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Art Dealer Tales Part 3 – Identifying the Family — Blue Heron Fine Art Blog

Art Dealer Tales Part 3 – Identifying the Family

by Jim Puzinas on June 17, 2009

I was given several clues as to the family’s identity. A previous owner long ago had written descriptions on the back of several of the portraits, identifying the sitter and in some cases their relationship to each other. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to one of my favorite haunts, the New England Genealogical Society in Boston. 

From the album: "Profile Pictures" by New England Historic Genealogical Society

From the album: "Profile Pictures" by New England Historic Genealogical Society

Spending the day rummaging through old genealogical references on microfiche finally paid off. According to the Boston Evening Transcript (1/17/1884), Samuel Leeds was a prominent businessman in Boston during the 19th Century.  Mr. Leeds was involved in the boot and shoe business for over 50 years.  He was an important enough business leader of his day to have served in the Common Council as representative of the citizens of Ward XII in 1841 as well as in the state legislature.  He was a member of the Masonic fraternity, as well as a director of the Broadway Bank and trustee of the South Boston Savings Bank. Mr. Leeds also held office of Assessor. Samuel’s profession listed on the Boston census form of 1860 was that of “retired merchant”. The 1870 census form listed him as a “gentleman”, a common term of the day used to describe a wealthy retiree. 

The Leeds family portraits as displayed in the my upstairs foyer.

The Leeds family portraits as displayed in the my upstairs foyer.


My genealogical findings

 Samuel Leeds   b. Jan. 10, 1793   Dorchester, MA; d. Jan. 16, 1884 S. Boston, MA

                                    Married   Eliza Tewksbury April, 1818, Boston, MA

                                     Eliza Tewksbury  

                                                                   b. July 29, 1795 Chelsea, MA  d. May 8, 1877 S. Boston, MA

                                     Children:           Elizabeth Harriet Leeds   

                                                                   b. Mar 24, 1820 St. Petersburg, VA   d. May 24, 1904   Roxbury, MA

                                                                   Married Alfred Augustus Whitney Oct.12, 1843 Boston, MA

                                                                             b. July 14, 1816  Boston, MA  d. Aug. 3, 1877 S. Lyndeboro, NH

                                                                    Described by label on portrait as

                                                                   ”Elizabeth Harriet Leeds at 18 years of age”

                                                                    (Mary) Amanda Leeds

                                                                    b. 1820     d. 1850-1860? 

                                                                    Described by label on portrait as

                                                                   ”Amanda Leeds – youngest child of Samuel and

                                                                    Elizabeth (Tewksbury) Leeds and sister of

                                                                    Caroline (Slater?) and Elizabeth (H.) Leeds Whitney.  Died young.

 The entire Leeds family is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, MA

 Mr. Leeds died at age 91, outliving both his youngest daughter Amanda and his wife. His oldest daughter Elizabeth Harriet married Alfred Augustus Whitney Oct.12, 1843. It was likely that these portraits were passed on to one of her children.

 I was happy to have finally identified my new family!

 Next and final chapter … The ultimate surprise, reuniting the portraits with their descendants.


Kathleen Krucoff June 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

This is very, very cool. I was looking forward to hearing what you had discovered about the family. How exciting.

Jim Puzinas June 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

It is interesting how the story has unfolded! I hope to wrap it up with next week’s blog. Then onto other relevant art topics!
Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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