Finding Aid for the Hesselius Family Papers, 1780-1820s MS.11

Summary Information

The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives10 East 71st Street
New York, NY, 10021
 © 2010 The Frick Collection. All rights reserved.
Hesselius family.
Hesselius Family Papers
0.5 Linear feet  (1 box)
Correspondence and records of the descendants of painter Gustavus Hesselius. Correspondents include Hesselius' granddaughter, Elizabeth Henderson Wertmüller; her mother, Lydia Hesselius Henderson; her aunt, Mary Hesselius; and other relatives. Letters concern personal and business matters.

Preferred Citation

Hesselius Family Papers. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

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Biographical Note

Gustavus Hesselius (1682-1755), a Swedish-born painter who immigrated to America in 1711, was known for his portraits and religious paintings. His son, John Hesselius (1728-1778), was also a prominent portrait painter. Elizabeth Henderson, the granddaughter of Gustavus Hesselius and niece of John Hesselius, married Adolph Wertmüller (1751-1811), a prominent Swedish painter, in 1801, and the two settled on a farm near Wilmington, Delaware.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of approximately 215 letters and other material concerning the descendants of Gustavus Hesselius.

The records are primarily in the form of correspondence to Elizabeth Henderson Wertmüller, a granddaughter of Gustavus Hesselius and niece of John Hesselius, both painters. There is also incoming correspondence to Elizabeth's mother, Lydia Hesselius Henderson. Elizabeth Henderson Wertmüller's correspondents are most often her aunt, Mary Hesselius (widow of John Hesselius), and various cousins, including John Hesselius, Elizabeth Addison, Caroline Hesselius Claggett, Harriet Brice Murray, Charlotte Hesselius and Mary Hesselius (daughter-in-law of Mary Hesselius). There are also letters from suitors of Miss Henderson, correspondence received by her husband, the painter Adolph Wertmüller, and miscellaneous business and estate records for Elizabeth and Adolph Wertmüller.

The individuals cited in this material lived in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Annapolis, and on country properties in Maryland and Delaware. Subjects covered in the letters include health matters, births, deaths, travel plans, real estate matters, and other accounts of family activities. Business matters include real estate transactions and property management, and the sale of Adolph Wertmüller's paintings. There is very little here directly related to the artistic careers of John Hesselius or Adolph Wertmüller; however, the estate papers for the Wertmüllers contain an inventory of Wertmüller's paintings at the time of his death and there are letters from Genet Campan, First Maid of Marie-Antoinette, regarding the portrait Wertmüller painted of Marie-Antoinette and her two children.

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This collection is arranged in two series:

Series I: Correspondence

Series II: Other Material

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

These records are open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives access policy. Contact the Archives Department for further information at


Believed to be part of a larger gift of material from Anita Hart (wife of Charles Henry Hart), 1926.

Processing Information

Arranged and described by Sally Brazil, 1998; Shannon Yule, 2009.

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Related Materials

Related Materials

Henderson-Wertmüller Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Controlled Access Headings

Family Name(s)

  • Hesselius family.


  • Correspondence.

Personal Name(s)

  • Campan, Mme (Jeanne-Louise-Henriette), 1752-1822.
  • Henderson, Lydia.
  • Hesselius, Gustavus, 1682-1755.
  • Hesselius, John, 1728-1778.
  • Wertmüller, Adolph Ulric, 1751-1811.
  • Wertmüller, Elizabeth.

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Correspondence, 1780-1811

The Correspondence series is subdivided by recipient. For each recipient, the letters are arranged alphabetically by sender.

Wertmüller, Elizabeth (née Henderson)

Box Folder Date
1 1

Addison, Elizabeth

2 letters (cousin)

1 2

Baily, Margaret

1 letter

1 3

Booth, George

1 letter

1 4

Bryan, Mary

1 letter

1 5

Christy, William

1 letter

1 6

Claggett, Caroline (née Hesselius)

7 letters (cousin)

1790, undated
1 7

Clark, Sophia

3 letters

1 8

Cooper, Jane

3 letters

1791, undated
1 9

Cox, Richard

1 letter

1 10

Dundas, Ann

4 letters

1 11

Ely, John

1 letter

1 12

Gough, P.

5 letters

1788-1795, undated
1 13

Henderson, John

1 letter (brother)

1 14

Henderson, Lydia

3 letters (mother)

1790, 1794
1 15

Henderson, Mary

2 letters

1791, 1794
1 16

Hesselius, John

1 letter

1 17

Hesselius, Mary

33 letters (aunt)

1 18

Hesselius, Mary

25 letters (aunt)

1800-1811, undated
1 19

Hesselius, Mary

18 letters (cousin)

1799-1811, undated
1 20

Israel, Margaretta

1 letter

1 21

Johnson, Charlotte (née Hesselius)

5 letters (cousin)

1784, 1792, undated
1 22

Knox, Joseph

1 letter

1 23

Marshalls, Thomas

1 letter

1 24

Murray, Harriet (née Brice)

17 letters (cousin)

1780-1800, undated
1 25

Nicholson, Jane

7 letters

1792-1798, undated
1 26

Palmer, Elihu

1 letter

1 27

Porter, Mary

5 letters

1 28

Ramsey, E.

1 letter

1 29

Reese, Thomas

1 letter

1 30

Rogers, Rebecca

11 letters

1787-1800, undated
1 31

Ross, Augustina Margaretta

1 letter

1 32

Scriba, Anna and Sarah

5 letters

1791-1797, undated
1 33

Shippen, Abby (née Reynolds)

3 letters

1799, undated
1 34

Shippen, John

5 letters

1 35

Wood, Mary

1 letter

1 36

Woods, Jane

8 letters


Henderson, Lydia

Box Folder Date
1 37

Claggett, Caroline (née Hesselius)

3 letters (niece)

1792, undated
1 38

Hesselius, Mary

16 letters (sister-in-law)

1785-1793, undated
1 39

Various correspondents

Harriet Brice Murray (niece)

Eliza Dulany Addison (niece)

William Nicholson

1787, 1793, undated

Wertmüller, Adolph

Box Folder Date
1 40

Campan, Genet (Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan)

Genet Campan, First Maid of Marie-Antoinette, writes Adolph Wertmuller regarding the portrait he painted of Marie-Antoinette and her two children.

Letters are in French, English translations (by Edgar Munhall) are included.

1 41

Various correspondents

Unknown, 1796

M. Hesselius, 1806

Letter of introduction for Adolph Wertmuller to Charles Loch written by N. Collin, 1803

Letter between doctors regarding Adolph Wertmuller's condition, 1811

Elizabeth Wertmuller to Amos Haymaker announcing Adolph Wertmuller's death, 1811


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Series II: Other Material, 1779-1820s

Box Folder Date
1 42

Business records of Adolph and Elizabeth Wertmüller

Contains receipts, contracts, promissory notes, etc.

1 43

Estate records of Adolph and Elizabeth Wertmüller

Includes auction records and inventories of household items including paintings and art supplies.

1 44

Power of attorney (Mary Hesselius to John Hesselius regarding real estate)

1 45

Miscellaneous items

Unsigned pencil sketch of man

Silhouette cut-out

Photograph of Elizabeth Henderson Wertmuller

Envelope addressed to Charles Henry Hart

2 signatures

Newspaper clippings

Broadside for a museum of wax figures in Philadelphia, 1807. (removed to MS oversize box B)

1807, undated

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