AARON BANCROFT (1755-1839), 1832
Alvan Fisher (1792-1863)
oil on canvas
36 x 28 1/8 (91.4 x 71.4375)
signed, l.r.: 'A. Fisher Pixt. 1832'
Gift of Eliza Bancroft Davis, 1863
The Reverend Aaron Bancroft was minister of the Second Parish
in Worcester for over fifty years. After graduating from Harvard
he went to Nova Scotia to preach, but returned to the United
1783 to serve as the pastor of the First Parish. Opposed to
he gradually built support among his parishioners for his Arminian
and eventually became president of the American Unitarian
Bancroft, keenly interested in American history, published An
on the Life of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the
through the Revolutionary War; and the First President of the
in 1807. Five years later, he was one of the incorporators of the
Antiquarian Society, of which he remained a member for the rest of
life. Many of his sermons published during his lifetime are
in the manuscript collections at the Society.(1) In later years,
was described by Massachusetts Governor Levi Lincoln (1782-1868)
man 'of spare and slight habit but of elastic and firm step, his
and personal address courteous and affable and his general
and bearing that of the accomplished gentleman of the old school.
slightness of his figure was made more apparent by the style of
he having continued throughout his life to wear the knee-breeches
Citing his advanced years, Bancroft resigned as vice-president
American Antiquarian Society in 1831, but remained active.(3)
was seventy-seven years old when the Society's librarian,
Columbus Baldwin, arranged for this portrait to be painted by
The artist spent the summer of 1832 in Worcester and struck up a
with Baldwin. Although primarily regarded as a landscape painter,
did occasionally take portrait commissions.(4) In September
in his diary: 'I made application to Deacon Butman and Rejoice
Esq. to get Mr. Fisher to take the portrait of the Rev. Dr.
raise by subscription money enough to defray the expense of it.
obligingly call [sic] on the venerable Doctor and he readily
and the picture was finished in just one week. And a most accurate
it is.'(5) The family retained the painting until 1863 when it was
to the Society.(6)
| 1) Aaron Bancroft
American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection. This collection
autobiographical material, sermons, and correspondence. Bancroft's
writings are part of the American Antiquarian Society's book
2) Levi Lincoln, quoted in 'Aaron Bancroft: His Portrait
the Unitarian Association,' unidentified clipping, May 28, 1886,
Antiquarian Society Newsclipping File.
3) His son, the great American historian George Bancroft
in his father's footsteps as a vice-president of the Society.
4) For more on Fisher, see Robert C. Vose, Jr., 'Alvan
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin (October
5) Christopher Columbus Baldwin Diary, September 5, 1832,
Columbus Baldwin Papers 1817-1835, American Antiquarian Society
6) This portrait was copied twice by the painter Edwin T.
One copy was given to the Unitarian Association in Worcester by
son George in 1886 (see 'Aaron Bancroft: His Portrait Painted for
Unitarian Association'). Billings copied the portrait again in
Channing Memorial Hall, Boston, see Proceedings of the American
Society 7 (October 1891): 354.
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Last updated December 10, 2004