Rotating Collection
In addition to our permant collection, Cary Library offers three gallery spaces to community artists (suitable for displaying two-dimensional art).
Selections from our Art Collection
Cary Library is proud to house and display a permanent collection of art – portraits, landscapes, plaques and objects – associated with the Town of Lexington and the library itself.
Works of art are on display throughout the library, with the majority of portraits and historical items located in the four historic rooms just inside the Massachusetts Avenue entrance, on the main floor.
Below is a list of art in each room with an image followed by a description.

Genealogy Room

Bust of Theodore Parker (1810-1860) by Sidney H. Morse; marble, 25”x16” with 42”x14” pedestal


Theodore Parker, the grandson of Revolutionary War hero Captain John Parker, was a noted Unitarian minister, author, abolitionist, and advocate for transcendentalism. Born in Lexington, he excelled at academics and was accepted to Harvard College in 1830, but due to family financial struggles, Parker was unable to attend. He later enrolled in Harvard Divinity School, and graduated in 1836, after which he was ordained as the pastor for a Unitarian church in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. By 1840, Parker had become interested in and influenced by the Transcendentalist movement. Defying easy categorization, Transcendentalism was a social, philosophical and literary movement that began in New England in the 1830s; led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, it emphasized the essential goodness of men and the importance of intuition, imagination and individual thought over logic in the quest for the divine. Parker took elements of these beliefs to create his own theological ideas, which differed from traditional Christian teachings by focusing on a personal relationship with God based on man’s own experiences. In 1841, he publicized these views in a sermon entitled “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity,” in which he posited that the permanent was the individual relationship with God, while the transient was priestly ritual. He later published A Discourse of Matters Pertaining to Literature, which further elaborated on his beliefs and alienated many local ministers. His controversial religious views, combined with his liberal leanings on issues of social reform, which included speaking out in favor of temperance, women’s education and the abolition of slavery, meant that he was forced to resign his pastorate in 1843. He left Boston and traveled around Europe for a year; upon his return, a small but loyal group of supporters founded the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society of Boston and made him its minister. Parker continued to preach and speak out on social justice issues until his untimely death at the age of 50. The wood for the pedestal of this bust came from the original belfry which called the Lexington Minutemen to arms in 1775.

Sidney H. Morse (1833-1903) was a writer, sculptor and poet. Born in Rochester, New York, he initially trained as a sculptor in Connecticut before becoming a Unitarian minister. In his varied career, he founded and edited The Radical, a Unitarian periodical that supported free thought and religion, and was also a prolific author and speaker. Morse believed in the idea of individual sovereignty and supported the economic theory of mutualism, a school of thought that advocated for the individual’s right to receive appropriate compensation for their labor. In addition to his literary activities, Morse also worked sporadically as a sculptor and made busts of various American Rationalists and reformers of the 19th century, including such notable figures as Thomas Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Susan B. Anthony.

Hills of Lexington by John Enser; oil on canvas

Hills of Lexington

This painting is a typical example of Enser’s work, as it uses a vibrant color palette and a naturalistic painting style to portray a landscape scene. The particular vantage point depicted is unidentified, but is most likely the back garden of 12 Summit Road atop Follen Hill, looking northeast across the valley of Massachusetts Avenue and the Arlington Great Meadows to Whipple Hill in the distance.

John Enser lived for more than a decade in the 1930s and early 1940s in the Summit Road home of his friends and fellow artists Hermann Dudley Murphy and Nelly Littlehale Murphy. Enser and the Murphys maintained their studios in the spacious home. The contrast between the manicured lawn in the foreground and the rolling hills in the background can be seen as a nod to Lexington’s past as a rural, agricultural community as well as its present position as a prosperous suburb of Boston. 

This painting was donated to Cary Memorial Library by Paul Kossey.

Pasture Road by John F. Enser; oil on canvas

pasture road

This painting, with its depiction of a rutted two-lane track winding through an open field, clearly evokes Lexington’s agricultural roots. First settled in 1642 as a part of Cambridge, Lexington was originally known as Cambridge Farms, a name which reflects the largely agricultural and farming-based economy of the time. Incorporated in 1713, many residents farmed and owned livestock, which were such an important part of life that a town meeting vote allowed hogs to roam freely as long as they were marked by their owners. Although Lexington had long since become a flourishing Boston suburb by the time Enser settled in town, the emphasis on the natural world and the absence of urban development in this painting seems to hearken back to a more ‘unspoiled’ time in Lexington’s history.   

John Enser (1898-1968) was born in Ennis, Texas and moved to Chicago to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Institute. He arrived in Boston in 1929 and struck up a close friendship with local artist Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945). Enser settled in Lexington and worked in Murphy’s home studio, where he met Deirdre Cotter, who would later become his wife. Although he made New England his home, Enser frequently traveled back to Texas, as well as to Mexico. He is best known for his landscapes, particularly of New Hampshire’s Monadnock region, which are characterized by a vivid color palette. He also taught painting at the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts and was on the faculty of the School of Practical Arts and Letters at Boston University. 

Portrait of Earl (Hugh) Percy, Lord Warkworth, later 2nd Duke of Northumberland (1742-1817) by Pompeo Batoni, c. 1775; oil on canvas, 36”x41½”

General Percy portrait

Born in London and educated at Eton College, Percy was set on a military career from an early age, becoming a gazetted ensign in the 24th Regiment of Foot by the time he was seventeen. He fought in the Seven Year’s War (1756-63) and rose to the rank of major-general during the Revolutionary War. He was in command of the British brigade dispatched by General Gage to reinforce the troops under attack by the Colonial militia on April 19, 1775, and led the British retreat into Charlestown under heavy fire. After returning to England in 1777, Percy served as a Member of Parliament and acceded to the title in 1786; by the time of his death in 1817, he was one of England’s richest men. This portrait is a copy of the original done by Pompeo Batoni, although it is unclear exactly when or where Batoni painted Percy.  The use of Percy’s title before he succeeded to the dukedom, Lord Warkworth, combined with evidence of existing copies of the work suggest that the original was made before the 1760s.  The portrait was a gift from Earl Percy’s grand-nephew, Algernon George, 6th Duke of Northumberland, in 1879 to the town of Lexington.

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) was born in Lucca, and likely trained there before moving to Rome in the late 1720s. Although he began his career painting altarpieces, Batoni soon established himself as one of the most popular portrait painters of the time, particularly catering to aristocratic Englishmen on the Grand Tour with skillful draftsmanship and a polished style influenced by the work of Raphael and classical antiquity. He often depicted his sitters in archaeological sites or with pieces of ruined sculpture, and was famous for truly capturing the spirit and likeness of his subjects. 

Portrait of Samuel Bowman (1753-1818) by Henry Williams; oil on canvas, 28”x32”

Gen Bowman

Samuel Bowman, a Lexington native, was one of seven brothers who served as soldiers in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was a drummer in Captain John Parker’s company and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the end of the war, he initially returned to his home in Lexington, but in 1786 he moved to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, where he settled on a large farm. Bowman would go on to become a valuable member of the community, serving on the borough council and taking part in the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. This painting was created from a miniature by Henry Williams.

Henry Williams (1787-1830) was an engraver, painter, miniaturist and wax modeler. In 1806, when he was only 19, Williams entered a partnership with William M.S. Doyle in Boston in order to meet the growing demand for his work. Their collaboration lasted until around 1814, when he published Elements of Drawing, a very popular and successful instruction manual which included an essay on the titular subject and twenty-six engraved copper-plate images.

World War II Memorial Plaque

wood plaque

A carved wooden plaque is dedicated to the memory of those Lexington men who gave their lives in World War II. It is decorated with a dove bearing an olive branch – a symbol of peace – flanked by two burning torches, as well as the Star of David and a cross. Those memorialized served in all branches of the military and include recipients of the Purple Heart, as well as other medals for distinguished service. The plaque was given to the library by the Lexington chapter of the War Parents of America.

Lexington Room

Painting of Old Mill in Hiram, Maine, 1876 by Frank H. Shapleigh; oil on canvas, 49½”x34½”

Old Mill

Hiram, Maine is situated about 35 miles north-west of Portland, and was first settled in the late 1700s. The town was incorporated in 1814 and the name was inspired by the biblical King Hiram of Tyre. Although heavily agricultural, Hiram’s main industry was manufacturing timber, and its location near the Saco River supplied water power for the grist mills, sawmills, and planing mills that comprised the backbone of the town’s economy. It is unclear which kind of mill is depicted in this painting, but the logs in the river are a clear nod to the local timber industry. Hiram is also notable as the part-time residence of a young Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who spent his summers at the home of his grandfather, General Peleg Wadsworth, a Revolutionary War hero and one of the founders of the town.

Frank H. Shapleigh (1842-1906) was born in Boston and studied painting at the Lowell Institute of Drawing. He then spent three years in Paris, working and studying in the studio of Emile Lambinet (1815-1877). Upon his return in the late 1860s, he established a studio in Boston, which he maintained even when working elsewhere. Shapleigh spent sixteen years as the artist-in-residence at the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire and built a summer home in nearby Jackson. After 1886, he also spent winters in St. Augustine, Florida and was artist-in-residence at the Ponce de Leon Hotel there for several years. He is best known for his paintings of the White Mountains, capturing their sweeping views and iconic landmarks, such as Mt. Washington, as well as less-heralded parts of the landscape. 

Paul Revere was an American goldsmith, engraver and patriot in the American Revolution.

Paul Revere

Paul Revere was an American goldsmith, engraver and patriot in the American Revolution. He is best known for alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” But prior to his famous ride, Revere was already a prominent citizen of Boston. Trained as a goldsmith – a term that in the 18th century meant someone who was trained to work with all types of precious of metals – he had to take over the family business at 19 when his father died suddenly, making bowls, silver tea sets, flatware and other utensils. In order to supplement his income, he also created engravings, such as cartoons and bookplates, and dabbled in dentistry. Revere was always involved in public life, both as a member of the militia and through his membership in the Freemasons and the Sons of Liberty. His involvement grew over time, as he participated in the Boston Tea Party, spied on British soldiers and played a critical role in the start of the American Revolution. Although he served briefly in the militia, his talents were better suited to commerce. Revere became an industrialist, operating a hardware store and a foundry, as well as opening a copper-rolling mill that supplied to the navy. He also continued to play a part in public life, and was known for his charitable contributions, which included serving as the first president of the Boston Board of Health. This portrait, done in 1883, is a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s (1755-1828) 1813 original, which hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and depicts Revere near the end of his life.

Jane E. Bartlett (1839-1923) was born in Harmony, Maine and was a student of famous late-nineteenth century portraitist William Morris Hunt. Her work demonstrates a similar spontaneity, simplicity and respect for the subject as that of her teacher. Although little is known about Bartlett’s life, she is thought to have mainly lived and worked in Boston. In 1907, she was commissioned by the Kansas State Agricultural College to paint portraits of its college presidents. Bartlett was also part of the growing trend in the 1800s of women artists gaining notice by participating in leading exhibitions – she showed two paintings at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and placed three portraits in a loan exhibition held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1880. 

Portrait of George Washington (1732-1799), unsigned, copied from The Athenaeum by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828); oil on canvas, 32”x36”

George Washington

George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and served two terms as the first president of the United States. Born in Virginia, he worked as a surveyor and fought in the French and Indian War (1754-63), but his real passion was his estate, Mount Vernon, an 8,000 acre property where he grew crops such as wheat and corn and experimented with methods of land conservation. Washington served as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, and was made commander in chief of the Continental Army a year later. His leadership kept the colonial army unified during the eight-year struggle, and as a result, he was elected as the first president of the United States in 1789. On November 5 of that same year, President Washington visited Lexington and dined at the Munroe Tavern. After two terms, he retired to Mount Vernon in 1797, where he died only two years later. This painting is a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s iconic original portrait, which depicts Washington turned slightly to the left with a wide jaw – in part due to his new set of false teeth – and serious, yet forceful appearance. Stuart conducted three live sittings with Washington, which he then used as the basis for about one hundred portraits of the president; this particular pose – known as ‘The Athenaeum’ after the Boston library that purchased the original – was the most widely reproduced. 

Portrait of Major William Dawes (1745-1799) by Daniel J. Strain; oil on canvas, 28”x34”

william dawes portraitt

William Dawes, a Boston native, is best known for his role in the famous ‘Midnight Ride’ of April 18, 1775. He worked as a tanner, which allowed him relative freedom of travel on and off the isthmus of Boston, and was active in the local militia. As a result of his familiarity to the British troops guarding the city, he was chosen along with Paul Revere and Dr. Samuel Prescott to ride into the countryside to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams about the planned British advance on Lexington and Concord. Dawes was assigned the more dangerous land route – which meant passing through the British checkpoint at Boston Neck, then the narrowest point on the isthmus – and rode west, arriving in Lexington at 12:30am. After warning Hancock and Adams of the approaching army, Revere, Prescott and Dawes mounted their horses again and set off for Concord, but encountered a British patrol before reaching their destination. While Revere was captured, both Prescott and Dawes escaped, but Dawes lost his horse and was forced to walk back to Lexington. He later began a provisioning business and worked as a commissary providing supplies to the Continental Army, but soon faded into obscurity. In recent years, his role has been overshadowed due to the acclaim given to Paul Revere by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s famous poem ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.’

Daniel J. Strain (1847-1925) was born in Littleton, New Hampshire and worked in Portland, Maine and Boston, where he was known for his portrait heads of children. He then spent five years studying painting in Paris during the late 1870s, where he exhibited in the Paris Salon three years in a row. Upon his return to Boston in 1883, Strain set up a studio and quickly re-established himself as a portrait painter of notable local figures, although he was also equally adept at various genre scenes. This painting was copied from the original by the American painter John Johnston (1753-1818), who was also a talented portraitist. 


Arthur B. Curtis safe


Arthur B. Curtis was born in Freeport, Maine in 1854 and trained as a draughtsman; he then moved to Boston and found employment at the American Steam Safe Company and the Damon Safe Company. In 1885, he went into business for himself as a dealer of safes, representing the York Safe and Lock Company of York, Pennsylvania. This safe is painted black with a panel depicting a ship in full sail on the front, while underneath is the address 98 Sudbury Street, Boston, MA. As that was Curtis’s business address beginning in 1885, it seems probable that this was one of the safes he sold from his shop on behalf of York Safe and Lock. By the 1890s, his focus had shifted slightly away from business, as he was twice elected as selectman for Revere and served on numerous town committees. Nonetheless, there are indications that he remained involved with the safe business, as there is a patent registered to an Arthur B. Curtis of Revere from July 1891 for a ‘Bolt Support and Guide for Safe Doors,’ as well as one from December 1897 for ‘Protective Mechanism for Safe Doors.’ 

Stone Building, East Branch by Philip Brown Parsons; oil on canvas

stone building

This painting depicts the East Branch of the Lexington Library in the late 1800s. Opened in 1883 and originally housed in the reading room of the Adams School, the library’s popularity soon led it to seek out larger quarters. In 1891, Ellen Stone offered the Stone Building – constructed by her grandfather Eli Robbins – to the trustees of the library for $2,000, along with a half-acre of land adjoining Follen Church, which can be seen in the background of this painting. A Greek Revival-style structure which had originally served as a private school, a meeting hall and the East Lexington Lyceum, the Stone Building had also hosted such notable speakers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Parker. The Stone Building housed the East Lexington Branch Library until 2007 when a burst pipe caused extensive damage and the building was closed indefinitely for repairs. 

Watercolor by G. Seyetaski [1960]; watercolor

This watercolor by an unidentified artist depicts a coastal landscape with a rocky shoreline. The geometric jumble of rocks is depicted using non-traditional colors, such as pink, purple and lime green, which gives the piece an abstract quality and separates it from a more traditional landscape scene. The gradations of color achievable by using watercolors help to create an atmospheric mood, as the rocks seem to fade into the dark wash of the ocean. No additional information is known about the artist or when the piece came into the Cary Library collection.

Wm. H. Cary & Co., c. 1848-49 by Sarony & Major; chromolithograph

buildings chromnolithograph

This chromolithograph is captioned “Importers and Jobbers of Fancy Goods – French, English, German, Bohemian, Austrian and Italian Manufacturers; Tortoise Shell, Ivory and Other Combs; Buttons, Brushes, Cutlery, Indian Beads, Steel Goods, Jewelry, Violins, Strings, Threads, Needles, Pins, Perfumery, Pocket Books, Percussion Caps, etc. No. 245 Pearl Street, near John Street, New York.” It depicts the New York headquarters of WM. H. Cary & Co., an importing business run by William Harris Cary and his brother Isaac Harris Cary. The brothers started their business in Boston in the early 1820s and opened the New York branch in 1827, of which William Harris Cary became the sole owner. He was an extremely successful merchant, so much so that in the 1850 census his holdings were listed as totaling nearly half a million dollars. In this print, the WM. H. Cary & Co. building towers over its neighbors, while the stacks of boxes on the sidewalk and carriages in the street give the sense of a vibrant industrial area. The bright colors are a result of chromolithography, or color printmaking, which caught on in America in the 1840s and quickly became immensely popular due to low production costs and ease of mass-production. Attached to the back of this print is a letter to a Mr. Cary from Grace M. Mayer, a curator of prints and photographs who worked both at the Museum of the City of New York and the Museum of Modern Art from the 1930s to the 1960s, discussing the possible date range for this lithograph.

Sarony & Major (1845-1857) was a lithography firm founded by Napoleon Sarony on Fulton Street in New York City. Born in Québec, Sarony worked as an illustrator for Currier & Ives before starting his own business with Henry Major in 1845. The company produced prints such as a set of views of Commodore Perry’s expedition to Japan under the Sarony & Major name until 1857, when it merged with Joseph F. Knapp and the name was changed to Sarony, Major & Knapp. In 1867, Sarony left to establish his own photography studio, although the firm would continue producing lithographs into the 1870s. Sarony would later become one of the best-known celebrity portrait photographers in New York, photographing such notable figures as Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens and William T. Sherman.

Oval Room

Model of U.S.S. Lexington by John Churchill

uss lexington

The U.S.S. Lexington was an 86-foot, two-masted warship used by the American navy during the Revolutionary War. In response to England’s blockade of the Atlantic coast, the Continental Congress began purchasing merchant ships and turning them into warships.

In March 1776, the merchant ship Wild Duck was converted into the U.S.S. Lexington with 16 deck cannons.  With John Barry, widely known as the “father of the American navy,” as captain, and a crew of 110 sailors, the Lexington patrolled the Atlantic coastline, capturing at least five British warships. In February 1777, the Lexington was sent to harass the British in their own waters as part of a new strategy to disrupt the shipping lanes around the British Isles. Along with two other American warships, the U.S.S. Dolphin and the U.S.S. Reprisal, nine enemy ships were captured. Only a few months later, in June 1777, the Lexington’s luck ran out as she was attacked and captured by the English warship H.M.S. Alert off the coast of France.  

Portrait of Lydia Thornton Harris (1728-1821) by George Peter Healy; oil on canvas


Lydia Thornton Harris was the maternal grandmother of the brothers William Harris Cary and Isaac Harris Cary. The Cary family’s connection with the town of Lexington is reflected in their legacy of support through Cary Memorial Library, Cary Memorial Hall, the Cary Lecture Series and the Cary Educational Fund.

George Peter Healy (1813-1894) was born in Boston, where he opened his own studio at the age of 18. He studied and worked in Paris, Chicago and Rome, where his highly realistic, academic style drew commissions and helped develop his reputation as one of the most prolific and popular portrait painters of his day, sometimes producing as many as 50 works a year. Some of his most famous portraits include those of notable figures such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry Clay, King Louis Philippe of France, and U.S. presidents from John Quincy Adams to Ulysses S. Grant. Although Healy’s style of painting eventually fell out of fashion in the early twentieth century, he remained an influential figure in the art world.

Portrait of Maria Hastings Cary (1801-1881) by Charles E. Osgood; oil on canvas, 34½”x40”

osgood portrait

Cary Memorial Library is named in honor of its benefactor, Lexington native Maria Hastings Cary. She grew up on a farm on Lincoln Street where her family had lived since the early 1700s, and both her father and grandfather served with Captain John Parker at the Battle of Lexington. After marrying William Harris Cary in 1828, the couple made their home in New York City due to William’s business as an importer. A later portrait of Maria Hastings Cary by Edgar Parker (1840-1892) also hangs in this room.

Charles E. Osgood (1809-1890) was an American artist from Salem, Massachusetts. After unsuccessfully working as a bank clerk, he moved to Boston to study painting. He would later split his time between Salem and New York City, but was most successful in his hometown. During his career as a portraitist, he painted several prominent figures including Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Quincy Adams. Examples of his work are in the collections of the Peabody Essex Museum, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Portrait of Maria Hastings Cary (1801-1881) by Edgar Parker; oil on canvas, 39”x46”

maria hastings

While Maria Hastings Cary spent much of her life in New York City, Lexington remained important to her and her husband, as the couple spent summers at the Cary homestead on Shade Street. Maria gave generously to the town, and in 1867 she made a gift of $1,000 to be spent on books with the understanding that a free library would also be established. She continued to support the library until her death and her contributions to and regard for her birthplace are reflected in the naming of the Maria Hastings Elementary School and Hastings Park and bandstand in her honor.

Edgar Parker (1840-1892) was born in Framingham, Massachusetts and was a self-taught artist. A number of his portraits hang in Faneuil Hall, including those of Charles Sumner, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Rear Admiral John A. Winslow. He is also known for his copy of Robert Weir’s painting “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” which was commissioned by the Pilgrim Society in 1875.

Portrait of William Augustus Tower (1824-1904) by William McGregor Paxton; oil on canvas, 45”x53” On loan from the Lexington Historical Society.

man oval room

William Tower, a successful merchant and banker, was born in Petersham as one of 11 children. He was a representative on the Massachusetts General Court and a member of the Governor’s Council; additionally, he served as Chief Marshall for the 1875 Centennial Celebration attended by over 100,000 people on Lexington Green and was on the first board of trustees of the Lexington Savings Bank. Tower moved to Lexington in the 1850s and constructed a large Victorian mansion overlooking Massachusetts Avenue in 1873. By the time of his death in 1904, the estate comprised 127 acres with a barn, stable, tea house, windmill and two cottages on the property.

William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941) was born in Baltimore, but moved to Boston with his family in the 1870s. He studied at Cowles Art School and the École des Beaux Arts, where he was taught by the painter Jéan-Leon Gérôme. He became an important member of the Boston School and was known for his highly polished work, characterized by an attention to detail and knowledge of the human form. Although many of his compositions depict idealized interior scenes with young women, Paxton is best known as a portraitist, including images of Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. Paxton’s work has been collected by many major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The frame was sculpted by Charles E. Prendergast of New York (1868-1948). 

Portrait of William Harris Cary (1798-1861) by Charles E. Osgood; oil on canvas, 34½”x40”

william cary osgood portrait

William Harris Cary began his career as a merchant in Boston, working with his brother Isaac Harris Cary, but they soon moved operations to New York City in order to expand the business. During the 1800s, New York was a major center of trade and the Cary brothers capitalized on this by importing and selling a wide range of items from buttons to cutlery. Upon his death in 1861, Cary’s firm was the largest importer of ‘fancy goods’ in the country. A later portrait of William Harris Cary by Edgar Parker (1840-1892) also hangs in this room.

Charles E. Osgood (1809-1890) was an American artist from Salem, Massachusetts. After unsuccessfully working as a bank clerk, he moved to Boston to study painting. He would later split his time between Salem and New York City, but was most successful in his hometown. During his career as a portraitist, he painted several prominent figures including Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Quincy Adams. Examples of his work are in the collections of the Peabody Essex Museum, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Reading Room

A View of the Town of Concord (Plate II), 1775 by Amos Doolittle; copper-plate engraving


This is the second of four famous engravings made of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and it depicts British troops marching into Concord. The town of Concord is visible in the background, and certain buildings are identifiable, such as the meetinghouse on the left, Wright Tavern in the center and the county courthouse on the far right. In the lower right foreground are Major John Pitcairn and Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith of the British forces, who are shown standing on a hill and looking through a spyglass in order to observe the movements of the gathering colonial militia.

Battle of Fiske Hill by Philip Brown Parsons

Painting of battle

This painting depicts the events of the Battle of Fiske Hill, one of the skirmishes between the colonists and the British along Battle Road on April 19, 1775. As the British retreated from Concord toward Boston, they were harried by Colonial militia utilizing the high ground for cover. At Fiske Hill, British second-in-command Major John Pitcairn was thrown from his horse and injured during an ambush by the colonists; this caused the already-demoralized British troops to break formation and “run, rather than retreat,” in the words of one officer. Upon reaching Lexington, a relief force led by Earl Percy (whose portrait hangs in the Genealogy Room) arrived to provide support. Although Parsons is best known for his landscapes and sporting scenes, he also produced a number of works depicting episodes from local history during the decades he lived in Lexington. 

Bill of Rights, 1791

The Bill of Rights is composed of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It was written by James Madison in response to concerns raised during debates over the ratification of the Constitution with regards to a lack of constitutional safeguards for the individual rights and liberties of citizens. Seventeen amendments proposing limitations on governmental power were put forward, but only twelve were approved by the states and of that number, ten were ratified into law in December 1791.  Some of the most well-known amendments listed in the Bill of Rights include freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the right to a fair trial.

Cary Memorial Library photo history

This collage includes photos of Cary Memorial Library in its three incarnations. First opened to the public in 1869, the library was possible in large part due to a generous donation of $1,000 from Maria Hastings Cary. An initial collection of 1,200 books grew quickly through donations, and the library was so popular that an East Lexington branch was opened in 1883. By 1906, the main branch moved to a new building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Clarke Street, which remains its location today, and was re-named the Cary Memorial Library in honor of William Harris Cary and Maria Hastings Cary’s support and contributions to the library. By 1960, the collection had expanded to over 400,000 books and the library had transcended its original purpose to serve as a multi-faceted community and cultural space, playing host to art exhibitions, film screenings, musical programs and club meetings. By the mid-1990s, renovation and expansion were clearly needed and the current incarnation of Cary Memorial Library opened in 2004, combining carefully preserved historic spaces with up-to-date technology and library services.

Declaration of Independence, 1776

The Declaration of Independence laid out the political philosophy and ideals of individual liberty that provide the foundation of the United States as an independent nation. It was a milestone in the history of democracy as the first time a nation stated its right to choose its own government. The Declaration set out the principles of self-government, first among them being that all men were created equal and in possession of the same natural rights, and that a legitimate government had to be based on the consent of the governed. Along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Declaration is one of the three foundational documents of the United States government. The first signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, has a special connection to Lexington. After his father’s unexpected death when he was a child, he, along with his mother, sister and brother went to live with his grandparents – the Reverend John Hancock and his wife Elizabeth Clarke – in Lexington. Although he soon moved on, later becoming a wealthy and successful merchant in Boston and an important player in local politics, including serving as the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, his grandparents continued to live in the local parsonage, which is now known as the Hancock-Clarke House.

Field & Garden Club Logo

The Lexington Field & Garden Club was founded in 1876 and now has over 300 members. Its logo depicts a leafy tree shading a flowering meadow, a fitting reflection of the group’s commitment to horticultural education. The club was established in order to care for the trees and plants of Lexington, to improve the town’s appearance through further plantings and to study the natural resources of the area.


Gerald R. Ford, c. 1970s

This image of President Gerald Ford carries the inscription “To the People of Lexington, Massachusetts, April 19, 1975.” On that day, Ford gave a speech on Lexington Green in honor of Patriot’s Day and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington in order to mark the beginning of the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations. Although the preparations for the bicentennial had been somewhat overshadowed by the ongoing Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, Ford’s remarks emphasized the progress of the American people over the previous 200 years. While he acknowledged recent hard times, he closed the speech with a statement of his belief that future hardships could be surmounted through national unity.

Grandfather Clock by E. Howard & Co; oak long case clock, 96”


This oak long case clock was made by the E. Howard Watch & Clock Company of Boston. Its namesake, Edward Howard, was one of the most respected horologists of his time, and the company – founded in 1842 as E. Howard & Co. – specialized in making high-quality clocks and watches of all kinds. But by 1881, after several years of financial difficulties, Edward Howard retired and sold out his shares in the company. The new management focused mainly on producing wall clocks, though other types were made on commission. This clock was most likely one of the latter, as the clock face is decorated with an image of the Minuteman statue and other patriotic motifs, including eagles in flight, while the case is affixed with a plaque stating, “Presented by Freeman J. Doe for the Cary Memorial Library to the Town of Lexington A.D. 1907.” 

House by John F. Enser; oil on canvas

This painting depicts a house with a red roof set in a snowy landscape seen through barren trees. It differs from much of Enser’s work in that it uses more subdued tones – mainly whites and browns – and the style of painting is sketchier and more impressionistic than his other pieces in the Cary Library collection. It is unclear if this work was meant to depict a Lexington location, as Enser is most famous for his New Hampshire landscapes. 

Letter – George O. Smith to Lexington Field & Garden Club, 1892

This letter was written to Albert S. Parsons, President of the Lexington Field & Garden Club by George O. Smith, an active and longstanding club member. Smith was also on the board of the Lexington Registrars of Voters, and had received a stipend for his service from the Town Treasurer. In this letter, he expresses his desire to give part of the money accumulated from his stipend to the club for the beautification and improvement of the town’s public spaces, and enclosed a $100 check for that purpose. Although this letter was written in 1892, it wasn’t until 1903 that the George O. Smith Scholarship Fund was established for the purpose of “setting out and keeping in order shade and ornamental trees and shrubs in the streets and highways in said town, or the beautifying of unsightly places in the highways.” Smith also left a legacy of $2,500 to the Field & Garden Club on his death.

Lexington High School Class of 1926 by James E. Purdy

Student portraits

The Lexington High School graduating class of 1926 was made up of 88 students – 47 men and 41 women. This photo includes individual portraits of each student, as well as those of the school’s 16 faculty members. These students were graduating in the midst of the decade known as the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ years that were filled with economic growth and social change. The rise of mass production made a wide range of products – such as radios, refrigerators and automobiles – affordable to the growing middle class, while at the same time, significant societal changes were taking place, which included the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. Additionally, the increasing urbanization of America had a significant societal impact, as for the first time in history, more Americans were living in cities than on farms.

James E. Purdy (1859-1933) was born in Saco, Maine and established a photo studio with business partner C.H. Howard on Tremont Street in Boston in 1896. His initial focus was on selling prints of celebrity photographs to magazines and newspapers, and in order to differentiate his work from that of his competition, Purdy offered a range of printing processes, using carbon, silver bromide and platinum to create images that ranged from subtle to dramatic. In addition to his portrait work of famous figures, ranging from actresses and artists to diplomats and clergymen, his studio also became known as the main photographer of high school classes in the Boston area for much of the 20th century. 

Map of Lexington, 1875


This map shows Lexington center as it looked in the late 19th century. Clearly visible is the Middlesex Central Railroad, a subsidiary of the larger Boston and Lowell Railroad, running through the center of the town. Opened in 1873, it was a continuation of the rail service between Lexington and Boston which had begun in the mid-1800s. The ease of travel between the town center and the city due to multiple daily trains brought significant changes to Lexington through population growth and demographic shifts, as the town transformed from a farming community to a middle-class commuter suburb.

Map of Lexington, 1876


This map shows the village centers of Lexington and East Lexington, as well as borders with the neighboring towns of Lincoln, Bedford, Burlington, Woburn, Winchester, Arlington, Belmont and Waltham. The rail connection between Lexington Center and Boston led to population growth and a demographic shift due to an influx of both working-class laborers attracted by the prospect of jobs on the railroad and middle-class businessmen who wanted to live in a more peaceful countryside setting while still commuting to work in the city. These changes exacerbated a rivalry between the village centers of Lexington and East Lexington that had been ongoing throughout the 1800s. The residents of East Lexington believed that the size of their population and economic contributions as the town’s commercial hub deserved more recognition in town governance and the location of town buildings, while residents of Lexington Center felt that since it had been established first, it was the logical civic center. The arrival of the railroad permanently shifted the commercial heart of town to Lexington Center, and as the advent of automobile transportation closed the distance between the two village centers, the rivalry faded.

Monument House by Philip Brown Parsons; oil on canvas


This wintry scene depicts Monument House, which stood on the southwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Muzzey Street.  Built in 1802 by Amos Muzzey, Monument House was not only the most popular tavern in Lexington, but it also served as a community gathering place, hosting numerous town functions such as public dances and dinners. Benjamin Muzzey inherited Monument House from his father and in 1847, replaced it with Lexington House, a large hotel meant to capitalize on the influx of visitors brought to town by the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, which had opened the previous year. The hotel burned down in 1892 and was rebuilt and operated as the Leslie Hotel until the 1900s, when it changed hands and became the Paul Revere Tavern. The building was torn down in 1929 in order to make way for a new structure which housed the Lexington Trust Company. Since then, it has been home to Shawmut Bank and is now a Santander Bank. The plaque on the frame states “Monument House 1888, Mass Ave. at Muzzey St. Courtesy of the Depositors Trust Co., 1972.”

Philip Brown Parsons (1896-1977) was born in West Medford, Massachusetts and attended the Boston School of Painting and the Child-Walker School of Art in Boston. While there, he studied with pupils of Howard Pyle, a notable artist and illustrator of the late 19th century. Parsons painted mainly landscapes and sporting images, and he also worked as an illustrator, creating covers for magazines such as National Sportsman, Hunting and Fishing and Outdoors. Parsons lived in Lexington for over 40 years and was the President of the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society, as well as a member of the Guild of Boston Artists. 

Paul Revere by Philip Brown Parsons; print or etching

Paul Revere

This print depicts a scene from Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington and Concord on the night of April 18, 1775. Parsons has captured the urgency and importance of Revere’s mission through the facial expressions of both man and horse, while the drama of the moment is heightened through the contrast between Revere’s wildly rearing horse and the quiet farmhouse in the background. Parsons lived in Lexington for over 40 years, and a number of his works dealt with local history, as can be seen elsewhere in the Cary Library collection.

Portrait of Ellen Dana (1838-1913); oil on canvas

Portrait of little girl

Born in 1838, Ellen Dana was the granddaughter of Ambrose Morell, a Frenchman who served in the French army under Napoleon before escaping to America. Little is known of her life, although she is thought to have been a prominent social figure and a friend of Julia Ward Howe, a noted social activist who wrote ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ Upon her death in 1913, Ellen Dana bequeathed her East Lexington estate to the Lexington Home for the Aged, which had previously struggled to find a facility. The cost of renovating and maintaining the home and property was too much for the organization, and it was sold in 1916 in order to fund the purchase of 2027 Massachusetts Avenue, which became the location of the Lexington Home for the Aged until 2010. The building was re-named The Dana Home of Lexington in 1970 in honor of the original gift. This portrait of Ellen Dana as a young girl is accompanied by a letter from Elizabeth Harrington, the original founder of the Lexington Home for the Aged, suggesting the establishment of such a place – in her own words, “a Home for such aged people as have no secured home of their own.”

The Battle of Lexington (Plate I), 1775 by Amos Doolittle; copper-plate engraving

Dolittle Engraving

This is the first of four famous engravings made of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and it depicts the skirmish on the Lexington town green. At dawn on April 19, 1775, 700 British soldiers clashed with around 80 militiamen, killing eight and wounding nine. The disparity between the two forces is highlighted by the crisp formations of the British in contrast to the colonists, who are lying wounded or fleeing from the green.

The Engagement at the North Bridge in Concord (Plate III), 1775 by Amos Doolittle; copper-plate engraving


This is the third of four famous engravings made of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and it depicts the British troops exchanging fire with local militiamen at North Bridge. The British had marched to Concord to look for arms and munitions, which had been moved in advance of their arrival, and in the course of their unsuccessful search, the regulars lit several buildings on fire. Around 400 militiamen from Concord and neighboring towns had assembled near North Bridge and incorrectly thought that the British planned to burn the entire town. In reaction to this perceived threat, the militia engaged with a contingent of troops that had been left at the bridge, and the short skirmish left three British soldiers dead and nine wounded.

The Four Seasons, 1950 by Aiden Lassell Ripley; oil on masonite

Ripply Mual

This mural depicts the four seasons as seen in the town of Lexington, moving from winter at the far left through fall and summer before ending in spring at the far right. Much of the landscape is agricultural, foregrounding scenes of skiing in the winter, hunting in the fall and farmers planting crops and tilling fields in the spring and summer, all against a background of picturesque red barns and white clapboard houses. Ripley is clearly intending to highlight Lexington’s natural charms, as there are few signs of the modern era – only a train passing through in the distance and an old truck in one of the fields hint at the technological advances of the mid-twentieth century. He is known for utilizing the landscape in and around Lexington as the inspiration for many of his paintings, and this piece shows that interest on a large scale. Familiar landmarks from town are scattered throughout the mural, although Ripley has taken artistic license in locating some of them out of context, such as placing Wilson Farms in front of Buckman Tavern. Overall, Ripley depicts an idealized view of an agricultural, semi-rural Lexington that had most likely already begun to disappear by the time he painted ‘The Four Seasons,’ and this emphasis on depicting a simpler time is a hallmark of his work. This mural, at 64 feet long, was originally painted for a room in the home of Donald E. and Carolyn L. Nickerson, long-time Lexington residents and friends of Ripley. When the Nickersons moved, they donated the mural to Cary Memorial Library, where it was installed and dedicated in May 1977.

Aiden Lassell Ripley (1896-1969) was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts and demonstrated an artistic streak from an early age. He attended classes at the Fenway School of Illustration until the outbreak of World War I; after serving in the military, he resumed his studies at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. While there, he studied with Frank Benson and Philip Hale, artists whose emphasis on depicting natural scenes by using impressionistic and plein air techniques would have a significant impact on his own artistic style. Although he originally specialized in landscapes, sales in that category suffered during the Great Depression and Ripley changed his focus to hunting and fishing scenes, which were still selling well. He settled in Lexington in the 1930s and continued to paint sporting scenes and landscapes throughout the rest of his career, although he occasionally took on commissions for history paintings and portraits. He was an ardent conservationist and a passionate outdoorsman, and was heavily involved in the local arts scene, serving as President of the Guild of Boston Artists for ten years, as well as enjoying membership in such diverse groups as the American Watercolor Society and Lexington’s Planning Board and Board of Appeals. Ripley’s paintings are in the collections of institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago and the High Museum, Atlanta.

U.S.S. Lexington Flag and Plaque


One of America’s first aircraft carriers, the U.S.S. Lexington CV-2 was named after the Battle of Lexington, which was the first real skirmish between the colonists and the British in the Revolutionary War. Launched in 1925, the Lexington served in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet for the duration of her career. She was sent to the Coral Sea in 1942 to prevent the Japanese from invading Papua New Guinea. The Battle of the Coral Sea lasted from May 4-8 and is notable as one of the first air-sea battles in which aircraft carriers faced each other without engaging directly, relying mainly on their aircraft to inflict damage. On May 8, the Lexington was hit by two torpedoes and two bombs, which caused a series of explosions. Out of the nearly 3,000 crew members on board, 216 were killed in action before the ship was abandoned and then deliberately sunk in order to prevent its capture by the Japanese, making it the first American aircraft carrier to be lost in World War II. This is a remnant of the flag that flew over the aircraft carrier during the battle and it was a gift from the surviving officers and men of the U.S.S. Lexington to Cary Library.