The Winterthur Library

 The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera





Creator:          John Trumbull, 1756-1843.                                         

Title:               Papers

Dates:             1800-1842

Call No.:         Col. 391          

Acc. No.:         [various – see detailed description]

Quantity:        1 box, 1 volume

Location:        4 E 11






American painter John Trumbull, the son of Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, was born in 1756.  He aspired to be a painter like his hero, John Singleton Copley, against the wishes of his father. Graduating from Harvard in 1773 as the youngest member of his class, Trumbull's career was interrupted by the Revolutionary War.  In 1775, he enlisted as an Aide-de-Camp and drew strategic maps for Revolutionary War generals, but resigned after two years to study art in Boston.  In 1780, he traveled to London to study art, but soon returned home after being arrested for aiding the execution of John Andre.


Trumbull returned to London five years later to study with noted painter Benjamin West.  West wanted to create a series of paintings depicting the historical events of the Revolutionary War, but because he feared falling out of favor with the King of England, he instead encouraged and guided Trumbull through the painting of the series.  The first of this series is Trumbull's well known work, "Battle of Bunker's Hill."  After completing several more paintings in the series, Trumbull returned home in 1789 to paint small portraits of American generals and prominent figures, including the famous portrait of George Washington in 1790.


Trumbull would have two more lengthy stays in England.  On the first, beginning in 1794, he accompanied John Jay as his executive secretary.  While on this trip, Trumbull married Sarah Hope Harvey in 1800, returning with her to New York in 1804, where they lived until 1808.  The second trip to England came in 1808. Trumbull and his wife remained in London until 1816 when they returned to the United States. Sarah died in 1824.


In 1831, Trumbull sold the works in his studio to Yale University.  He died in 1843.





This collection contains several personal letters with some transcriptions to and from John Trumbull, a London bank draft, a photocopy of an inventory taken by John Trumbull of his wife's estate upon her death in 1824, photocopies of two inventories of houses rented by Trumbull in London, and a portfolio of the history of Trumbull's portrait of George Washington.  The portfolio contains a black and white photograph and description of the painting, a detailed provenance of the painting, and several letters of correspondence written by Trumbull to Eliza Parke Custis [Law], the eldest grandchild of George and Martha Washington, who inherited the Washington portrait from her grandmother.  These letters concern Trumbull's conservation of the painting in 1829-1830.





The contents of the box are arranged in accession number order.





Purchased from various sources.






                        Law, Eliza Parke Custis.

                        Custis family.

                        Washington, George, 1732-1799 - Portraits.



            Artists - Autographs.

            Painting, American.

            Artists - Social conditions.

            Artists – Correspondence.

            Portrait painting, American.

            Painting - Conservation and restoration - Technique.

            Art, American.

            Inventories of decedents' estates.

            Painters - Autographs.








Location: 4 E 11



Box 1:


Folder 1:


67x87              check (printed form) drawn on the bank of Mess. Forster, Lubbocks, Forster, & Clarke, London, payable to J. [or I.] Cromwell, signed by Trumball, 22 July 1803.


72x160            Letter, Trumball, New York, to Miss Mary Lanman, Norwich, Connecticut, 4 April 1829.  Regarding the anniversary of Mrs. Trumbull’s death and Mary’s upcoming happy day.  Had a fall on the ice back in the winter and was unable to work. 

Attached to the letter is a print of a portrait of Trumball and a copy of a letter from George Washington to Lafayette, Nov. 21, 1791, regarding Trumball’s work.


72x323.1         Letter, Thomas Cole, Duanesburg, to John Trumball, New York, 24 Feb. 1826.  About painting.

Also a typescript of the letter. 


73x166.1         Letter, A.I. Dallas, Treasury Department, to Trumball, New York, 23 Sept. 1815.  Regarding charge of duties on items brought back from Europe; hopes to hear that Trumball will continue with his historical paintings.


73x166.2         Note, M. [Mahlon] Dickerson, Washington, to Trumball, 23 Dec. 1826.  Thanks for donation of engravings of Trumball’s paintings to the Library of Congress.


76x427a-b       Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Professor Silliman, [New Haven], 2 May 1842.  Letter of introduction for John Geary.

Also a typescript of the letter. 



Folder 2:


Ph. 1307.1       Photocopy of the inventory of books and other possession of Mrs. John Trumbull, made shortly after her death in 1824. 


Ph. 1307.2       Photocopy of a certified coy of an act passed by the legislature of New York for the relief of Sarah Trumbull, giving her the same rights as she would have if she were a native citizen of New York, 14 Feb. 1816.



Folder 3:


Ph. 1244.1       Photocopy of “An Inventory of the Household Furniture, Features, and other Effects the property of Mr. John Edward Waring at His House & Premises on the Lower Mall, Hammersmith, Let with the Premises to John Trumbull, Esqr., from 29 Sept. 1800.”


Ph. 1244.2       Photocopy of an inventory of household furniture at 31 Argyle St., dated March 1809 and May 1, 1812, when John Trumbull quit the premises.




Volume on shelf: Portfolio: Portrait of George Washington by John Trumbull


64x108            In addition to the items listed below, the portfolio includes a title page, table of contents, and a black and white photograph of the portrait.  All the letters are accompanied by a typescript.  An index to names in the letters is appended to this finding aid.


p. 1-6               “Portrait of George Washington painted in 1790 by John Trumbull,” the pedigree, or provenance, of the portrait [typed]


p. 7                  64x108.1         Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Mrs. Custis, 15 Dec. 1823.  Is sending her a print of the Declaration of Independence.


p. 8                  typescript of above letter


p. 9                  64x108.2         Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Mrs. Custis, Baltimore, 25 Jan. 1829.  Has repaired her picture and will send it in the spring.


p. 10                typescript of above letter


p. 11                64x108.3         Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Mrs. Custis, Washington, 3 April 1829.  Letter of introduction for Mr. Adams; delay in returning picture to her.


p. 12                typescript of above letter


p. 13                64x108.4         History of “a small whole length portrait of General Washington,” signed by Trumbull, New York, May 1829.  (This is probably the contents of a “roll containing a writing” mentioned in the letter below.)


p. 14                typescript of above document


p. 15                64x108.5         Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Mrs. Custis, 5 May 1829.  Returning picture to her, to be delivered by General Gaines.


p. 16                typescript of above letter


p. 17                64x108.6         Letter, Trumbull, New York, to Mrs. Custis, Washington, 1 May 1830.  Glad that the painting arrived safely.  Gives instructions for helping to preserve it (keep out of reach of sunlight and hot fires; keep free from dust)


p. 18                typescript of above letter


p. 19                64x108.7         “Portrait of General Washington, painted by Jno. Trumbull 103 years ago.”  A brief history of the painting, by an unidentified author.


p. 20                typescript of above document

Index to names mentioned in the documents in the portfolio (acc. 64x108)


Adams 11, 17         


Carlisle, Bishop of (Edmund Law)    19

Custis 19                                

Custis, Mrs.  7, 9, 11 17              

Custist E. P. (Mrs.) 11, 15             

Custis, Eliza P.  19                      

Custis, Eliza Parke   13                 

Custis, George W. P.   19                

Custis, Parke 13                         


Ellenborough, Lord 19                   


Gaines, Genl.  15                       


Huntington, Genl.   7                   

Huntington, Wolcott   7                  


Law, Edmund (Bishop of Carlisle) 19

Law, Elizabeth Parke 19

Law, Thomas 19


Mifflin, Thomas 13

Murray, I. R. 7


Peters 7


Randolph, Edmund  13

Rogers, Edmund Law  19

Rogers, Lloyd  19


Theological Seminary (in Alexandria) 11

Trumbull, Jno. 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19

Trumbull, Jonathan 13


Verplanck 13


Washington, George  13, 19

Washington, Martha  13, 19