John Ritto Penniman (1782 to 1841)

John Ritto Penniman (1782 to 1841)

Born in Boston, John Ritto Penniman came from a talented family—his father was a physician and entrepreneur, and his ten siblings include booksellers, an artist and inventor, and a teacher. Penniman trained as an ornamental painter in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which was, at the time, a community of artisans, including clock and furniture makers. Some of his early work was as a dial painter for noted clockmakers Aaron and [...] Click here to continue reading.

Wild Bill Hickok (James Butler Hickock)

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Unlike the Hollywood nice guy from 1950′s television, the real Wild Bill Hickok was a born killer and compulsive gambler.

Between his birth as James Butler Hickok in 1837 and his 1876 death, Hickok defined the fiercely independent Wild West peacekeeper that never stayed long in one place. Raised to anti-slavery parents in Illinois, Hickok developed a strong sense of loyalty and duty that lasted his entire life. [...] Click here to continue reading.

James, Jesse – American Outlaw

Jesse Woodson James, American Outlaw

Courtesy of James Julia Auction Company, presented in conjunction with the sale of Jesse James’ personal Colt revolver and holster rig (p4A item # D9737835)

Jesse Woodson James was born Sept. 5, 1847 in Clay County, Missouri. He had an older brother, Frank and a sister. His father, a minister, left soon after Jesse was born to go to California to “minister” to the 49er miners. He died in [...] Click here to continue reading.

Russell, Charles Marion

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926)

Charles Russell was as famous for his personal character as he was for his artistic career. A simple and modest man, he left the Midwest to pursue a life on the frontier. While residing primarily in Montana for the remainder of his life, Russell, or “Cowboy Charlie”, went on to become the state’s favorite son and achieve great renown for his depictions of the American West.

An [...] Click here to continue reading.

The Sarcophagus in Decorative Arts

The Sarcophagus in Decorative Arts

Derived from the Greek sarx, meaning flesh, and phagein, meaning eat, a sarcophagus is, essentially, a container for a body, much like a coffin or casket. Historically, sarcophagi were typically made of stone (though sometimes of other materials, such as wood or metal), with a relief-carved or pediment top, and designed to be above ground, and have been used by many cultures since ancient times.

An ancient [...] Click here to continue reading.

Hires Root Beer, Googly Eyed Man

Hires Root Beer

While traveling in 1875, Charles E. Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, first tasted root beer. Root beer, traditionally made with sassafras, was a popular “small beer” or low-alcoholic drink in the colonial era, and was becoming popular in an alcohol-free format. While root beer has a long history, it has a wide range of recipes that call for everything from birch bark to vanilla, molasses to juniper berries, so Hires set out [...] Click here to continue reading.

Buffalo Bill Cody

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody

The year 1883 neatly divides William Cody’s former life as a hunter, scout and guide from his later career as a showman. He was 37 in this year of transition.

The early life of William Frederick Cody (1846 to 1917) was colorful, adventurous and, thanks to Dime novels, exaggerated. He fought for the Union Army in the Civil War at 18. By 21, he earned his lifelong nickname [...] Click here to continue reading.

Ormolu – non-furniture definition


Ormolu, an 18th-century English term, is from the French phrase or moulu, with “or” indicating gold and “moulu” being a form of an old French verb moudre, which means “to grind up.” (This French term for this technique is bronze dore.) This idea of “ground-up gold”refers to the production process of ormolu, where high-quality gold is finely powdered and added to a mercury mixture and applied to a bronze object. Modern usage often [...] Click here to continue reading.

Prior, William Matthew – American Artist

William Matthew Prior (1806 to 1873)

In the decades just before the advent of photography, a solid middle class began to form in America, a middle class that sought to aspire to and attempt to replicate some of the finer things of the upper class. Portraits were some of the most visible and sentimental of these objects, and as a result, portrait painters (or limners, as they were sometimes called) began to flock to [...] Click here to continue reading.

Grisaille – definition


Grisaille, from the French word gris meaning grey, is a term used to describe works of art painted entirely in a monochromatic palette. Technically speaking, there are other terms that apply when the monochromatic palette used is of a different color (brunaille for brown, verdaille for green, for instance), but grisaille is often misused to cover all monochrome works, regardless of hue. There are also plenty of works that are considered grisaille that [...] Click here to continue reading.

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