2016 VOLUME 37

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Portrait of Brigadier General William Washington by Thomas Coram

Christopher Bryant and Sumpter Priddy
Fig. 1: “Brigadier General William Washington (1756–1818)” attributed to Thomas Coram (1756–1811), ca. 1795. Oil on canvas with original gilt, gesso, and pine frame; HOA: 29-1/2” (34” in frame), WOA: 25” (30” in frame). Private collection.

The exceptional portrait of famed Revolutionary War cavalry commander Brigadier General William Washington (1752–1810) illustrated in Figure 1 was last documented in a 1799 newspaper advertisement before slipping unrecognized into the mists of time. The painting, attributed to the artist Thomas Coram (1756–1811), recently came to light in a private East Tennessee collection. Depicted in the uniform of the Charleston Light Dragoons, a South Carolina militia unit that William Washington commanded from 1792 until 1798, this oil-on-canvas painting reveals a fascinating two-hundred-year-old tale of heroism, commemoration, and ambition. The deep historical significance of Washington’s portrait is found not only through its famed sitter, but also through the context in which Coram produced the painting and the individuals with whom the artist interacted in the closing years of the eighteenth century. Those men included, directly and indirectly, luminaries such as the American painter John Trumbull (1756–1843), Charleston-born engraver James Akin (1773–1846), … Continued


Research Note: The Turner and the Cabinetmaker, Seth Haywood and Willis Cowling of Richmond, Virginia, 1825–1829

J. Christian Kolbe
Fig. 5: Engraving of a turner working in his shop from “The Panorama of Professions and Trades: Or, Every Man’s Book” by Edward Hazen (Philadelphia, 1837).

This research note examines three sets of documents from the years 1825 to 1829 when wood turner Seth Haywood was working in the Richmond, Virginia cabinetmaking shop of Willis Cowling (Figure 1) and is an addendum to the author’s 2001 MESDA Journal article about Cowling (click here to read the original article).[1] The documents allow for a deeper understanding of Cowling’s business activities and provide a glimpse into how a specialized wood turner, Haywood, worked within an urban Virginia cabinetmaking shop. Specific types of turned elements completed by Haywood and prices for such work paid by Cowling are revealed through the documents. The documents also identify a number of previously unknown apprentices and enslaved artisans associated with Cowling’s shop. Willis Cowling (working c.1810–1828) was a major cabinetmaker in the city of Richmond during the first decades of the nineteenth century. At the beginning of his career, his shop produced furniture … Continued


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