Restoration vs. Conservation

“There are two ways for a painting to perish, the one is for it to be restored, the other is for it not to be restored.”
—Étienne Gilson
“Restoration is a necessary evil.”
—Max Friedländer

Restoration vs. Conservation is a frequent topic in conversations with clients about their heirloom portraits. This article by George Bisacca,Conservator Emeritus at The Metropolitan Museum of Art brilliantly explains the difference — and the concerns.

The transformation of Lilian de Peyster Post Pulford through conservation:

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2019
All Rights Reserved



Posted in Professional Art Research | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stories Behind the Portraits: The Dunnicas

Discovering History through Art

Historians usually add a painting as an illustration. Fine Art Investigations uses portraits as an entry point to history.  An example is the stories behind the recently re-discovered portraits of the Dunnicas.

The first part of their biography briefly described American expansion in the west after the War of 1812. Back when the Western frontier was central Missouri and the basic mode of transportation was a keel boat. The story resumes after William Franklin Dunnica  established a successful merchandising company beside the Missouri River in Chariton / Glasgow, Missouri, married, and built a large home on a hilltop above the town.

First Years of Marriage

William Franklin Dunnica was a 30-year-old merchant in Glasgow, Chariton County, Missouri, in 1837 when George Caleb Bingham painted the recently re-discovered portraits of him and his  17-year-old wife, Martha Jane Shackelford.  A year later, the Missouri militia called Dunnica and other residents of Chariton to neighboring Carroll County.

In Carroll County, long term residents and newly settled Mormons were ready to battle.  Among the officers were Dunnica and Judge James Earickson. Rather than shed blood, both men urged compromise. Earickson negotiated a peaceful retreat for the Mormons, who re-located to Caldwell County. [i]

As her husband forestalled war, Martha Jane Dunnica was at home with their newborn first child, Jane Eliza (1838-1858).  As was customary at the time, Martha Jane gave birth to a child about every year and a half: Ann Meyrick (1841–1863), Mary Louisa (1843–1930), Thomas Shackelford (1845–after 1880), Theodore (1847–1851), Locke (1851–1852), and Sydney (1855–after 1880).

Business and Civic Leader

William Dunnica operated his mercantile company in Glasgow for more than twenty years, partnering with various other businessmen. Simultaneously, he found foreign markets for tobacco locally grown by William Daniel Swinney and others.  He also clarified titles for landowners. Among his clients was Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay.[ii]

Methodist Church

When the Methodist church was organized at Glasgow on December 28, 1844, the trustees included William Dunnica and William Swinney. Nationally, the issue of slavery had split the Methodist church into two branches, the northern and the southern. Less than six months after the founding of Glasgow’s First Methodist Church, trustees had to decide which division to join. Dunnica, like the majority of Missourians, who if not southern-born, had southern roots, owned slaves. His numbered 10, and ranged in age from 1 to 50, and lived in three slave houses, which indicated decent living situations in family groups. With the rest of the trustees, he voted for membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church South.”[iii]

From April 1849 until December 1852, William Dunnica held the position of postmaster, a prestigious federal appointment at the time. In 1858, after Glasgow citizens organized a branch of the Exchange Bank of St. Louis with Dunnica as its leader. In the midst of William’s successes, Martha Jane died in childbirth on August 31, 1858. Their seventh child died with her.

Second Wife

Almost two years after Martha Jane’s death, on June 30, 1860, William married Leona Hardeman Cordell (1823-1905) in St. Louis, Missouri. Their marriage brought together two successful families. Leona was the daughter of John Hardeman (1776-1829) a merchant, trader and businessman who was also a famed amateur botanist. Her first husband, Richard Lewis Cordell, had abandoned her and their two children. Her marriage to Dunnica would last until his death in 1896 – a total of 36 years. They had three daughters. [iv]

In 1863, with J. S. Thomson, Dunnica purchased Glasgow’s Exchange Bank. The town’s other bank was owned by W. D. Swinney and the Birch family. [v]

Civil War

The Battle of Glasgow

In the autumn of 1864, Union forces led by Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., occupied Glasgow.  Confederate General Sterling Price ordered an attack on the town. Expecting a confrontation, Colonel Harding ordered his men to dig rifle pits on one of the highest points in town — about 225 yards away from the Dunnica home, Dunhaven.[vi]

Photograph by J. Y. Miller

General Joseph. O. Shelby was in overall command of Confederate forces during the battle. Joining him was Brigadier General John Bullock Clark from nearby Fayette, Missouri. On October 15, 1864, the Battle of Glasgow began.[vi]

On the day of the battle, Shelby first directed his fire against the steamer Western Wind, a barracks for Union soldiers. The ship, lying at the wharf, was soon disabled and abandoned. A Confederate battalion took control of Dunhaven. Shelby turned his guns on the City Hall that Union forces used as a commissary depot. Before 10:00 am, all the garrison defending the town was compelled to take to their rifle pits. The house had ten openings fronting the pits. As rebels fired out, sharpshooters in the pits fired over 300 bullets into the house. The Confederates were closing in on the rifle pits when the City Hall was set on fire. A strong wind blowing from the northwest spread the fire. Twelve or fifteen houses burned to the ground. With over 50 casualties on each side, Harding surrendered to Clark at one in the afternoon. [vii]

After the Battle

Bloody Bill Anderson

William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson

The victors disarmed and paroled 27 Union officers, including Harding. The defeated men knew that the month before, only 50 miles away, Bloody Bill Anderson’s gang had murdered 23 unarmed Union soldiers on a train stopped at the station in  Centralia, Missouri. Congressman James Sidney Rollins, George Caleb Bingham’s good friend, had been on the same train and barely escaped. Fearing that if they remained at Glasgow without weapons, they would meet the same fate, the prisoners requested an escort to the federal camp in Boonville.[viii]

Lieutenant James W. Graves

Confederate Lieutenant James W. Graves  commanded the escort of some 70 men from Company H, 3rd Missouri Mounted Infantry. Waiting at a fork in the road were Bloody Bill Anderson and some 100 of his guerrillas, dressed in the blue uniforms of fallen federal forces. When four of Anderson’s men rode ahead and demanded the parolees, Graves was not fooled by their disguise. He is reported to have said, “Tell Bill Anderson that his damnable proposal is too infamous for me to consider for an instant. We are Confederate soldiers, and he and his men are murderers and thieves.” [ix]

The lieutenant gave the Union officers the option to flee on their own, but the men chose to remain with the rebel Army. Graves re-armed them. Waving a flag with stars and bars and a flag with stars and stripes, the soldiers from both sides prepared to fight Anderson and his men. But like most bullies, when confronted courage, the guerrillas retreated. [x]

The next day, the escort met a federal patrol and safely returned the parolees to the Union Army. In his report of the battle, Colonel Harding wrote, “I desire particularly to acknowledge the assiduous care which Lieutenant Graves of the Third (rebel) Missouri Volunteers, commanding our escort, bestowed upon us and the good behaviour of his men. Had they been our own troops we could not have been better treated.” After the war, the former officers honored Graves with a medal.  [xi]

William Quantrill

While Bloody Bill Anderson was on the outskirts of town, William Quantrill was in Glasgow itself. The year before Quantrill and his Raiders had murdered 200 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas, before setting fire to the abolitionist town. In Glasgow, Quantrill claimed to have been the first man to reach the rifle pits after the surrender. Either Shelby or Clark told him he was not aware of Quantrill’s presence at any time during the engagement but only saw him afterwards.  [xii]

On the second evening after the battle,  Quantrill commanded two of his men to go to Dunhaven and bring William Dunnica to his bank. There, Quantrill coerced Dunnica to unlock the bank vault and safe. The raiders left with $21,000. What they didn’t know was that the day before, Dunnica had buried $32,000.[xiii]

Dunnica Saves His Friend

The next week some of that buried money rescued Dunnica’s friend, tobacco farmer Benjamin Lewis. Lewis supported the Union and had offered a $6,000 reward for Bloody Bill Anderson. Riding into the devastated town of Glasgow, Anderson broke into Lewis’ home and ordered him to give him the $6,000. Lewis did not have the amount on hand. Anderson beat and tortured him, swearing that he would not stop until he had the full $6,000, whether from Lewis himself or from his family and friends. Dunnica came with the rest of the money and Anderson released the badly injured Lewis. Two years later Lewis died from those injuries, but without Dunnica’s foresight and help, he would have died that day. [xiv]

Last Years

William and Leona Dunnica repaired their home and replaced their bullet-ridden furniture. Under the clapboard of the house, the bullet holes can still be seen. The Thomson & Dunnica Bank survived the war and continued until 1877 when it merged with Howard County Bank. Dunnica again led the financial institution until he retired in 1881 at the age of 74.

In 1883 a biographer wrote, “Mr. D. has been an enterprising and public-spirited citizen and has contributed very materially to the general prosperity of Glasgow and surrounding country. He has never sought or desired office, although he has several times been induced to accept minor official positions that did not interfere with his business. His desire has been, so far as public affairs are concerned, to make himself a useful factor in the material development of the county with which he is identified. The biographer admonished his readers that the life of W. F. Dunnica proved that “intelligent industry and frugality, united with upright conduct, cannot fail to bring abundant success.”[xv]

William Franklin Dunnica lived to the age of 88. He died on April 28, 1896. Leona died in Glasgow nine years later on February 28, 1905. They are both buried in Glasgow’s Washington Cemetery beside Dunnica’s first wife, Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica.

With the re-discovery of the companion portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and Martha Jane Shackelford, we now have another example of Bingham’s artistry. We also have a window into the past that brings history to life through the details of the sitters’ lives.


(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2019
All Rights Reserved


[i] O. P. Williams, History of Chariton and Howard Counties, Missouri (National Historical Company. 1883), 54-56; Background information from Stephen C. LeSueur, “Missouri’s Failed Compromise: The Creation of Caldwell County for the Mormons.” Journal of Mormon History 31, no. 2 (2005): 113-44., accessed February 2019.

[ii] O. P. Williams. & Co., History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Missouri (National Historical Company. 1883),437; Available documentation does not clarify whether Dunnica was the official or unofficial registrar for land titles; The Papers of Henry Clay: The Whig Leader, January 1, 1837-December 31, 1843 (University Press of Kentucky, 2015), 453.

[iii] Williams, History of Chariton and Howard Counties, Missouri, 354.

[iv] William E. Foley, “Hardeman, John,” in Lawrence O. Christensen, William E. Foley, Gary Kremer, and Kenneth H. Winn, eds., Dictionary of Missouri Biography (University of Missouri Press, 1999), 370-371. George Caleb Bingham portrayed Leona’s brother, John Locke Hardeman, circa 1855, which is owned by the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia,, accessed January 2019.

[v] Ibid., 234, 211; United States Census Bureau, Eighth Census of the United States: Slave Schedules, “W. F. Dunnica,” Chariton-Glasgow, Howard, Missouri, August, 1860, column 2, lines 3-13.

[vi] Williams, History of Chariton and Howard Counties, Missouri, 288; J. Y. Miller added specific leadership details.

[vii] Williams., 288-289

[viii] Ibid. Daniel N. Rolph, My Brother’s Keeper (Stackpole Books, 2002) referenced in J. Y. Miller, “LT James W. Graves – A Story of Courage and Honor,” Battle of Glasgow History, Lewis Library, Glasgow, Missouri,, accessed January 2019.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Williams, 289.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] J. Y. Miller, Battle of Glasgow History, Lewis Library, Glasgow, Missouri,, accessed January 2019; email correspondence with J. Y. Miller, January 28, 2019.

[xv] Ibid.

Posted in Professional Art Research, Stories Behind George Caleb Bingham Portraits | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 3

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 3

The Correction


This is the third of four blogs about the re-discovered George Caleb Bingham portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica.

The work of E. Maurice Bloch (1925-1989), the world’s acknowledged expert on artist George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), is awe-inspiring. At the University of California Los Angeles, where he was a professor of art history, he was known for his “meticulous scholarship and connoisseurship.” Without the aid of the Internet, and for most of his research not even a computer, he compiled a wealth of information currently stored at the Getty Research Institute. He wrote four authoritative books on George Caleb Bingham. Of the four, his masterpiece is, in my opinion, his final Bingham Catalogue Raisonné: The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné (University of Missouri Press, 1986). [i]

Joyce Wahl Treiman, Portrait of E. Maurice Bloch, 1971
Oil on Canvas, 24 x 20 inches
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Given in Memory of Maurice Bloch and of Blake Nevius, friends of the artist.

Bingham Catalogue Raisonné Categories

The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham is still the definitive work on George Caleb Bingham. So, when companion portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and his wife Martha Jane Shackelford came to my attention, the first place I looked was the Bingham Catalogue Raisonné. I found the two Dunnica portraits listed in the back pages, in Category D., “Attributed Paintings.”

In his Catalogue Raisonné, Bloch divided 562 artworks into four categories:

A.      Dated Extant and Recorded Paintings 430
B.      Undated Recorded Paintings 21
C.      Fragmentary References to Paintings 8
D.     Attributed Paintings 91
E.      Copies after Bingham 12
Total 562

Over the years, Category D. has become the kiss of death. Each painting listed there that I have personally seen reinforced Bloch’s classification. But the Dunnica portraits were easily recognizable Binghams with impeccable provenance. Art historical documentation and connoisseurship solidified the authentication. How could Bloch have relegated such fine portraits to the dustbin of his catalogue?

How Did This Mistake Happen?

The short answer is: he never saw the Dunnica portraits.

The long answer is found in a close reading of Bloch’s explanatory notes.

Bloch knew of the existence of the portraits from a slim, but influential volume published in 1917, George Caleb Bingham: The Missouri Artist, by Fern Helen Rusk (1890-1984). Rusk’s book is responsible for keeping the artist’s memory alive. Rusk listed the portrait pair as Mr. and Mrs. William Franklin Dunnica with the name of the owner, but, without dates or description. When Bloch reviewed Rusk’s work, he could not locate the owner nor their direct descendants. But he knew of another Bingham painting of Martha Jane Shackelford, the first wife of William Franklin Dunnica. Bloch noted that Martha Jane’s brother, Thomas Shackelford commissioned the portrait and that it descended within the family of her brother, along with other Bingham family portraits. Although William Dunnica and Thomas Shackelford, were life-long friends, over time, their children and their children’s children lost touch with one another. By the time Bloch was updating the work of previous Bingham scholars Fern Helen Rusk and John Francis McDermott (1902-1981), their descendants did not know of the others’ existence. When Bloch asked the Shackelford descendants about other Dunnica portraits, they honestly answered that they had no knowledge of the portraits or their whereabouts. [ii]

I, too, found Shackelford descendants when I reviewed Bloch’s work. They generously sent me a color photograph of their portrait of Martha Jane, which I had only known through the black & white photograph in the Catalogue Raisonné.

Two Portraits of Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica

At first glance, the previously known portrait of Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica does not appear to be the same woman pictured in the head & shoulders companion portrait of her husband. But, on close examination, it can be seen that the hairline and ears are identical; the mouths and shoulder shapes are similar; and the sitter is wearing the same necklace in both portraits. I scrolled through my portrait image collection for 1836-1839 and could not find another necklace like it.

The differences in the two portraits lay in Bingham’s increasing talent. In the later, and larger, portrait, Bingham knew to pose the head so that the nose was less prominent. The nostrils are alike. The most striking difference is the eyes. The artist had learned how to better shape and shadow eyes.

The Wrong Conclusion

Since Bloch had seen the later portrait of Martha Jane Shackelford Dunnica, he logically assumed that the paintings listed in Rusk were of Dunnica and his second wife, Leona Hardeman Cordell (1807-1896). He further presumed that the companion portraits were painted near the second wedding date, June 1860. Since the Shackelford family had no knowledge of the other portraits, he concluded, “Evidently attributed to the artist by family tradition, with no substantiation.” With such reasoning, he classified the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. William Franklin Dunnica in his Bingham Catalogue Raisonné in Section D: Attributed Paintings, without ever seeing them.

The Correction

In updating E. Maurice Bloch’s The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné, the re-discovered portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and Martha Jane Shackelford (Mrs. William Franklin Dunnica) should be listed in Category A., with a date of execution of 1836-1837, with their impeccable provenance and expanded biographies. A fine addition to a well-researched, awe-inspiring volume that is almost perfect due to the efforts of an outstanding art historian, E. Maurice Bloch.

In the fourth and final blog, the stories behind the Dunnica portraits provide a window into the past that brings history to life through the details of the sitters’ lives.

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2019
All Rights Reserved

[i] David Rodes and Anthony Vidler, “E. Maurice Bloch, Art History: Los Angeles,”,;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&, accessed January 2019; E. Maurice Bloch’s books on George Caleb Bingham are: George Caleb Bingham: The Evolution of an Artist (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1967); and, George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné  (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1967); The Drawings of George Caleb Bingham, with a Catalogue Raisonné (University of Missouri Press, 1975);The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham : A Catalogue Raisonné (Columbia, MO : University of Missouri Press, 1986). The latter two works expand on the earlier books, but the original texts still contain valuable information about the Missouri Artist.

[ii] E. Maurice Bloch, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné (University of Missouri Press, 1986), page 263.

Posted in Professional Art Research, Rediscovered George Caleb Bingham Portrait | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 2

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: Connoisseurship


Provenance and art historical research strongly suggested that family lore was true:  George Caleb Bingham painted the heirloom portraits of William Franklin Dunnica and his wife, Martha Jane Shackelford. (See Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 1). Would connoisseurship confirm or deny that the portrait pair were rediscovered paintings by Bingham?


According to art historical research, Bingham painted the portraits between 1836 and 1839, when the subjects, William Franklin Dunnica (1807-1883) and his wife Mary Jane Shackelford (1820-1858) lived in Chariton (now Glasgow), Missouri, about 20 miles northeast of George Caleb Bingham’s hometown of Arrow Rock, Missouri. Bingham is known to have portrayed at least 10 Chariton / Glasgow residents during those years. He painted some in the fall of 1837; others, after a two-month visit to Philadelphia in spring 1838. The latter portraits show sophisticated techniques such as more fluid brushwork and increasingly flattering poses. (See the comparisons of the two paintings of Mary Jane Shackelford Dunnica in link to Correcting an Art Historical Mistake.) Below are images of 8 of those 10 paintings compared with images of the Dunnica portraits.


The similarities of Bingham’s Glasgow portraits to the portraits of the Dunnicas are, in my opinion, unmistakable. The Cockerill portraits may have been painted earlier than the others. Without having seen the paintings in person, they look stiffer than the others, more akin to Bingham’s earlier work before his visit to St. Louis. That, impression, however, could be a result of the photographs.

At first glance, the Belden portraits (cropped) and the Swinney portraits look nearly identical to those of the Dunnicas. William Dunnica and William Swinney were partners in the tobacco trade. Joshua Belden was William Swinney’s secretary. In the three portrait pairs, the height of the men’s shirt collars touch their chins. The lengths of their sideburns are comparable. All three women wear quite similar hairstyles. This conformity to the fashions indicates that all six portraits were painted around the same time. Hair, eyebrows, eyes, and ears, to the manner in which the artist tinted the cheeks, shadowed the face, the nose, and the necks of the women are all the same.

Links to color images at Gilcrease Museum of Dr. Thomas Cockerill and Emma Cockerill


Since the examples are known and accepted works by George Caleb Bingham, then the Dunnica portraits, not only logically, but through style and technique were, in my opinion, and that of Maryellen McVicker, painted by George Caleb Bingham.  Do you have any doubts that the artist was Bingham?

How did E. Maurice Bloch make such a mistake?



(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2018
All Rights Reserved


Posted in Rediscovered George Caleb Bingham Portrait | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 1

Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: Art Historical Documentation


Several years ago, images of a pair of antebellum portraits arrived in my inbox: William Franklin Dunnica and Mary Jane Shackelford (Mrs. William F. Dunnica) of Glasgow (Chariton), Missouri. I knew instantly that George Caleb Bingham was the artist. But, as a professional art investigator, I knew the accuracy of a “blink” moment always needs to be tested.

The Dunnica portraits are reproduced here in black & white due to the potential for misuse. The colors are vibrant. The artist gave each dark-haired, dark-eyed subject color on their cheeks, just as George Caleb Bingham did. On Mr. Dunnica’s cheeks and under his nose, the artist suggested the slightest hint of a beard, just as Bingham did. In the portrait of Martha Jane Dunnica a blush red shawl subtly complements the deep green of her dress. White lace hides her cleavage. A long strand of coral beads adorns her neck. The background of green /brown with golden highlights is the typical shade used by Bingham.


The logical starting point for researching the authenticity of the portraits was, and is,  E. Maurice Bloch’s Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné. From hours of poring over Bloch’s definitive text and from a previous portrait search, I knew the name “Dunnica,” but I did not remember these two paintings. I found them listed in the book’s back pages in Section D., “Attributed Paintings.” The scholarly community nearly universally dismisses the paintings Bloch placed in Section D.

To prove or disprove the heirloom portraits’ authenticity with verifiable certainty would require time. Both the portraits’ owner and I had other priorities, but last year, the heirlooms became a top priority for each of us. I set to work.

This is the first of four blogs about the adventure. The first two describe the process of authentication, beginning here with art historical documentation and continuing to connoisseurship in the second blog. The third explains how these two fine portraits ended up in the “trash bin” of the George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonné. In the fourth and final blog, I use the portraits as an entry point to history and tell the stories I discovered behind the portraits. The true tales include a Civil War battle and confrontations with  Bloody Bill Anderson and William Quantrill.

Art Historical Documentation


The chain of custody was indisputable. Through primary source documents, I followed the subjects’ descendants as they moved from Missouri to another state and then across continents. The documents breathed life into the family’s history as the portraits descended within the family from one generation to the next.

Date of Execution

Comparisons of the portraits with fashion plates and other dated portraits indicated that an artist painted the likenesses between 1836 and 1839.


An accurate portrait authentication requires proof that the subjects and artist were in the same region at the indicated time. In 1836-1839, William Franklin Dunnica and his first wife, Martha Jane Shackelford, lived in the town of Chariton, Missouri, now known as the the town of Glasgow. In 1838, J. Calvin Smith, of the J.H. Colton & Co., drew a map of Missouri.

J. Calvin Smith, New Map of Missouri Showing the Township Surveys, 1838
Lithograph, 30 x 35 inches
State Historical Society of Missouri, Map 859 Sm61

In an enlarged detail of that map below, Chariton, Missouri, can be seen near the center. At a bend in the Missouri River, its name is written above the name of its county, Howard. George Caleb Bingham’s home in Arrow Rock lay less than 20 miles southwest on the other side of the river, under the name of its county, Saline.

J. Calvin Smith, New Map of Missouri Showing the Township Surveys, 1838
Lithograph (Detail)


Martha Jane Shackelford (1820-1858)

Martha Jane Shackelford was born on February 25, 1820, in Nashville, Tennessee, the daughter of Thomas Shackelford and Eliza Cheves Pulliam. On December 11, 1836, when she was 16, she married William Franklin Dunnica, 29.

William Franklin Dunnica (1807-1896)

Early Life

William Franklin Dunnica was the son of William Hamilton Dunnica, a wounded veteran of the Battle of Tippecanoe, November 7, 1811. William Hamilton fought for four more years until the end of the War of 1812 in 1815. Not long after he returned home to Woodford County, Kentucky, he and ten-year-old William Franklin filled a keel boat with trade goods. They poled their way to the Mississippi River. When the Mississippi joined the Missouri River, they floated down to heart of Missouri Territory. In the spring of 1818, “after a journey of the greatest difficulty and hardships,” they landed in a French village, Côte Sans Dessein  Inside the fort, they set up a trading center. The elder Dunnica, also surveyed, bought and sold land. Eventually, he brought his wife and other children to Côte Sans Dessein. [1]

Initial Careers

Until his father’s death in 1822, William attended the local schools. Then, he traveled back to Kentucky and attended university for two years. When he returned to Missouri, the town of Jefferson City had nearly subsumed Cote Sans Dessein. With a friend, Calvin Gunn, in 1826, Dunnica  founded the first newspaper in Jefferson City, Missouri, The Jeffersonian. The two men lobbied successfully for the young state’s capitol to be sited in Jefferson City.  Within a matter of months, Dunnica was offered a clerkship by the State Auditor. While clerking, he also worked as a land agent. [2]

Because of “his well-known business qualifications and his strict integrity and sobriety,” Dunnica drew the attention of a St. Louis businessman, George Collier. Collier hired him in 1831 to work at the United States Bank. “He held this position with great credit to himself, and to the entire satisfaction of the officers of the bank, until President Andrew Jackson ended the national bank system in 1833.” [3]


William then opened a store at the mouth of the Chariton river. Collier financed the enterprise while Dunnica was in charge of operations. Three years later, W. F. Dunnica was one of the founders of Chariton, Missouri. He married 16-year-old Martha Jane Shackelford on December 11, 1836. As a shopkeeper, Dunnica owned few slaves. To build a home on hilltop overlooking Chariton for his bride and himself, he would have rented more or hired a contractor. The newlyweds named their home Dunhaven. With quarters for their five slaves, outbuildings, and a conservatory, the estate covered an entire city block. The walls of such a home called out for portraits of the owners.[4]

410 Fifth Street, Glasgow, Missouri
Glasgow! Tour Guide & Community Information, ca. 1991
Photograph by Duane Perry[5]

For further biographical information on William F. Dunnica, including his roles in the Mormon War, the Battle of Glasgow, and an encounter with Quantrill’s Raiders and Bloody Bill Anderson, click here.


The logical choice for a portrait artistfor the Dunnnicas would have been George Caleb Bingham, the only artist working locally during the years 1836-1839. Moreover, the circumstances of the lives of the Binghams and the Dunnicas solidified the conclusion.

George Caleb Bingham

Early Career

On April 14, 1836, in Boonville, Missouri, eight months before the Dunnicas wed, George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) married Sarah Elizabeth Hutchison (1819-1848). He was 25, and she, 17. They soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Bingham opened a studio. Through exposure to art and to other painters, the young, self-taught artist from the western frontier improved his technique. As winter approached, about the time of the Dunnica wedding, George and Sarah, pregnant with their first child, traveled down the Mississippi River to Natchez, Mississippi.

Natchez was a popular winter haven in the nation’s antebellum years for those who could afford to escape the cold weather of states further north – and who could afford and had the leisure to sit for a portrait. Many artists traveled to Natchez and other such resorts in search of portrait commissions. Bingham, rarely one to pass up an opportunity, followed the trend. On March 26, 1837, Isaac Newton Bingham was born in the Mississippi riverfront town. By May, the Binghams had returned to Missouri with their newborn son, this time to Columbia, where George rented a studio above the law offices of a young attorney, James Sidney Rollins.

Building a Family Life

With savings from his southern tour and from his Columbia portrait commissions, Bingham bought a lot in Arrow Rock, Missouri, on July 27, 1837. To build the house, he needed to earn money for building supplies and labor. He had already portrayed all the prosperous residents of his hometown and of neighboring Boonville. The nearest potentially profitable location was Chariton, later known as Glasgow. [6]


Chariton /Glasgow

In 1836, Chariton /Glasgow was founded by 16 men:

  1. Joseph A. Blackwell
  2. John Bull
  3. Thomas Nicholas Cockerill
  4. Stephen Donohoe
  5. William Franklin Dunnica
  6. James Earickson
  7. Richard Earickson
  8. James Glasgow
  9. James Head
  10. D. W. Johnson
  11. William J. Moore
  12. John Fontaine Nicholds
  13. Benjamin G. Pulliam
  14. William Daniel Swinney
  15. Talton Turner
  16. Thomas White [7] 

Before the end of the decade, Bingham would paint portraits of members of five of the founding families: Cockerill, Donohoe, Dunnica, Pulliam and Swinney. He would also paint other prominent townsfolk: the Beldens, the Lewises, the Harrisons, and the Nicholds. [8]


Art historical documentation pointed at George Caleb Bingham as the artist of the Dunnica portraits. In the next blog, I explore the third leg of authenticity or the heirloom paintings: Connoisseurship.

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2018
All Rights Reserved

[1]  1817 – Ferguson’s Description of Cote Sans Dessein, “The World of Hannah Chribbs Evans,, accessed March 2018; O. P. Williams. & Co., History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Missouri (National Historical Company. 1883), 437.

[2] Williams, 438.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dunhaven is currently the oldest structure in Glasgow, Missouri, according to James H Steele., ed., Howard County MO: From Prairie Land to Promised Land, A Remembrance Across Two Centuries (Donning Company. 2016), 136; United States Census Bureau, Sixth Census of the United States, “Household of W. F. Dunican,” 1840, Chariton, Howard, Missouri, page 44, line 15. 

[5] Friends of the Lewis Library of Glasgow [Missouri], Glasgow – The Way It Was (Walsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 134.

[6] Bingham purchased the lot from Meredith Miles Marmaduke (1791-1864), who would become the eighth governor of Missouri (1844-1844).

[7] Williams, 206. I list 16, although J. Y. Miller, Glasgow, Missouri, historian, helpfully fact-checked this manuscript. He noted that although the number of founders is sometimes listed as 14, the actual number was 16. But, because three of those men, Pulliam, Johnson, and Moore, soon became inactive as landowners, the people of Glasgow count the number of founders as 13.

[8]  George Caleb Bingham’s portraits of John Fontaine Nicolds (Bloch #60) and Elizabeth Morton Woodson (Mrs. John Fontaine Nicholds) (#61) and John Hickman Turner (#101) are currently unlocated. Please notify Fine Art Investigations if you know, or have a clue, to their current location.

Posted in Rediscovered George Caleb Bingham Portrait | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rediscovered Bingham Portraits: The Dunnicas, Part 1

Democratization of American Art

American Art Union


In New York City, in 1842, a group of patriotic entrepreneurs, who wanted to promote American art and American artists, formed the American Art-Union (AAU). The businessmen recognized the potential of improved printing technologies. Not only could books and newspapers be printed more easily and quickly, through printed reproductions, art could be as well. For an annual membership fee of $10 (the equivalent of about $100 today), the American Art-Union guaranteed each member a reproduction of a painting purchased by Art-Union jurors. The fee also entered members in an annual lottery to win an original painting.

Distribution of the American Art Union prizes…c. 1848
Library of Congress LC-DIG-pga-02613 (digital file from original print)

The AAU also maintained a free public art gallery in New York and published a magazine, The Union. Subscribers from all over the country could see the choices of the directors as the best of American art. As a result, prints of paintings by American artists hung in an ever-greater number of homes.


Through their purchases, the American Art-Union directors provided good artists not only income, but name recognition. To meet the approval of the jurors, the subject of the painting had to be “taken from every day scenes of life, those that are not suggestive of, or create painful emotions.”[1] Selections ranged from landscapes created by artists associated with the Hudson River School such as Thomas Cole (1801-1848), Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900), and John Kensett (1816-1872), to scenes from popular plays and novels, such as Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow by John Quidor (1801-1881). Artists Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) and John Blake White (1782-1859) painted famous moments from the Revolutionary War, Capture of Major Andre and General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal. The jurors approved humorous pastoral scenes with subtle political commentary like Farmers Nooning by William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) and more overt political commentary like  Old ’76 and Young ’48 by Richard Caton Woodville (1825-1855).

Some art critics of the time wondered how businessmen qualified as arbiters of taste. Critics also complained that by increasing the quantity of art, quality would suffer. But, over time, the democratization of art proved successful. Art critics now agree that the AAU’s directors selected well. [2]


In 1852, in response to a lawsuit by religious organizations, the New York State Supreme Court ruled the American Art-Union’s annual lottery illegal. But the Art-Union was already nearly dead from financial mismanagement. While in existence, the American Art-Union provided support to contemporary American artists. Their widely distributed choices gave Americans a visual identity of their country and themselves.

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2012, 2018
All Rights Reserved

[1] A. Warner to Frederick E. Cohen, letter, New York, Aug. 12, 1848, coll. New York Historical Society, quoted in E. Maurice Bloch, George Caleb Bingham: The Evolution of an Artist, (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1967), 81.

[2]Joy Sperling, “Art, Cheap and Good:” The Art Union in England and the United States, 1840–60, Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of 19th Century Visual Culture, Vol. 1., No. 1, Spring 2002.

Posted in Professional Art Research | Tagged | Leave a comment

Joseph Henry Bush (1794-1865)

That [Bush] was not famous in the old world, and in the art world everywhere, was because he had not that desire for travel abroad, and for free association with the noisy and active ones of his profession, which would have given him a prominence he did not yearn for. He was content to know that the emanations of his pencil were admired and prized by those he was proud to call his friends.[1]



Joseph Henry Bush was the grandson of a German immigrant, Philip Bush, Sr. (1733-1812), who arrived in the American colonies about 1750. Four years later, he fought under Lt. Col George Washington in the Seven Years War. In 1757, Bush wed a Pennsylvania-born daughter of German immigrants, Catherine Mary Slough (1740-1810). They opened a tavern in Winchester, Virginia, where Washington and his men often congregated. “The host very often spoke with enthusiasm of this young officer’s noble bearing and attractiveness for all who came in contact with him.” In Winchester, Philip Bush was famous for evicting the Duke of Orleans (1793–1830) for imperious behavior.”[2]

Philip and Catherine Mary Bush had nine children. The fifth was Philip Bush, Jr. (1765-1810). He was trained as a jeweler and goldsmith in Virginia, but moved to Kentucky in 1788. By 1806, he owned a 105-acre plantation three miles west of the state capitol, Frankfort. He sold his land to open the Washington Inn, named in honor of his father’s commander, but the townsfolk called it “Phil Bush’s Tavern.” [3]

Philip Bush, Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Palmer (1766-after 1828). She was half-French on her mother’s side and born near Charleston, South Carolina. The Bushes had several children, but only two sons lived to be adults, Joseph Henry, and his brother, James Miles (1808-1875). Philip was an amateur portrait painter who created likenesses of family members and encouraged his son Joseph’s talent. But the tutelage ended. When Joseph was 13, Philip died at the age of 45, in Frankfort, Kentucky, on September 4, 1810.[4]

By managing the inn, the widow Bush was able to support herself and her children. She probably had help from her family since her younger sister, Catharine Palmer (1768-1854), had married a former United States Senator, John Adair (1757-1840), who, in ten years would be governor of Kentucky (1820-1824).


In 1815, a group of Frankfort men raised funds to send Joseph to Philadelphia to study with Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Sully was one of the most popular portrait artists of the day. Henry Clay (1777-1852) personally delivered young Bush to the City of Brotherly Love and even loaned Bush expense money. After studying with Sully for three years, Bush exhibited at the Philadelphia Academy before returning to Frankfort.[5]

In the Frankfort newspaper, the Commentator, on October 18, 1821, Bush advertised, “Gentlemen who wish to have their portraits painted can be accommodated by applying to J. H. Bush in the rooms above the Printing Office.” His biographer reported, “It was not long before he received numerous orders for portraits.” From Frankfort, Bush moved to “the Athens of the West,” Lexington, Kentucky, where he opened a studio above a bank. But he chose Louisville as his permanent summer home. “His winters were passed in New Orleans and Natchez and by request he visited the planters of Louisiana…His work was in constant demand through the South.” His fee for a bust portrait was $150.[6]

Joseph Henry Bush never married. His fellow artist and friend, Samuel Woodson Price (1828-1918), observed, “It is not positively known that he ever fell victim to the charms of the fairer sex, though there is a rumor to the contrary.” Price believed, “No artist was more wedded to his profession than Bush”, relating that Bush felt even Van Dyck and Rubens “might have been better painters if they had remained single.”[7]

Brother: James Bush

Bush’s devotion to his profession, combined with his business acumen, helped his brother James, fourteen years his junior, attend Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. After graduating at the top of his class, the younger Bush moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to attend Transylvania Medical School. There, he studied under a renowned surgeon of the time, Dr. Benjamin Winslow Dudley (1785-1870), who was chairman of the departments of Surgery and Anatomy. Dudley was years ahead of his time in condemning blood-letting and demanding clean instruments. He pioneered surgical treatments for epilepsy, aneurysms, and kidney stones. James Bush became Dudley’s colleague and successor.[8]

Joseph Henry Bush, Mathisen Miniature, ca. 1840-1842
Aqueous Medium on Ivory, 1 7-8 x 2 3-16 inches

In 1839, Transylvania Medical School’s leaders asked Dr. Bush to head the Department of Anatomy. He accepted, and at university expense, traveled to London and Paris, to learn the latest surgical techniques and to purchase books and instruments. He returned to the United States on September 21, 1839. As souvenirs for his artist brother, he probably bought the latest artistic supplies available in the two European capitols. Bush was ahead of his time in his use of aqueous mediums.[9]

Last Years

Joseph Henry Bush

George Peter Alexander Healy, Joseph Henry Bush, May 1864

As painted portraits declined in favor of photography, Joseph adapted by painting portraits from photographs. The degree of his success is apparent in the figures recorded by the Louisville census taker on June 19, 1860. The value of his real estate was $4,000; his personal property, $20,000. But his health was failing. In 1861, he moved into his brother’s home, where he died in 1865. Not long before Bush’s death,  George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894) painted a portrait of the distinguished man who looked every inch a consummate artist.[10]

Master of Artistic License

Many fine paintings by this artist who did not yearn for fame are relatively inaccessible. Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, arguably owns the greatest number, and possibly the finest of his works, for most are of his family. Also, in Lexington, the Filson Museum is the repository for several of Bush’s paintings. In Louisville, Kentucky, at the Speed Art Museum owns several.  But, Joseph Henry Bush’s most famous painting hangs in the White House, the official portrait of Zachary Taylor (1786-1850) and a superb example of Bush’s skill with artistic license.

Joseph Henry Bush

Joseph Henry Bush, Zachary Taylor, ca. 1848
Oil on Canvas, 46 x 36 inches
White House
Washington, D.C.

Taylor was a hero of the Mexican-American War and the 12th president of the United States. Taylor’s appearance differed from the norm.  One of his soldiers described him as, “Old Rough and Ready, as he is not inaptly styled, whom you must know by-the-bye, is short, fat, and dumpy in person, with remarkably short legs.” “Although his large head and torso were mismatched with his short legs…he looked like a man born to command.” Taylor’s legs were so short, he needed help to mount his horse.[11]

Bush’s first act of artistic license was to choose a composition longer than waist length but shorter than full-length. The pose allows a viewer to see the grandeur and power of the general – and to unconsciously presume that Taylor’s legs were proportionate. Bush slimmed Taylor’s large head so much that when I looked at the paintings and photographs, I wondered if they represented the same man. After cropping, I could see the similarities. From left to right and from back to front, with paint, or with clever use of light and shadow, Bush narrowed Taylor’s skull and jaw, and not just the soft tissue; he shortened the jawbone considerably. By simply suggesting wrinkles, rather than by copying the deeply etched lines seen in Figure 16, Bush dropped years from Taylor’s face. Bush portrayed Taylor’s mouth accurately with its fuller lower lip and barely visible upper lip. In the photographs, Mathew Brady took pains to blunt the look of Taylor’s beak-like nose through lighting, pose, and possibly, through retouching. Bush opted for a more realistic look, though he softened the shape of the nostrils.

Joseph Henry Bush

I hope sooner, rather than later, artworks by Joseph Henry Bush are more readily available to a wider public and well-deserved greater fame enhances the memory of this modest man.


(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2018
All Rights Reserved


[1] Lewis Collins, Collins’ Historical Sketches of Kentucky: History of Kentucky, Volume 1 (Collins & Company, 1878), 624.

[2] “When the Duke of Orleans, afterward Louis Philippe King of France, who reigned from 1830 48, left France to avoid arrest, he and his two younger brothers stopped at Bush’s Hotel in 1797. While the first meal was being prepared Bush and the King, who had recently visited Mannheim, talked in German of the grand old town its people and attractions One brother being indisposed the King suggested that he and his party should have a private table This touch of royal exclusiveness roused the blood of the old German and caused him to exclaim, ‘If you are too good to eat at the table with my other guests, you are too good to eat in my house. Begone.’ And they went. (Samuel Woodson Price, The Old Masters of the Bluegrass: Jouett, Bush, Grimes, Frazer, Morgan, Hart. [J. P. Morton & Company, 1902], 71; Collins, 624)

[3] Price, 71; Noble W. Hiatt and Hiatt, Lucy F., The Silversmiths of Kentucky: Together with Watchmakers and Jewelers, 1785-1850 (Standard Print Company: 1954), 18.

[4], Hiatt, 19; James Bush’s middle name is variously spelled Miles or Myles. I chose to use the name written on his tombstone, Miles.

[5] “Adair, John (1757 – 1840),” Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress,, accessed May 2015; Henry Clay, The Papers of Henry Clay: The Rising Statesman 1815—1820 (University Press of Kentucky, 2015), 230.

[6] Edna Talbot Whitley, Kentucky Antebellum Portraiture (National Society of Colonial Dames of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1956), 638; George Washington Ranck, History of Lexington, Kentucky: its early annals and recent progress, including biographical sketches and personal reminiscences of the pioneer settlers, notices of prominent citizens, etc., etc. (Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1872), 149; Price, 76

[7] Price, 79-80.

[8] Henry Barkley Archibald, Kentucky’s Pioneer Lithotomists (C. J. Krehbiel, 1913), 55-138; John E. Kleber, ed., Kentucky Encyclopedia (University of Kentucky Press, 1992), 272.

[9] Kentucky State Medical Society, Transactions of the Kentucky State Medical Society (The Society, 1877), 181-182.

[10] United States Census Bureau, Seventh Census of the United States, “Galt Hotel,”, August 9, 1850, Louisville District 2, Jefferson, Kentucky, Roll, M432-20b, Page 152, line 29 (Hotel identified through J. Stoddard Johnson, Memorial History of Louisville from its First Settlement to 1896 [Biographical Publishing Company, 1896], 88); United States Census Bureau, Eighth Census of the United States, “Household of Joseph H. Bush,” June 19,1860: Louisville Ward 4, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: M653-376; Page 51, Line 33.

[11] H. Montgomery, The Life of Major General Zachary Taylor, (J. C. Derby, Inc., 1848), 338; Paul Joseph, Zachary Taylor (Abdo Publishing Company), 1999, 28; Michael R. Beschloss, American Heritage History of the Presidents (New Word City, Inc., 2015); Neil A. Hamilton, Presidents: A Biographical Dictionary (Infobase Publishing, 2010), 99.

Posted in 19th Century American Portrait Artists | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Descendant of David Rittenhouse Family History

In the Mystery of A Descendant of David Rittenhouse, to discover the names of both the sitter and the artist who painted the portrait, Fine Art Investigations researched the David Rittenhouse family history. What a history it turned out to be. Family history led to identification of the artist. What a character he turned out to be.

Family History of "A Descendant of David Rittenhouse," ca. 1845

A Descendant of David Rittenhouse, ca. 1845


David Rittenhouse

David Rittenhouse was born in Philadelphia in a neighborhood known as Rittenhousetown. His family was one of paper manufacturers that stretched back generations in the Netherlands. There, the name was spelled Rittinghuysen, which translates to Knights’ Houses.[1]

Rittenhouse Coat of Arms
From A Genea-biographical History of the Rittenhouse Family, 1893

The first of Rittenhouse’s ancestors to come to America was Willem Rittinghuysen (1644-1708) who immigrated to Pennsylvania by 1688. That year, in Germantown, outside Philadelphia, he founded the colonies’ first paper mill. He was Pennsylvania’s first Mennonite preacher, and in 1701, its first Mennonite bishop. He and his wife, Geertruid Kersten Pieters (1642-1708), had three children, Nicholas (1666-1734), Elizabeth (1670-1728), and Gerard (1674-1742).[2]

Son Nicholas was also a Mennonite preacher. In 1689, he married Wilhemina Dewees (1673-1737). Ten of their children lived to maturity. One of their younger sons, Matthias (1702-1779), worked at the paper mills until shortly after his father’s death in 1794. When the mill passed into the hands of an older brother, Matthias and his Quaker wife, Elizabeth Williams (1702-1792), moved to Norriton in Montgomery County to farm. They, too, had ten children, including David Rittenhouse, born April 1, 1732. Matthias, a Rittenhouse biographer wrote, was:

a very respectable man; he possessed a good understanding, united to a most benevolent heart and great simplicity of manners….[he was] inclined to the religious principles of the Society called Friends, although he had been bred a Baptist (as the Mennonites were then sometimes called, and sometimes Anabaptists)…Yet, with truly estimable qualities, both of the head and heart, old Mr. Rittenhouse did not, probably, duly appreciate the early specimens of that talent which appeared so conspicuous in his son David. Hence he was for some time opposed to the young man’s earnest desire to renounce agricultural employments for the purpose of devoting himself altogether to philosophical pursuits, in connection with some mechanical profession as might best comport with useful objects of natural philosophy, and be most likely, at the same time, to afford him the means of a comfortable subsistence. At length, however, the father yielded his own inclinations in order to gratify what was manifestly the irresistible impulse of his son’s genius. He supplied him with money to purchase, in Philadelphia, such tools as were more immediately necessary for commencing the clock-making business...[3]

Biographers of David Rittenhouse relate contradictory, sometimes hyperbolic, anecdotes about his precocious achievements. All agree that by his teenage years, he had mastered the mathematical theories in Isaac Newton’s Principia. Initially he earned his living as a clockmaker. He experimented with wood and metals to develop a more accurate pendulum. He built surveying instruments, barometers, chronometers, hygrometers and thermometers.[4] At times, he worked as a surveyor.

Throughout his career, he served on commissions engaged in boundary surveys. These included surveys of portions of the boundaries of Pennsylvania with Maryland, New York, and what became the Northwest Territory as well as portions of New York’s boundaries with New Jersey and Massachusetts. In 1784 he assisted in surveying a ninety-mile westward extension of the Mason-Dixon line, and in late 1772 or early 1773 he set the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, a point from which a line was run north in 1785 to establish the Pennsylvania-Virginia boundary. Experienced in common or terrestrial surveying, he also undertook topographical surveys of canals and rivers.[5]

But, Rittenhouse’s passion was astronomy. He built the first astronomical telescope in America. He discovered the gas clouds surrounding the planet Venus.[6] In 1769, from the observatory Rittenhouse built on his front lawn in Norriton, he, Benjamin Franklin and a crowd from Philadelphia, observed the transit of Venus. Rittenhouse meticulously recorded other planetary transits, comets, meteors, solar and lunar eclipses, Jupiter’s satellites.

Thomas Jefferson’s favorite invention by Rittenhouse was the orrery, a scale model of the solar system. Rittenhouse’s uncle, the Reverend Thomas Barton (1728-1780), an Anglican minister, paid his expenses for the first of two. Barton had married Matthias Rittenhouse’s sister Esther (1731-1774). The University of Pennsylvania remembers Barton’s gift as the state’s first research grant.[7]. One orrery is owned by the University of Pennsylvania; the other, by Princeton University.

Rittenhouse Orrery, University of Pennsylvania

During the Revolutionary War, Rittenhouse turned his genius to weaponry. He selected sites for weapons manufacture and supervised production. In Philadelphia, he arranged for the lead weights in clocks to be replaced with iron so the lead could be used for bullets. He was a member of the state constitutional convention.

The British occupied Philadelphia from September 1777 until June 1778. In a letter to Rittenhouse, Thomas Jefferson expressed concern for the Orrery. Had it been damaged? Its room at the College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) had been locked. Only the provost had the key. No one entered without his permission or without his presence. The Orrery survived the war intact.[8]

In 1779, Rittenhouse was appointed state treasurer, a position he held until 1787. In April 1792, when President George Washington selected him to be the first director of the United States Mint, Rittenhouse tried to decline the post. Alexander Hamilton and his friend Jefferson prevailed upon him to accept. He finally took the oath of office in July and served until 1795. [9]

David Rittenhouse married twice. His first wife was Eleanor Coulston (1735-1771), whom he married in 1766. They had two daughters: Elizabeth (1767 – 1799) and Esther (1769 –1799). Eleanor gave birth to her husband’s namesake in February 1771, but mother and son died shortly after. He remarried in December 1772. Hannah Jacobs (1739-1799) became stepmother to the two girls. When David Rittenhouse died on June 26, 1796, his only descendants were Elizabeth and Esther.

Esther Rittenhouse

Esther Rittenhouse married Dr. Nicholas Baker Waters, (1764 – 1794) in 1790. Waters was “a physician of respectable talents and amiable disposition.” He lived only four years, dying of pulmonary disease in August, 1794. Esther was left a 25-year-old widow with a 3-year-old son, David Rittenhouse Waters (1791 – 1813). Esther lived five more years. Her son became an attorney, but David R. Waters died unmarried in 1813 at the age of 22. [10]

Since Esther Rittenhouse Water’s genealogical line ended with the death of her son, any descendants of David Rittenhouse would be children of her sister Elizabeth, and her husband, Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant. (1746-1793).

Elizabeth Rittenhouse

Elizabeth Rittenhouse Sergeant

Charles Willson Peale, Elizabeth Rittenhouse (Mrs. Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, 1789
Private Collection

Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant (1746- 1793) was the son of Jonathan Sergeant (1709-1777), treasurer of Princeton (1750-1777), and Abigail Dickinson (1711-1799). Abigail was a daughter of Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747), the first president of Princeton University. Sergeant was an American patriot who actively fought the Stamp Act. He helped draft the New Jersey constitution and was a member of the Continental Congress. When the British raided New Jersey, they burned his home. Sergeant moved to Pennsylvania where he became the state’s Attorney-General from 1777-1780. When he married Elizabeth Rittenhouse on December 20, 1788, he was a widower with eight children and 21 years older than she. Elizabeth gave him three more children before he died five years later in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. Elizabeth lived only six years more. She died at 32. Their three children, and the only second generation descendants of David Rittenhouse, were:

  1. Esther Rittenhouse Sergeant (1789 – 1870)
  2. David Rittenhouse Sergeant (1791 – 1872)
  3. Frances Rittenhouse Sergeant (1793 – 1847)

David Sergeant never married. Frances married attorney John Cole Lowber (1789 – 1834). Of their four children, one daughter died in infancy, another died at 14. Two sons lived to adulthood. William (1824-1888), became a Navy surgeon. He married but had no surviving children. His brother, Henry (1827-1899), never married. The Rittenhouse genealogical line depended on one person: Esther Rittenhouse Sergeant.

Esther Rittenhouse Sergeant

Esther Sergeant, or Hetty as she was known, married William Paul Crillon Barton, MD (1786-1856) on July 14, 1814. His grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Barton (1728-1780), was the same man who funded David Rittenhouse’s first two orrerys. Barton had married her great-great-aunt, Esther Rittenhouse (1731-1774). Unlike his patriotic nephew, David Rittenhouse, Thomas Barton was a Loyalist. The Barton family spent the Revolutionary War in England. One son, Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815), attended medical school there. Their youngest son, William (1754-1817), studied heraldry.


William Barton

When William returned to America in 1779, he became an attorney in Philadelphia. In 1781, he published Observations on the Nature and Use of Paper Credit, followed in 1786 by The True Interests of the United States and particularly of Pennsylvania considered with Respect to the Advantages Resulting from a State Paper Money. Both the College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) and the College of New Jersey (Princeton) awarded him honorary master’s degrees. In 1813, William Barton wrote his cousin’s biography, Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse. But, the accomplishment for which he is most remembered is designing the Great Seal of the Republic.

In 1814, Barton published A Treatise Concerning a Plan for the Internal Organization and Government of Marine Hospitals in the United States: Together with a Scheme for Amending and Systematizing the Medical Department of the Navy. Within its 242 pages, he detailed a plan for navy hospitals at every major port from architectural design, furnishings, heating and ventilation, to staff positions, descriptions and salaries. Frustrated with the meagerness of his own salary, he joined with other United States Navy physicians to request officially that their pay be at least commensurate with US Army physicians, and preferably with doctors in the British Navy.[13] 

William Paul Crillon Barton

William Barton married Elizabeth Rhea. Their son William Paul Crillon Barton (1786-1856) was influenced by his uncle Benjamin, a physician and botanist who advised the Lewis and Clark Expedition.[11] The younger man studied medicine and botany. In 1809, he entered U.S. Navy service as surgeon aboard the new nation’s first warship, the frigate USS United States, commanded by Stephen Decatur. As the ship sailed the waters of the Caribbean searching for privateers, Barton studied the tropical diseases that afflicted the sailors. His experiments with lime juice and lemonade convinced him that, like the British, the American Navy needed to include citrus in their provisions. The Navy formally accepted his recommendation in 1812.[12]

In 1830, he published Hints for Medical Officers Cruising in the West Indies. As well as refining medical advice for the climate, he emphasized the importance of morale on health. He encouraged music aboard ship and moderate use of tobacco and spirits.

Not long after the book appeared, artist William James Hubard (1807-1862) painted Barton’s portrait. About the painting, the Philadelphia Museum of Art wrote:

Barton is shown here on one of his rambles through the outskirts of Philadelphia in search of new botanical specimens. Samuel Gross, his student at Jefferson Medical College and later the subject of Thomas Eakins’s masterpiece The Gross Clinic, fondly remembered these excursions. Gross reminisced that Barton “experienced as great delight in the discovery of a new plant as Audubon did at the sight of an undescribed bird. [14]

On August 31, 1842, Congress passed a Navy appropriations bill that incorporated efficiency plans proposed by Dr. William P. C. Barton in his 1814 book. President John Tyler appointed him the first chief of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.[15]

William and Hetty Sergeant Barton had 14 children. Seven daughters lived to adulthood.

  1. Elizabeth (1815-1895) (Mrs. Samuel Abbott)
  2. Julia (1817-1884) (Mrs. Jonathan Dickinson Miller)
  3. Adeline (1818-1876) (Mrs. Thomas Howard Paschl)
  4. Emma (1822-1882) (Mrs. Frederick Carroll Brewster)
  5. Mary (1823-1856) (unmarried)
  6. Lavinia (1827-1895) (unmarried)
  7. Selina (1830-after 1871) (unmarried)

One of those daughters must be the subject of the portrait. Since the sitter did not wear a wedding ring when she posed for the painting in the mid-1840s, she was single. The two eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Julia, both married in 1840. Neither is the likely subject of Portrait of a Young Lady. Adeline married in 1858, but was 27 in 1845 and probably was too old to be the subject. Emma was 23; Mary, 22; Lavinia, 18; and Selina, 15. None of the historical societies or archives in the Philadelphia area hold any files or images on any of the women.[16] Evidence below suggests the sitter was Emma Barton, but there is no documentation. For now, the identity of the subject is Miss Barton. 

To learn the name of the artist, return to Mystery of the David Rittenhouse Descendant.

(c) Fine Art Investigations, 2014-2017
All Rights Reserved


[1] William Barton, Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse (Parker, 1813), 80-82; David Kolb Cassel, A Genea-biographical History of the Rittenhouse Family: And All Its Branches in America, with Sketches of Their Descendants, from the Earliest Available Records to the Present Time, Including the Birth of Wilhelm in 1644 (Rittenhouse Memorial Association, 1893), 26

[2] Cassel, 137-138.

[3] Cassel, 94.

[4] Cassel, 162.

[5] Martin Ritt, “David Rittenhouse, American National Biography On-Line,

[6] Charlie Samuels, Inventors and Inventions in Colonial America, (The Rosen Publishing Group, 2002), 13

[7] M.J. Babb, “The Relation of David Rittenhouse and His Orrery to the University, Penn History, University of Pennsylvania Library,

[8] Barton, 274

[9] Barton, 385

[10] Ibid, 450. David Rittenhouse Waters was remembered: “Although he had just entered on the threshold of the world, this excellent young man exhibited many proofs of extraordinary attainments in literature and science, as well as of a superior genius. He appeared to have inherited from his maternal grandfather, congenial talents. In his life, his amiable disposition endeared him to all who had an opportunity of knowing his virtues; in his death, not only have his relatives and friends experienced an afflicting bereavement, but his country has sustained the loss of a citizen of great promise.” (258-259)

[11] “Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815),” Penn Biographies, Penn University Archives and Records Center,

[12] John T. Greenwood, F. Clifton Berry, Medics at War: Military Medicine from Colonial Times to the 21st Century (Naval Institute Press, 2005), 11-14

[13] Ibid, 13

[14] “Portrait of Mr. William P. C. Barton, Professor of Botany, Physician, and Botanist, William James Hubard, American (born England), 1807 – 1862,” Philadelphia Museum of Art,|1

[15] US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, “The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED)—A Brief History,“ Navy Medicine,

[16] Historical Society of Philadelphia, Library Company of Philadelphia, Germantown Historical Society

[17] Numerous public records on

Posted in Genealogical Research, Professional Art Research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment