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William Paine

 

William Paine

 

 

WILLIAM PAINE (1750-1833),
c. 1830
Chester Harding (1792-1866)
oil on canvas
33 1/4 x 27 1/4 (84.46 x 69.22)
Bequest of Russell Sturgis Paine, 1959
Weis #93
Hewes #93

More information

William Paine, a physician and prominent citizen of Worcester, Massachusetts, was one of the eleven incorporators of the American Antiquarian Society in 1812. He served as the Society's vice president from 1813 to 1816 and later was a member of the committee for publications. He bequeathed his professional library which consisted of many early medical texts to the Society.(1) His personal and business papers, including documents relative to his activities during the Revolutionary War, are preserved in the Society's manuscript collection.(2)

Paine was born in Worcester and graduated from Harvard College in 1768. He studied medicine with several Worcester county physicians and was a partner in an apothecary business in town. During the Revolutionary War he supported the Loyalists and left Worcester for England and Scotland in 1774. He received his medical degree from the University of Aberdeen and enlisted in the British Army as a surgeon. In this capacity Paine was sent to New Jersey, New York, and Nova Scotia.(3) After the war was over, Paine was given land in Canada as a reward for his loyalty to the crown, but instead chose to live in Salem, Massachusetts, near his wife's family. In 1793, when Paine's father died, he left the family mansion in Worcester to his son, who soon returned to the city of his youth and re-established his medical practice. During the hostilities with England in 1812, Paine gave up his British military pension and was naturalized as a United States citizen. In Worcester, he quickly regained his social and civic prominence, not only as a physician, but also as a supporter of education and an active member of the Second Parish Church.

Around 1830, Chester Harding, who was then the most fashionable painter in Boston, painted Paine's portrait. Although Harding's sitters included patriots such as James Madison and John Quincy Adams, he agreed to paint the former Loyalist, who by then was almost eighty years of age and had long been retired from the practice of medicine.(4) A contemporary recalled that Paine 'was of medium height and of slight figure; his white hair was brushed back from his head, made into a cue and bound with black ribbon, with a bow at the end. Even at the age of eighty his complexion remained clear and delicate.'(5)



1)   George E. Francis, 'William Paine,' Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 13 (April 1900): 404.

2)   Paine Family Papers c. 1721-c. 1918, American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection.

3)   For more on Paine's activities during the war see Francis, 'William Paine,' 398.

4)   A miniature after this portrait by an unknown artist is owned by the Worcester Art Museum and is illustrated in Susan Strickler, American Portrait Miniatures (Worcester: Worcester Art Museum, 1989), 134. According to Strickler, the miniature was copied in the 1870s by the artist James Sullivan Lincoln. In addition, there is a profile silhouette of William Paine in the Society's Graphic Arts Collection.

5)   Francis, 'William Paine,' 405-6.

 

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