James & Julia Hope Letters

This collection consists of letters exchanged by James Hope (1819-1892) of Castleton, Vermont, a portrait painter and landscapist, and his wife Julia, between 1854 and 1874.

James Hope was born in Scotland on November 29, 1819.  After the death of his mother, his father immigrated to Canada.  Hope’s father died in 1831, and James left Canada to apprentice as a wagon-maker in Fairhaven, Vermont.  In 1841, he married Julia Marietta Smith (b. December 28, 1820) in West Rutland.

Hope developed a skill for portraiture (and later for painting landscapes).  After studying in Montreal, he supported his family by teaching painting and drawing at Castleton Seminary.  In the early 1850s, he took a studio in New York City where he painted and marketed his work during the winter and returned to his home in Castleton in the summer.  In 1872, Hope built a studio and art gallery in Watkins Glen, New York, where he lived until his death on October 20, 1892.  Julia Hope died in Watkins Glen September 2, 1906.

The correspondence between Hope and his wife, Julia, from 1856-1872 is the focus of the collection.  In these letters, which have been transcribed, Hope, living in New York City in order to paint and market his work, writes of professional disappointments as well as his worries about poor food and his health.  In her letters from Castleton, Julia expresses her financial worries and domestic concerns.  By the spring of 1872, however, Hope is enthusiastically planning the studio he will build in Watkins Glen, New York, where the family will live until a house is completed.

These James and Julie Hope letters are part of a larger collection of family papers known as the James Hope Papers, 1854-1893 (MSA 529). The VHS Library also holds a second group of the Hopes' letters which have not been transcribed; this collection is known as the James Hope Letters, 1853-1954 (MSA 230-231).

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