Friday, December 9, 2011

A ‘1% er’ brings art, and a piece from our maestro, to, of all places, Arkansas!

Dr. William Smith by Gilbert Stuart Philadelphia,1800

The heiress daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton is bringing art to Middle America by opening a new museum featuring an immense collection of American art. The 217,000-square-foot Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is located in the small town of Bentonville in northwest Arkansas, which is the headquarters of Wal-Mart. Alice Walton, the 62-year-old billionaire heiress splits her time between Bentonville and her Texas ranch.

I saw a blurb on the opening of this museum on a TV show, and all of a sudden I saw what to me seemed to be a portrait in the style of Gilbert Stuart in the background! I immediately wrote the museum, to see if I had actually seen a Stuart! I received a response:
Thank you for your interest in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Gilbert Stuart’s William Smith, ca. 1801 – 1802 is part of our permanent collection. It is located in our Colonial Gallery.

~see the Stuart portrait of Dr. William Smith's daughter and read about Dr. Smith, by clicking here.
This portrait sold recently at auction at Sotheby's; the estimate for the portrait was between 800,000 - 1,200,000 USD.

The museum sounds lovely:
"Surrounded by 120 acres of forests and gardens, Crystal Bridges offers a revitalizing environment for experiencing art and cultural events. The grounds are a place of natural and artistic beauty, equally suited for quiet reflection and exploring with family and friends.
Six pedestrian and multi-use trails wind through the campus, connecting the surrounding neighborhoods, parks, and downtown Bentonville to the Museum."
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Now those of you who live in Bentonville will be able to view a genuine Gilbert Stuart.
Thankyou, Alice.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stuart was obliged to include Samuel Meeker's hand!

In the last post I quoted from a letter written by famed academic Reverend Horace Holley to his wife; who, knowing Stuart personally as well as being familiar with his style of work, commented: "He is the best portrait painter in our country, and probably not inferior, in regard to the face, to any artist in the world. But he paints hands, limbs, and drapery badly. [He spends the force of his genius on the characteristic expression of the countenance, and cares little for the other parts of the picture.]" Holley was describing his encounter with the Monroes at the White House (1817), and all were discussing Stuart's commission for Jame's Monroe's portrait. (The President's hands were not included.)

One does not have to look far to find evidence of the truth of the Reverend’s words. Here I provide detail of Meeker’s hand. Note the rather broad stokes and unrefined treatment. Meeker holds some papers~ this certainly indicates Meeker’s wish that the portrait indicate his prominent position as a ‘merchant’. Logs, bookkeeping, manifests etc were not done ‘on the computer’, but written out by hand often in large ledger books. Thus Stuart was obliged to paint Meeker’s hand.

President Monroe's portrait just below, no hands. Meeker's first cousin and a business partner (click here) William Meeker, no hands. (W. Meeker was posted in Liverpool, and died on a sea voyage back to New Orleans in 1812.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sun-burnt cheeks? ..."The painting of Mr. Monroe then will meet your taste precisely." 1817

The Reverend Horace Holley from Boston was elected the president of Transylvania University in Kentucky in 1817. In the following years the University grew in stature and was compared to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, its grand reputation as a higher seat of learning reaching to Europe. Before ten years had passed however, Holley’s Christian persuasion, being a Unitarian, cost him his position and he resigned in March of 1827. After this, the great university declined. Holley went from Kentucky to Louisiana, where he attempted to re-organize the College of New Orleans. Late in the summer Horace and his wife Mary took passage for New York, but he contracted yellowfever, and passed away on July 31, 1827. Transylvania University existed until the Civil War, after which time it was never really revived as a University.

The minister was well connected, being friends with previous Presidents. He wrote to Mary: “Mr. Jefferson is a plain looking old gentleman, draped in a blue coat with yellow buttons, a buff jacket, a pair of snuff colored corduroy pantaloons, blue and white cotton stockings and black slippers up at the heels.” Holley’s papers include several letters from James Monroe. On his way to take up his position at the University, Mr Holley visited with the Monroes at the White House-he then wrote his wife a long letter describing the event, indicating each speaker in the conversation:

“There is a full length portrait of general Washington in the parlour, painted by Stewart. This led me to ask Mr. Monroe about the portrait of himself by Stewart. But I think I will give you the conversation as it happened...[Holley] That is a painting by Stewart I perceive. [Mrs. Monroe] Yes, and it is a very good one. [Holley] He is the best portrait painter in our country, and probably not inferior, in regard to the face, to any artist in the world. But he paints hands, limbs, and drapery badly. He spends the force of his genius on the characteristic expression of the countenance, and cares little for the other parts of the picture. [Monroe] He ought to paint nothing but the head, and should leave the rest to such artists as Copely, who was said to be the painter of collars, cuffs, and button holes. [Holley] Stewart is not ambitious of the distinction acquired in that way. His favorite expression in regard to his portraits, to show that he does as little as possible in the way of drapery, is “that picture has never been to the tailor’s” ...Have you ever received your portrait from Stewart yet? [Monroe] No Sir. It is not his habit to finish a picture and send it home. Have you ever seen it at his room? [Holley] Yes, Sir, several times. [Monroe] How far is it finished? [Holley] Nothing but the head. [Mrs. Monroe] Is it a good likeness? [Holley] A remarkably good one. It is the general opinion that it is one of the artist’s happiest efforts with his pencil. You will be pleased with it, but will observe immediately, when you see it, that your husband was sun-burnt as a traveller ought to be, and that the artist has been so long in the habit of copying faithfully what he sees that he has given this in the shading of the picture. [Mrs. Monroe] I shall not like it the less for that. I think Stewart generally makes the color of the cheeks too brilliant, especially in the portraits of men, as in that of general Washington. [Holley] The painting of Mr. Monroe then will meet your taste precisely."

Notwithstanding his fame as an American educator of distinguished ability, Holley is known for his letters to his wife.

James Monroe by Gilbert Stuart 1817

James Monroe (April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825). Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, most noted for his proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, which stated that the United States would not tolerate further European intervention in the Americas.

The letter is quoted from “Gilbert Stuart” by Barratt and Miles, p 312, it is taken from the Horace Holley Papers, letter L40, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


John Adams by Gilbert Stuart 1824 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

This later portrait of our second President of the United States John Adams (1735-1826) is known to have been painted by Stuart sometime in 1824, as his son wrote that the painting was completed during Adam’s ninetieth year. It is generally acknowledged to be fine depiction by the portrait artist despite Stuart's advancing age. Barratt/Miles write: “Since he first painted Adams in 1800, Stuart’s brushwork had softened, becoming less precise, and showing signs of a tremulous hand.” p 322 (see book info in permanent area on right) "Completion of the portrait apparently took a full year." p 322

Also according to Barratt/Miles taken from the diary of Son J.Q Adams: John Quincy Adams “called...upon Stewart the Painter, and engaged him to go out to Quincy, and there paint a Portrait of my father—More than twenty years have passed since he painted the former portrait, and time has wrought so much of change on his countenance that I wish to possess a likeness of him as he now is. Stewart started some objections, of trivial difficulties—The want of an Easel, of a room properly adapted to the light; but finally promised that he would go, and take with him his best brush...”

In the last post (scroll down), two portraits are shown, attributed to Gilbert Stuart. Stuart was so willing, and capapble, to paint an aged sea captain and his wife in steady, plentiful detail, yet had ‘trivial objections’ to painting the second president of the United States at this point in time? I think it can be easily speculated that the pair of Schermerhorn portraits are wrongly attributed to the great master. {Which would explain the low starting bid.} Did the sellers/buyers consult any experts about the attribution?

A Fighter for Our Liberty

“It was in the courtrooms of Massachusetts and on the printed page, principally in the newspapers of Boston, that Adams had distinguished himself. Years of riding the court circuit and his brilliance before the bar had brought him wide recognition and respect. And of greater consequence in recent years had been his spirited determination and eloquence in the cause of American rights and liberties.” John Adams” by David McCullough, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001

Monday, October 10, 2011

they seem authentic...Mr and Mrs Schermerhorn, for a (very) reasonable price!

Mr. and Mrs. Schermerhorn attributed to Gilbert Stuart c. 1825

Cowan's October 8 Fall Fine and Decorative Art Auction (Cincinnati) offered two Stuart portraits, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Schermerhorn. Now how is this..the estimate was only $1,000 - $2,000 and starting bid for $500.!
The Price Realized: $10,575.00. (Something is odd about the pricing here, Chinese artifacts are definitely the hot items in the auction circuit!)

The description was given:
Attributed to Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828), ca 1825, includes two unsigned portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Schermerhorn, both housed in decorative gilt and gesso frame; 32.5 x 25.5 in.

A New York sea captain, Mr. Schermerhorn became a successful merchant in the newly independent United States. Born in 1756 in the colonies, he died in 1826, shortly after this portrait was probably painted. Cornelius is shown in a three-quarter pose, seated in a mahogany Grecian chair against a swag of red drapery with blue gray sky in the background. The companion portrait of Mrs. Schermerhorn depicts her seated in a heavier gilt Grecian chair with red upholstery.

There was no other information offered on the portraits. If the portraits were done in 1825, then Mr. Schermerhorn would be 70 years old. Neither he nor his wife look to be much past 60, I am sceptical of the date given to the portraits (c. 1825). The pair are not in the Lawrence Park volumes, nor in (George) Mason. Gilbert Stuart, if in fact he completed these portraits in 1825, passed away 3 years later (1828)--and he certainly spent much time on some of the accents in these portraits, such as the shawl with the rose border. Unusual, since Gibby did not like to focus on much of anything except for the face. The hands are very well done as well. hmmmm.

I did some sleuthing on Mr. Schermerhorn and found this (courtesy Schermerhorn Genealogy and Family Chronicles):

Cornelius I. Schermerhorn lived at Schodack Landing, N. Y. He was a merchant and large land and vessel owner, several of his vessels being engaged in trade with the East Indies. In 1793 he was a Lieutenant in his father's regiment. In 1798 he was Captain of Light Infantry in Brig. Gen. Henry K. Van Rensselaer's Rensselaer Co. Brigade. 1798-1800 he was Adjutant in Col. Nicholas Staat's Rensselaer Co. Regiment. March 30, 1803, he was commissioned as Major and on March 12, 1810, as Lieutenant Colonel, and April 3, 1812, as Colonel of the 43rd Regiment, 8th Brigade, Third Division of the New York Militia under command of Brigadier-General Jacob A. Fort and Major General Henry Livingston. Colonel Schermerhorn served on the frontier with his regiment during the war of 1812.
Cornelius I. Schermerhorn held the office of assessor in Schodack in 1795, and from 1800 to 1809 was supervisor of the village. In 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811 and 1818 he was a member of the New York State Assembly, and during that service he way prominently identified with the plans for the inauguration of the Erie Canal.

A characterization from the pen of a grandson, reads as follows:
"My grandfather, Col. Cornelius I. Schermerhorn lived in the house which still stands (1905) a little north of the village of Schodack Landing and quite near the bank of the river. It is said that this house was built about 1760 with bricks brought from Holland. It is an excellent type of the better class of houses of the Dutch settlers. My grandfather in many respects resembled his father, though less domineering in character. He was silent and reserved and like his father a leader among the men with whom he was associated. Through his business ability he added materially to the property left him by his father, and at the time of his death in 1828, he owned nearly all the farms in the vicinity of the village. He had in addition large vessel interests, part of which was engaged in trade with China and the East.
His wife Elizabeth Monden, was an exceedingly bright, vivacious woman, with a highly developed religious nature. She was a descendent of Heer Johannes La Montagne, vice-director of the West Indies Co., at Fort Orange, Albany, from 1659 to 1664. The family was of Huguenot origin, emigrating from Holland about the middle of the 17th century. The name became changed to Monden, Monton, Munden."

With regard to authenticity Cowan's Auctions provides these words: Cowan's Auctions makes limited warranty concerning the authenticity of any lot for a period of 21 days following the sale. If a buyer is not satisfied that the item purchased is genuine, they may, at their expense, obtain the opinion of two mutually agreed upon recognized experts in the field of the disputed item. If these experts determine the item is not genuine, the buyer's sole remedy under the auctioneer's warranty shall be the rescission of the sale and refund of the original price paid for the item.

Also: Cowan's Auctions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for correct descriptions or defects in any lot, and makes no warranty in connection therewith.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

WHODUNNIT was it a Stuart? (Continued...) What the experts say.

It is well-known that Stuart did not sign his paintings, he felt that a portrait of his WAS the signature! I received a mail, from someone who wanted to know if I thought that the portrait of his ancestor, David Bradlee, was a Stuart. Substantial similarities, but ...

I wrote “Hi Ted, Thanks for sending me your note! My inclination is to say that it is not a Stuart.... [click for post>Determining a genuine Gilbert Stuart portrait is not always easy!] I then suggested he send the image to the three reigning experts. One is Dr. Ellen G. Miles, Curator Emerita, Department of Painting and Sculpture, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The others are Carrie Barratt Associate Director for Collections and Administration at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Dorinda Evans, author of a bio on Stuart. The process is fascinating, I think.

Ted wrote Ellen Miles:
I think I may have a Gilbert Stuart portrait of one of my ancestors. I have attached a photo. David W. Bradlee, Boston, 1765-1833. He was in the shipping business. The letter that he holds reads, “Painted at the Columbian Museum Boston”. It is not signed. David’s father, David, participated in the Boston Tea Party. How can I authenticate the portrait? Ted W

I have forwarded your inquiry to a couple of people who may have the answer; it’s definitely not by Stuart, in terms of technique and coloring. The inscription suggests it is either by Ethan Allen Greenwood, or by Edward Savage (it looks more like a Greenwood to me). You may hear directly from someone other than me! Ellen M.

Hi Ellen, Thank you for taking the time to look at the portrait. I really appreciate your input.

No problem. It’s nice to see a painting with an inscription that helps identify it! Plus, you know who the sitter is, which is very helpful! Let me know if you don’t hear anything within a week or two, okay? Thanks!

Does the inscription help since you know that Greenwood and Savage painted at the Columbian Museum in Boston?

About Savage and Greenwood, and the museum, I may have jumped too quickly! The portrait may not date from a date that is late enough for this to help with an attribution. On the museum itself, you can consult the Wikipedia entry on the Columbian Museum, which includes the following:“Daniel Bowen (ca. 1760–1856) established the Columbian Museum in Boston in 1795. Located "at the head of the mall" near the Boston Common, the museum's collection included items from Edward Savage's "New York Museum."…”..after 1807, Bowen suffered financial ruin, and withdrew from museum operations. William M. S. Doyle assumed directorship thenceforth, until 1825, when Ethan Allen Greenwood acquired the collections for his newly established New England Museum.”
Doyle was also a portrait painter.
Let’s wait to see what others say! Thanks. Ellen G. Miles (Dr.)

Carrie Barratt answered:
Dear Mr. Wight,
With apologies for the delay, I regret that I find no record in my books or files of a Stuart portrait of David W. Bradlee. The picture looks post-Stuart to me, perhaps by James Frothingham or another younger Boston artist who painted in his style. You could contact the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which has many Boston portraits by Stuart to make a comparison. Sorry not to be of more assistance.
Carrie Rebora Barratt

from Dorinda, the most pragmatic and terse of the three (in my opinion):
Thanks for the images. Unfortunately, this is not by Gilbert Stuart. It looks as though it might have been over-cleaned on the face (down to the grayish ground) and then re-painted. I can't immediately identify this hand, but, from the costume, it was painted in the early 1790s. If you can be sure the inscription is original (clean cracks, or look at it under ultraviolet light in a darkened room for repaint in the last century), perhaps you could find out more about the museum. Good luck. Dorinda Evans

Ted wrote me after all these responses:
I am mad at my ancestor for being cheap and not getting Gilbert Stuart to do his portrait...especially when his first cousins had Stuart do theirs!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 years later, Sept 11, 2011

On this day my highschool friend, visiting his daughter & family in San Jose Ca, came over the hill to spend the day with me. We went to ISB together, International School Bangkok. These pics are of Point Lobos. In this place of beauty we sat, talked, reminisced. Later we met up with my daughter for Thai dinner at the Star of Siam in Soquel. Jim served at ground-zero in the second week after the attack. He was part of a search and rescue team from Utah.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Samuel Meeker’s own ancestry (and therefore mine too!)

Samuel Meeker (detail) by Gilbert Stuart 1803 Philadelphia

Samuel Meeker could proudly point out his ancestry going back 5 generations to William Meeker (b 1620 d. 1690) ‘first associate’ of New Jersey & progenitor of all Meekers in the USA. William Meeker and sons Joseph and Benjamin were among the first eighty associates of Elizabethtown, the first English settlement in New Jersey. In the Revolution, a large number of Continental officers came from Elizabethtown. Many members of the Meeker family itself were known far and wide for their dedicated participation in this struggle for independence, and were famed for their “physical strength and moral courage.” The Pictorial Field Book of The Revolution by Benson J. Lossing Vol. 1 chap. 14 p 325 Their significant contribution to the war effort was also well known to Gen. George Washington, as Captain Meeker (Samuel’s father, for more click here) as well as Major Meeker (first cousin of Samuel’s father for more click here) are mentioned in letters during the time of the war.

A Long Line of Patriots
Long before the “Boston Tea Party”, the stage was set for the early Meeker settlers to be defiant of British authority, stemming from a lengthy and bitter contest over town rights. In 1664 a group of hardy colonists asked for, and were given permission by the newly installed British deputy governor, to buy a tract of land from the native Indians west of Staten Island. For many years afterwards, ownership of this land was the source of controversy and dispute between the ‘Associates’ who based their ownership rights on this purchase from the Indians, and the British ‘Proprietors’ who claimed the purchase to be invalid. The original purchasers, about 80 men, were named “the Elizabethtown Associates.” By 1670 the young ‘upstart’ Royal Governor P. Carteret was disregarding the claims of the Associates and even allotted land as a reward to his servant Richard Michel. The townspeople regarded his actions as unwarranted acts of usurpation. “William Meeker, Hur Tomson, Samuel Marsh, Sr., Joseph Meeker, Jeffrey Jones, Nicholas Carter, John Ogden Jr., and Luke Watson tore down Michel's fence, pulled clapboards from his house, and pigs went into Michel's property and destroyed his garden ‘full of necessary garden herbs.’ ” It was a day to be remembered in the annals of Elizabeth; a day for the inauguration of an open and determined resistance to all usurpation, and a manly defense of their vested rights.” (from History of Elizabeth, New Jersey by Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield 1868)

“During all the years the Meeker family had been a brave one that had helped make Newark history from the first Meeker settler [William Meeker], who was given the land on which the homestead stood after playing the constable in defiance of Carteret and pulling down some houses and fences of which he and the “Associates” didn’t approve. Thereby hangs a tale, for the beginnings of which one has to turn back Jersey pages to the 28th of October, 1664. There was then a tract of land lying west of Staten Island which some hardy colonists from Long Island and New Haven purchased and occupied. They were known as the “Associates” and among their number was this first Meeker of all, whom history dubs Goodman Meeker….”
(from The Meeker Family of Early New Jersey by Leroy Meeker 1973)

your ob('ient) se('rvant)...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Bingham estate is finally liquidated in 1964, heirs divide what is left; William Bingham on the front page of The New York Times!

On November 15, 1964, a picture and story of William Bingham was on the front page of The New York Times! I was alerted to this by the following sentence in “The Golden Voyage: The Life and Times of William Bingham 1752-1804” by Robert Alberts. (Scroll down for the Stuart portrait of Bingham or click here, and here for more on his wife Anne Willing Bingham and her Stuart portrait, socialite extraordinaire of the capital Philadelphia.) From the book; "On Sunday, November 15, 1964, one of the Stuart portraits of William Bingham appeared on the front page of the New York Times, with the story of his famous trust.”p.432

I am not sure why author Alberts designated the image (seen on left) as that of a portrait by Stuart! In any case, the article is a very interesting epilogue to William and Anne Willing Bingham, who were at the lofty top of the prominent political and social elite of Philadelphia during the time that this city was the capital of our nation (1790s). In one of my recent entries were the words “As glamorous as the 1790s were for Bingham, they came to a crashing end.”
A commentator wrote... It would be nice to know why it all came "crashing down." Did they have economic, health and political reversals all in the space of a couple of years? Why? Did William break a mirror or walk under a ladder or something?

The Crash

William for most of his relatively short life (died age 52) knew only success; vast riches and immense political success, all of which was gold-plated by the fortuitous choice of his wife, Anne Willing. From “These Fiery Frenchified Dames” by Susan Branson (University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia 2001); “Anne Bingham is well remembered in the various memoirs and reminiscences of Philadelphia society in the late eighteenth century. Her ability to facilitate political sociability by bringing together a wide variety of individuals at her balls, dinners, and theater parties, as well as her patronage of rising authors such as Susanna Rowson, marked her success as a true salonniere. The most remarkable thing about Bingham’s achievement is that she elevated social occasions to a new level. The combination of her well-learned lessons at home and abroad, with her presence at the center of the national political community, provided Bingham the opportunity to help create a public political space for women which had not previously existed in America.” p.140

Samuel Breck, famed memoire writer of that time, made an entry into in his diary on July 28, 1858 when he was 88 (he was a Schuylkill neighbor of Meeker)—...after recording the temps for that day, his mind returned to events of sixty years earlier, and once again to Anne Bingham. “Mrs. Bingham stood above competition in her day; nor has anyone of equal refinement in address, or social stateliness, and graceful superintendence of a splendid establishment, been produced since in any circle of our city.”

William doted on his wife. Life was the perfect picture of success until the first disaster, occuring in 1799. Maria, the second daughter, at the nubil young age of 15, eloped with the Comte de Tilly, causing a scandal that rocked society. He was handsome, experienced, an attentive French count; but poor, and more than twice her age. The parents fell into a raging swoon, kidnapping the daughter back from Tilly, and arranging for a divorce. A terrible terrible shock on all levels, for this family.
The second serious blow for William Bingham, occurring shortly after that 'devastating' event, was the removal of the federal government to Washington in the summer of 1800. The decision to not leave Philadelphia was surely difficult and heart-rending for William, but was made all the more easier by the pregnancy of Anne with her 3rd child, age 37.
The pregnancy went well, a boy was born in late December 1800.

But within months, Anne fell fatally ill. “Too soon after her confinement, against the instructions of her physician and the advice of her family and friends, Anne had gone on one of the day sleighing parties she loved so much—possibly an all-night party with a fiddler beside the coachman, warm bricks for the feet, frequent stops at taverns for hot punch and oyster stew, and travel over the snow with incredible speed and smoothness.” (from The Golden Voyage, p 411.)
It seems she caught pneumonia. Within a few weeks, she was dead, leaving William and their two daughters, and a baby son behind. It was the spring of 1801. Politics gone, beloved wife and mother gone, rocked by scandal—the family left for England. William left his infant son to the care of Thomas Willing (Anne’s brother).
In 1803 he became ill and died. It is suggested he never recovered from his wife’s death; clinical evidence indicates a stroke.

(from the article above; The New York Times Nov. 15, 1964)

The estate of a man reputed to have been the richest American when the 13 colonies won independence has been ordered liquidated.....William Bingham, a Philadelphia merchant and landowner who had been a Senator from Pennsylvania in the second United States Congres, died in 1804 while visiting Britain. His estate was held in trust. Once the estate owned 2,000,000 acres in Maine, but that was sold about the time of the Civil War.
Mr. Bingham also had extensive property holdings in New York and Pennsylvania, including huge tracts of wilderness in Potter, McKean, Elk and Tioga counties on this state’s northern border.
Some of the land was held jointly with his father-in-law, Thomas Willing, a former Mayor of Pennsylvania and an Associate Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court before and after the Revolutionary War. R. Sturgis Ingersoll, one of the trustees of the estate terminated by Judge Alfred L. Taxis Jr. of the Montgomery County Orphans Court, said today that “nobody has the faintest idea” what the estate was orginally worth.
“He owned most of the state of Maine,” he continued. “He owned all of Mount Desert Island where the Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor are located. He owned tens of thousands of acres of land in Western Pennsylvania.”
Judge Taxis said the assets-- $699,228 in principal and $138,009 in income—would be distributed in shares ranging from $25. to $55,000.
Mr. Ingersoll said the trustees disposed of the last of the real estate in July, mainly oil properties in western Pa that brought over $800,000. “The oil properties were producing less and less income,’ Mr Ingersoll said. ‘With the multiplication of beneficiaries and with the expenses of handling the estate running up, we thought it wise to sell and terminate the trust.”
Judge Taxis explained that under the terms of the trust it had no termination date and could therefore run indefinitely. He said that the rule of law against perpetuity did not apply in this instance.
Throughout the years, the income from the property or proceeds from the sale of the land was distributed to heirs, who were the beneficiaries of the trust. He said the trustees had “broad powers,” and could invest, buy or sell, being charged only with “prudent adminstration” of the estate. The estate at the time of Mr. Bingham’s death was worth much more than it was today, because much of it has been sold in the intervening years. He said that after the last land was sold, the trustees argued that there was no longer a need for a manager of the estate, and “I agreed with them,” and approved the liquidation. Mr. Bingham was born in Philadelphia in 1752. His two daughters married into the Baring banking family in England. One of his descendants was Lord Ashburton who, in 1842, negotiated the Webster-Ashburton treaty that settled the US-Canada boundary dispute.

Wealthy at age of 28.
William Bingham was an aristocratic entrepreneur who exploited his social and political connections and an intimate knowledge of the lucrative West Indian trade to become the richest man in Revolutionary American at the age of 28. He was born in 1752 of a wealthy Philadelphia family that had been prominent in England before some of its members emigrated to Pa in the early 18th century.
After his graduation from the College of Pennsylvania, the forefunner of the University of Pennsylvania, in 1768, he quickly established a reputation as a brilliant businessman and was made British Consul at St. Pierre on Martinique in 1770. Bingham’s duties were as much commercial as diplomatic and he used his position to begin amassing a fortune through private speculations in trade. The West Indies trade at the time was a tricornered business that consisted of shipping slaves from Africa to the Indies, where they were traded for sugar, shipping the sugar to New England, where it was made into rum, and then selling the rum in America, or exporting it to England, or using it to purchase more slaves in Africa.
After the Revolutionary War broke out, Bingham resigned his position as a British Consul and in 1776 became the West Indies commerical agent for the Continental Congress for four years. He continued his personal speculation in trade, however, and supplemented this by profitably investing in privateering vessels that preyed on British merchant shipping during the Revolution. Privateers were privately owned warships that obtained authorization, or letters of marque, from a government giving them the privilege of seizing enemy ships in wartime. The seized vessels and their cargoes were then sold and the profits divided amongst the government owners of the ship and the crew. The letters of marque distinguished privateering from ordinary piracy.
By 1780, when Bingham returned to Philadelphia, he was a millionaire and the wealthiest man in America.
That same year he married Anne Willing, a beautiful Philadelphia aristocrat. Miss Willing’s father was Thomas Willing, a wealthy merchant and the business partner of Robert Morris [click here for his Stuart portrait], a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the second-ranking American millionaire of the period.
Bingham and Thomas Willing became business associates and founded The Bank of North American, in 1781.
Anne Bingham also became the leading hostess in the city, at that time the country’s capital.
The Bingham mansion on Third street, with its marble stairways and liveried footmen, became an important social and political center for the Federalist party. General Washington was entertained there often and in one of his letters mentions that he had promised Anne Bingham to sit for a portrait by Gilbert Stuart. [the Lansdown portrait, click here]
The Binghams preserved the pre-Revolutionary custom of having footmen announce guests as they arrived for social occasions, however, this was said to have offended egalitarian moralists of the period.
Bingham made his purchases of more than 2 million acres of land in Maine in the late 1780s and early 90s for a reputed $250,000.00. Maine was at that time a province of the Commonwealth of Ma. Most of the first tract of approximately a million acres of timberland east of the Penobscot River was bought from the Commonwealth of Ma. The other tract of similar size along the Kennebec River was bought from General Henry Knox, President Washington’s Secretary of War.
There are no available estimates of what the land would be worth in terms of present real estate prices.
Bingham served in the United States Senate from 1795 to 1801 and was elected Senate president pro tempore in 1797.
He retired from public life in 1801 to manage his fortune. He was in Bath, England, when he died in 1804. He is buried in the parish church there.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Determining a genuine Gilbert Stuart portrait is not always easy!

It is well-known that Stuart did not sign his paintings, he felt that a portrait of his WAS the signature! I received a mail, from someone who wanted to know if I thought that the portrait of his ancestor was a Stuart.

"I think I have a Gilbert Stuart portrait of my ancestor David Bradlee. He lived in Boston and was the son of a Boston Tea Party participant. See the attached portrait and let me know what you think."

I wrote back:

"Hi Ted, Thanks for sending me your note! My inclination is to say that it is not a Stuart. However, what also helps in the determination (since Stuart didn't sign his pics) is more factual information, did any other individual in his social, familial, or business circle have their portrait done by the master that you know of? Stuart moved to Boston in 1805...can you place how old your ancestor is (do you know family lines) and does this jive with dates? I am not an expert. But looks to me like the touches that make a Stuart a Stuart are missing, could have been done in 'that prevailing style'... but in general its safer to say that it is not, than it is! Where is the portrait now? I recommend that you beef up the information on your ancestor, be able to determine the ownership through the generations, point out how your ancestor was able to afford the master. My ancestor started a bank, got the first loan of $30,000. and owned a villa, his cousin was also painted by Stuart! Its those kind of clues that can help clinch the deal, on top of the quality of the piece. Then send the photo to one of the experts on Stuart such as Miles, Barratt, and GOOD LUCK !


Monday, July 11, 2011

Insight into the designation of the word 'merchant'; "Samuel Meeker, of Philadelphia, Merch't."

From the Pennsylvania Gazette 28 Oct. 1797, (see the front page of the paper below)**Click to enlarge, and view all the interesting articles that Meeker, Deman, & Co. sold!

When Samuel Meeker’s marriage was announced in the local press, he was called a Merchant: "1792 Mar. 3 - Samuel Meeker, of Philadelphia, Merch't., to Jane daughter of Jonathan Hampton, Esq. of Elizabeth Town." Today, the word merchant would mean ‘businessman’, or ‘financier’, in fact, nothing special. But at the turn of the century, and certainly in earlier times, the term merchant was a title that signified something to be proud of, it signaled reputation. “At a remove of two centuries this may appear somewhat prosaic, but in colonial America, where most people made a living by toil, the station of the merchant was something quite rarefied. They lived by their wits, but more than that, they lived by their character: partners and investors had to rely on a merchant’s word as his bond; finanical arrangements rested on individual credit, established through a past record for fair dealing. It was presumed that these assets flowed from a scrupulous sense of personal integrity....” "Robert Morris – Financier of the American Revolution" by C. Rappleye.p25

The world of the merchant at this time, saturated with wartime uncertainties and with minimal means to achieve even a reasonable level of communication, was filled with tremendous risk; fortunes were made and lost overnight. To survive in such a world, an individual had to be smart, capable, and trustworthy; he could be counted on in difficult times. I think these qualities can be seen in Samuel Meeker's portrait.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Deciphering a portrait’s message: Elizabeth Willing Powel

Elizabeth Willing was the sister of Thomas Willing, father of Anne Willing, featured in the last two posts (click here, and here, for the posts or scroll down). Elizabeth, after a few failed romances (rumor linked her John Dickinson the celebrated author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania) settled on Samuel Powel whose grandfather was known as the “rich carpenter”—this ‘rich carpenter’ had prospered from the combination of his trade as carpenter, his investment in real estate, and a stratgic marriage to a Quakeress.

Elizabeth Willing married Samuel Powel in 1769. She lost two sons soon after birth, remained childless, and was widowed for thirty-six years.

Using intuition, common sense and scholarly research, David Maxey has written a delightful ‘who dunnit’ mystery to unlock the secrets on the origins of a portrait of Elizabeth. What do the symbols mean in the portrait, why is she dressed the way she is (no jewels, simple dress without stay), when and why was the portrait commisssioned and who painted it? What happened to it with the passage of time?

All of this is answered admirably by David Maxey in
“A Portrait of ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL 1743-1830
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 2006

To all of you, my readers, I highly recommend this delightful booklet on Elizabeth Willing Powel, and the deciphering of her Portrait. Hint: the portrait was NOT done by Gilbert Stuart.

Monday, June 20, 2011

William Bingham falls in love on a summer day... (& a merchant of Philadelphia on a different scale!)

Samuel Meeker was a banker/merchant. William Bingham was also a banker/merchant, but on a different scale than Meeker, thus this portrait (above) which is somewhat more embellished than Meeker’s. William became the richest man in America before age 40, directing his fleet of ships at sea and owning some 4,000,000 acres in Pennsylvania, New York and Maine. Within his banking activities, he wrote the by-laws and was the dominant director of the nation’s first bank, and at Alexander Hamilton’s request outlined the government’s first fiscal program. He married into England’s most powerful family of merchant-bankers, Ms Anne Willing (scroll down to the entry below for more of her story).

“How, or when, or where it happened is not known; but on one of those summer days, between drilling with the militia, and tending to his affairs as a merchant, and helping to found the bank, and settling his account with Congress, and defending himself in the Pilgrim lawsuit, William Bingham discovered Anne Willing. She had been twelve—not yet twelve— when he sailed for Martinique; now she was, or would shortly be, sixteen, and she was the most beautiful young woman in Philadelphia.” From the book “Golden Voyage, Life and Times of William Bingham 1752-1804” by Robert Alberts.

Anne Willing Bingham at 21, sketch by Gilbert Stuart


Saturday, June 4, 2011

A brief story of glittering society in the new Republic; daughter of a wealthy Philadelphian merchant, Anne [Willing] Bingham

Her grandfather was Charles Willing, a British-born merchant in Philadelphia. At the southern end of the Philadelphia waterfront, he operated a countinghouse, a warehouse, a retail store...and, even more importantly, Charles Willing maintained several ‘square-rigged frigates’ in the wharf stretching to the north for another two miles along the west bank of the Delaware. Philadelphia was at this time [c.1750] the busiest port in the colonies, and the Willing firm was fast becoming a leader in colonial trade. Charles eldest son Thomas Willing, sent to England to a private academy, returned to Philadelphia in 1750 and became a partner in the firm. “Their practice followed the contours of the British imperial economy: the firm exported Pennsylvania produce, primarily wheat, to Europe, and imported wine, manufactured goods, and immigrants—usually indentured servants from the continent, but also slaves from Africa and from British plantations in the Carribbean.” p. 13 Robert Morris, Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye, pub. Simon & Schuster NY, 2010

Charles Willing, while making rounds of the pest house, died of disease in 1754. Thomas assumed control of the business, as well as various prominent public functions—he was a justice of the peace and served twice as mayor of Philadelphia, was a member of the Continental Congress, President of the Bank of North America (the first national bank.) Willing became an ally of Alexander Hamilton (did Stuart paint his portrait? click here) in his quest to reduce the national debt through loans and a central bank. He married Anne McCall in 1763, and together they had thirteen children. Their daughter Anne Willing in 1780 married William Bingham, a business associate of Thomas Willing. “In 1776 the Continental Congress sent Bingham to French Martinique in the West Indies where he secured produce and munitions to supply the American army. He amassed great personal wealth through trade and ownership of privateers, which would keep him in litigation for most of his life. In 1780, he returned to Philadelphia and married Anne Willing, the daughter of his then former business partner. Between William's wealth and kind demeanor, and Anne's beauty and spirit for entertainment, they would become Philadelphia's (and possibly the United States') leading social couple." Anne used her wealth and personal connections to recreate salon society, described as brilliant balls, sumptuous dinners and constant receptions, which she had experienced in Paris.

"The 1790s proved to be the high-point of Bingham's public life. Philadelphia was the nation's capitol, and Bingham played host to the so-called Federalist court. He used his large, extremely elegant Philadelphia mansion to entertain the political and social elites of the new country. By reputation Bingham was the wealthiest man in America, a view reinforced in 1800 when he was assessed the highest tax of anyone in Philadelphia.... As glamorous as the 1790s were for Bingham, they came to a crashing end. After the national capitol moved to Washington, D.C., his wife Anne died in 1801. Soon after Anne's death the distraught Bingham moved to England with his son. He died at Bath, England, in 1804, possibly following a stroke. Although his moment of glory was short-lived, Bingham certainly made a huge impression on the United States in its infancy.”

Anne Willing Bingham by Gilbert Stuart 1797
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The portrait was painted at Lansdown, the Bingham's country house on the Schuylkill River, not far from Fountain Green.
For more on Anne Bingham and Lansdown click here.

The rather revealing cut of her black dress draped with the large gold pendant on a gold chain.... most likely provoked excited gossip about this portrait in the city. This opulence is balanced by indication of her intellect, the books; she belonged to a generation of women who questioned the traditional roles for females as set by society and custom.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The debt ceiling fiasco & Alexander Hamilton first Treasury Secretary

The statue of Alexander Hamilton at the Treasury entrance reminds Mr. Geithner every day of the importance of maintaining the nations's creditworthiness.

Somewhat surprisingly, Gibby did not paint Alexander Hamilton. Possibly because Alexander Hamilton worked for the Federal government, and his salary was not as sufficient as necessary for such a portrait (vs merchants in the private sector such as Meeker)? At the time of Hamilton's death, Gov. Morris organized a secret subscription fund among Hamilton's friends to help keep the family afloat.

But Hamilton's portrait was painted by John Trumbull in 1806 (two years after the duel with Aaron Burr.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A tribute to William and Kate...God Bless the Queen!

and God Bless America for the Revolution! Imagine needing to pay taxes...for the upkeep of a monarchy!

One of my favorite Stuart portraits of Washington, called the Gibbs-Channing-Avery portrait (refers to the past owners). Now residing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Painted 1795.

Stuart went to Philadelphia in 1794, expressly to paint George Washington's portrait; which he did, numerous times--- three from life, and many replicas (he painted at least one hundred versions). I doubt that he was thinking much about posterity, perhaps more about a lucrative means of settling his debts. These portraits brought him much visibility and fame. By the time Meeker had his portrait done in 1803, the President had been gone for four years, allowing this phase to slow and enabling the artist to turn to 'lesser lights'. The portraits done in these years, in Philadelphia, round-about the turn of the century, are generally acknowledged to be among his best....In the words of William Dunlap: "He left us the features of those who have achieved immortality for themselves, and made known others who would but for his art have slept in their merited obscurity." Dunlap 1834, vol 1, p.196

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Samuel Meeker, a financier in 1797 (age 34), how simple it was then...

A law passed in Congress July 1790 that established Philadelphia as the interim capital, and all government offices began to straggle over to Pennsylvania, from Manhattan. At this time Alexander Hamilton, as treasury secretary, was chieftain of the biggest government department.

William Simmons was an accountant in the War Department and clerk in the Treasury Department Auditors Office. As such, he would have been in intimate contact with Alexander Hamilton, discussing pay, finance, and accounting & performing duties such as payroll of the military, dispensing checks for which the government was obliged (ie for the construction of a military frigate), settling compensations, pensions, salaries, accounts etc. As a small example, in April of 1794, Henry Knox wrote Simmons requesting an estimate of monthly expenses so that officers could receive ‘subsistance on the first day of the month rather than the last day.’ Mr. Simmons was the chief accountant through the war of 1812.


Wilmington, Delaware, 20 Oct 1797

Wm Simmons, Esq.


Enclosed is X's draft on James McHenry Esq. at ten days eight (?) * Five hundred dollars in favor of X which I beg you to accept, and return to me by post ***

Your obed(ient) Ser(vant)

Sam(uel) Meeker

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samuel Denman (business partner of Samuel Meeker) & wife Anna Maria; and their terrible tragedy

Anna Maria [Hampton] Denman in detail

In the last entry, an advertisement for Meeker's firm “Meeker, Denman, & Co.” in the Philadelphia Gazette, October 23, 1797 was shown. Samuel Denman was Samuel Meeker’s brother-in-law. Samuel Meeker married Jane Hampton on March 3, 1792 in St. John’s Church Elizabethtown, N.J.

Recorded: 1792 Mar. 3 - Samuel Meeker, of Philadelphia, Merch't., to Jane daughter of Jonathan Hampton, Esq. of Elizabeth Town. Jane had a younger sister Anna Maria Hampton. Anna Maria married Samuel Denman (1774-1816) on December 10, 1801 by Rev. Henry Kollock, pastor of the First Presbyterian church at Elizabethtown.

Perhaps due to the divorce of Samuel’s twin sister Phebe from Alexander Cochran, Samuel’s first business partner, now Meeker dropped Cochran and joined forces with his brother-in-law Samuel Denman. So far as I know Anna Maria and Samuel Denman had two sons: tragically both died at a young age. Young Jonathan Hampton Denman died July 23 1804, age 4 months and three days, “at the Seat of Samuel Meeker Esq.” (Fountain Green.) Young William Denman passed away at age 4 years and 9 months, also at Fountain Green. This couple knew terrible tragedy, and father Samuel Denman also passed away at the young age of 42.

An eulogy to William Denman, age 4 1/2.

The vernal hope of lengthened life is crop'd

The opening blossom in the grave is dropt

Yet weep not, Parents, for his mouldering clay,

But rest your comfort on the judgment day.

For happy innocence, that knows no crime

Shall bloom eternal in the heavenly clime.

In an amazing bit of sleuthing, I found that images existed of the Denmans, preserved in miniature. You can imagine how thrilled I was, to discover images of Meeker's relatives, and to learn some of their story.

American Portrait miniatures

courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Watercolors on ivory in gilded copper case;

hair reserve 2 3/4" x 2 3/8"

artist: Edward Greene Malbone

Samuel and Anna Maria [Hampton] Denman, ca. 1801

The book "American Portrait Miniatures" is now available; by Carrie Rebora Barratt and Lori Zabar. The volume is the first complete catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of American portrait miniatures, "tiny, vivid miracles of the painter's art."

The Museum's holdings are the world's most comprehensive.

In a twist of family ancestry, my gt gt grandfather Ben Cory's grandmother was Susanna [Denman] Cory (1773-1851). Thus I have Denman blood, but not by Samuel, for remember, he gifted the portrait to his twin sister.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An advertisement for Meeker's firm in the Philadelphia Gazette, October 23, 1797: Meeker, Denman, & Co.

click on image for a larger view

Meeker, Denman, & Co
No. 22 South Front Street

Have received by the *** from Grenock, to N.
York, Cumberland, from Hull, Clothier and Sey-
mour from Liverpool, and William Penn from
Dry Goods and Hard Ware,
Which they now offer for sale on moderate terms,
for cash or the usual credit, viz.

Fine and Coarse broad-cloths
Plain and xxx cloths
Plain and printed cashmere

Colour’d and black silk handkerchiefs
Silk and cotton bandanas
An elegant assortment of callicoes
Silk, cotton

In 1797 Meeker was 34. It appears that by this time he had already been in Philadelphia, having left the Meeker family homestead in the Westfields NJ, for at least 10 years —(in 1787 he was listed as a private in the 'First Company, Second City Battalion, Colonel James Read' in Philadelphia.) Five years before (1792) Samuel’s twin sister Phebe (my direct ancestor!) had married Alexander Cochran in a prominent wedding in the “Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia”, and Meeker’s first business partner was his brother-in-law Cochran; the firm was known as Meeker Cochran & Co. Within five years the partnership was dissolved (and Phebe had divorced.) By 1797 Meeker was busily engaged in commerce with his next firm Meeker, Denman, & Co. Samuel Denman was also Samuel’s brother-in-law, through his wife. Jane [Hampton] Meeker was the sister of Anna Marie [Hampton] Denman. I have found the images of the Denmans, Samuel and Anna Marie, in miniatures at the Smithsonian, stay tuned! but today I will just show an advertisement in the Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily. [A friend found this, while researching one of his own ancestors!] The third partner in the firm seems to have been William Parsons Meeker, also painted by Stuart. This young fellow died a premature death in 1812. As he was their agent in England and was lost at sea, perhaps he was returning home over the seas and perished due in some way to the War of 1812. He was the first cousin of Samuel, their fathers were brothers.
Who better to trust, than family members!

William Parson Meeker by Gilbert Stuart, he was lost at sea in 1812
first cousin of Samuel Meeker and business partner

Friday, January 21, 2011

one of his 'finest portraits of men' & "...we cannot but regret that Stuart did not sometimes ... leave us American landscapes"

Two posts back I described a noted Philadelphian socialite considered a beauty in her time (Mrs. Samuel Blodget); today I introduce her father Dr. William Smith. Lawrence Park says of the Stuart portrait of Dr. Smith, “This is one of the finest portraits of men Stuart painted in this country.” Very fine praise by Park! I also think his description of the painting is interesting so I include it here.

From Lawrence Park:

Doctor William Smith 1727-1803

William Smith was born near Aberdeen, Scotland, and graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1747. He came to America in 1751 as a tutor in the family of Governor Martin on Long Island. In 1753 he was invited to take charge of the newly founded College and Academy of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He first went to England to take clerical orders and after his return was inducted into the office of provost, May, 1754. In 1758 he married Rebecca Moore (1733-1784), daughter of William Moore of Moore Hall, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He revisited England in 1759 and returned the same year vested with the degree of D.D. from the universities of Oxford and Aberdeen and Trinity College, Dublin. The extraordinary activity of Doctor Smith made the college a prominent institution in all the colonies. He was a most active worker in the church and in the field of science, literature and education, taking also part in the discussion of political and social questions. In 1779 he moved to Chestertown, Maryland, became rector of a parish, and in 1782 aided in founding Washington College there, of which he was chosen president. When the charter of the College of Philadelphia (made void in 1779) was restored in 1789 and during the succeeding two years, Dr. Smith was its provost.
Philadelphia, 1800. Canvas 37 x 60 inches. This is one of the finest portraits of men Stuart painted in this country. It is a large half-length, nearly twice as wide as it is high. Dr. William Smith is shown seated in a high-backed arm-chair, turned half-way to the left, with his eyes directed to the spectator. His gray hair is thin on top of his head and rather long and wavy over his ears and in back. He wears the gown of a doctor of divinity of Oxford: black, with scarlet hood and a sheer white cambric bib. His left hand rests on the arm of the chair, while his right, which holds a quill pen, rests on some sheets of paper that are lying on the large mahogany writing desk in front of him. There are also four leather-bound books, an inkwell and another quill pen. At the extreme left of the desk stands a theodolite. (This, evidently, in commemoration of Dr. Smith’s association with David Rittenhouse in the memorable observation of the transit of Venus, on June 3, 1769, at Norristown, Pennsylvania.) In the background is a large reddish-brown curtain, looped up in the left half of the picture and giving a glimpse of a most charmingly painted landscape in silvery tones, a scene at the Falls of Schuylkill, where Dr. Smith had a house. Seeing this, writes Charles Henry Hart in the Century Magazine of October, 1908, “we cannot but regret that Stuart did not sometimes turn from his portrait work to the free delineation of open-air nature, and leave us American landscapes full of atmosphere and feeling that we see he knew how to do so well, and in which he would have been no mean rival to his famous English compeers, Wilson and Gainsborough.”

Dr. William Smith by Gilbert Stuart Philadelphia,1800


Mrs. Samuel Blodget (daughter of Dr. Smith)
Philadelphia c.1798 by Gilbert Stuart
collection Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Praise from a Philadelphian! (& sources for research) & ...I am registering Samuel Meeker with the Smithsonian!

Samuel Meeker, the portrait, was most likely not discovered by Lawrence Park when he was assembling the works of Stuart, as the portrait was taken before his time to California by my late ancestors (the marriage of Carrie Martin of Rahway NJ to Lewis Cory of Fresno, Ca, see provenance). Somehow it seems Samuel belongs in Philadelphia, but, here in California he is, and here he will stay! At least I am bringing his story to light, he would be proud and happy about that! My ancestors who brought him here would be happy with my research, for they thought he was “Major Samuel Meeker” painted by Peale. To have the accurate story is a worthy aim is it not? I have been doing these postings for two years now, with various input from different people. But this particular letter sent to me by email just a few days ago...I appreciate so much! A real Philadelphian, praising my work! Thank you.

And today was special. I am sending in the forms on this portrait to the Smithsonian so that they may register Meeker in their INVENTORY OF AMERICAN PAINTINGS.
The letter now follows:


Are you the author of the blog -- I sure hope so. It's a fabulous and an amazing narrative of Philadelphia history!
I applaud your discipline and focus and strategy for exploring your family's heritage.
Who am I? I am a Philadelphian and am well-connected with many cultural heritage organizations and research centers. Indeed, I am forwarding your blog link to them, and encourage you to connect with them as well, as they have the resources and original documentation to serve your endeavor.
Many of these organizations are quickly digitizing their collections, so it might be easier to do more on-line research oforiginal material.
The next time you visit Philadelphia, try to visit these places. They are most helpful and receptive to serious scholars. Many of these research centers are FREE. The Historical Society of PA is the only one, I believe, that charges research fees. Best wishes for the New Year!

Anita Mc K.

1) John Van Horn, Director, The Library Company
2) Stephen Girard/Girard College and Estate
No doubt your ancestor had many interactions with Girard. Girard College has all of Stephen Girard's records (all of them -- in the thousands) on microfilm at Founders Hall at the College, including correspondence, diaries, bank statements, business records, etc
See "museum collections" and "archival collections" at this link below:
3) The McNeil Center at University of PA might connect you with academic scholars who have information about your ancestors.
4) Independence Seaport Museum "archives and library"
5) Philadelphia Athenaeum. This museum may have information about your ancestor's homes in Philadelphia. BTW its current exhibit "William Birch: Picturing The American Scene" runs through Jan 11, 2011.
6) The Philadelphia Historic Commission may have materials and photos of the Meeker home in today's Fairmount Park.
7) For historic photos check:
The Philadelphia Free Library Photo collection ... some of the oldest photos of Phila landmarks, homes, businesses, that your ancestor would have known. Thousands of photographs of Philadelphia dating from the late 1800s onwards from the city archives and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

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