ABIJAH BIGELOW (1775-1860), October 1853
James Sullivan Lincoln (1811-1888)
oil on canvas
12 x 10 1/8 (30.48 x 25.71)
Deposited by Daniel Berkeley Updike, 1916
Gift of Daniel Berkeley Updike, 1941
Abijah Bigelow, a 1795 graduate of Dartmouth College, was a
politician who lived in Leominster and Worcester, Massachusetts. A
representative to Congress from 1800 to 1815, he strongly opposed
War of 1812. Letters from Bigelow while he was serving in
D.C., reveal a man with strong interest in family and civic
described the actions and debates of Congress to his wife Hannah
Bigelow (1780-1857) and his frustration by the American political
On one occasion he wrote, 'We have no news of importance, the same
of business in Congress, the same blustering against Great
same talk of war, and at the close they will rise with doing as
good and as much mischief as usual.'(1) Later he wrote, '[A]s the
have declined taking any part whatever in the debate about raising
army, the democrats begin to falter.... The great difficulty is
taxes. They dare not do it. They are too cunning to risk their
by a land tax, loans &c. When they raise the taxes necessary
on a war, I shall think them in earnest, not before.'(2)
After he retired from Congress, Bigelow settled in Worcester and
involved in local government, serving as a justice of the peace
of the courts in that city. Elected a member of the American
Society in 1813, Bigelow was also a Councillor of the Society from
to 1828. An author and poet, he submitted his work to Worcester
throughout his life. Six essays titled 'Political Reflections,'
by the Massachusetts Spy in January and February of 1812, and a
of articles on slavery which he signed 'A Layman' was printed in
Worcester Palladium in January and February of 1838.(3) In 1853,
his retirement from law and political service, the
Bigelow and his ailing wife visited their daughter Sarah Bigelow
(1805-86) in Providence, Rhode Island, where their portraits were
by the artist James Sullivan Lincoln.
Lincoln, who apprenticed as an engraver, started painting
1837 and by the 1850s was the leading portrait painter in
Although he also painted miniatures and landscapes, his most
commissions were his portraits of the state's governors, senators,
leading businessmen of the city. For fifty-one years Lincoln kept
book of his portrait commissions, which, after 1860, also included
photographs.(5) Late in life, Lincoln was elected the first
of the Providence Art Club and, at a retrospective exhibition of
he was titled 'the father of art in Providence.'(6)
1) December 18, 1811. Bigelow Family Papers, 1785-c. 1883,
Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection. Several of Bigelow's
are published in Clarence S. Brigham, 'Letters of Abijah Bigelow,
of Congress to his Wife 1810-1815,' Proceedings of the American
Society 40 (October 1930): 305-406.
2) Abijah Bigelow to Hannah Gardner Bigelow, January 1,
in Brigham, 'Letters of Abijah Bigelow, Member of Congress, to his
3) Ibid, 307.
4) Franklin C. Clark, 'A Sketch of the Artist's Life,'
of the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of James Sullivan Lincoln
R.I.: Providence Art Club, 1888), 4-5.
5) "List of Portraits by J. S. Lincoln Painted Since
James Sullivan Lincoln Papers, Rhode Island Historical Society.
of Bigelow, his wife, and an image of his daughter Sarah Adams are
listed in the entries for October 1853. They were listed as 'for
Adams,' Sarah's husband. The current location of the portraits of
Bigelow and her daughter are unknown.
6) Clark, 'Sketch of the Artist's Life,' 13.