Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mystery Photo for October 7, 2010

Sally Avery Olds

Do you know who this is a painting of or why it is significant?

Peter Buettner correctly identified this painting as Sarah Avery Olds, painted by Jeptha Homer Wade. It's in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. It's one of a pair - and you're much more likely to have seen the other half of the pair, also in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Nathaniel Olds

The couple were painted in 1837. Nathaniel wears the glasses, for which his portrait is so well known, to protect his eyes from the extremely bright light of whale oil lamps, which was thought to be harmful.

The artist, Jeptha Homer Wade, would give up painting and go on to found the Western Union Telegraph Company.

Be the first to identify it in the comments here or on our Facebook page and win your choice of the following books:
  • Covering History: Revisiting Federal Art in Cleveland, 1933-43, a beautiful, 72 page joint publication of the Cleveland Artists Foundation and the Cleveland Public Library. It picks up where Karal Ann Marling's work (Federal Art in Cleveland) left off, and is highly recommended.
  • Any of the other publications of the Cleveland Artists Foundation that are still in print. The CAF is the organization publishing works on the history of art in greater Cleveland.
  • Shaker Heights Fences by Patricia J. Forgac (1984, 16 pages)
  • Shaker Heights: the Van Sweringen Influence by Claudia R. Boatwright (1983, 56 pages)
Guesses may be made either as comments on this post or as comments on the corresponding post on the Cleveland Area History Facebook page. If you are unable to comment here, you may want to try commenting using your name and email instead of logging in to Blogger via some other account. Hints will be given as they are merited. If you publish books or other products relating to Cleveland history and would like to offer them as prizes, please email


  1. She is lovely. The black dress makes me think she is either a prominent widow or active in a religious society? The frilly bonnet leads me away from Shakers or the Quakers, and the rhyme is unintentional. I dont have an answer, I am just thinking out loud.

  2. Could that be Flora Stone Mather?
    Her name was connected to CWRU

  3. Love the location CMA curators chose to display the portrait of Nathaniel. Nice to see a world class museum with a world class sense of humor!

  4. Didn't Jeptha Wade also donate the land that the Cleveland Museum of Art occupies?

    And he picked the architects for the museum: Hubbell & Benes...Dominick Benes was know as Wade's 'personal architect'...which seems odd...hey, but it worked out. They created a fine building carefully placed in the landscape of Wade Park.