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Barnabus Bates

ca. 1850 Unidentified watercolor on ivory sight 1 1/8 x 7/8 in. (2.9 x 2.1 cm) oval Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund 1963.9.2 Not currently on view

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There are many Americans of this name on record, but this may be the Barnabas Bates who served as New York’s assistant postmaster between 1833 and 1836. Born in Edmonton, England, Bates settled in New York City in 1830, where he opened a bookstore and published a small weekly journal. He soon left these positions and began working for the New York Democratic Party and the Equal Rights Party. He served as an advocate for reduced postal rates, which made public communication possible for a greater number of people. Bates died in 1853, not long after this miniature was painted. The date of the portrait and the pearls (associated with tears in the Victorian age) suggest that this miniature may have been a piece of mourning jewelry.


Portrait male - Bates, Barnabus - bust

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor