Through the Looking Glass: A Pair of New York Pier Mirrors by Hosea Dugliss

A pair of New York pier mirrors made by Hosea Dugliss—which date to about 1835–45—were given to Bartow-Pell by David M. Goldman in 2020 and now hang in the north parlor. The lamps on the pier tables were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Feld in 2014.

Robert and Maria Bartow had a house to furnish.

In 1842, when the couple moved into their brand-new residence on Robert Bartow’s ancestral Pelham Bay estate, they had probably purchased some furnishings for the superb Greek Revival interiors from shops in New York City. A house needs many things, and it is tempting to picture Mr. and Mrs. Bartow selecting carpets, draperies, furniture, and decorative objects. Did they always agree? We will probably never know. In any case, the only documentation that remains of the family’s furniture is the simple list of items enumerated on Mrs. Bartow’s estate inventory dated July 21, 1881. So, it is up to us to imagine how the mansion was originally furnished, and we are constantly trying to better interpret the period rooms.

On April 25, 1836, Robert Bartow of New York City, and his wife, Maria Lorillard, paid $40,000 for about 233 acres of land on Long Island Sound. Six years later, in 1842, the couple and their children moved into a large, newly constructed house on the property, according to their daughter Catharine Bartow Duncan. This country seat had once belonged to Robert Bartow’s grandfather John Bartow and before that to their ancestors the Pells.
Hosea Dugliss (England 1793–1867 New York). Pier mirror, 1835–45. Wood, compo, gesso, and gilding. Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Gift of David M. Goldman, 2020.01

A few months ago, David M. Goldman generously gave us a pair of gilded pier mirrors bearing the label of the New York maker Hosea Dugliss (1793–1867) and dating to about 1835–45, during which time the Bartow mansion was being completed. The mirrors reflect the most advanced design trends of the day, adding elements of the imminent Rococo Revival period to the classical aesthetic that had been popular for many years. Bartow-Pell Curatorial Committee Chair and decorative arts expert Carswell Rush Berlin notes that this transitional style can be seen in the C-scrolled corners of our mirrors as well as in other contemporary sources, such as the lavish curvilinear embellishments on chairs in Furniture with Candelabra and Interior Decoration (1838) by the British designer Richard Bridgens (1785–1846). These handsome mirrors now hang in the north parlor.

Richard Bridgens (British, 1785–1846). Furniture with Candelabra and Interior Decoration, plate 55. Published in London by William Pickering, 1838. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1962. www.metmuseum.org. The ornamental elements on these chairs—such as elaborate C-scrolls—are cutting-edge style and compare to the ornamentation on Bartow-Pell’s mirrors.
Hosea Dugliss, pier mirror (detail). Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

Bartow-Pell’s mirrors are very similar to a labeled pier mirror in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute that was made by Dugliss’s contemporary and competitor Isaac Platt (1793–1875). These designs also relate to two examples in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that are attributed to Platt. Dugliss and Platt—whose shops were just a few blocks apart—were among the looking glass and frame makers and gilders working during the first half of the 19th century in what is today lower Manhattan. In fact, Carswell Berlin has found that both mirror makers and andiron makers seem to have gravitated to the area between Park Row and the East River.

Hosea Dugliss’s label is pasted on the back of the Bartow-Pell’s mirrors. His shop at 11 Chatham (Park) Row was in the same block as the Park Theatre (which burned down in 1848) and across from City Hall Park. Robert Bartow would have been very familiar with this neighborhood, having once lived a few blocks away on Beekman Street and having worked on the now-demolished Franklin Square.
William D. Smith (American, 1800–after 1860), engraver, after a drawing by Charles W. Burton (American, born England 1807). Street Views No. 1 – Park Row, New York, 1830. Engraving. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation. This 1830 view shows Park Row running northeast from the bottom of City Hall Park. The Park Theatre at 21 Park Row is the large arcaded building, and M. & E. Cronly, a tavern, is just south at 15 Park Row. Dugliss’s shop was at number 11. The steeple of the old Brick Church on Beekman Street is visible at the north end of the block.
Nathaniel Currier (American, 1813–1888), lithographer and publisher. Broadway New York—South from the Park, ca. 1846. Lithograph. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library. Hosea Dugliss’s looking-glass shop was near the intersection of Broadway and Park Row. This view by Nathaniel Currier from about 1846 faces south down Broadway. P. T. Barnum’s American Museum—on the corner of Broadway, Park Row, and Ann Street (at left)—opened in 1841. St. Paul’s Chapel can be seen across the street on the right with the spire of Trinity Church in the distance. Astor House—a magnificent luxury hotel that was completed in 1836—is the large porticoed building at the right. Broadway was lined with a variety of shops offering everything under the sun. Here, a store selling shirts, fancy articles, and human hair is at the left on the corner of Park Row, and a hat shop is on Broadway in the Astor House, across from the tip of City Hall Park.

S. E. Morse & Co., publisher. City of New York (detail with added labels), 1843. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. The location of Hosea Dugliss’s shop in relation to some neighboring landmarks can be seen in this detail from an 1843 map.

Who was Hosea Dugliss and what do we know about him? Dugliss was born on Christmas Day 1793, in Birmingham, England, which was a well-known metalwork center. He first appears in New York City directories in 1820 at 5 Park Row, where it splits off from Broadway south of City Hall. By 1825, he was listed in a “looking glass store” at number 11 Park Row. (It should be noted that Park Row as it appears in the city directories and Chatham Row as it appears on Dugliss’s label are one and the same street.) He remained at this address for the remainder of his career (until about 1850). By 1854, he is listed only at his home address, 232 East Broadway, as “late [recent] looking glass.” (As a “manufacturer” of looking glasses, Dugliss also made frames.)

James P. Weston, daguerreotypist (active New York, 1842–1857). Hosea Dugliss, 1850–57. California Historical Society, www.californiahistoricalsociety.org. This photographic likeness of Hosea Dugliss—probably taken shortly after his retirement—was made by the New York City daguerreotypist James P. Weston, whose studio was at 132 Chatham. The back of the frame bears the name of Dugliss’s great-granddaughter.

The British-born Dugliss joined a number of ambitious émigré craftsmen in 19th-century New York City, where he became a very successful entrepreneur with a good head for business. In fact, his moneymaking ventures went well beyond the manufacture of looking glasses and frames. Like some other merchants with spare capital—such as the furniture-maker Duncan Phyfe—Dugliss was able to invest substantially in real estate. One of his properties was a six-story building on the corner of Ann Street and Theatre Alley, which in 1836 housed a couple of booksellers, a bindery, a tailor, a print colorer, a jeweler, and a printer. An article published on November 12, 1836, in Horace Greeley’s weekly journal the New-Yorker (not to be confused with today’s New Yorker magazine) names Dugliss as the owner and reports the details of a damaging fire in the building (which was attributed to a furnace in the fifth-floor bindery). In the 1860 census (when he was 66 years old), his profession is given as “gentleman” (a man of good breeding with no occupation), and the value of his real estate was $10,000. At the height of his career, and as proof of his hard-earned standing in society, Dugliss commissioned Samuel Lovett Waldo (1783–1861)—whose work included many prominent sitters—to paint his portrait.

Samuel Lovett Waldo (American, 1783–1861). Formerly attributed to William Jewett (American, 1792–1874). Hosea Dugliss, 1835–45. Oil on panel. Collection of the de Young Memorial Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Photo: Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive files. According to the Catalogue of American Portraits, this portrait of Hosea Dugliss is now attributed to Samuel Lovett Waldo rather than to his partner William Jewett. It is dated to ca. 1835–45, about the same time that Dugliss made the pier mirrors now at Bartow-Pell.

Hosea Dugliss married Mary Ann Silvester in April 1828 at the Vandewater Street Church (Presbyterian) in New York City (she was apparently his second wife), and they became the parents of a large family of children. Mary Ann was born in New York in 1808 and died in 1864. Hosea died a few years later at the age of 73 and was buried on April 30, 1867, in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

As a historic house, Bartow-Pell is always working to refine the museum’s collection and to acquire objects that improve our interpretation. Now, Hosea Dugliss’s pier mirrors add a new page to the story.

Margaret Highland, BPMM Historian

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2 Responses to Through the Looking Glass: A Pair of New York Pier Mirrors by Hosea Dugliss

  1. Norma Simon says:

    So Interesting, thanks. Norma

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Leah Lenney says:

    what a delightful commentary celebrating the acquisition of the handsome pair of mirrors in the north drawing room. You are using your covid escape time in a wonderful way, and we are the happy recipients of your highly creative pastime.

    Warmest wishes from Leah

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