Isaac Smith Sr. in 1769, by John Singleton Copley ||facing ||
Isaac Smith (1719–1787), younger brother of Rev. William Smith of Weymouth, carried on in Boston and Salem the mercantile vocation of the Smiths of Charlestown, Massachusetts, forebears of Abigail (Smith) Adams. Isaac Smith's extensive correspondence with John Adams, his nephew by marriage, most often deals with commercial matters and especially the difficulties of conducting trade during both the war and the disordered economic and political conditions that followed. Adams, who loved and greatly respected his uncle, once remarked that Smith “had been more largely concerned in the Cod Fishery than any Man excepting Mr. Hooper and Mr. Lee of Marblehead” (
Diary and Autobiography
); and there can be no question that the interest of such friends and connections as Smith stiffened Adams' stand on American rights in the North Atlantic fisheries during the long and arduous negotiations for peace with Great Britain.
This portrait of a typical Boston whig merchant is unusually well-documented because many of the papers of Smith and his descendants are preserved in the Massachusetts Historical Society. In the collection known as the Smith-Carter Papers there is a bill in John Singleton Copley's hand for this painting and its companion piece of Mrs. Elizabeth (Storer) Smith which reads: “1769 Mr.
Isaac Smith to J. S. Copley Dr. / To painting his and his Ladys portrait in half Length at 14 Guineas—£39. .4. .0 / To two carved Gold frames for Do.—18. .0. .0 / [Total:] £57. . 4. .0 / Recd. the contents in full per John Singleton Copley.” The portrait of Smith, which measures 49 1/4″ x 39 1/2″, was inherited by Isaac Smith Jr., then passed successively to a nephew of his, Thomas Carter Smith, to William Smith Carter, and to Theodore Parkman Carter. In 1843 Thomas Carter Smith paid George Howorth $50 “To restoring 2 portraits by Copley,” which were identified on the receipt as “Grandfather & Grandmother Smith” (20 June 1843, Smith-Carter Papers). Both portraits were bequeathed to Yale University in 1943.
Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Maitland F. Griggs Collection.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2007.