Mudge Children – Francis and Lydianna

Mudge Children

Edwin Mudge (1818-1890) was a major shoe manufacturer and a Danvers representative to the Massachusetts General Court. In 1844 he married Lydia Nichols Bryant, and in 1852 the couple built and moved to the house now at 108 Centre Street. A son, Francis Brown had been born October 4, 1846, and his sister Lydianna Bryant Mudge was born March 20, 1853. Sometime around 1854 the children were photographed on a daguerreotype plate, Lydianna moving her head during the timed exposure, slightly blurring the image. The 1/6 plate daguerreotype was set into a gutta-percha case with padded velvet cover and brass decorative frame. This daguerreotype is among the Historical Society collections and on deposit and catalogued by the Danvers Archival Center (Pic DAG MUD F8 Draw).

Tragically, both brother and sister died in 1855 of what was described as “brain fever” or “dropsy in the head.” Frank, one month shy of 10 years of age, passed away on September 8, 1855, followed by little 2½-year-old Lydianna on October 8.

Desiring a more tangible remembrance of their dear children, sometime between 1856 and 1876, the Mudge’s asked talented South Danvers artist Asa Bushby (1834-1897) to paint an oil portrait of the two deceased children, utilizing the small 1854 daguerreotype. Bushby was known for his vibrant colors and careful likenesses. His only change from the daguerreotype was to place a book in Frank’s right hand. The portrait itself measures 36” x 26.”

In 1857 the couple had a third child, Sarah Wilson Mudge (1857-1938), who grew up to be a prominent citizen and one of the founders of the Danvers Historical Society.

The painting remained at the Mudge homestead at 108 Centre Street till the death of daughter Sarah Mudge in 1938. Upon her death, the painting was donated that same year to the Historical Society by Miss Florence A. Mudge.

Richard B. Trask
February 2014