"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hannah Harrison Thomson

This 1785 portrait of Hannah Harrison Thomson by Joseph Wright hangs at Tudor Place in Washington, DC..

Hannah Harrison was born at Harriton in 1731. Harriton house was built in 1704 by Welsh Quaker Rowland Ellis who named it ”Bryn Mawr” meaning “High Hill.” When Hannah's parents bought the property they renamed it “Harriton” the surrounding town retained the name Bryn Mawr.

Harriton House c. 1890

Hannah became the second wife of Charles Thomson in 1774. In the words of Carl G. Karsch “Thomson's true source of wealth was Hannah Harrison who, according to John Adams, was ‘worth 5,000 pounds, sterling.’ The civil ceremony took place September 1, 1774 — four days before Congress convened — at Somerville, Hannah's 200-acre estate in what is now the city's Spring Garden are.”

Lossing, 1857,  identifies Hannah as “The aunt of President {William Henry} Harrison whose brother Benjamin was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.”

According to Watson, although Charles Thomson received no compensation for his work as secretary to the Continental Congress, they voted her the gift of a silver urn as compensation for divesting her of  her husband's attentions.

Hannah died in 1807; Charles lived until 1820. Like her more famous husband Hannah was buried at Harriton but her remains were moved to the obelisk monument in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1838. One of the stones flanking the monument reads:
Erected by John Thomson, of Delaware, to the memory of an honored uncle and benefactor.

In memory of
Wife of Charles Thomson.
Born December 1. 1731.
Died September 6, 1807.

Son of John Thomson,
Born January 17, 1795,
Died March 26. 1820.

Removed from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania 1838

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