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Guide to the Henry O. Havemeyer Collection of Portrait Prints of American Statesmen
[1790]-[1955], (Bulk [1830]-[1900])
 PR 25

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Sandra Markham

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Henry O. Havemeyer Collection of Portrait Prints of American Statesmen is divided into twelve series based on eleven job titles that reflect Havemeyer's attempt to collect portraits of every American President and Vice President, their senior level cabinet members, and Supreme Court Justices. The portraits - which include images printed on silk panels, ribbons, cigar bands, tickets, sheet music, and thread wrappers as well as those on paper and meant to be framed and hung on a wall - are arranged within each series in chronological order of term served. The portraits are generally not individually dated, and range from images contemporary with the term of office to historical prints made in the twentieth century by artists such as the Rosenthals. However, the collection is predominantly nineteenth century in period, and holds fine examples of a full variety of graphic techniques: engravings on copper, steel, and wood; lithographs (both uncolored and hand-colored); chromolithographs; etchings; photogravures, photographs, etc.

The collection is as impressive in its volume as it is in breadth of scope. Some of the most heavily represented statesmen are George Washington with 730 prints, Andrew Jackson with over 270, Abraham Lincoln with 265; and Henry Clay with 130 portraits.

Faces of the presidents appear on a variety of formats, including a number of portraits printed on silk. Andrew Jackson's folders hold silk memorial ribbons; William Henry Harrison is portrayed on silk campaign, inaugural and memorial ribbons, as well as on sheet music covers and broadsides; and Ulysses S. Grant is pictured on a full sheet of silk fabric. Secretary of State Henry Clay is represented on bright blue cigar bands and on thread wrappers with a portrait simply captioned with the legend "OK Harry." Abraham Lincoln also appears on diverse pieces of ephemera including an 1865 membership certificate for The Lincoln Monument Association of Philadelphia, and an admission ticket for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, printed by the American Banknote Company.

There are also just a few photographic portraits. One, of Secretary of State Jeremiah Black, appears in Box 29, folder 295, on leaf 57. Series I holds two albumen photographs of Abraham Lincoln (in Box 17, folder 171, leaf 72); one is a cabinet card portrait by Levi Handy, Mathew Brady's nephew and heir of his Washington studio. Leaf 80 in the same folder holds a photographic portrait of Mary Surratt, one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators.

Havemeyer assembled his statesman portrait collection over many years and from many sources, incorporating generic portraits removed from books, popular parlor lithographs by Currier and Ives, all kinds and formats of ephemera, and rare eighteenth-century engravings. Each image was inlayed in or mounted on a sheet of 14 x 11 inch paper that was annotated on its lower left corner with Havemeyer's initials, a unique catalogue number, and a price. Some leaves hold two or more prints if the images are small. Others, for instance many of the mid-nineteenth century portraits by Currier and Ives, were not mounted when the print itself measured 14 x 11 inches. The portraits were kept together in albums: each leaf was punched with four holes through which the binding posts or ties were threaded. In cases where the print was not mounted, the holes were cut directly into the print's left margin.

The collection came to The New-York Historical Society in Havemeyer's albums; on November 13, 1950, for example, access records list his gift of "15 volumes of prints (U.S. Presidents)." At some time in the 1980s, the portraits were removed from their bindings and the covers discarded. Each leaf was numbered sequentially in pencil on its upper right corner (including sub-numbers a, b, c, d, etc.), and the prints were stacked flat in boxes. This arrangement was retained in 2002-2003 when the collection was rehoused in folders (approximately ten leaves per folder) and new boxes. The leaves were collated and a census recorded in the following box list.

Many of Havemeyer's statesmen held a number of different offices during their professional lifetimes, particularly in the early years of the republic. Portraits may or may not appear under each office held, depending on Havemeyer's instincts. In some cases, his filing is curiously quirky, and as the addition of multitudes of cross-references would have been overwhelming, readers are encouraged to search this finding aid electronically to locate all extant images of any one man.

For instance, there are portraits of James Madison (1751-1836) both under Presidents in Series I and in Series VIII with Secretaries of State. Portraits of John Y. Mason (1799-1859), however, appear in Series VI Secretaries of the Navy, an office he held under two different presidents, but there are no portraits of him in Series III Attorneys General, a position he held in between his two terms as Naval Secretary. John McLean (1785-1861) served as Postmaster General under Presidents Monroe and Adams, declined appointments as Secretary of War and Navy under President Jackson, and sat as a Justice of the Supreme Court. McLean has one portrait in Series IV Postmasters General and two in Series XI Supreme Court Justices, but five portraits in Series X Secretaries of War, the position he actually never held.

A second reason to search the collection electronically is to catch men that Havemeyer included in places where they might not logically be thought of, or in places in which they don't belong at all. For instance, Edward C. Bates (1793-1869) declined the appointment as Secretary of War in 1850 under President Fillmore, but did serve as Attorney General under President Lincoln from 1861 to 1864. Havemeyer placed one portrait of Bates in Series III Attorneys General and a second portrait in Series X Secretaries of War. John Marshall (1755-1835) was appointed Secretary of War in 1800 and did not serve. Havemeyer placed one portrait of him in Series X, in addition to the seventeen portraits of Marshall he appropriately filed in Series VIII Secretaries of State, and the four others in Series XI Supreme Court Justices.

Occasionally, portraits of ad-interim cabinet members are included. Hugh Swinton Legare's two-month term as Secretary of State earned him an appearance in Series VIII, in addition to a portrait in Series III Attorneys General, a job he held for two years. Ulysses S. Grant served briefly as Secretary of War when Edwin Stanton was removed from office, and is represented there with a single portrait, in addition to the nearly one hundred portraits of him in Series I Presidents.

Havemeyer included a few Assistant Secretaries in the collection as well. Three portraits of Gustavus Vasa Fox (1821-1883), who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1861, can be found in Series VII. He is followed there by a portrait of William Faxon, about whom nothing is known, including the extent of his service in the Navy.

In addition, Havemeyer made errors in collecting his statesmen, but their portraits have been left in place and accounted for in the box and folder list. A plausible example of a mix-up can be found in Series VIII Secretaries of State, where a portrait of Theodore Frelinghuysen (1787-1862) is filed after one of his nephew Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (1817-1885), who was the Secretary of State from 1881 to 1885. Theodore Frelinghuysen was a Senator from New Jersey from 1829-1835 and candidate for Vice President of the United States in 1844, but he never served as Secretary of State; however, his portrait has been left just as Havemeyer had filed him. Although Isaac Shelby (1750-1826) declined President James Monroe's appointment, there is a portrait of him in Series X Secretaries of War; he was prominent as Governor of Kentucky, but never served in a federal position and therefore technically he should not be included in this collection. Likewise, there is a portrait of George Cabot (1752-1823) in with the Secretaries of the Navy; he was the first appointed Secretary, but declined and did not serve. A portrait of a distinguished New York State Senator, Leonard Gansevoort (1750-1810), appears in Series XI Supreme Court Justices, a position he never held. Theophilus Parsons (1750-1813) was the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts State Supreme Court, but was never United States Attorney General though there are two portraits of him in Series III. Probably the most egregious (and amusing) of Havemeyer's errors is the portrait of Anglo-Irish poet and playwright Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1744) that appears in Series XI, following eleven portraits of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807).

There are a few group portraits filed throughout the collection, as well as dual portraits of some men with their running mates. The other men have not been cross-referenced in this finding aid. In one case, in Series IX Secretaries of the Treasury (Box 30, folder 305), there is a print titled "The First Cabinet," after a painting by Alonzo Chappel, which includes Secretary Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) among several unidentified men; Havemeyer filed it in with other portraits of Hamilton. Series I Presidents includes group portraits of Ulysses S. Grant with his family, with Robert E. Lee, and with other Civil War staff and generals. Series II Vice Presidents includes John C. Breckinridge (1821-1875) as United States Vice President in 1857, though he is pictured with the cabinet members of his time as Confederate Secretary of War (1865). Some of the statesmen are shown in metaphorical situations, such as Daniel Webster at the tomb of William Shakespeare.

There are hundreds of other portraits with Havemeyer's initials and markings on them in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections' PR 052 Portrait File. Many of those are portraits of American statesmen, but the Havemeyer material described below, in this collection PR 025, is only that which is in the 14 x 11-inch format bored through with post holes, and arrived bound in Havemeyer's albums.

The series themselves are self-explanatory, and the following pages are but a list of the names of statesmen, their office term dates, and the number of portraits of each. There are three exceptions, one very simple, one more complex, and one that can only be termed "Collector's License."

The first is Series VI Secretary of Agriculture, which holds a single print: Jeremiah M. Rusk. The second is Series I Presidents of the United States. This series contains portraits of men who held that office between 1789 and 1913 (Washington to Wilson), as well as seven of the First Ladies (Adams, Madison, Adams, Tyler, Johnson, Grant, and Cleveland) who follow their husbands' portraits in chronological order. Unlike the rest of the prints in the Havemeyer collection, two of the presidents still retain their original Havemeyer volume numbers: George Washington has Havemeyer volume numbers 1 through 5a, and Abraham Lincoln is in volume numbers 13 through 15. Havemeyer arranged his prints of Washington in corresponding order with Charles Henry Hart's Catalogue of the Engraved Portraits of Washington (New York: The Grolier Club, 1904), and wrote the Hart numbers on the verso of each print; they are included in the Washington entries of the box and folder list.

"Collector's License" would cover the inclusion of nearly one hundred portraits of General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) in this collection, which is otherwise devoted to "American Statesmen." While Scott had a half-century long and distinguished military career (which included service in the War of 1812, and the Black Hawk, Seminole and Mexican Wars) he did not serve as an elected official or cabinet member during his lifetime. He was in his way a statesman in that he did negotiate peace treaties along the United States borders during his career. In addition, Scott did run unsuccessfully for President in 1852. His portraits make up Series XII.

Henry O. Havemeyer kept typed inventories and appraisals of his collections in paper report binders. These came to the Society at some point, and form Series XIII. The lists record his unique print numbering system and some purchase information, but are not useful as collection guides. Folder 380 holds a print summary that reveals the fact that Havemeyer paid fifty cents each to have the prints inlayed. Also included are inventories of material not in the Print Room, such as manuscripts and medals, which may be found in other departments in the New-York Historical Society.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into thirteen series based on statesmen's job titles:

  1. Series I. Presidents of the United States
  2. Series II. Vice Presidents of the United States
  3. Series III. Attorneys General of the United States
  4. Series IV. Postmasters General of the United States
  5. Series V. Secretaries of the Interior
  6. Series VI. Secretary of Agriculture
  7. Series VII. Secretaries of the Navy
  8. Series VIII. Secretaries of State
  9. Series IX. Secretaries of the Treasury
  10. Series X. Secretaries of War
  11. Series XI. Supreme Court Justices
  12. Series XII. General Winfield Scott
  13. Series XIII. Havemeyer Inventories