Bascom, Andrew - portrait of Nathaniel Gilman

This miniature portrait appears to be unsigned, although there may be an indistinct signature between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock. The style is quite distinctive, with the sitter being waist length and taking up very little of the available space. The close up shows the artist was very skilful, as the distance between the pupils is only just over 5 mm. A tentative attribution is to Andrew J Bascom who was active 1833-1860.

Inside there is a inscription which reads "N Gilman, Waterville" and the date of the miniature is estimated to be from around 1840. An almanac published in 1832, states that Waterville was 18 miles north of Augusta, Maine.

There is an 1840 reference to Nathaniel Gilman Jr of Waterville as a head of household in the 1840 Census of Pensioners Revolutionary or Military Services Living with him was Sarah Gilman aged 82, in receipt of the pension, presumably via her husband's Revolutionary War service. The reference to Jr suggests his father was also named Nathaniel Gilman.

In checking this out, there is an Internet reference to a Sarah Branscome (c1758->1850) who married Nathaniel Gilman (16 May 1753-1803) born in Exeter, NH and who was a schoolteacher in Waterville. They had a son, Nathaniel Gilman Jr (28 Sep 1775-Dec 1859) who was a banker and married Lydia Watson around 1804 . This Nathaniel was one of Waterville's two wealthiest men, the other being Timothy Boutelle. Singly or in partnership, the two owned a vast acreage of Maine land and both were prominent members of the Jeffersonian party. Later newspaper reports comment that Nathaniel Gilman Jr was a shipbuilder, who by the outbreak of the War of 1812 had a number of ships and by privateering and trading during that conflict he laid the basis for a great fortune. He moved to New York in the 1820's where he also established a hide and leather business.

Nathaniel Gilman Jr was a prime mover in the establishment of Waterville College, later named Colby College, see Submitted by Amy E. Rowe to the Department of Anthropology ... and Colby College - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lydia died in 1843 and in the 1850 census, Nathaniel Gil(l)man Jr is shown as remarried to Joanna Boyd, their marriage being in 1845, and they are living in Ward 4, Brooklyn, NY. His mother Sarah Gilman is still living with them, now aged 92, as are a number of children, although not Nathaniel Gilman III who is married and living separately in New York by this time. As the children of Nathanile Gilman Jr have mixed birthplaces, of Maine and New York, it appears he alternated his residence between Waterville and Brooklyn. Nathaniel Gilman Jr, describes himself as a merchant with assets of $75,000. His son George Francis Gilman (mentioned further below) is still living at home as a merchant aged 24 and already has assets of $2000.

Nathaniel Gilman III must be the sitter in this miniature. It was painted around 1840, probably in New York. Other researchers have determined that at the date of the 1850 census, he was recorded as Nathaniel Gil(l)man living in Ward 2, Brooklyn, NY and gave his occupation as leather dealer. He was aged 35, born in Maine, and was married to Anna aged 30, also born in Maine. Anna was Hannah Elizabeth 'Anna' Getchell (20 Feb 1819-30 Jun 1891) and they were married 17 Mar 1845 at Waterville. In the 1850 census they had two children Willis Porter Gilman aged 2 and an unnamed infant only one month old, but who was later named Charlotte Elizabeth Gilman. As they had three servants, they were quite wealthy.

As an interesting aside, the census record for Nathaniel Gilman Jr in Ward 4, Brooklyn was made on 13 August 1850 and for his son in Ward 2, Brooklyn was made on 7 October 1850. Such a wide time gap of almost 8 weeks, must have led to many errors in the census records.

It appears the family moved to live in France, as Willis is recorded as dying in France 12 Jun 1877, Charlotte dying there 10 Oct 1879 , and Anna died in France on 30 Jun 1891. In fact there do not seem to be any census references in USA after 1850 and hence it seems the family moved to France before the 1860 census. A later newspaper article of 1901 says Nathaniel III died in 1854, but this may be a year out, as there is a record of a Nathaniel Gilman dying in New York on 18 Feb 1853.

No reason for a move to France is known, but one might speculate that, as Willis and Charlotte both died at age 29, they may have even suffered from tuberculosis and moved to France for their health. Anna, Willis and Charlotte were all returned to the USA for burial and are buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville, ME.

Other researchers have also determined that Nathaniel Gilman III was an older brother of George Francis Gilman, founder of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which was the first nationwide chain of stores, with the first store founded in 1859, some 20 years before Woolworths commenced. The secret of their success was cutting out the middlemen in tea distribution and selling tea cheap, at a time when tea had previously sold at retail for $1.00 to $2.00 per pound (say $50 to $100 per pound of today's money). George Francis Gilman was reputedly worth $40,000,000 at the time of his death in 1901. Apparently, one of his business methods was that each of his stores had to send him a one dollar bill each day, see also The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. -- Company History

George Francis Gilman has been described as the "P T Barnum" of the grocery business. There is much more about the history of the trade at Upton Tea Imports: Newsletter - Fall, 2005: Setting the Stage

George Francis Gilman retired in 1878 "to live a life of luxury" in Gil(l)man Street, Bridgeport, Ct. This seems to have been very much the case from the 1901 census, as there appears to have been a total of 25 servants, inclusive of their own dependants. He died intestate in 1901, his wife having died six years earlier. As a result there were major legal battles between various full-blood and half-blood heirs over the estate, including claims by two "lady" friends, one of them a Katherine Kupfer, who was the daughter of his barber. For more about the case see a New York Times report of 1901 at

The newspaper article comments "Perhaps a strange a fact as any in this most peculiar case is that most of those who contest a share in the tea merchant's estate very cordially hated George Francis Gilman while he lived."

However, as it appears that Nathaniel Gilman III and his immediate family had all died prior to 1901, they were spared the acrimony over the estate. By the same token, it is interesting to reflect that if Nathaniel Gilman III, as shown in this miniature, had lived as long as his younger brother, he may also have become one of the richest men in America. 506

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