 info
Maine Historical Society

The Radford brothers -- Benjamin, William, and Daniel -- made fine furniture in Portland during the early 1800s and are the likely makers of this chair, one of a pair that belonged to Stephen Longfellow, father of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Longfellow family receipts document a number of pieces made by the Radfords that can be seen in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland.

Highly skilled artisans like the Radfords found patrons who were eager to furnish their Portland homes in the latest style.


29
Wallpaper, ca. 1820

Wallpaper, ca. 1820

Item 18427 info
Maine Historical Society

Wallpaper was commonly used in households beginning in the early 19th century.

Wallpaper would have been available from any number of merchants selling material "in the latest fashion" that came on ship from Boston or abroad.

This wallpaper sat on a shelf of a Portland store for more than 70 years before it was given to Maine Historical Society in 1897.


30
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1829

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ca. 1829

Item 4119 info
Maine Historical Society

By the mid 1820s, a number of ornamental, portrait, or landscape painters made their livings in Portland.

However, itinerants continued to make the city an important stop.

Thomas Badger (1792-1868) was born in South Reading, Massachusetts, and had a studio in Boston. By the 1830s, he found patronage among the faculty of Bowdoin College, prominent Portlanders like the Clapp family, and the gentry of Kennebunk.

Badger painted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), an 1825 graduate of Bowdoin who became Professor of Modern Languages there in 1829.


This Exhibit Contains 30 Items
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