The Norwich Galleries

From its earliest human habitation 10,000 years ago to the present, people have been drawn to Norwich by its geography. Three rivers, the Yantic, Shetucket and Thames, have been essential to agricultural, commercial and industrial development of Norwich and its environs through the centuries.
Native Americans were attracted to the area by the rich hunting and fishing grounds. The Pequots were the primary presence in the area until the English began to acquire land and settle. A split within the Pequot tribe occurred over the tribal policy toward the English. Uncas advocated alliance while Sassacus favored resistance. Uncas named his new tribe the Mohegans then laid claim to a large tract of land in eastern Connecticut including the area now called Norwich.  A fierce battle between the Mohegans and the Narragansetts took place here in 1643, giving the area of the battle the name Indian Leap or Uncas’ Leap. Uncas was able to maintain Mohegan autonomy and trade because of his alliance with powerful people in the Colony and the defeat of the Pequots. By 1703, the Mohegans lost almost all of their land to the settlers and despite protests to the Crown, the lands in question were never returned.
By 1649 there was a more permanent English presence when Jonathan and Lucretia Brewster were granted 600 acres and exclusive trading rights along the river. In 1659 Uncas, Sachem of the Mohegans, conveyed to the English settlers, lead by Rev. James Fitch and Maj. John Mason, a “9 mile square” parcel of land which would become Greater Norwich.  The settlers transformed the landscape by building homes and a meeting house, roads and turnpikes.
In 1775 several Norwich men joined the thousands who rushed to Massachusetts after the “Lexington Alarm.”  Many Norwich men commanded ships of the Continental Navy and the port of Norwich played a critical role in moving military supplies from the inland towns of eastern Connecticut and central Massachusetts.
Samuel Huntington practiced law in Norwich before he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. In 1779 he was elected President of the Continental Congress.  Norwich grew and prospered after the war and her port remained an important deep-water location for ship building and shipping.  By the early 19th century the center of the city had moved to the port area and a new court house and shops were built to serve this area.

Gallery Highlights

white mug with a top. A man and women stand facing each other in a wooded scene.

Molded Bristol Glass with painted design, Late 18th century 
Gift of Raymond Case

American flip was made in a large pewter mug or earthenware pitcher filled two-thirds full of strong beer; sweetened with sugar, molasses, or dried pumpkin; and brandy or wine. The drink came to the colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, Caribbean rum from the Triangular Trade was a cost-effective substitute.
Into this mixture was thrust and stirred the red-hot flip iron.  The seething iron made the liquor foam, bubble and mantle high, and gave it the burnt, bitter taste so dearly loved. A famous tavern host of Canton, Massachusetts, had a special fancy in flip. He mixed together a pint of cream, four eggs, and four pounds of sugar, and kept this on hand. When a mug of flip was called for; he filled a quart mug two-thirds full of bitter beer, added four great spoonfuls of his creamy compound, a gill of rum, and thrust in the loggerhead. If a fresh egg were beaten into the mixture, the froth poured over the top of the mug, and the drink was called "bellows-top."
The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America when the supply of rum to the newly-founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute.
Let us not fail to speak of the splendid glasses in which flip was often served--the great glass tumblers without handles which, under the name of flip glasses, still are found in New England homes. They are vast drinking-vessels, sometimes holding three or four quarts apiece, and speak to us distinctly of the unlimited bibulous capacities of our ancestors. They are eagerly sought for by glass and china collectors, and are among the prettiest and most interesting of old-time relics.
A waterfall  in a rocky landscape.

John Trumbull (1756-1843)
Oil on canvas, c. 1820
Gift of Raymond B. Case

John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1756, to Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut from 1769 to 1784, and his wife Faith {Robinson} Trumbull. He entered Harvard University at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style.

As a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, Trumbull rendered a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British armaments works, and witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in June 1776, deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates. He resigned from the army in 1777.

In 1780 he traveled to London, where he studied under noted portrait painter Benjamin West. At his suggestion, Trumbull painted small pictures of the War of Independence and miniature portraits, of which he produced about 250 in his lifetime.

On September 23, 1780, British agent Major John André was captured in America, and on October 2, 1780, hanged as a spy. News reached Europe, and as an officer of similar rank as André in the Continental Army, Trumbull was imprisoned for seven months in London's Tothill Fields Bridewell.

In 1784 he was again in London working under West, in whose studio he painted his Battle of Bunker Hill and Death of General Montgomery at Quebec. Both works are now in the Yale University Art Gallery.

In 1785 Trumbull went to Paris, where he made portrait sketches of French officers for Surrender of Lord Cornwallis. With the assistance of Thomas Jefferson, he began Declaration of Independence, well-known from the engraving by Asher Brown Durand (1823). This latter painting was purchased by the United States Congress, along with his Surrender of General BurgoyneSurrender of Lord Cornwallis, and Washington Resigning his Commission, between 1820 and 1821.  All now hang in the rotunda of the United States Capitol. Allegedly because Congress voted enough money only for four paintings, these four of Trumbull's paintings on the Revolution are hung there. Not hung were Death of General Warren at Bunker HillDeath of General Montgomery at QuebecCapture of Hessians at Battle of TrentonDeath of General Mercer at Battle of Princeton. Trumbull's The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1789, owned by the Boston Athenaeum, now hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. While in Paris, Trumbull is credited with having introduced Thomas Jefferson to the Italian painter Maria Cosway, who would become an intimate friend for the rest of his life.

Trumbull sold a series of 28 paintings and 60 miniature portraits to Yale University in 1831 for an annuity of $1000. By far the largest single collection of his works, it was originally housed in a neoclassical art gallery designed by Trumbull on Yale's Old Campus, along with portraits by other artists.

Trumbull's portraits include full lengths of General Washington (1790) and George Clinton (1791), in New York City Hall, where there are also full lengths of Alexander Hamilton (1805, and the source of the face on the U.S. $10 bill) and John Jay, and portraits of John Adams (1797), Jonathan Trumbull, and Rufus King (1800); of Timothy Dwight and Stephen Van Rensselaer (both at Yale), Alexander Hamilton (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, both taken from a marble bust by Giuseppe Ceracchi), a portrait of himself painted in 1833, a full length of Washington, at Charleston, South Carolina, a full length of Washington in military costume (1792), (now at Yale), and portraits of President and Mrs. Washington (1794), in the National Museum of American History.

Trumbull's own portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart and by many others.

In 1794 Trumbull acted as secretary to John Jay in London during the negotiation of the treaty with Great Britain, and in 1796 he was appointed among the five commissioners to carry out parts of the treaty.

Trumbull was appointed president of the American Academy of the Fine Arts, a position he held for nine years, from 1816 to 1825.  He alienated his students, leading to the decline of the American Academy and the founding the National Academy of Design.
Trumbull published an autobiography in 1841 and died in New York City at the age of 88. He was originally interred (along with his wife) beneath the Art Gallery at Yale University that he had designed.  The John Trumbull Birthplace, in Lebanon, Connecticut, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The painting was accompanied by an authentication signed by Miss Harriet R. Trumbull and Miss Alexandrine N. Trumbull, grand-daughters of Daniel Trumbull, at the time the landscape was given to Slater Museum.   It had hung for many years in the home of John Trumbull's great-nephew, Daniel Trumbull of Norwich CT.  A similar work is held in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.
The subject, Yantic Falls, is also known as Uncas Leap and Indian Leap in Norwich and has been the subject of several noted artists.    On September 17th, 1643, The Battle of the Sachem’s Plain brought Narragansett and Mohegan warriors to Yantic Falls, a popular Mohegan fishing and gathering place. Narragansett and Mohegan runners chased one another to a chasm that overlooks the Yantic River. Uncas sent his fastest runner, Tantaquidgeon, to apprehend the Narragansett Sachem Miantonomo, who was weighed down by a gift of English armor. According to tribal tradition only a Sachem can capture another Sachem. Abiding by this tribal protocol, Tantaquidgeon thus held Miantonomo until Uncas’s arrival. Uncas made the long jump across the chasm, which was at that time narrower before modern-day erosion. Some warriors failed to reach the other side, falling to their deaths on the rocks below.
After the death of Miantonomo, Narragansetts besieged the Mohegans at the fortified village of Uncas’ at Shantok in the spring of 1645. When the Narragansetts could not penetrate the stockade, the Mohegans were left with the choice to either starve or surrender.
Under cover of darkness, Uncas’ English ally, Thomas Leffingwell, approached the fort in a boat on the Thames River and hoisted a side of beef and other provisions into the Mohegan camp. This ensured the Mohegans would not starve. The siege was broken. During the years that followed the Mohegans fought for the colonists and made concessions, ensuring Mohegan survival.
A wooded landscape with figures in the foreground and middle ground

John Denison Crocker (1822-1907)
Oil on canvas, 1847
Bequest of William A. Slater

The Capture of Miantonomo depicts an historical legend of great significance to several Native American tribes of Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Painted more than two hundred years after the event of 1643, the picture tells a great deal about the nineteenth century image of native peoples.  Miantonomo, the Narragansett Sachem (chieftain) was said to have been armored or padded to protect him from his ultimate fate of murder by members of the Mohegan tribe. The costume in which he is depicted may be the result of Crocker’s image of Miantonomo’s affinity with the English settlers.  The costume may also reflect a 17th century English perception of American Indians and the manner in which they were represented in English books and journals.
Geographically, the present day Norwich was at a desirable hunting, fishing and travel juncture.  Feuding between the Pequots, Narragansetts and Mohegans had preceded European settlement, but was complicated and exacerbated by the presence of the English.  Mohegan Sachem Uncas and Miantonomo were to meet at an appointed time and place to discuss their differences, each backed by their warriors.  During the conversation, Uncas’ sleight attack led the more numerous Narragansetts to panic, scattering into the forest and Shetucket River, even leaping over rocky falls.  Some accounts of this encounter credit the Mohegan brave Tantaguidgin with the capture of Miantonomo.
The capture was reported to the English in Hartford, partly because Narragansett Sachem Miantonomo had been accused of responsibility for attacks against them.  The English ruled that he be delivered to them in Hartford and put to death.  Along the way, legend has it that Uncas’ brother murdered him, cleaving his head with an axe from behind.
The Capture of Miantonomo is inspired by the American narrative paintings of the West, reminiscent of Albert Bierstadt.  In its historical value to southeastern Connecticut, the state and the region, Crocker’s work can be likened to that of Benjamin West, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.  William Slater was a collector of Native American artifacts and his interest in this aboriginal history of Connecticut may have led him to commission this work by Crocker.
Schrimshaw of a whaling boat at sea on a whale's tooth

Maker Unknown
Whale Tooth, Early 19th century
Gift of Mrs. Elisha Rogers

The heavy work of sailing a large commercial trading or whaling vessel was interspersed with stretches of boredom.  To ease this and bring back items of value and beauty, sailors often learned crafts such as scrimshaw.  Most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales and the tusks of walruses, scrimshaw is elaborate images and lettering incised into the surface of the bone or tooth.  The engraving is then darkened using a pigment.  The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 to 1759 and a maker of scrimshaw is known as a scrimshander.
Mahogany secretary. All doors are open to show multiple shelves and cubbies.

Maker Unknown
Santo Domingo Mahogany, c. 1740

Typical of Connecticut, c. 1740, with broken arch and 3 flame-form finials.  Original handles and door escutcheons.  French Drawer escutcheons are reproductions. Made for Samuel Huntington and later owned by the Reverend Ebenezer Devotion (1714-1771) of Scotland, CT.  Rev Devotion's daughter Martha married Samuel Huntington, supporting the assertion of provenance.
The block front desk (or chest of drawers) is a typical American  form of the third-quarter of the 18th century, having three vertical divisions of equal width, a sunken one between raised ones, all divided by flat areas to which they are connected by curves, often with a shell motif forming a rounded termination to each section.  The shell motif aspiration in this country piece is rendered in gilding appliquéd to interior coves behind the arched doors.
San Domingo Mahogany was made available in Connecticut through the shipping trades and the development of the West Indies into plantations.  Sugar was the most important crop throughout the Caribbean, although other crops such as coffee, indigo, and rice were also grown.  In the mid-17th century sugar cane was brought into the British West Indies by the Dutch from Brazil.  With depressed prices of cotton and tobacco due mainly to stiff competition from the North American colonies, the farmers switched to sugar, leading to a boom in the Caribbean economies.  The British affection for confections and sweetened tea drove the sugar trade, and the creation of tremendous wealth of plantation owners
Swietenia mahagoni, commonly known as the West Indies Mahogany, is a species of Swietenia native to southern Florida the United States and islands in the Caribbean  including the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, where its blossom is the National Flower.
The earliest recorded use of S. mahagoni was in 1514. This year was carved into a rough-hewn cross placed in the Catedral de Santa Maria la Meñor in Santo Domingo, the capital of what is now the Dominican Republic.  Completed about 1540, it is the oldest church in the West Indies, and its interior was ornamented with carved mahogany woodwork that is still in almost perfect condition after more than 400 years in the tropics.  Records refer to the use of mahogany between 1521 and 1597, for making canoes by the Spaniards, ship repair for Sir Walter Raleigh and building structures in Spain.  Its strength and flexibility makes it impervious to many hazards of battle and weather.  Mahogany was specified for use in the construction and interior decoration of the grandest royal residences during the Renaissance.  Its import and deployment is inexorably linked to the slave trade.
Samuel Huntington (1731-1796) was a jurist, statesman, and Patriot in the American Revolution.  A delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.  He also served as president of the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1781, leading some to suggest that he is the true “First president” of the United States.  He was chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1784 to 1785, and the 18th Governor of Connecticut from 1786 until his death.
Samuel was born to Nathaniel and Mehetabel Huntington on July 16, 1731 (although some records show his birth to have been on July 5).  His birthplace is now in Scotland Connecticut and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  He was the fourth of ten children, but the oldest son. He had a limited education in the common schools, then was self-educated. When Samuel was 16 he was apprenticed to a cooper, but also continued to help his father on the farm. His education came from the library of Rev. Ebenezer Devotion (1714-1771) and books borrowed from local lawyers.  The Reverend’s extensive library and fine home became an unofficial school, college and finishing school for many young men in the very remote and rural Eastern Connecticut of the era.
In 1754 Samuel was admitted to the bar, and moved to Norwich to begin practicing law.  He married Martha Devotion, (1739-1794) Ebenezer's daughter, in 1761. They remained together until her death in 1794. While the couple would not have children, when his brother (Rev. Joseph Huntington) died they adopted their nephew and niece.
The desk came through the family of Raymond Bailey Case (1889 - 1980), grandson of sea captain Thomas Davis Winship and great nephew of Theophilus Yale Winship (1820-1913).  Theophilus had a great love of fine old furniture (as antiques were then described).  He found the desk in Scotland, CT, having belonged to “old Minister Devotion,” father-in-law of he who was to become the President of the Continental Congress.  It was found in a barn, having sat on a damp dirt floor for nearly a century.  Theophilus repaired the feet and lower frame himself.
Portrait of an older, bearded man in plaster. He stands with his weight on his left leg and his hands are clasped behind him.

Paul Bartlett, American (1865-1925)
Study for a proposed bronze portrait statuette


John Brown was a revolutionary abolitionist in the United States, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed in 1856 in Bleeding, Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Later that year he was executed but his speeches at the trial captured national attention. Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans” and "America's first domestic terrorist.
Brown's attempt in 1859 to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, the murder of five pro-slavery Southerners, and inciting a slave insurrection, found guilty on all counts, and was hanged. Southerners alleged that his rebellion was the tip of the abolitionist iceberg and represented the wishes of the Republican Party to end slavery. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War.  The song John Brown’s Body became a Union marching song in the Civil War.
Paul Wayland Bartlett was born in New Haven, Connecticut and died in Paris, France.   He may well be considered a French sculptor since he spent the greater part of his life in Paris.  He was taken to Paris at the age of nine by his father, the sculptor and art critic Truman A. Bartlett, where he studied sculpture under Emmanuel Fremiet at the Jardin de Plantes and École des Beaux-arts and later worked with Rodin.  His progress as a pupil was such that in 1880 at the age of fifteen he was accepted to exhibit a portrait bust of his grandmother at the Paris Salon and at the age of only twenty-four he was to become a member of the Salon Jury.
Paul Bartlett was to set up his own foundry in Paris at his studio where he cast much of his own sculpture but there are some of his known works cast by Gruet around 1887. Some of the monuments he is known for are: The equestrian statue of Lafayette in Paris, the statue of Michelangelo in the Library of Congress, and the facade of the New York Public Library in New York City.  Among the honors bestowed upon Paul Bartlett by the French were to be named a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1895, a Commander in the Legion d'Honneur in 1924, a member of the Institute de France, and an Associate of the Academe des Beaux-arts.  His American honors include being a member of the National Sculpture Society, The National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
White marble bust portrait of George Washington.

Hiram Powers (1805-1873)
Marble, n.d.


In his spare time while working in a Cincinnati grocery store, the youthful Hiram Powers sculpted animals and monsters in butter.  In 1823-24, Powers studied clay modeling and plaster casting with the Prussian artist Frederick Eckstein in Cincinnati. One of his earliest efforts was repairing and mechanizing wax figures for the Western Museum in Cincinnati.  In 1834 a patron, Nicholas Longworth, provided funds to enable Powers to move to Washington, DC and then later to Europe.
In London in 1845, Powers established his international reputation with The Greek Slave, and he soon was incontestably the most famous sculptor America had had.   Up to this time, America’s puritanical sensibilities disapproved of nude figures.  The Greek Slave endured because it was thought to be the first truly moral one depicted. The slave had been captured and divested of her garments by enemies.  Her unwilling nakedness was the purest form of the Ideal.
Before moving to Paris in 1836, Powers was well known in Washington, DC for his portrait busts.  His commissions included political dignitaries such as Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams.  These vanity pieces quickly were over- shadowed by his overwhelming success of his statuary that he created once he left America.
By 1837, Powers had settled permanently with his family in Florence, where there was an abundance of marble for his carving and cheap labor to assist him.  In Florence, following in the neo-classical tradition, artists were free to model nudes without suffering the social criticism prevalent in America.
Powers died in Florence and today he is widely considered the dean of America’s neo-classical sculptors of the nineteenth century.
One of the most iconic images in all American art, the first President of the U.S. in its present form, George Washington reached near sainthood in the late19th century.  In the 1870’s, with the celebration of the nation’s centennial, the image of George Washington was rendered in every medium and form imaginable.  The presentation of Washington in this work harks to the work of Classical Greek sculptors of the 5th century BCE.
view of farm land. Houses and a traveling train are visible.

John Denison Crocker (1822 – 1907)
Oil on canvas, c. 1850
Friends of Slater Museum purchase

This important scene is taken from a bluff, now the site of a new shopping center, obliterating the view of the river and the grand vista of the valley. Searching on a Google Earth or Bing map of Lisbon, Connecticut, one can acquire an aerial view of this scene today.  All of the landmarks Crocker included this sweeping painting are present; the river with its undulating curves, the rail road track forming a parallel to the river and the dirt road which became State Route 12.  Much of the arable land is still farmed today.

Mahogany with rosewood inlay and ivory keys.  Gilt stencil, brass ornaments

John Whittlesey, c. 1830
Mahogany with rosewood inlay, gilt stencil with dolphin motifs, brass ornaments and seven legs of twisted rope pattern.
Gift of Mrs. Sidney (Sarah) Burleigh

The country’s first music school authorized by a State Board of Education to confer Normal School teaching degrees, The Music Vale Seminary and Normal School was established in 1835 by piano maker Orramel Whittlesey (1801-1876). It continued in operation at what is now 149 Hartford Road (Salem Four Corners) until he died. An iron plaque issued in 1936 for the state’s tercentenary now marks the seminary’s location.
Patriarch John Whittlesey owned an ivory factory in Salem and this may have unwittingly and unwillingly been the inspiration for his sons to start the manufacture of fine pianos and pianofortes in the town. In an article appearing May 26, 1928, in The Hartford Daily Times, Vera Lear Grann asserts that the brothers, after buying a piano, begged their dour father for music lessons. Instead, they themselves were forced to pay from their ivory factory earnings for lessons in New London. Later, while John (Jr.) and Orramel went to New York City to seek their fortunes as young men, they left their younger brother Henry behind. Since all three were studying piano at the time, there was a need for an instrument in New York and another in Salem. Accordingly, Orramel  disassembled the purchased piano and used it as a pattern to make another, then reassembled the first. Thus, a vocation was born.
The school was established partly as the result of a financial anomaly in which the U.S. government found itself with a budget surplus and resolved to distribute a portion of the funds to the states for educational purposes.
According to a latterday description of the school, “The [young women] arrived at Norwich and they and their baggage were carried over to the school at Salem in two gaily-colored wagons called the Robin and the Bluebird. …Music Vale and its surroundings became in time a kind of fairyland to the students, a world in itself.”