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 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 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 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 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