Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ball Hughes Favorite Pitcher

I receive new information and requests for information almost every week. Recently this unique item was brought to my attention. It's a handsome relief molded pitcher with a brass tag attached to the handle by a brass wire.

One side is inscribed "Ball Hughes Favorite Pitcher". The other side is inscribed "E.B.H. to Daniel B. Steadman with kind regard, Nov 26th 1868". "EBH" are the initials of Eliza Ball Hughes, Robert Ball Hughes wife.

This gift was given about 8 months after Ball Hughes death in March, 1868. A Daniel B. Steadman was born in 1826 in South Boston and was presumably a friend of the Ball Hughes family.

This item has been in one family for over 40 years. The owner's grandmother was a collector of American antiques and may have picked it up at auction (Sounds like the Antique Roadshow!). This pitcher is English, about 9" tall and in perfect condition.

The pitcher is a type of thinly potted stoneware with moulded designs, popular during the years 1830's-60's. (I believe it may be known as creamware.) They were inexpensive but artistic, and used to serve a variety of hot and cold liquids, including water, beer, milk, mulled ale and wine.

The pitcher was registered in 1857 according to the English registry mark on the bottom. It could have been made in 1857 or within a few years after registration of the design. Today, this type of pitcher can sell for over $500.

Many thanks to Sally Rude for providing the images and information above.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Details About the Brown's & the Ball Hughes

I am always amazed at the new information I discover when I review books, articles, and websites that I have researched before. While searching for more information about the Patrick Henry statuette, I found the book, The Lineage Book of the Order of Washington by J. G. B. Bulloch, M.D. It includes details about Robert Ball Hughes grandson, George Edward Brown (1857-1933). He was a charter member of the Order of Washington that was formed in 1895 and reorganized in 1908.

I discovered from the book that seven or eight members of George's mothers family were artists. That would include George's mother, Augusta Ball (Hughes) Brown, her sister, Georgina, Augusta's parents, Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes, and several others who are not known. We know that Eliza was trained in the arts, an artist, and an art teacher, Georgina was an accomplished painter and art teacher, and Augusta was an amateur artist.

I also discovered that George's father, Benjamin Franklin Brown, was a Boston merchant. Owing to ill-health, George spent some time with his family in Europe in 1875, presumably in London with his aunt, Georgina Ball Hughes, who spent much of her time there, and possibly his mother. The Statue of Hamilton research led me to the Patrick Henry statuette and that research led me to George Edward Brown and more information about my ancestors.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Statuette of Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry: Liberty or Death
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Art Inventories Catalog

While researching Robert Ball Hughes plaster model for the Alexander Hamilton statue, I came across a record for this statue by Ball Hughes in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Art Inventories Catalog on the SIRIS database. I have searched this database before and never saw this statuette. I was quite excited to see an image of it.

The SIRIS record states that the 26" high plaster statuette is inscribed "Liberty or Death" on the base. The description says: "Full-length portrait of Patrick Henry. He holds his drawn sword in his upraised proper right hand and points downward with his proper left hand. His hat is on the ground behind him." The statuette is owned by a private collector near Boston.

In the article, Patrick Henry: Sentinel for the People, William Rasmussen of the Virginia Historical Society wrote "Henry's military role was celebrated well into the nineteenth century. In the 1830s, Robert Ball Hughes depicted this side of Henry's public service with a small, standing sculpture of the Virginia colonel. This fragile plaster figure is one of many by Hughes never put into marble or bronze due to the artist's poverty and lack of patronage." The article appeared in the February - March 1996 issue of American Art Review. The article is available on the scholarly Traditional Fine Arts Organization website.

Note that in the 1830's, Ball Hughes survived the Cholera of 1832 in New York by fleeing the city and he lived through the The Panic of 1837. These events no doubt had an effect on Ball Hughes poverty and lack of patronage.

Rev. 10/7/2009


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Missing Statue of DeWitt Clinton

According to Georgia Stamm Chamberlain, in The Ball-Hughes Statue of Alexander Hamilton in Antiques Journal March 1957, “Ball-Hughes had already demonstrated his ability to recreate a living portrait in sculpture in his larger than life marble statue of De Witt Clinton for the front of Clinton Hall in Theater Alley on the southwest corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets.” “Shortly after Clinton's death, Ball-Hughes had worked from prints and portraits to secure the satisfactory likeness.” This account was before Ball Hughes plaster model for the famous full-length marble statue of Hamilton was approved by the Merchants' Exchange committee in December 1830.

The Feb. 13, 1830 issue of the New York Mirror reported the following: "The directors of Clinton Hall Association, some time since, applied to Mr. Hughes, the sculptor, for the model of a projected statue of our late Governor, intended for the front of Clinton Hall. This model has been completed, and the exquisite accuracy of its execution has so fully satisfied the directors that they have ordered one of marble, larger than life." Now we know that a model was made by February 1830 and a marble statue was ordered, but was it ever executed?

A search for statues of Clinton did not reveal any record of one ever being completed by Ball Hughes. A pair of cast statues of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton, by Adolph A. Weinman in 1941, adorn the front facade of the Museum of the City of New York. The statue of Hamilton is based on the famous marble statue by Robert Ball Hughes that was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835. But what was the source of the design for companion statue of Clinton?

Microfilm records entitled “Adolph A. Weinman Papers, 1890-1959” have been digitized and are available on the Smithsonian Archives of Art website. They include an article from the New York Times, Tuesday, January 14, 1941 that states that “The De Witt Clinton statue is an original work resulting from an exhaustive study of numerous contemporary portraits on the part of the artist.” Absent is any reference to a statue of Clinton by Robert Ball Hughes.

Perhaps the reason we cannot find other references to a life size marble statue of Clinton is that it was never executed after the model was made and approved. In 1830, Ball Hughes was busy making the model for the larger than life statue of Alexander Hamilton for the rotunda of the Merchants Exchange on Wall Street. That 28” high plaster model of Hamilton was enthusiastically received and approved in December 1830. Ball Hughes would not have had enough time to procure such as large piece of marble for the statue of Clinton in 1830 before embarking on the Hamilton statue. The marble for the statue of Hamilton took some time to be procured from Italy. Ball Hughes worked on a full size model of the Hamilton, probably starting in 1831, and then on the marble statue in 1834 when the marble and carvers from England had arrived.

What about the references to a larger than life marble statue of Clinton by Georgia Stamm Chamberlain in 1957? Even Wayne Craven, writing in Sculpture in America (1968 & 1984), quoted the 1830 New York Mirror article and concluded that Ball Hughes was working on a statue of DeWitt Clinton for the Clinton Hall Association. A model was definitely made by Ball Hughes by February 1830 but I have not found any record of a life size marble statue ever being executed after it was ordered.

More information was found in the recently rediscovered Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, Robert's wife. Eliza states that about the time Ball Hughes had completed the Monument to Bishop Hobart (about October 1832 according to The Diary of Philip Hone) that Ball Hughes "made a very fine statuette of Governor Clinton." Perhaps Eliza recalled the order of events wrong as her account is not always chronological. The statuette she describes may have been the model that was approved in February 1830. If Ball Hughes had made a life size marble statue of Clinton, Eliza didn't mention it, only a statuette.

I reviewed all of the source material that I have accumulated so far and found a possible answer in American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 1, A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born before 1865, edited by Thayer Tolles (1999). “... when he arrived in New York, he (Hughes) was perhaps the most talented and technically proficient sculptor in the United States. As such, he had access to New York's prominent citizens and he received some important commissions, but they were too few to sustain him and he had difficulty extracting payment. In 1829-30, for instance, he prepared a model for a statue of De Witt Clinton, a plum commission from the Clinton Hall Association that was never realized.”

Once again, more answers lead me to more questions. What ever happened to the statuette of DeWitt Clinton?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Census Records for Sunnyside

Thanks to an observant researcher, I have a copy of a census record for 1900 showing Georgina Ball Hughes. The record for Suffolk County, Massachusetts includes the residents on School St., in Dorchester. Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes eldest daughter, Georgina, lived in the family home, Sunnyside, on School Street until her death in 1911 at age 82.

The Ball Hughes family moved from Adams St. to School St. in 1851. Robert lived there for 17 years until his early death in 1868. We learned from the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes that the Ball Hughes apparently rented the home from several different owners over the years. In 1866, Mrs. Ball Hughes convinced her daughter, Georgina, who taught art in the public school for many years, that it would be a good investment to buy the house. Robert and Eliza continued to live there, probably with Georgina at times. She spent much of her time in London, England working as an accomplished artist.

What I didn't know was Georgina's birth date and city of birth. Several art biographies listed her birth year as 1828. This always bothered me since her parents, Robert and Eliza, where married in November 1828 and left for New York by packet ship shortly after they were married. Georgina would have been an infant on the stormy 10-week ocean voyage in the winter of 1828/29 if she was born in 1828. Eliza made no mention of Georgina's birth in the biography. Without knowing Georgina's city of birth, I had no way of verifying her birthdate, until I saw the 1900 census record.

I have no reason to doubt the census record as the information was provided to the census-taker by Georgina, the owner and resident of the house. The record lists the house number as 1 School St. (at the corner of Washington St.). The house number is now 3 School St., since the house was moved about 60 feet west from the corner. This tells me that the house may have been moved after the 1900 census but not what year. The census record for residents as of June 1, 1900 shows “Ball-Hughes Georgina” as the head of the house and no other residents or tenants at the time. A photograph of Sunnyside shows a “For Let” sign in front of the house in the late 1800's. The next house shown on the census record for School St. is No. 9.

The census record shows Georgina's color or race as “W” for white, sex as “F” for female, date of birth as Sept. 1829, age at last birthday as “70”, place of birth as “New York” (City), birth places of father and mother as “England”, and she was single as we already knew. The record also shows her occupation as “Artist”, and months not employed as “0”. The entry for attended school (in months) was blank and the entries for can read, can write, and can speak English were “Y” for yes. The owned or rented entry was “O” for owned, the entry for owned free or mortgaged was “M” for mortgaged, and the entry for farm or home was “H” for home.

This tells us quite a bit. Georgina was born in New York in September 1829, not 1828 as previously reported. She apparently was a honeymoon baby, conceived on the long ocean voyage since the Ball Hughes arrived in New York on January 19, 1829. September 1829 to June 1900 is 70 years, the same as Georgina's reported age as of June 1, 1900. Georgina probably completed public school in Philadelphia and Boston but nothing more is known about her education. Her obituary states that she was 83 when she died in October 1911. She would have been 82 years old if she was born in September 1829 instead of 1828. Perhaps the writer also had the wrong year of birth.

It's interesting that after owning the home for about 34 years since purchasing it in 1866, she still had a mortgage on it. Maybe long mortgage terms were common at the time to keep the payments low. It's also interesting that at age 70, Georgina did not consider herself unemployed. Retirement, as we know it today, is a relatively new phenomenon.

As I have learned, a one-line census record can reveal valuable information to confirm what is already known and add more details to it. I'd like to obtain more census records for the Ball Hughes from New York City for 1829-1830's, Philadelphia from the 1830's to 1840's, and Boston, from the 1840's to 1900's. I'd also like to get birth records for Georgina (born Sept. 1829) and her younger sister, Augusta (born Feb. 16, 1832), both in New York City. These birth certificates might list the parents birth date and city so I can track down Robert and Eliza's birth records.

I'm also looking for a passenger list for the packet ship, The Robert Edwards, that arrived in New York from London on Jan. 19, 1829. This list might also show Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes birth date and city. Please contact me if you have access to these records and can help me. Thank you.

Dave Brown

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Panic of 1837

Cartoon showing the problems of a tradesman during the Panic of 1837
Library of Congress LC-USZC4-3240

You can't study the life of Robert Ball Hughes (1804-1868) and his family without studying the times in which they lived. Robert and his wife, Eliza (Wright) came to New York from London, England in early 1829. Many of his early customers for portrait busts were merchants and bankers who were becoming very rich as commerce in the young republic grew rapidly. In 1835, Ball Hughes completed the marble statue of Alexander Hamilton for the NY Merchants Exchange. It was the first life-size statue carved in marble in America. Ball Hughes became an artist of celebrity before the statue was sadly destroyed in the Great Fire of 1835.

In 1837 or 1838(?), Ball Hughes moved to Philadelphia to compete for an equestrian statue of George Washington. He was kindly received in Philadelphia and found plenty of work in the way of busts and medallions while waiting for an opportunity to make the Washington Monument, as it was to be called. Finally he was called upon to make a sketch and a model of the proposed statue. The committee for the equestrian statue approved his design in 1840(?) but the panic of 1837 was still having an impact on the economy after a brief rally from 1838 to 1839.

According to Eliza Ball Hughes, the committee "told the sculptor more important things demanded their immediate attention." That was an understatement. The Second Bank of the United States, located in Philadelphia, failed in 1841 and funding was lost for the statue. During the 5-year depression that followed the Panic of 1837, 40% of the country's banks failed. Confidence dropped and currency was devalued.

Businesses went bankrupt and many people lost their entire life savings. Unemployment at the time has been estimated to be about 30%. Mobs in New York raided warehouses for food and soup kitchens and bread lines sprouted up. This was Americas first major depression, second only to the Great Depression of the 1930's. Economists still argue about the cause: land speculation, easy credit, Specie Circular, government intervention, government inaction, etc.

Even with high unemployment, Ball Hughes still had work, though not always steady work. In 1839 he was hired by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia to modify the Christian Gobrecht design of the Seated Liberty on U.S. coins. He apparently was paid $75 for his services. By 1842 (or 1840), Ball Hughes had given up hope of completing the Washington Monument and moved his family to Dorchester, MA, near Boston, where several orders awaited him. He was most kindly received in Boston and made it his final home.

By about 1843 the depression was over and the economy improved again. Ball Hughes continued to do colossal sculpture, including the Nathaniel Bowditch Monument in 1847. It was the first life-size statue cast in bronze in America. He also continued to work in clay, plaster, and marble, engrave medallions, and carve cameos.

In the 1850's Ball Hughes reinvented himself by creating "poker pictures" burnt in wood with a hot poker. He is credited with being the first person to popularize pyrography in America. He also supplemented his income in his later years by lecturing on art. Eliza taught art students to help support the family and their oldest daughter, Georgina, also an accomplished artist, taught drawing in the public school.

Note that reported dates are sometimes difficult to verify, even some of those recorded by Eliza Ball Hughes have been shown to be wrong. We can use historical events like the Great Fire of 1835 and the Panic of 1837 to place Ball Hughes at certain locations at the time. The year 1840, etched on the back of the First Poker Work, places Ball Hughes in Boston with his studio in Bromfield Hall. Eliza records that they moved to Boston in 1842. I'm leaning towards 1840. He was in Philadelphia in 1839 when he worked for the U.S. Mint. I estimate that funding was lost for the Washington Monument between 1839 and 1840 and not after the Second Bank of the United States failed in 1841.

Rev 5/1/2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Silhouettes of the Ball Hughes Family

I purchased the book, Auguste Edouart's Silhouettes of Eminent Americans, 1839-1844 by Andrew Oliver (1977) for $12 through Amazon.com. I was looking for images of silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family.

According to the Appendix, Edouart cut four silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family in Boston on Nov. 2, 1842, including the two that I knew about and have on my Silhouettes webpage on RobertBallHughes.com. They are recorded as "Hughes, Ball, sculptor from London, doing a bust of Edouart" and "Hughes, Mrs. Ball." The book by Oliver is apparently an edited version of the 1926 book by Emily Jackson by the same name.

According to the Appendix to the book, Edouart also did a silhouette of Ball Hughes daughter Augusta and one of daughter Georgina at the same time as the ones above. Unfortunately, none of the four Ball Hughes family silhouettes appear in Oliver's book. I'd like to know if they are in Jackson's 1926 book or if anyone has images that they can share with me.

Once again my research answers one question and creates another. I learned from the book that the silhouettes were done in 1842 in Boston and this is very helpful. I also learned that there are two more silhouettes that I didn't know about and don't have images of (yet).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Silhouettes of the Ball Hughes Family

Since I started using a web tracker, I've noticed that many visitors to RobertBallHughes.com are looking for silhouettes. In fact, more visitors to the site are interested in the silhouettes by Auguste Edouart than in Ball Hughes. I average about three visitors a day to the Silhouettes webpage from all over the world.

I'm glad that so many visitors are finding the page and hope that it's of interest to them. Visitors appear to be searching for "silhouettes" with a search engine or for images of silhouettes and are linking to the Silhouettes webpage from the image results.

The web tracker shows me what search terms and search engine the visitor used or what webpage they came from. If you search for "silhouettes" and "Edouart," the Silhouettes webpage on RobertBallHughes.com or the images of the silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family show up among the top results.

I'd love to hear from visitors about what they think of the Silhouettes webpage and if they found what they were searching for. Drop me an e-mail or add a comment below this post. I'm also looking for references to the Silhouettes of the Ball Hughes Family or books that have copies of these images or others of the Ball Hughes family.

Enjoy the site!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

RobertBallHughes.com is One Year Old

I started this research in February 2008 at age 55. I was "Googling" my family name and found a reference to my cousin's Ball Hughes poker work at the Antique Hall of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art. The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art is the premier site for Pyrographic Art by Kathleen Menéndez. That site lead me to search for more information about Robert Ball Hughes.

The books, Good Old Dorchester by William Dana Orcutt and The History of American Sculpture by Lorado Taft provided more information. In March 2008, I started the Robert Ball Hughes website on Googlepages. I was finding information on the Internet and at a university library faster than I could edit and publish it online.

I had valuable help from many people including Kathleen Menéndez, Boston author Anthony M. Sammarco, and several numismatist experts. At the end of May, after I saw a new Wikipedia entry about Robert Ball Hughes, I announced my site to the sculpture, pyrography, and numismatist communities and added a link to it on Wikidepia.

In the next few months, I found the descendents of my grandfathers brother. My branch of the family had lost touch with them after my grandfather died in 1935. The two brothers had moved from Boston to different states in the early 1900's. Both Brown families had inherited artwork and documents from Ball Hughes and his family. Many of the items are already on the website including the portrait of Robert by Col. John Trumbull, family photographs, The Gold Medal, The First Poker Work, images of sculpture, and the Hughes Crest.

The greatest discovery was the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, wife of Robert. My offer is still open for anyone to help with the transcription of portions of the 49 page hand-written book. As sections are transcribed, I can add them to the website for all to read, so please volunteer! See Biography of Robert Ball Hughes Rediscovered for more information.

In August 2008, I purchased the domain name www.robertballhughes.com for $9.95 a year to make it easier to find the site. It's gratifying to see the number of visitors to the site (see What's a Web Tracker?) and I enjoy meeting new Friends of Robert Ball Hughes online.

There is so much more work to be done. The Please Help Write This History webpage lists additional information that I'm looking for. Check this blog and the What's New webpage for updates in the coming months and please let me know your comments.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's a Web Tracker?

A web tracker is an Internet service that can track the number of visitors to a website and MUCH more. I use StatCounter, a free invisible real-time web tracker that tracks individual visitors to RobertBallHughes.com. Don't worry, I can't tell who you are, but I do know your city, country, and ISP name. This helps me to see where in the world people are visiting from and how often they come back to the site. StatCounter is free for the last 500 pageloads, which is fine for me as I check it daily. You can upgrade to a larger log file for a small monthly fee.

StatCounter appears to keep summary statistics from the when I signed up so I can view summary stats on a monthly or yearly basis as well as daily or weekly. This is very handy to see the trends in visitor traffic, and yes, it's been steadily increasing. The system does a good job at determining returning visitors unless they delete their browser cookies in between visits. I can still recognize them from their ISP's name and IP address though. (I see you in London, please e-mail me). I also know when my relatives are visiting the site.

I've had over 3500 visitors (including returning visitors) and 5400 pageloads in the past 12 months, that's about 10 visitors per day. Some of these were visiting my blog's that I was also tracking using the same account. I've changed that as of 2/27/2009 to track my blogs separately. About 70 visitors were confirmed returning visitors. Take a look here to see the StatCounter stats for the last 500 pageloads and the summary stats that I see. I usually look at Recent Page Load Activity first, then Recent Visitor Activity, and Recent Keyword Activity. Save the link to the stats and check back again in a about a month or less to see new stats.

72% of the visitors were from the United States, 16% unknown, and 6% are from the United Kingdom. I've had visitors from all over the world including Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, and many other countries. I get a lot of visitors from the Boston area interested in local history and from schools, colleges, and researchers. When I see someone new searching for Robert Ball Hughes, that's very exciting!

Now for the other features. I can see what page you entered the site through, every page you viewed and in what order, and what page you exited from. This is very helpful to me to see what you're interested in. Many visitors come in through the What's New page and I recommend that. I can also see where you came from, like a link in an e-mail, from one of my blog's, from another site (thank you!), or from a search engine. Many visitors come from the Friends of Robert Ball Hughes Blog.

I can see what your search terms were and even re-run your search using the same search engine and see where the site is ranked, pretty cool! This helps me to determine if someone is looking for information that's on my site or just stumbled onto it. Sometimes visitors only look at one page and leave if it's not what they were looking for. Many repeat visitors search for “Robert Ball Hughes.” Remember you can always search for robertballhughes.com or enter it as the URL and get to the site faster. There's a lot of interest in Edouart's silhouettes and in poker works but I've also seen visitors searching for the Willey House, Bowditch, Hamilton, and Trumbull.

Other interesting stats I can track are the visitors operating system, browser name, and search engine. Windows XP accounts for 46% of operating systems, Windows Vista for 24%, unknown for 23%, Mac for 4%, and about 2% for Windows 2000. Microsoft Internet Explorer accounts for 41% of the web browsers lately, Safari for 25%, Firefox for 25%, and I'm starting to see a few visitors using Google's new Chrome browser. Google accounts for 96% of the Internet search engines and Windows Live for 4% (that's why I use Google, sorry Yahoo).

As satisfying as these statistics about visitors are to me, I'd really like to hear from all of you on the Friends of Robert Ball Hughes Blog or by e-mail. I want to know what you think of the site, how to improve it, and if you have any helpful information to add to the history of the life of Robert Ball Hughes and his family.

Enjoy the site!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Biography of Robert Ball Hughes Rediscovered

Early this year, Fred Brown was cleaning his basement and came across a metal box that was given to him by his father. The box contained documents, newspaper clippings, and photographs that were passed down through his family, descendents of Robert Ball Hughes. Fred was planning on going through the documents and having them professionally archived after he retired.

Among the items in the box was a journal of hand-written pages bound with a string. It's entitled Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes 1804-1868. Inside the cover is a typewritten label that says "Mrs. E. Ball Hughes." There are 49 pages, apparently written by Robert Ball Hughes wife, Eliza Ball Hughes. She wrote at times in the "third person" but it's clear that she was speaking of herself.

The biography starts with Robert's birth in London in 1804, the son of a carriage builder, and traces his life as an artist from a child to his death in Eliza's arms. The information confirms much of what is already known and fills in the gaps with new and previously unknown information. The reason for Ball Hughes coming to America in 1829, his meeting with President Andrew Jackson, and why he almost returned to England are revealed for the first time. His major works: the marble statue of Hamilton (and its' destruction), the Monument to Bishop Hobart, the model for the equestrian statue of Washington, the bronze statue of Bowditch, and the statue of Oliver Twist are covered in detail.

Seven pages are devoted to Ball Hughes "Pokerisms", as Mrs. Hughes called them, and include another account of The First Poker Work. Ball Hughes' failing health is confirmed for the first time and why the family moved to Sunnyside in Dorchester. The rustic studio behind the Willey House in North Conway, NH and Ball Hughes love of the mountains and nature are covered. Descriptions of his New York studio and Bromfield St. studio in Boston are also included.

Most moving is Eliza's tribute to her husband's personality and artistic ability throughout the biography. Ball Hughes tasted success and failure throughout his life. The family struggled financially and Ball Hughes probably never owned a home but he was rich with friends. Eliza describes the engraving on the Gold Medal that Robert won from the Royal Academy in 1823: "There is a figure of Britannia with a youth beside her: and on a rocky rugged hill stands the Temple of Fame to which she is pointing up and explaining the difficulties of reaching it. Mr. Hughes had scaled them all."

In the coming months, I'll be correcting and adding factual information on RobertBallHughes.com. New information from the biography will include the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes as the reference. The research is going slowly because the handwriting is difficult to read. See Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes for updates on the progress. (A sample page of the manuscript has been added on 3/11/2009.)

I'm looking for help in transcribing the handwritten pages. If you would like to be a part of this effort, I'll make the document accessible for you to download. You can transcribe as many pages as you like and email them to me to assemble into a complete text. I'll need to know which page numbers you are going to transcribe so we don't duplicate your efforts. The result will be added to the website on its' own page for public view. I'd especially like to hear from Friends of Robert Ball Hughes in England. Thank you.

4/15/2009 Update:

Thanks to Kathleen Menendez, Curator, E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, for transcribing the entire hand-written journal in less than 5 days, typing to resemble as closely as possible Eliza's style and punctuation. I plan on adding the material to RobertBallHughes.com in installments starting with "The Birth of Pokerisms" before I post the entire text. Watch for updates in the coming weeks.

David Brown

Monday, February 2, 2009

What was Robert Ball Hughes Mother's Name?

I wondered what was Robert Ball Hughes mother's name. Only her first name was hand-written on the family genealogy written by Ball Hughes grandson, George Edward Brown. Up until recently, I couldn't make out what the name was and I had no idea what her maiden name was.

Enter the Internet. A property insurance record on the British National Archives website listed the “Insured: Amelia Susannah Hughes, John Hallett Hughes and William Rogers Hughes, 37 Long Acre.” Robert was born at 59 Long Acre. Amelia was the first name that I could not read before. So now we have her first name and middle name, but what about her maiden name?

The answer is in the same insurance record. Robert Ball Hughes was the second son of John Hallett Hughes. If we assume that William Rogers Hughes was Robert's older brother, then William may have gotten his middle name from his mother's maiden name, Rogers. This was, and continues to be a common practice. My own middle name is my mother's maiden name. So Robert Ball Hughes mother's maiden name could be Amelia Susannah Rogers. But how could we prove it?

A Google search for “Amelia Susannah Rogers” revealed a May 11th, 1796 court record from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court, 1674 to 1913. The record reveals two men were indicted for feloniously stealing a wooden cask, called a sugar hogshead, value, 5s., the property of Ann Rogers, spinster, and Amelia Susannah Rogers. A witness who knew the two "Miss Rogers" stated that Ann and Amelia Rogers were coopers (barrel makers) in the Old-Change (street).

That answers the question but creates another: Why was Mrs. Hughes referred to as "Miss Rogers" once and “Mrs. Rogers” several times if she was married? Remember, her sister Ann was the one called a spinster. It could be that Amelia Susannah Hughes was younger than her sister and not married to John Hallett Hughes yet in 1796. If she was married at the time, she may have continued to be known as Amelia Rogers or Miss/Mrs. Rogers to her customers and workers. It's all too coincidental to not be the same person in 1796 London.

By he way, one of the two thieves was sentenced to six months in prison and the other (the lookout who claimed he had a broken leg and couldn't have rolled the cask away) was publicly whipped and discharged. Read the short court transcript at http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/oldbailey/html_units/1790s/t17960511-55.html.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Presidential Inauguration of 1829

Robert Ball Hughes and his wife, Eliza, witnessed the Inauguration of Andrew Jackson as the 7th President of the United States on March 4, 1829. Ball Hughes had arrived in New York from London only two months before and was staying in Baltimore. The inauguration of the first populist president was attended by over 15,000 people. Jackson was the first President to take the oath of office on the east front portico of the U.S. Capitol.

See http://www.americanpresidents.org/inaugural/07a.asp for the text of Jackson's First Inaugural Address.

The Wikipedia entry for Andrew Jackson says: "Jackson was the first President to invite the public to attend the White House ball honoring his first inauguration. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in their homemade clothes. The crowd became so large that Jackson's guards could not hold them out of the White House. The White House became so crowded with people that dishes and decorative pieces in the White House began to break. Some people stood on good chairs in muddied boots just to get a look at the President. The crowd had become so wild that the attendants poured punch in tubs and put it on the White House lawn to lure people out of the White House.”

President's Levee, or all Creation going to the White House, Washington, [March 4, 1829]

See http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article09300801.aspx from Drexel University for an account of the day and http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/jacksoninauguration.htm for an eyewitness account of the inauguration.

Ball Hughes was truly a witness of history! He later called on President Jackson at the White House and after that carved a bust of Jackson. I'll have more about that first meeting later.

The images above are from the Library of Congress at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/pihtml/pi011.html.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who Was Barnaby Rudge?


He was a comfort to Robert Ball Hughes for 17 years
He was white
He had a unique hair style
He was named after a Dickens character who had a pet Raven named Grip

For the answer see: http://robertballhughes.googlepages.com/silhouettes