Jones, William Foster - portrait of lady with the initials "M B O"

This miniature is signed on the reverse "Painted by W F Jones 1844".

This is the signature of William Foster Jones (4 May 1817-9 Dec 1873) who was born and worked in Philadelphia.

He was the son of David Powell Jones (28 Nov 1775-13 Aug 1859) and Rebecca Burr Foster (1772-21 Jun 1846) who were married on 13 Sep 1797 in Philadelphia. William was the youngest of six children.

William's father, David Powell Jones seems to have been a successful hatter, as in the 1850 census for Philadelphia he is shown as the head of a large household, accompanied by his eldest unmarried daughter Laetitia Jones (1798-9 Feb 1871) and some grandchildren, including one named Rebecca Jones.

Perhaps David Powell Jones was also a landlord, as the household comprises thirteen persons, including a book binder, a jeweller, a hatter, a shoemaker, and a copper plate engraver. After David Powell Foster's death in 1859 Laetitia (aka Latissa Jones) went to live with Rebecca Jones when Rebecca married a physician named William Crouse.

Around 1840 William Foster Jones married Mary Dougherty (or Abby Dougherty) (4 Sep 1819-9 Nov 1889) and by 1850 they had two children, Mary Foster Jones (1841-?) and Thomas William Jones (1845-?).

In the 1850 census he described himself as "Artist" and lived in Philadelphia, along with Abby, their children, his mother-in-law Susan Dougherty (1779-?) and one servant.

He must have been quite successful, as in the 1860 census he is recorded with assets of $23,500 under "W F Jones", although the assets may have been inherited as his father died in 1859. Still as an artist married to Abbie (sic) with a third child W(illiam?) F(oster?) Jones (1852-?) and one servant.

The 1870 census enumerator was lazy and so there is no detail recorded about the family, but "Wm F Jones" was still living in Philadelphia with Abby Jones, their three children and one servant.

In addition to miniatures, William Foster Jones was a landscape, history, genre, and portrait artist.

A native of Philadelphia, Jones exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy from 1836-1869.

The sitter is unknown, but the initials "M B O" are engraved on the reverse.

Perhaps at some stage it may be possible to do a search at using only initials to identify the sitter. 460


Beth Mason said...

William Foster Jones is my great-great-great-great grandfather on my dad's side. My father recently passed away and left me Foster Jones' sketchbook from 1860. It only has seven pages filled, but there are detailed sketches of crests, men and women in elaborate apparel from the period, and a front porch of a Philadelphia row house with ornate trip and iron fencing. There even appears to be a self-portrait of Foster in a sophisticated top hat. I'm concerned that the pencil drawings are fading and the paper is yellowing. Is there something I can do to preserve it and/or is there a gallery where this piece can reside and better serve the memory of my ancestor?

Don Shelton said...

Hi Beth,
I think that is very generous of you. I suggest you contact the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, their website is

One of their pages is They should be able to help you, either by accepting the material or suggesting a more suitable organisation.

Another option would be PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at