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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Chester Harding, American, 1792-1866

Jeremiah Mason (1768-1849), Class of 1823h
Oil on canvas
Gift of Dr. George C. Shattuck, Class of 1803; P.836.2


Along with Jeremiah Smith, Jeremiah Mason (1768-1848) initially represented the College in the Dartmouth College Case in the New Hampshire courts in 1817. Despite their eloquent arguments, New Hampshire’s highest court did not view the College’s original charter as a contract and ruled in favor of Dartmouth University. Born in Connecticut and a graduate of Yale in 1788, Mason moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1797 and became one of the leading lawyers in the state. In 1802 he was named state attorney general, and he was elected to the United States Senate in 1813, resigning in 1817. Mason’s keenest competitor in New Hampshire legal circles was Daniel Webster, who arrived in Portsmouth in 1807 and regularly represented the opposing view in the more important legal cases. Chester Harding’s forthright likeness of Mason makes no attempt to diminish his large proportions. The portly lawyer looks comfortable and kindly, if somewhat stolid. Harding, an exceedingly popular portraitist in his day, characteristically painted in a visually pleasing, polished style that rarely emphasized the personality of the sitter. Harding’s contributions to the art world extended beyond his factual portraiture. He operated an informal gallery out of his Boston studio, which served as an auction house and an important exhibition space for local talent.

Last Updated: 5/13/09