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Waldo Lincoln


Waldo Lincoln



WALDO LINCOLN (1849-1933), 1929
Frank O. Salisbury (1874-1962)
oil on canvas
50 1/8 x 40 1/8 (127.3175 x 101.9175)
signed l.r.: 'Frank O. Salisbury/19[29]
Members of the American Antiquarian Society, 1929
Weis #73
Hewes #74

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Prominent Worcester, Massachusetts, resident Waldo Lincoln became a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1898, was elected vice president in 1906, and became president in 1907, a position he retained until his retirement in 1927. Lincoln worked hard to give the Society financial security by establishing an endowment system; during his term as president, both the library's capacity and income doubled. Implementing Stephen Salisbury III's bequest for a new building for the Society, Lincoln arranged the acquisition of land at the southwest corner of Salisbury Street and Park Avenue and supervised the building's design and construction. The new building was emblematic of the transformation of the Society, as noted years later in Lincoln's obituary: 'Under Mr. Lincoln's capable administration of the Society's affairs, its finances were sufficiently strengthened to permit removal of its valuable collection, books, and papers from the crowded quarters of the old brick structure north of the Courthouse at Lincoln Square to the present exceptionally fine home of the organization, built under his direction.'(1) Lincoln also garnered dramatic growth for the Society by establishing a partnership between president and librarian, which began when he hired Clarence Brigham as librarian in 1908.

With Lincoln's election to membership, he became the fourth generation of his family to join the Society. Both his great-grandfather Levi Lincoln, Sr. (1749-1820) and his grandfather Levi Lincoln, Jr. (1782-1868) were charter members of the institution. As his forbears before him, Waldo Lincoln was generous with his personal resources on behalf of the Society. In the 1920s he built up the Society's holdings of material from the West Indies by personally traveling to Jamaica and Bermuda to purchase early newspapers, prints, and books.(2) In 1929 he donated his personal collection of over eight hundred early American cookery books. He entertained regularly on behalf of the Society. '[The] October luncheons at the Lincoln mansion will always stand out because of his cultivation, courtesy and cheer. He was a vital cog of the Society. And he continued faithful unto the end.'(3) After his death, the family donated his personal papers to the Society.(4)

Lincoln, who was born and raised in Worcester, graduated from Harvard College in 1870. His interests in chemistry led to his establishment of several firms devoted to the development of paint and dyes, including the Ferric Chemical & Color Company. He retired from business in 1893, at the age of forty-four, and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropic activities in Worcester. Aside from his position on the boards of several banks in town, he was also the treasurer and a trustee of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a director of the Worcester Public Library.(5)

Lincoln was avidly interested in Massachusetts history and genealogy. In 1902 he published his Genealogy of the Waldo Family which he followed with The History of the Lincoln Family in 1923. He contributed often to the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society writing dozens of obituaries of former members as well as publishing his historical research in essays such as his 'The Province Snow Prince of Orange' (1901) and 'History of Bermuda Newspapers' (1925). In 1923 Lincoln compiled the checklist 'Portraits in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society,' one of the Society's earliest records of the contents of the painting collection.(6) After his retirement from the presidency, Lincoln published his 'Bibliography of American Cookery Books 1742-1860' in the Proceedings in 1929, the same year this portrait was painted.

In November of 1929, American Antiquarian Society member Clarence W. Bowen organized a group of fifteen subscribers to fund the acquisition of a portrait of the eighty-year old Lincoln.(7) Bowen recommended the artist Frank O. Salisbury, who had completed Bowen's portrait the previous year. He noted, '[Salisbury] will return to New York after December 1st, and has a number of orders on hand to keep him busy.... Mr. Lincoln will have to go to New York.... [T]here is nothing to be gained by delay, and there is no time like the present.'(8)

Lincoln sat for his portrait on December 12th and 13th of 1929. The portrait was completed three days later, giving credence to Bowen's promise that Salisbury was 'a very rapid worker.'(9) Bowen reported on December 16th, 'I am pleased to write. . .that Waldo Lincoln has been in New York and the English artist, Frank O. Salisbury, has painted a portrait of him which Mr. Lincoln's daughter, Mrs. [Josephine] Dresser, thinks is a perfect likeness.'(10) The portrait was presented to the full membership at the end of December and was later declared as ' of the best portraits ever painted by that capable artist [Salisbury].'(11) A local newspaper article announcing the donation of the portrait stated, 'Those who have seen it rate it very highly not only as the work of a master but as a striking likeness of Mr. Lincoln, as his friends know his face, in its familiar kindly expression.'(12)


1)  Waldo Lincoln Succumbs at His Home Here,' Worcester Gazette April 3, 1933.

2)  Let us Assist,' Kingston Gleaner (Jamaica), January 22, 1921, American Antiquarian Society Newsclipping File. Lincoln travelled to Bermuda in 1924.

3)  Robert Washburn, 'Waldo Lincoln,' Worcester Gazette, April 10, 1933.

4)  Lincoln Family Papers 1879-1930, American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection.

5)  For more on Lincoln's accomplishments, see his obituary in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 43 (April 1933): 25-32.

6)  Waldo Lincoln, 'Portraits in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society, 'Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 33(October 1923): 235-247.

7)  For a list of the subscribers, see Clarence W. Bowen to Clarence S. Brigham, November 2, 1929, American Antiquarian Society Archives. The subscribers, including Bowen, Brigham, Arthur Prentice Rugg and Henry W. Cunningham, each paid $100.

8)  Ibid.

9)  Ibid.

10)  Clarence W. Bowen to Clarence S. Brigham, December 16, 1929, American Antiquarian Society Archives. According to Salisbury's bill, dated December 18, 1929, the artist was paid $1250 for the portrait and was reimbursed $95 for the frame. The remainder of the subscription money was used to pay Lincoln's expenses for the trip to New York. In a December 18, 1929 letter to Brigham, Lincoln himself noted, 'I am exceedingly pleased to have my portrait in the library.'

11)  Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 43(April 1933): 31.

12)  Waldo Lincoln is 80 Today,' Worcester Telegram December 31, 1929, American Antiquarian Society Newsclipping File.

Waldo Lincoln


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