Artifacts, Furniture and Portraits

Visitors to Antiquarian Hall and other AAS buildings are generally surprised by the array of antique furniture, artifacts, and portraits.


Artifacts include two wooden busts of John Winthrop and Voltaire, carved by the Salem architect Samuel McIntire, silver from the family of of Isaiah Thomas, a powder horn dating to the French and Indian War, and a vial of tea collected after the Boston Tea Party in 1773. This vial has been described in a Past-is-Present blog entry. The Emma DeFrance Morse Collection of American Historical Pottery has 324 pieces of nineteenth-century Staffordshire pottery illustrating major sites in the United States and commemorates events in the nation's past. A checklist of the collection was issued in 1916 and the collection has been digitized. Images are available through the Society's digital image archive. Other artifacts in the collection are Col. William Henshaw's musket dating from the American Revolution, silver buttons from military uniforms, mourning jewelry, Civil War era coffee beans from General U.S. Grant's encampment, and a sword that once belonged to Fitz-John Winthrop, the governor of Connecticut, which descended through the Winthrop family.


The furniture includes some fine American and European antiques, including John Hancock's settee, tall clock, and desk that are housed in the Council Room. Another piece favored by American scholars is the high chair used by descendants of Richard Mather, including Cotton Mather. An unusual aspect of this collection is the number of working antique clocks, including a Willard banjo clock, a David Wood shelf clock, and a clock made in Worcester by Samuel Stowel in 1773. An article on some of the most important pieces in the collection was written by Wendell D. Garrett for The Magazine Antiques (March 1970).


Oil portraits are displayed throughout Antiquarian Hall. A catalog of the collection, Portraits in the Collection of the American Antiquarian Society, compiled by Lauren B. Hewes, was published by AAS in 2004.


A fully illustrated inventory of the painted portraits, miniatures and sculpted portrait busts collections is available. Several portraits of eminent members of the Mather family are present, including two portraits, one of Cotton Mather and one of Mather Byles, Sr., by Peter Pelham. Four portraits by the itinerant artist Ethan Allen Greenwood, and several self-portraits by American painters, including Mather Brown, are in the collection. The Society's portraits are included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum Research database.

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