Isaiah Thomas, Jr.
ISAIAH THOMAS, JR. (1773-1819), March 1818
Ethan Allen Greenwood (1779-1856)
oil on panel
framed: 31 x 26 3/4 (80.010 x 67.9450)
signed l.l.: 'Greenwood/1818'
Gift of Francis Peabody Abbot, Agnes Ann Abbot, and Mary Perkins
Born in Boston, the only son of Isaiah Thomas, Sr., Isaiah
was one of the incorporators of the American Antiquarian Society
He also served as the Society's treasurer from 1813 until his
1819. He was remembered as 'a man of large intelligence and fond
wrote with ease and rapidity, of excellent conversational powers,
of and devoted to his home and family.'(1) Thomas was taught the
of printing by his father and started his career as a bookseller
at the age of nineteen. Five years later he married Mary Weld, the
of a wealthy Boston merchant.
In 1799 he became the co-publisher of the Massachusetts Spy,
the masthead with his father until 1801, when he was made the sole
and editor. Thomas bought out his father's large printing,
and publishing business in 1802 when Isaiah Thomas, Sr., retired.
the younger Thomas moved to Boston, and continued to issue the Spy
the family's almanac, as well as to print books such as Bernhard
A New Guide to Health (1810) and Charles Robbins's The Drum &
Instructor (1812). Thomas's business interests were adversely
by the War of 1812. He sold the Spy in that year and tried to
bookselling business by opening shops in Connecticut, Maine, and
He continued to issue a variety of almanacs and books. Copies of
of his publications are preserved in the imprint collection of the
Thomas died in Boston in the summer of 1819 following an
father noted in his diary on June 25th, 'My son died, aged 45
by the wounds he received by a Fall the Evening before.'(3) Two
Isaiah Thomas, Jr., who left a widow and nine children, was buried
Worcester. His father wrote, 'My son's remains were deposited in
in the North burying ground this morning at 8 o'clock. Prayers by
Freeman at the house of Eben T. Andrews - from whence the corpse
to the burying ground.'(4)
This portrait was painted the year before his death by the
Ethan Allen Greenwood.(5) In the midst of a financial crisis,
able to find the $60.00 the artist usually charged for such
the sitter's untimely death, the portrait was certainly cherished
family as the last likeness of Isaiah Thomas, Jr. It was kept by
and hung in the best bedroom of his home in Worcester, until his
when it was inherited by Benjamin Franklin Thomas, the sitter's
son.(6) It was loaned to the American Antiquarian Society in 1940
was donated by the family five years later.
1) Levi Lincoln, 'Isaiah Thomas, Jun.' Reminiscences of
Associates of the Worcester Fire Society (Worcester: Edward R.
2) Printer's Biography Index, Imprint Card Catalog,
3) Isaiah Thomas Diary, June 25, 1819, Isaiah Thomas
American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection.
4) Isaiah Thomas Diary, June 27, 1819.
5) Ethan Allen Greenwood Papers 1801-1839, American
Society Manuscripts Collection. According to Greenwood's
he painted Isaiah Thomas, Jr., on March 11, 1818, one of
he completed that year. For more on Greenwood see Georgia Brady
'The Early Career of Ethan Allen Greenwood,' in Itinerancy in New
and New York (Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 1984):
and Georgia Brady Barnhill, 'Extracts from the Journals of Ethan
Greenwood: Portrait Painter and Museum Proprietor,' Proceedings of
American Antiquarian Society 103 (April 1993): 91-178.
6) Probate Inventory of Isaiah Thomas, Sr., Worcester
Probate Records, 1831, copy in the Thomas Family Papers 1815-1887.
inventory lists items in the North Front Room, including, a
of I. Thomas, Jr.,' valued at $20.00, as well as one bureau, a
the 'Best Bed and Pillows,' and two drawings with needlework.
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Last updated December 10, 2004