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Letter to Mr. Casey

Letter from Eliza Ball Hughes to (Mr.) Casey Esquire, ca 1840
page 1 of 3
Courtesy of James Lowe
pages 2 & 3 of 3
Click on the images above to enlarge. This letter from Eliza Ball Hughes was for sale on ebay in October 2010 by James Lowe, a recognized autograph expert. See his listings on ebay.

The Seller’s description on the ebay listing was:

ELIZA BALL HUGHES ~ WIFE OF SCULPTOR ROBERT BALL HUGHES. Scarce Autograph Letter Signed “Eliza B. Hughes,” 2-1/2 pages, 8vo [7-7/8 in. x 5 in.], no place “66 South St.,” [Philadelphia], undated [after 1840, when she is recorded as living at this address in Philadelphia], “Tuesday afternoon.” Written to a “Casey Esquire,” Mrs. Hughes, undoubtedly experiencing hard times making ends meet, quickly pens:

“Dear Sir. Relying more on your kindness than anything else I send you two small drawings of mine, [not present] and, if you think them worth ten dollars, you will confer on me a very great kindness by purchasing them at that price. We have not yet received any remuneration for Mr. Hughes’ Model, and are particularly situated at the present time - any endeavoring to get pupils have proved unsuccessful, and these circumstances must plead my apology for troubling you. I also send you a slight sketch of a sweep from nature and shall be happy to make one for you for five dollars if you desire it.” Then suddenly, almost unconsciously, she remembers “(I have also taken out of my album one original drawing given me by Prout which I will dispose of if you like it -”

Lowe continues: "An unusual and rare glimpse inside the Hughes household, and the need for funds to keep on. In very good condition." Prout is likely Samuel Prout, the celebrated English watercolorist.

    Many thanks to James Lowe for transcribing the letter above. The additional notes by Mr. Lowe came from information on RobertBallHughes.com. The “Model” probably refers to the model of the Equestrian Statue of George Washington. I base this on the address of 66 South St. in Philadelphia where they lived from about 1837 or 1838 to about 1840.

    The Ball Hughes moved from New York to Philadelphia specifically to compete for the equestrian statue of Washington. Ball Hughes model was selected by the Committee in Philadelphia in 1840 but was never completed due to the failure of the Second Bank of the United States in 1841 after the Panic of 1837.

    The reference to getting pupils is the earliest that we have for the Ball Hughe's offering to teach art to support their family. We know that Eliza taught art after they moved from Philadelphia to Dorchester, MA and Robert lectured on art in his later years. See Mrs. Eliza Ball Hughes and Robert Ball Hughes for more information.

    Eliza’s offer to copy one of her original sketches for $10 for Mr. Casey, followed by her offer to sell an original Samuel Prout (1783-1852) watercolor from her own collection, shows how financially desperate the Ball Hughes were. We don't know who Mr. Casey was. Note that $10 in 1840 would be equivalent to about $222 in 2010 according to the calculator on Measuringworth.com.

    We know from A Ball Hughes Correspondence, by Thomas B. Brumbaugh, that letters from Robert and Eliza to Col. John Trumbull in New York in the early 1830’s revealed that they had financial troubles after coming to America in 1829. This was apparently due to the lack of lucrative commissions. We see again from this letter that Eliza continued to be intimately involved in their financial affairs.

Thanks to this letter, we now have a sample of Eliza's signature:
last update 11/30/2011
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2011