Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams, Dog Portraitist?

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Associate

Known to her friends and family as “Clover,” Marian Hooper Adams was born in Boston, 13 September 1843, to Robert W. Hooper, an eye doctor, and Ellen (Sturgis) Hooper, a poet and a Transcendentalist. Clover and her two older siblings were raised by her father after Ellen died of tuberculosis when Clover was only five.

Clover married historian and writer Henry Adams, great-grandson of President John Adams, in 1872. They moved to Washington in 1877, where Clover was known for her wit and celebrated salon. She took up photography in 1883 and her work as a portraitist and landscape photographer was admired within her social circle. Although asked to publish some of her photographs, she declined.

After seeing Clover’s amusing portrait of her dogs Possum, Marquis and Boojum in “Three Dogs at Tea in Garden” recently, I wondered if she had an affinity for taking photographs of dogs. And the answer is yes!

Three dogs seated on chairs at a table set for tea
The photograph that inspired this blog post: Three dogs at tea in garden, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883-1884. This photograph features Possum, Marquis and Boojum.

Although her main subjects were mainly landscapes or portraits of her friends and family in various settings, dogs made it into these portraits ten times out of the one hundred and thirty seven photographs held in the MHS collection. In her two and a half year career as a photographer from 1883-1885, seven percent of her photographs contain dogs!

Her favorite dog to include in her portraits was Marquis, who appears in five of the ten portraits, although Boojum with three and Possum with two portraits are close runners up. What I find most fascinating about Clover’s dog portraits is their clarity. Portraiture in the 1880’s was becoming easier for the subject, as exposure, or sitting, time was down from minutes to seconds. But it could still have been up to 64 seconds depending on the time of day, year, and lens used on the camera. These long exposure times lead photographers to ask their subjects to sit very still or they must choose to take pictures while their subjects naturally repose, or rest. After viewing many of Clover’s portraits, it is clear she preferred mainly the latter and you can see why in this image of a young boy and dog in front of a windmill.

Photo of windmill with boy and dog
Windmill, boy and dog in foreground, at Falmouth, by Marian Hooper Adams, circa 1885

A blurred image shows the movement of the subject during the exposure time while a photograph was taken. And in this image where Clover took a photograph while Brooks Adams, her brother in law, was caring for a horse shows some very specific blurring.

Photo of a man, dog, and horse
Brooks Adams with horse and dog, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

You can see that the dogs would need to be specially trained to stay still for up to 64 seconds, which Clover may have achieved. Or the dogs may be used to being in repose with their human companions. I especially enjoy the images that look as if Clover captured a moment between the human and dog where they are relaxing with each other.

Photo of a seated man with a dog
James Lowndes at Beverly Farms, seated outdoors in wicker chair, reading book, with dog at feet, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

This portrait features Boojum at the feet of James Lowndes, a friend of the Clover and Henry Adams.

Photo of a man seated on steps with a dog
Henry Adams seated with dog on steps of piazza, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

Marquis playing with Henry Adams, Clover’s husband.

Photo of a woman seated next to a dog
Betsy Wilder seated on piazza, with dog at her feet, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

Dandy can be seen here relaxing while Betsy Wilder, beloved housekeeper from Clover’s youth, knits on a porch.

In the images which appear more staged, rather than at rest, you can see that the dogs are upright and either looking at the camera, or looking at their human companion.

Photo of a woman seated at the beach with a dog
Mrs. Jim Scott and dog seated by rock at east end of Singing Beach, Manchester, glass plate negative by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

This image is from a glass plate negative, displayed in positive as the printed portrait is much more difficult to see. The subject of this portrait, Boojum, is seen quite clearly at the feet of Mrs. Jim Scott, a neighbor who came along for a day at the beach.

Photo of woman seated on steps with two dogs
Miss Langdon seated with two dogs on steps of piazza, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

Toto and Marquis are seen here comforting Miss Langdon, who is in mourning attire for her recently deceased grandmother, on the same porch steps which we saw Marquis playing with Henry.

Photo of a man and dog in the window of a playhouse
James Lowndes and dog in window of playhouse, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

Marquis is seen here relaxing, perhaps after a brisk walk, with James Lowndes. This may have been on the same day as the other image with James Lowndes.

Natalie Dykstra writes in her biography Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life, “If Clover could be playful and mocking in her pictures, as with her “dogs at tea” photograph, a send-up of social convention she occasionally found tedious, she could also evoke sadness or an intense feeling of loss.”  I do feel that although the subject of dogs can be whimsical, especially for photography in the 1880’s, that their human companions mostly evoke sadness.

Photo of two dogs seated at a table set for tea
Two dogs at tea in garden, by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883

The second and last in Clover’s “dogs at tea” series features Marquis and Possum. This one has a more natural setting and no white backdrop giving the image a feeling that the viewer happened upon this tea party that was already occurring.

To read more about Marion “Clover” Hooper Adams and her photography visit the MHS online Collection Guide, see the MHS Selected Letters and Photographs, or read The Beehive blog post about those pages and the biography by Natalie Dykstra.

Further Reading:

Letters Shed New Light on Henry Adams | Beehive (

Clover Adams’ Memorial: From a Husband Who Would No Longer Speak Her Name – Atlas Obscura