Among the portraits are images of thirty-one Worcester
in the Society's collections. Several individuals, such as Isaiah
Mary Stiles Newcomb and Lydia Stiles Foster, are represented by
one portrait. Thomas's importance as the leading publisher of the
era, founder of the American Antiquarian Society, and patriarch of
family offers abundant reasons why he would be the subject of
portraits in a variety of media. The Stiles, Foster, and Newcomb
are notable because they tell another kind of story. This
a dozen portraits of three generations of the Stiles family of
and Worcester are all miniatures by Eliza Goodridge, a family
Many of these miniatures were on display at the Cantor Gallery
College of the Holy Cross from November 13 to December 21, 2002.
The AAS portraits reveal some of the complex
community life. When Isaiah Thomas, the staunch patriot, moved his
to Worcester in 1775, William Paine, a Loyalist, had already left
medical training in Scotland and would return to the colonies as a
in the British Army during the Revolution. Paine and his family
back to Worcester in 1793, and in 1812, old political sentiments
this physician would join with Isaiah Thomas as one of the
of the American Antiquarian Society. Likewise, we learn of the
and even national importance of some of the sitters. For example,
Bancroft was the minister of the Second Parish in Worcester from
to 1839, but also served as president of the American Unitarian
from 1825 to 1836.
Since many of the portraits came to AAS together with
collections or were commissioned by the Society, we have
information about the circumstances of their production. There are
first-person accounts of the process of sitting for portraits as
as important documents revealing the costs of the paintings and
frames. Newspaper advertisements found in the AAS collection
documentation about itinerant artists who came to Worcester. In an
to obtain commissions for one artist, Isaiah Thomas, Jr., placed
in the September 12, 1804, issue of the Worcester Spy
saying that examples
of Gerrit Schipper's portraits could be seen in his home or
early nineteenth-century Worcester residents, such as Edward D.
and Isaiah Thomas, traveled to Boston to sit for oil portraits by
established in Boston studios; later in the century, Stephen
II went to New York for sittings with Daniel Huntington.
The research and documentation of the Society's portrait collection were
undertaken by Lauren B. Hewes. The previous catalogue of the portrait
collection had been published by Frederick Weis in the Proceedings of
American Antiquarian Society in 1946. Hewes's work was published in
Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society as Volume 111, part
with the addition of twenty-four color plates, as Portraits in the
Collection of the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester:
Antiquarian Society, 2004). These two sources illustrate the entire
collection with text and images for each of the portraits. Introductions
by Linda Docherty, professor of art history at Bowdoin College, and Hewes,
who researched the collection, shed further light on the collection as a
whole and an interpretation of institutional collecting. Others who have
taken part in this collaboration include Charles Barlow, Georgia B.
Barnhill, Megan Bocian, Ellen Dunlap, Christine Estabrook, James N. Heald
2nd, John B. Hench, Henry Peach, Katherine St. Germaine, Caroline F.
Sloat, Caroline W. Stoffel, and Therasa Tremblay.
Georgia B. Barnhill and Caroline Sloat