Christian Gullager
Daniel Waldo, 1789

Daniel Waldo is a kit-cat portrait of an elderly seated man, turned three-quarters left and looking forward. The sitter wears a white wig that has a large wide curl above a smaller, tighter one; the curls cover his ears. Gullager painted the wig with short brushstrokes of white and gray paint that conform to the wig's curving contours. Waldo has blue eyes with white highlights to the left of each pupil and a black line above each iris and below each lower eyelid. The eyebrows were painted with loose brushstrokes of gray paint and underlined with a fine stroke of brown. Waldo has a bulbous nose and his mouth is somewhat askew. The sitter's advanced age is suggested by creases below his eyes and along his nose, mouth, and chin.

Gullager painted Waldo's long coat with light-brown paint and the shadows in the folds of the fabric with darker brown. He defined the highlights on the proper left cuff of the coat and at the bent elbow with zig zagging brushwork. The sleeves and front of the coat have large cloth-covered buttons with a checkerboard pattern. The unbuttoned coat is worn over a black waistcoat and a pair of black breeches. The artist painted the highlights in the waistcoat with opaque gray paint. Waldo wears a white neck cloth, shirt ruffle, and ruffled shirt cuffs. Toward the top of the waistcoat, one button is fastened and the next two are unbuttoned, thereby revealing part of the shirt ruffle just above the waist.

Waldo sits in a wooden side chair whose carved ear is visible at the right center of the composition. His proper right hand rests on the polished surface of a writing table and his left one is on his left thigh. Gullager painted the sitter's hands in detail, defining their veins, fingernails, and knuckles. The tabletop reflects Waldo's thumb, index finger, and shirt cuff. A dull rose-colored drapery with zig zagging pink highlights extends from the upper left corner to the center of the painting. The curtain is pulled back in a swag at left to reveal a window, through which is visible a seascape with a partly cloudy blue sky and a ship sailing on greenish-blue water. The black and rose fringe of the drapery covers most of the top windowpane. The window frame casts a shadow to its right on the gray wall. Light falls from the upper left corner of the painting, creating highlights in the wig, fabrics, flesh, and furniture. Gullager lightened the wall slightly around the chair at the right side of the painting. The window at left provides a secondary light source. Shadows help to model the figure and the features of the face and to define the contours of the costume.

Born October 29, 1724, Daniel Waldo was the ninth of ten children of Cornelius Waldo (1684–1753) and Faith Savage Waldo (1683–1760) of Boston. Cornelius was a prosperous merchant, distiller, and landowner, and Daniel became a successful hardware merchant. Daniel's first business partners were his brothers Joseph (1722–1816) and John (1720–1796). Joseph and Daniel began selling imported goods at their shop on King Street in May 1748. The following year John and Daniel offered a wide range of hardware and other imported goods, and Joseph went into business independently.1 John and Daniel flourished and opened a second branch of their business in nearby Watertown.2 The Waldo brothers dissolved their partnership in November 1770.3

On May 3, 1757, Daniel married Rebecca Salisbury (1731–1811), the sister of competing hardware merchants Samuel (1739–1818) and Stephen Salisbury (1746–1829). The Waldos had ten children, five of whom reached maturity. The children were baptized at First Church Boston, where Daniel had been admitted as a member in 1756.4 In the spring of 1775, Daniel Waldo and his family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and in March 1777 he moved again to Lancaster, Massachusetts where he sold imported goods.5 Two years later Daniel wrote to his brothers-in-law Samuel and Stephen Salisbury that he had been threatened to be mobb'd for selling my Goods too dear—am an Extortionist & what not—pray acquaint me how Things are Carried on in Boston & Worcester.6 In March 1781 Waldo was selling his house in Lancaster and the following year he was settled in Worcester and selling an Assortment of Hard Ware and West-India Goods.7 In 1784 Waldo entered into partnership with his son Daniel Waldo, Jr. (1763–1845) and retired in 1791, after which the younger Waldo continued the business alone.8 In May 1806 the elder Waldo built the first brick building in Worcester on the corner of Main and Exchange Streets. Stephen Salisbury reported, I went all over their House, Cellar, Barn, and Garden, the House has Stately Rooms and many conveniences in and about the house, and any person that has ever lived in Boston. . . might be content there. I found them all Engaged, and in good Spirits.9

Daniel Waldo was active in community affairs in Boston and Worcester. In 1763 and 1765 he was chosen a warden of Boston. He was among the Sons of Liberty who gathered in August 1769 to celebrate the departure of the royal governor of Massachusetts at the height of the protests against the Stamp Act. In March 1771 Waldo was voted an Overseer of the Poor, and continued in that office until the outbreak of the American Revolution. In Worcester he served as a jurist and as a member of a committee appointed in 1785 to supply the pulpit. He was also chosen to be the first president of the Worcester Bank (incorporated 1804) and was succeeded in that position by his son Daniel.10

When Daniel Waldo died on December 8, 1808, he was honored with an unusually long obituary that read, in part:

As a merchant he was intelligent, correct and liberal; as a man, in his social relations he fulfilled all which justice could demand or benevolence dictate; as a citizen, he was distinguished for patriotism, for an ardent and glowing zeal for his country's welfare; as a husband, father, and the head of a family, his affection, solicitude and care secured the happiness of those connected with him; as a Christian, the spirit of his religion dwelt in his heart, its services were the delight of his life, and its immortal rewards the object of his highest hope and unremitted pursuit.11

Waldo was buried in Rural Cemetery in Worcester.


Figure 1. Christian Gullager, Rebecca Salisbury Waldo (Mrs. Daniel Waldo), 1789, oil on canvas, 35 7/8 x 29 1/8 in. (91.2 x 74 cm), Worcester Art Museum, Gift of Hester Newton Wetherell Estate, 1922.216.

Daniel Waldo and the companion portrait Rebecca Salisbury Waldo (Mrs. Daniel Waldo) (fig. 1) were painted in Worcester in September 1789. Rebecca's brothers, Stephen and Samuel Salisbury, helped to make arrangements for Christian Gullager to paint the Waldos' portraits. On September 6, Samuel wrote to Stephen about the artist's travel plans, Mr. Gulliker desires you would inform Mr. Waldo, that he should have gone up this Stage but it was full—he has Engag'd a passage on Wednesday when they may depend on seeing him—" 12 The Salisbury brothers were natural intermediaries, because they had commissioned family portraits from Gullager earlier in the year. Samuel had paid the Danish emigrÈ to paint a posthumous portrait of his wife (Worcester Art Museum) shortly after her death on March 25, 1789. In light of Samuel's satisfaction with that portrait, Stephen paid Gullager to visit Worcester, where he created likenesses of Stephen, Stephen's mother, his sister-in-law Elizabeth Salisbury (location unknown), and his sister Elizabeth Salisbury Barrett (Worcester Historical Museum). One of the Waldos' daughters also sat for Gullager (about 1789, private collection), although it is not clear precisely when that portrait was painted or which daughter it represents.13

The figures in Daniel Waldo and the companion portrait Rebecca Salisbury Waldo (Mrs. Daniel Waldo) turn toward one another and look at the viewer. Both paintings are kit-cat size, a half-length format that includes the sitter's hands. Daniel and Rebecca Waldo are set in domestic interiors with a rose-colored, fringed drapery in the background. Whereas Daniel sits in a wooden side chair, Rebecca is on an upholstered sofa. Gullager often painted husbands and wives on different seating furniture; side chairs appear with both male and female subjects and sofas are popular in his portraits of women.

Although relatively few people sat for portraits in the eighteenth century, Daniel Waldo was following a family tradition by commissioning Gullager to depict himself, his wife, and their daughter. In 1750 his parents, Cornelius Waldo and Faith Savage Waldo, posed for Joseph Badger. His older brother John Waldo (1791, Worcester Art Museum) would later sit for a portrait to a first cousin once removed, John Waldo Durant (1774–1826).14

Figure 2. Christian Gullager, Stephen Salisbury I, 1789, oil on canvas, 35 5/8 x 28 15/16 in. (90.5 x 73.7 cm), Worcester Art Museum, Gift of Stephen Salisbury III, 1901.23. Figure 3. Christian Gullager, Captain David Coats, about 1787, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 32 1/4 in. (92.7 x 81.9 cm), The Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum purchase, 48.1949.

Daniel Waldo's brown and black suit is more reserved than the brightly colored clothes worn by the younger Stephen Salisbury in his nearly contemporary portrait (fig. 2). Daniel's wig also contrasts with Stephen's own powdered hair. These differences in costume and hair probably reflect the relative ages of the sitters and the younger man's interest in current fashion. In addition to hardware, Daniel Waldo sold "Coat and Waistcoat Buttons, and Sleeve Buttons," suggesting that his clothes might have been made in part from goods available in his store.15 The ship that is visible in the window at the left side of the painting is a more direct reference to Waldo's mercantile business interests. Gullager also included an open window with a seascape in the background of Captain David Coats (fig. 3); in that instance, Gullager might have intended the sitter to be represented at sea in the cabin of a sailing vessel.16 The reference to the sea is clearly symbolic in Daniel Waldo's portrait, since the portrait was painted at his home in the inland town of Worcester.

1. The Boston Gazette or Weekly Journal, May 24 and 31, 1748; May 9, 16, and 23, 1749. See also, Joseph and Daniel Waldo, trade card, 1748, Early American Imprints, American Antiquarian Society (AAS), Worcester, Mass. For Joseph Waldo, see The Boston Evening Post, October 1, 1750.

2. The Boston Gazette and Weekly Journal, March 19, 1764.

3. For the dissolution of the partnership, see The Massachusetts Spy, Boston, November 26, 1770. For Daniel's independent business, see The Boston Evening Post, April 26, 1773.

4. Lincoln 1902, I, 161–62.

5. Samuel Barrett to Stephen Salisbury, Charlestown, Mass., May 3, 1775, Salisbury Family Papers, hereafter cited as SFP, AAS, box 3, folder 3. See also Lincoln 1902, I, 158 and Thomas's Worcester Spy or American Oracle of Liberty, November 26, 1778.

6. Daniel Waldo, Lancaster, to Samuel Salisbury, Worcester, October 27, 1779, SFP, AAS, box 4, folder 1.

7. The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser, March 29, 1781; and Daniel Waldo, Lancaster, to Samuel Salisbury, Worcester, March 22, 1781, SFP, AAS, box 4, folder 3.

8. Thomas's Massachusetts Spy or the Worcester Gazette, December 30, 1784 and July 14, 21, and 28, 1785. For the retirement of Daniel Waldo, Sr., see Lincoln 1902, I, 159.

9. Stephen Salisbury I, Worcester, to Elizabeth Tuckerman Salisbury, Boston, May 17, 1806, SFP, AAS, box 13, folder 2. See also, Historic Houses of Worcester 1919, 19–20.

10. For Waldo's public service, see Lincoln I, 1902, 160–62. For his role in the Worcester bank, see Worcester Bank Records, 1803–1934, SFP, AAS.

11. Thomas's Massachusetts Spy or Worcester Gazette, December 21, 1808.

12. Samuel Salisbury, Boston, to Stephen Salisbury I, Worcester, September 6, 1789, SFP, AAS, box 5, folder 6.

13. Miss Waldo is illustrated in The Magazine Antiques 146:3 (September 1994): 284.

14. For John Waldo Durant, see Lincoln 1902, I, 78–79.

15. Thomas's Massachusetts Spy of the Worcester Gazette, July 14, 21, and 28, 1785.

16. For this interpretation, see Dresser 1949b, 131.