*** Bowles family

boy's grey knee pants suit
Figure 1.--This portrait of a member of the Bowles family from New London, Connecticut was proably painted in the 1860s. He wears a fashionable knee pants suit. Note the hair style.

Bowles Family (United States, 1850s)

An unidentified painter did a beutufully detailed portrait of a young boy from the Bolles family of New London, Connecticut. The portrait is undated but looks to be from the the 1850s. He wears a grey suit with oversized wide jacket sleeves and blouced shirt sleeves. Also note the kneepnats that appeared in the 1850s. Early kneepants like these tended to be quite long. Je weas his hair in a double part with sime kid od swwp up lock at the crown. The boy looks to be about 5-6 years of age.

The boy here may be William Palmer Bolles, born in New London, Connecticut in 1845. William Bolles's ancestors first settled in New London in the 17th Century. The tentative identification of this young boy as William Bolles is based, first, on an inscription on the back of the frame that reads: "[illegible] Bolles - New London, Conn." The first word in the inscription is partly effaced, but it does appear that it begins with "W". A further piece of evidence supporting this identification is that the boy depicted here is shown holding a book containing botanical illustrations; William Palmer Bolles, who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1871 and pursued a distinguished career in medicine, was also a lifelong student of botany. As a teenager he created numerous watercolors of wildflowers which are, we are told, meticulously rendered and quite beautiful (they now reside in the Hempstead House archive at the Shaw Mansion in New London). Upon his retirement, Bolles donated over 2,000 botanical specimens to Boston University. A couple of interesting sidelights: William Palmer Bolles's father, William Bolles, was the publisher of the abolitionist broadside "The Ultimatum". And Bolles's brother, Hezekiah Eugene Bolles, sold his collection of early American furniture to a Mrs. Russell Sage, who in turn donated it to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where it became an important early component of their Americana collection.


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Created: September 20, 2002
Last edited: September 15, 2003