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WENTWORTH, THOMAS HANFORD, painter, daguerreotypist, and entrepreneur; b. 15 March 1781 in Norwalk, Conn.; d. 18 Dec. 1849 in Oswego, N.Y.

Thomas Hanford Wentworth was raised in Saint John, N.B., by an uncle but had returned to the United States by 1806. He may have visited England in 1805 and gone to Oswego from that trip, an hypothesis that would explain American scholarly opinion in the 1930s that he was an Englishman. On his arrival in Oswego he bought all the water-power sites in the area, and he seems also to have been involved in the freight and forwarding business. He was evidently prosperous: during the War of 1812 the Wentworth home was looted of its silver and of 20 roast ducks prepared for a dinner party.

Mantle Fielding’s dictionary of American artists lists Wentworth as a painter of portraits in oils and miniature and an executor of profiles in pencil. It has been suggested that he produced over 3,000 pencil likenesses by 1824. This estimate is based on the fact that a series of six pencil sketches of the Pease family of Auburn, N.Y., is numbered consecutively from 3,225. Since these likenesses are dated between 1824 and 1826, and Wentworth was active until at least 1842, his total production must have been well over 3,000. Prolific as he may have been as a portraitist, Wentworth’s American reputation is largely based on a series of 15 views of Niagara Falls, for which he did the drawings and prepared both lithographs and copperplate engravings. One set of three engravings was copyrighted on 4 June 1821.

Wentworth returned to Saint John in 1831 and established himself as a portraitist. “His manner,” he announced on 12 December, “will be from Profile to Portrait, in which is included Miniature on Paper or Ivory.” He also advertised replicas of his Niagara Falls pictures and opened a subscription with the aim of engraving a view of Saint John that he had painted. His most popular print was issued in 1837 following a major fire in Saint John. His studio overlooked the main harbour area and Prince William Street, and he was able to describe the scene in considerable detail against a dramatic background of smoke and flame. Wentworth’s activities in Saint John included the sale of cooking stoves, and one is left with the unproved but reasonable assumption that his return to the city was in part due to his uncle’s business there.

Wentworth flourished in Saint John until 1842, advertising himself that year as a portrait painter and, ever the entrepreneur, as a taker of daguerreotypes. He had been instructed in the photographic technique by Hodgkinson and Butters, American daguerreotypists who visited Saint John in the summer of 1842. It is not known when Wentworth returned to Oswego. He died there in 1849 of paralysis. Married, he had had at least two sons, one of whom, William Henry, was also a portrait painter.

Stuart Smith

New-Brunswick Courier, 24 Dec. 1831, 14 June 1832, 29 March 1834, 28 Sept. 1842, 19 June 1847, 19 Jan. 1850. Mantle Fielding, Dictionary of American painters, sculptors, and engravers; with an addendum containing additional material on the original entries, comp. J. F. Carr (New York, 1965). Harper, Early painters and engravers; Painting in Canada (1966). Antiques (New York), 31 (January–June 1937): 10, 291; 32 (July–December 1937): 78; 33 (January–June 1938): 311. G. [B.] MacBeath, “Artists in New Brunswick’s past,” Arts in New Brunswick, ed. R. A. Tweedie et al. (Fredericton, 1967), 12148.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Stuart Smith, “WENTWORTH, THOMAS HANFORD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 17, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wentworth_thomas_hanford_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wentworth_thomas_hanford_7E.html
Author of Article: Stuart Smith
Title of Article: WENTWORTH, THOMAS HANFORD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: April 17, 2014