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The Hon. Daniel Webster (1857)

The Honorable Daniel Webster
(No. 1)
by Ball Hughes, 1857

Rear View
Inscription, verso:
The Honble Danl Webster
This Sketch was Burnt 
with a Poker. from an
original Drawing.
Boston. 1857.
BH. fecit.

This inscription is almost the same as the ones on two other 1857 pokerisms of Daniel Webster except for the addition of: “from an original drawing.” See The Hon. Daniel Webster (1857) on this site and Ball Hughes Salon No. 19-20 in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art for two other inscriptions from 1857.

Signature closeup

The Honorable Daniel Webster
(No. 2)
by Ball Hughes, 1857?

    Click on images above to enlarge. Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a lawyer, orator, Senator from Massachusetts, statesmen, and advocate for American nationalism. The right-hand side of the images is lighter because of the crude lighting I was using. The second pokerism (with no inscription) is darker in color and not as detailed as the first one.

Daniel Webster
by N. Currier, 1852
Photo from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division 

Ball Hughes burnt many pokerisms of this popular public figure. They closely resemble the lithograph above. It looks very similar to the photograph of a daguerreotype below. There is also a similar steel engraving by J.A.J. Wilcox. Perhaps they are both based on the original (ca 1850?) daguerreotype. Engravings were used for printing in the mid-1800's because there was no way yet to duplicate daguerreotypes.

Daniel Webster.
1 photographic print.
Photo made from a daguerreotype by John A. Whipple in the colleciton of Dartmouth College Library.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

    Kathleen Menéndez speculated about the source of the sketch for another Daniel Webster pokerism in Ball Hughes Salon No. 19-20 in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art:

"Most of Ball Hughes's poker paintings were portraits, and usually done after the paintings or photographs of other famous artists. Research indicates that his portrait of Daniel Webster, which he rendered several times in pyrography, was no exception, as it appears to be done after a well known photograph of the venerable statesman. However, because presumably Daniel Webster would have sat for Ball Hughes in preparation for his portrait sculpture (which was willed to his daughter Julia, as published in his letters at the link here), it seems likely that Ball Hughes would have also done his own sketch of Daniel Webster for that sculpture. If that were the case, the question arises as to why he would not have used his own sketch in preparation for his pyrographs. Is it possible that he also created the sculpture from that photograph? Or is it even possible that the "little bust" Daniel Webster willed to his daughter Julia was actually a pyrographic portrait bust, that is, the one we've been seeing all along, perhaps the first of the many Ball Hughes did (like the two above) that were in obviously popular demand? As it turns out, Daniel Webster resided in Dorchester for a period, which may account, in part at least, for the exceptional demand there in Ball Hughes's social circle for Webster's portrait above all others."

    This is the only known pokerism of Daniel Webster that includes "after an original drawing" in the inscription on the back. Ball Hughes may have been referencing his own sketch of Webster as Kathleen 
Menéndez suggests.

    Compare these two pokerisms to 
The Hon. Daniel Webster (1856) on this site and to Portrait of Daniel Webster (1858) sold by Neal Auction Co. in 2009.

    Both of these pokerisms are signed with the initials “BH.” on the front below the bottom edge of the subjects' right coat sleeve. A total of eight pokerisms of Daniel Webster have been discovered as of 2013.

   The subjects' pupils are small, dark holes, burned into the wood. The varnish on the slightly beveled edge of the holes reflect ambient light like a human eye does and add contrast. This makes the eyes “pop” and is common to the numerous other copies of Daniel Webster and other pokerworks by Ball Hughes, like
The Grapeseller. The refection changes depending on the viewing angle and adds a realistic feature.

These two pokerisms were found around 2009 in the trash in front of a house about 1.5 mile from the Ball Hugheses home, Sunnyside, in Dorchester, MA. Read the amazing story in the following edited series of correspondence to David Brown from the finder of the pokerisms.

“May 2013
Dear Mr. Brown,
I am in possession of two Robert Ball Hughes poker "sketches" of U.S. Sen. Daniel Webster, one dated 1857. I discovered them about four years ago in someone's trash and rescued them just before they were rained upon. It took me some time to realize what they were and they have remained in storage… in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, maybe 1.5 miles from School Street in Dorchester.

They look very similar, except that one has an engraved inscription on the back and the other does not. I am attaching photos of the one with the inscription here…It reads as follows: "The Honble Danl Webster. This sketch was Burnt with a Poker from an original Drawing. BH Fecit Boston 1857."...

...This panel [No. 1] is approximately 10 1/8 inches long and 8 5/8 inches wide. The portrait has an oval of what appears to be varnish around it, as if once were contained in a frame...

...The back of this one [No. 2] appears more unfinished. The top and bottom of the panel are slightly beveled, and the surface is patterned with regular indentations as if it had been struck with a small-headed chisel or hammer. Like the previous artwork, this one is signed [on the front] with a small "BH," but has no other inscription. Its size is larger, approximately 8.5 by 11 inches...

...They were found [near] #16 Myrtle Street just off Centre Street in Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. The houses are all historic, though I don't know if they are as old as the artworks.

I found them amid boxes someone was throwing away on trash day. It looked like an attic or basement had been cleaned out, and most of the boxes contained paperback books and stuff like that. Someone else was going through those. I recall that it was just starting to rain, so I decided to randomly grab one thing out of a box. I ended up taking a portfolio-style folder filled with yachting magazines from the 1940s, of all things. It just seemed so quirky and interesting, nothing I knew about. When I finally got around to going through the magazines, I found the wooden panels sandwiched among them. At first I thought it was someone's hobby project, but then I found several Xeroxed copies of an old magazine article about Ball Hughes in the folder as well. It was the first I had ever heard of him. I am guessing someone made multiple copies of the article to share with friends or family, but there was no identifying material about the owner of the folder or the art work. Why they were stuffed in a folder of magazines, I have no idea, but obviously it allowed them to be overlooked...

...I included all of the copies of the Ball-Hughes article that were in the folder with the artwork. (I noticed that on one of them, someone had written the dimensions of the two artworks--pretty clearly researching and pondering their find.) I also enclosed a Xeroxed copy of a yachting magazine article that was also in the folder, and that I forgot I still had among the Ball-Hughes articles. It describes a 1940s [1935] yacht trip leaving Gloucester, Mass. and names its crew. Seems to me that the artwork owner may have been among the crew. And the folder may thus have been a memento collection of sorts, which is why the artwork and yachting stuff was mixed together. All speculation. (I no longer have the folder and the magazines, and none of it had any sort of ID on it.)
John R.”

    The article that was found in the trash with the pokerisms was The Poker Drawings of Ball-Hughes by (Dr.) Edward Daland Lovejoy (1876-1947), which appeared in The Magazine Antiques, September 1946, p.175. Note that one of the names of the crew in the November 1946 issue of Y
achting magazine article mentioned above by John was Frederic Lovejoy. He has the same last name as the author of the article, The Poker Drawings of Ball-Hughes

    These two articles appear to tie the two Lovejoy's to the two pokerisms found in the trash. Perhaps one of their family members lived in the house on Myrtle Street at one time? This would also suggest that the Lovejoy's had more than a casual interest in Ball Hughes pokerisms in the 1940's. I also believe that Edward Daland Lovejoy got much of his information for his article from Frederick Rudolph Brown (1882-1952), a great grandson of Robert Ball Hughes.

    The house near 
where the pokerisims were found at 16 Myrtle St. was built in 1844. It's amazing to think that these pokersims were almost lost forever and may have been in the same area for about 150 years.

These two pokerisms have been rescued and are now back in the Brown family for the descendants and friends of Robert Ball Hughes to enjoy thanks to John R. of Boston. 

Links to other pokerisms of Daniel Webster by Ball Hughes in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art:

Ball Hughes Salon No. 19-20

Ball Hughes Salon No. 13

More images of Ball Hughes poker sketches and background information available at the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art Hall of Antique Art on Pyromuse.org. 

last update 7/8/2013
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2013