The New Hampshire State House Art Collection
The Historic New Hampshire State House is the oldest State House in the nation in which the legislature still occupies its original chambers. Its beautiful gold dome is both a landmark and a monument. From its Hall of Flags to the portraits of generations of leaders gracing its corridors, The New Hampshire State House represents an extensive legacy of rich political tradition.
The State House Visitors Center is open for guided and self-guided tours. Reservations for guided tours are requested. Please call the Historic New Hampshire State House at 603-271-2154 to confirm hours and to request reservations.
The New Hampshire State House Portraits Collection
By Russell Bastedo, New Hampshire State Curator
The New Hampshire State House Portraits Collections were begun by Benjamin F. Prescott (1833 - 1895) and Thomas Logan Tullock (1820 - 1883). Working together, Messrs. Prescott and Tullock arranged for some two hundred seventy portraits and sculpture busts of "New Hampshire Notables" to be either collected or "taken." Beneficiaries of this drive to create were Dartmouth College, Phillips Exeter Academy, and The New Hampshire Historical Society, in addition to the New Hampshire State House. (left: Benjamin Prescott)
The original idea for the project appears to have been Tullock's. A Portsmouth (NH) businessman with a strong interest in genealogy and history, Tullock served as New Hampshire's Secretary of State (1858 - 1861). Tullock's principal biographer, George Roberts, writes that it was at this time that "...he [Tullock] commenced the Portrait Gallery of the governors and other citizens, distinguished for their civic and military services...." (Granite Monthly Magazine, April 1882).
Tullock concentrated on collecting oil on canvas portraits of ancestors from New Hampshire's "old families." Prescott, a career civil servant who also served as New Hampshire Secretary of State (1872 - 1873, 1875 - 1876), conceived of creating likenesses of historical figures from whatever pictorial sources could be found. Prescott contacted Adna Tenney, a Hanover (NH) farmer turned itinerant artist, and his nephew Ulysses Dow Tenney about this assignment. One or the other of the Tenneys visited New Haven's Yale University Art Gallery to copy Jonathan Trumbull's likenesses of New Hampshire's Revolutionary War heroes, and other sources to copy were pursued where possible.
Tullock and Prescott created a voluminous correspondence about their efforts to locate portraits. Much of this correspondence is collected at The New Hampshire Historical Society's Division of Manuscripts. Prescott's correspondence with the Tenneys, much of it concerning who to paint and when pictures can be painted and at what cost, is also available for research at the same repository. (right: Thomas Logan Tullock, before restoration, 1999)
Tullock was aided in his efforts by the Civil War era's strong sense of destiny, and Prescott (who served as Governor 1877, 1878) by the Centennial celebrations' interest in America's past and future glory. In subsequent years it has become traditional for New Hampshire governors to have their portraits painted for the State House Portrait Collections, and the portraits collections continue to grow.
Text and images courtesy of the State of New Hampshire and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.
Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.
rev. 5/4/09. revisions in links courtesy of Linda Sheldon, NH Department of Information Technology
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