A Nineteenth-Century facebook™

Portraits from the Portsmouth Historical Society Collection

Upstairs at
Discover Portsmouth
Open daily, 9:30 to 5pm through December 22, 2018

Portsmouth Historical Society painting collection   Harry M. S. Harlow, William Badger (1930s)  Photo by Ralph Morang

Virtually every historical society has a collection of portraits of local citizens, generally given by descendants of the subject’s family. Over time, these assemblages of paintings become something like a Facebook™ page for the community’s history, giving us a glimpse of life in the past, one person at a time. In addition to providing a recognizable (more or less) likeness of a specific individual and demonstrating the artist’s abilities (or limitations), these portraits are also rich social and cultural documents, attesting to changes in dress and fashion, the presentation of self in everyday life, and other issues.

This installation includes about twenty portraits, principally from the nineteenth century or based on nineteenth-century images, selected from the Society’s collection. An extraordinary group of six portraits of members of the shipbuilding Badger family, along with their family register, occupies the central wall. The images on the side walls are of local men, women and children, including the noted cabinetmaker Langley Boardman. Each provides a glimpse into both an individual and to the conventions of their time.

What will people think of your picture a century or two from now?

TREADWELL, Joseph (attrib.) Badger Portraits 1847-8? *either Anne Maria b. 1818, OR Margaret b. 1832?] Photo by Ralph Morang   TREADWELL, Joseph (attrib.) Badger Portraits 1847-8? [Mrs. Samuel 1798-1848] Photo by Ralph Morang