John Paul Jones Collection

  • Maple Bowfront Chest-of-Drawers, early 19th c.
  • JW Parsons Fire Bucket, mid-19th c.
  • Chinese Export Plate, circa 1750
  • Early 19th c. Portsmouth Card Table
  • Late 19th c. Silk Parade Badge


The collections of the Portsmouth Historical Society focus on life in Portsmouth and the surrounding region from the first English settlement here in 1623 through the early 20th century. The Society’s collections are exhibited in the John Paul Jones House, which has served as the Society’s home since 1920. The collections include important examples of locally produced furniture and decorative arts as well as pieces made elsewhere that have played a role in the history of the Piscataqua region.

Portsmouth was well known as a center for the furniture trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Society is fortunate to display some exceptional examples of Portsmouth craftsmanship, ranging from the high-style to the vernacular. Select groupings of material by and about leading furniture makers including Langley Boardman (1774-1833) and Samuel Dockum (1792-1872) provide a unique opportunity to explore in depth the world and work of the pre-industrial craftsman.

The Society’s collection of portraits is one of the most extensive in the New Hampshire seacoast. Through these images, spanning three centuries, we come to know the faces and spirits of the women and men who have shaped Portsmouth.

Donations made over several generations allow the Society to give a comprehensive picture of the use of glass and ceramics along the New Hampshire seacoast. Among the highlights are China trade wares, pieces with political messages, and middle-class tableware of the mid-19th century.

A wide range of objects document the life of past generations, especially everyday life and women’s experience. The textile collections present a remarkable history of costume in Portsmouth from the 18th through the early 20th century, and the Society’s needlework collection is exceptional. A large collection of kitchen implements reveals much about the texture of home life in early America and about how our understanding of it has changed over the last century.

In addition to the collections on display at the John Paul Jones House, the Society also owns an important body of manuscript and printed source material on the history of Portsmouth. This collection is on deposit at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, where it is available for consultation by researchers without charge.

Portsmouth Peace Treaty Exhibit

The second floor exhibit gallery in the John Paul Jones House Museum features the “An Uncommon Commitment to Peace: Portsmouth Peace Treaty 1905” exhibit, created for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty in 2005. Based on extensive local research that was recognized by the Library of Congress, this exhibit tells the story of how local people made a difference in creating the atmosphere for peace that helped resolve the stalemate between the Russian and Japanese plenipotentiaries.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who did not come to Portsmouth for the peace conference, but exercised back channel diplomacy from the summer White House at Sagamore Hill won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. For the 110th anniversary in 2016, the exhibit includes a replica of TR’s Nobel prize and a selection of documents from the Russian Foreign Ministry Archives. For more information, visit