Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Extremely Rare Broadside Advertising Martha Anne Honeywell
This broadside measuring 10½ x 8¼ inches mentions she stood only 3 feet high. I always had the feeling Sally Rogers and Honeywell were the one and the same. Did you know Rogers was also a little person?
"This interesting and talented Lady, born without arms, has acquired such extraordinary skill in the use of a common pair of Scissors, that by holding them in her mouth she is enabled to cut out of Paper the most curious and difficult designs ever attempted, or perhaps executed in the known world, such as Scripture Pieces, Likenesses of Distinguished Americans, together with a great variety of Watch Papers, Landscapes, and even the Lord’s Prayer, perfectly legible. Not the outlines merely, but resembling engraving. She also writes the Lord’s Prayer in a space that can be covered with a Five cent piece."

NOTE: That "Five cent piece" is not a nickel 5 cents but a silver half dime, which was smaller than today's dimes.

Another rare broadside, but this one does not mention the location, which would have been  handwritten in. This piece has been trimmed too close to the edges with partial missing letters on top. It likely predates the broadside above it. This particular piece looks to be pasted on to another sheet of paper. Curiously, there is another piece of paper attached to its backing paper at far top right, which seems to point to the year 1861 from that printed account. Is this broadside a kosher item? Without examining it in person, it is difficult to say.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sally (Sarah) Rogers

I was able to find a bit more about Rogers.

Annals of the New York Stage 1798-1821, George Odell 1927

Meantime I go back to that hall of Phantasmagoria — the Museum of E. Savage, noble predecessor of Barnum. In mid-April he was calling attention, by friendly Post, to Miss Sally Rogers, who "being deprived of the use of hands and feet," yet cutteth paper, cloth, etc., writes, paints, and what not — all "with her mouth alone." She remained for some weeks, long enough, indeed, to allow of changing her name from the informal Sally to a staid, dignified Sarah. The Phantasmagoria, or Visions of the Night, still excited surprise and wonder; but no more, probably, than the capable-mouthed Sally. The "young lady whose performance on the piano-forte has attracted the notice and gained the applause of visitors to the Phantasmagoria," had a benefit on May 11, 1807; a "gentleman" also sang. This young lady was set down about this time as Miss R —. I leave the Phantasmagoria, on July 18th, safely housed (by the Post) in the Shakespeare Gallery of D. Longworth, the bookseller, whose name collectors of American plays of that period revere; hither, among Longworth's books, or adjacent thereto were to be seen the strange phantasmagoric visions of the dead. And Miss Riley supplied "appropriate music." Were Miss R — and Miss Riley the same person; and were they (or was she) related?

History of Philadelphia 1609-1884, John Thomas Scharf 1884

An astonishing female artist was on exhibition in the year 1809, at the Shakespeare Hotel, corner of Chestnut and Sixth Streets. This unfortunate creature, otherwise as perfectly formed as any woman, was born without any arms or legs, and it was announced that "Nature has deprived this young lady of the use of nil her limbs, to make amends as it were in the exercise of other faculties surpassing all human belief. She will paint elegant flowers and landscapes, mix colors, write, thread a needle, cut cloth or paper with the scissors held in her mouth, etc., etc."
This lady was Miss Sarah Rogers, the wonder of the time. Respectable and poor, she had no other means of livelihood than the exhibition of herself and her extraordinary performances, a means repugnant to the modest female mind. She accepted this hard necessity with courage, and succeeded in earning a comfortable support, while enlisting the sympathy of all who saw her.

The Literary Magazine, and American Register 1808

A drawing of flowers, executed by miss Sarah Rogers, of New York, who from her birth has not had the use of her hands, holding the pencil, pen, brush, or scissors, in her mouth, presented by William Hamilton, Esq., Woodlands.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

SKG NELLIS: Obituary from the New York Times, 4/9/66

Monday, October 29, 2007

Martha Honeywell Cuttings

From the Magazine Antiques:

I don't know how she could make such fancy cutouts. You can blow-up and read the entire article.

Nellis Photo

The photo on the left is a no-question Nellis from a dag. The one on the right is also a genuine Nellis from a CDV. I found this one in the center recently on the net, not attributed. Could this be Nellis? Did he really die in South America or did he live to be an old age? What do you think? Got the same sunken eyes, similar ears, and messed up hairdo. Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rare Contemporary Nellis Account

I wanted it and placed a high enough bid on it. I did not win. Obviously, someone wanted it more than I did. Althought the name Nellis was not mentioned, one plus one is two. I thought I had an advantage over other bidders. I know I will lose many nights of sleep over this. The following is a descrition by the seller.

"This folded lettersheet / stampless letter has a circular date stamp for NORWh Cy Ct APR 26, a 6 cent rate, and is addressed to Miss Mary Chew, Lebanon, Conn., and is a lengthy two page letter written by sister Hortense. The headline is April 13th, 1833.

Some abstracts:

"I went early this morning to see if Sophy would write you ... and was surprised to see Elisbath Platt in bed who with her mother came last night and is going to stay about three weeks. Mrs. Haskell had an examination about a week ago. The Junior class were examined in the morning from 9 till 1 on History, Astronomy, Geography, Grammar, Arithmetic and a [???] in Dictionary. We did pretty well at least so they say. The Senior Class were examined from 2 till six in ..."
"... a great many experiments were made especially with the air pump and electrical machine. We went to Peale's Museum a short time ago, where we saw a boy who had no arms cut out watch papers with his toes I saw some of his writing which was very nice ...."

"The floor next above was a hall for paintings we staid here a long time .... waiting ... and all the people rushed in to see the ventriloquist who presently came foreward dressed in a black velvet coat and white trowsers. He first show'd us the philosophical sheets of paper which turned into a great many different forms and he took a plate and made some money and a card pass through it and change places and he made an egg dance after a Lady's handkerchief and a great many other tricks. He then imitated several voices among them he called a man from down in the cellar. Peter had to come through a scuttle which it was rather hard to open so one had to pull and the [???] push and they made such a fuss, but at last he got up and pretended to drink a glass of beer and you would have thought you could hear him swallow."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on Sally Rogers

The following appeared in the Nov. 13, 1806, issue of the Cooperstown (NY) Otsego Herald:


The Benevolent, the charitable and curious, of this metropolis, are hereby informed, that Miss Sally Rogers, having finished here visit to her parents in New Hampshire, has returned to resume her occupation of Drawing and exhibiting specimens of her ingenuity in Painting, Writing, cutting paper with scissors, threading a needle, &c., &c., with her mouth only, having been entirely deprived by nature of the use of her hands and feet.

The correctness and agility of her performances, have filled hundreds of visitants with astonishment, and exacted the greatest applause and approbation. It having been often intimated by the ladies of the first circles, that a genteel private situation, would be much more pleasant than a public one, and be a great inducement to them to call upon her. To gratify their curiosity and assist this unfortunate young lady, she has prevailed on a respectable family to afford her a handsome room at No. 89, Orange, cornering on Harvard street, where is the entrance to her Exhibition Room.

Price of admittance 25 cents, from 9 in the morning until 9 at night.

N.B. The price is reduced from a desire to gratify every class of citizens, and the ladies may rest assured, that so far from the least disagreeable sensation arising from Miss Rogers' appearance, no one has yet ever left her room without bestowing the highest encomiums on her pleasant appearance, her manners, cheerfulness and disposition.

Submitted by: Hugh MacDougall, Official HistorianVillage of Cooperstown.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Silkwork by Martha Honeywell

This is an interesting work. It brought $1200 plus buyer's commission. The lot description is as follows:

Philadelphia silkwork basket of flowers and cutwork medallion dated 1810, ''Done by Martha Ann Honeywell with her toes and mouth, having lost both her arms in the Presence of Geo. D.B. Keim at Britons Tavern Front between Arch & Race Street - 1810 likewise the watch paper'', 9'' x 7 1/4''.

Is it Honeywell's penmanship? This is a nice piece for study.

Funky Martha Honeywell Silhouette

I did not know Honeywell was a Hungarian (LOL). This item was withdrawn from an auction. Luckily, I saved the photo and the auctioneer's description. Perhaps it will reappear after the error has been corrected.

Item Description: SILHOUETTE - Cut Paper Profile of George Woltz, cabinet maker born 1744 in York, PA. by M.A. Honeywell (1785-1845), marked 'Cut by a Hungarian with the mouth'. The Artist was born without hands and cut her paper by holding the scissors in her teeth. George Woltz built Lots 87, 90, and 95. In gold and black molded frame, glazed, SS: 3 1/4" x 2 1/2", OS: 4 1/2" x 3 1/2", cracked at bottom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Scarce Nellis Ad

This ad is from the 10/8/1843 issue of the New York Daily Tribune.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rare Silhouette by Nellis

Very Rare Silhouette by Nellis
Until today, I did not realize Nellis could cut this type of a work. I knew that he was talented, but this silhouette is totally mind-boggling. This is all done with his toes! It was auctioned in October 6, 2004 by Ritchies of Canada from the estate of John L. Russell. Does anyone have any other info on this piece? I wrote the auctioneer and currently waiting for a reply. My earlier blog states that I own the only silhouette by Nellis. Now, I need to rephrase that statement: I own the only profile silhouette by Nellis.
I rec'd a very swift reply from Mr. Quinn of Ritchies.

Sale 730, Lot 2126
Cut from several pieces of paper, inscribed Executed for the Honorable D.B. Viger by S. K. G. Nellis, Born Without Arms, and dated Montreal Sept 27th 1845.
Sight 25.5 x 13.5 cm. (10 x 5 1/4 in.).
Est.: $700 / 900, Realized $750

Note: Attached to verso is a copy of an 1836 newspaper article describing the nature of Master S.K.G. NellisÕ travelling performances which delighted audiences across North America. His long list of talents included cutting silhouette portraits With scissors in toes,Ó playing the violoncello, and shooting targets with bow and arrow.

Provenance: From the collection of the late John L Russell, CM. (Order of Canada)
Mr. Russell was a pre-eminent dealer and collector of Canadian antiques, with a shop for 40 years in Montreal, and later, in Kingston, Ontario.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Silhouette by Martha Anne Honeywell

For a complete paper on the subject of the artists "born without arms," see below.

This silhouette is from the author's collection. The frame is a period, gold colored wood. Here, Martha inscribes her work, "Cut without hands by M. A. Honeywell." Quite often, it is difficult to attribute her work as to the gender. With this silhouette there is no question as Martha inscribes the subject as "James Crilly." From the high-collar of the subject, it is safe to assume that this is an early work by Honeywell.

Honeywell was the only female silhouette artist who worked in the US so she is an important treasure!

The Only Known Portrait Silhouette by Nellis

Does anyone own another silhouette by Nellis? See paper below for a discussion on Nellis.

This silhouette of Charles P. Leonard, cut by Nellis, along with letters addressed to the postmaster of Lowville (father of Charles), and a CDV of Nellis taken at Santiago are in the collection of Historic Deerfield Museum, Mass. If you are ever in that neck of woods, plan a visit there.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rare Saunders Nellis Images Silhouette Artist

EBay is the place to hunt for one-of-a-kind materials. I flipped when a dag of Nellis turned up. It brought an amazing $6800+. Also, there were four CDVs of Nellis. One lot of three brought about $200. Two of those from this lot, very likely, are pirated copies of the time with no photographer's name or advertisement printed on the cards, and another was a bust image. Also, in a separate lot, a singular CDV with full standing view of Nellis was sold. This, I feel, is a very important photo as it was taken in Santiago, Chile and, clearly, so marked. This item links Nellis in South America before his death in 1865, in Bolivia ( As we all know, when someone else owns something, that holding is not very important but when that someone is "I, me or mine," it becomes quite important).
For one seller to have had all these images is mind-boggling. I am sure the collection of Nellis photos once belonged to someone very close to Nellis. Since many of the images being auctioned were taken in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island (per photographers' addresses printed on cards), it is likely the items belonged to a relative of Elizabeth Nellis (Saunder's wife) who was from Rhode Island. At any rate, such an auction of Nellis materials would not be repeated soon, if ever.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Three Silhouette Artists Born Without Arms

B. M. J.

Three Silhouette Artists Born Without Arms


 History has its own unique way of "burying" its past. The secrets of yesteryears' people, places, and accounts are not forgotten intentionally, nor are they  deliberately placed in a "circular file" to deny access to future students of history. If "history" had buried small bits and pieces, the long lost artifacts of time, it is the responsibility of a researcher to "dig-out" the fragments and to restore them, once again, to their original state.

In the last one –hundred years, extensive researches have been done and written on the subject of British silhouettes. Unfortunately, its American counterpart has been plagued with almost a total lack of new researches. The reason is simple: the records and particulars that are essential in attribution are almost non-existent with American silhouettes. However, many of the British works had printed labels affixed on the verso that contained such pertinent information as to their artists, names of the galleries, and even their addresses. Documentation of American silhouettes only exists in fragments. Especially for this study of the armless artists, such fragments are only available through contemporary newspaper ads and diaries, and because of it the construction of the puzzle is perplexing at best. Although some information contained in the following pages are fresh and unpublished, whether this writer have dug the correct quadrant in his path is difficult to determine.

Throughout the industrial revolution, there was a desire by the wealthy to own one’s portrait painting either in a miniature or in a full-sized work. However, throughout this period, ca.1750-1850, portrait paintings were very costly. People with average means also desired them, but due to their costs (one to two months commoners’ wage), it was just inconceivable for them to acquire such portraits. Accomplished miniaturists priced their paintings on ivory between twenty and twenty-five dollars during this period.
[1] Although miniatures on paper were somewhat more reasonable, such works still commanded ten to fifteen dollars. Itinerant artists often filled a certain void for cheaper paintings. This is not to say that accomplished artists never were itinerants themselves, and some were, however brief. For the most part, itinerancy occurred with inexperienced artists traveling the backwoods of the northeast small towns. Such portrait painters had very reasonable charges for their works. One such painter was James Guild.

I put up at a tavern and told a Young Lady if she would wash my shirt, I would draw her likeness. Now then I was to exert my skill in painting. I operated once on her but it looked so like a rech I throwed it away and tried again. The poor Girl sat niped up so prim and look so smileing it makes me smile when I think of while I was daubing on paint on a piece of paper, it could not be caled painting, for it looked more like a strangle cat than it did like her. However I told her it looked like her and she believed it.[2]

A new invention of profile taking machines in the early federal period has altered the portrait painting industry, and finally, people with modest means could afford a portrait at a very reasonable cost. Several types of this new invention were available. All were basically a simple camera obscura, camera obscura fitted with a pantograph, or a vertical pantograph with a tracing device. Many silhouette artists made minor changes to these devices, attached fancy scientific resonating names, and declared them new-patented devices. Charles Willson Peale of the Peale’s Museum was the most successful operator of such a device. In 1803, he writes a letter to Thomas Jefferson describing its working components and sends along a watercolor painting of the device.
[3] His museum in Philadelphia was perhaps the most popular place to visit for a shadow image. Profiles were modestly priced, too. He writes to his sons, Rembrandt and Rubens in 1803, “The cost to visitors of the Museum is only the value of the paper.”[4] The silhouettes were blind-stamped with "Peale," "Museum," or "Peale’s Museum," and the actual cutting and delineation of the images are mostly unattibutable to any specific artist. Since the life of C. W. Peale and his Museum are quite well known, researched, and documented, they survived the test of time, but there are many lesser-known contemporary artists that time just seemed to have forgotten. Especially so are the trio of born-without-arms.

Martha Anne Honeywell is the best known of the three armless artists. The other two artists are almost complete unknowns. Still, whatever we know of Honeywell is only through contemporary newspaper ads and diaries. One of the earliest references of Honeywell as an artist was made concurrently in 1809 by William Bentley in The Diary of William Bentley and by Joseph Felt in Annals of Salem. Since both were residences of Salem in 1809, this is understandable. Although Felt’s description of Honeywell was brief, Bentley's observation was more detailed.

I visited Miss Hunnewell who is exhibited in this town as an example of uncommon attainments, in her imperfect form. She has only the first joints of both arms & one foot with three toes & in my presence wrought at embroidery, entering the needle with her toes & receiving it by the mouth, & putting the thread into her needle by her mouth & toes. She cut papers into various fancy forms, using her scissors with her mouth & the short stump of her arm & she wrote a good letter with her toes. Some pious verses she composed were exhibited in needle work wrought by herself. She is about 17 years of age and is attended by her mother from New York. Her head is well formed, her look intelligent, & her understanding clear, & her conversation & accent very pleasing & inspiring respect.[5]

When Alice Van Leer Carrick wrote her monumental work, Shades of Our Ancestors in 1928, she was the pioneer researcher on the subject of American silhouettes. There has not been a single reference work on the subject since then, save for a few occasional articles here and there. Even today, researchers must still refer to what Carrick had written many years ago. Although Carrick was well aware of Honeywell’s cutting abilities, she was ignorant of Honeywell’s full name and simply referred to her as “M. A. Honeywell.”
[6] Although most of her works are inscribed “M. A. Honeywell,” in the collection of New York Historical Society there is a fine cutting, a hollow-cut, titled The Lord’s Prayer. This work is inscribed, “Cut without hands by Martha Honeywell.” Obviously, this work was unknown to Carrick. This cutting has a good provenance and dates the work to summer of 1828, in New York. An item of interest regarding this work is that the affixed label mentions that Honeywell “used scissors with her toes,” and she “was born on a farm near Louisville/MD.”[7] Another example of "The Lord’s Prayer" from the same collection is dated 1848, and inscribed “Cut with the mouth by M. A. Honeywell”[8] A very fine profile of a man with white detailing on his collar and gold painted hair and lapel inscribed, “Cut with the mouth by M. A. Honeywell”[9] is, also, held by the Society.

As mentioned earlier, all researchers on the subject of Honeywell always refer to Carrick’s book. Groce, who had written a monumental volume on American artists in 1957, listed Honeywell as simply “M. A. Honeywell”[10] as Carrick had done. This is very odd as he also cites Rutledge as a reference. Rutledge clearly states Honeywell’s full name, “Honeywell, Martha Ann.”[11] The year of this particular publication was 1949. Although Rutledge does not mention where she had obtained Honeywell’s first and middle names, she was the first, ever, to uncover the mystery. Interestingly, Jackson, following the footsteps of Carrick, lists Honeywell by her initials only in her 1938 work, and she copies Carrick’s words almost word for word, but she does add a comment saying that Honeywell also performed in “Camberville, U. S. A.”[12] Since Jackson does not cite the reference, it is difficult to say where the information was obtained as it is not in any silhouette works consulted. A quick search on the internet did provide its location, Boston area.

Honeywell was born ca.1787, and this birthyear originates from a newspaper advertisement taken from June 21, 1806 issue of the Columbian Centinel, “She is about 19 years of age.”[13] Information that exists on the internet for Martha Honeywell under Honeywell family site, also, makes its attribution to the said year. It also repeats another segment from this particular ad and attributes her birthplace to Lempster, New Hampshire. Another work with good provenance, previously quoted from the NY Historical Society, mentions her birthplace as Maryland.

Carrick states that Honeywell’s debut as an artist was first advertised in June 21, 1806.[14] Searching through other Boston newspapers of the day, this writer was able to procure an issue of the Repertory[15] that slightly predates the Columbian Centinel by a few days, June 17, 1806. The format of the ad is quite similar except that it states, “It will commence this evening.” Carrick, unaware of another armless artist who traveled with Honeywell, cites an ad dated August 9, 1806 from the Columbian Centinel as belonging to Honeywell, “The Female Artist at the Columbian Museum will continue in town until further notice, in consequence of the numerous drawings she has engaged to complete for her friends and patrons.”[16] This was, in fact, an ad for Sally (Sarah) Rogers. Although Carrick’s extensive research was superlative, and that collectors and researchers on this subject still consider her book a "Bible," it does contain some errors that modern researchers have yet to query.

Carrick mentions a very interesting broadside[17], source and year unknown, of Honeywell’s travels to Europe. As most of her references and illustrations were based on the collection from the Essex Institute (currently, Peabody Essex Museum) of Salem, an inquiry was made to the museum, but this proved fruitless. Whether or not such a broadside actually even existed became a real quest. Printed ephemera, termed a handbill, finally surfaced. It is difficult to determine whether it is a handbill or a broadside as the dimensions were not given. Although not exact, the wording of this printed handbill is quite similar to what Carrick had mentioned and likely printed contemporaneously. This particular item is in the collection of the Cincinnati Museum Center.[18]

It is a well-known fact that Honeywell worked in a cut-and-paste style for her profiles versus that of a hollow-cut, but Carrick mentions an odd and unique hollow-cut in the August 1925 issue of the Magazine Antiques. This silhouette, likely, proved to be a clever fabrication as it was not mentioned in her monumental 1928 work. Cut-and-paste was an unusual method in this country for bust length cutters; the majority, perhaps as high as ninety-five percent, utilized the hollow-cut technique. The reason for her unusual method was likely due to cutting freehand. Unlike other artists of the period, who benefited from using a physiognotrace or a tracing machine to draw the outline of a profile, she simply cut what she saw with her toes, lips, and mouth.

From personal observations of her works, the type of paper Honeywell used to cut profiles was always colored black on one side while retaining the natural white or cream color on the reverse. Since the black pigment coating lacks consistency, and that the texture along with the mixture of pigments differs, it is most likely that she, herself, was involved in making of the paper. Moreover, there exists no record of such a type of paper manufactured commercially; nor are there any references to such commercial usages.

A finished profile was pasted on to a cream-colored wove paper, the type of paper that most profile takers often used for their hollow-cuts. As with the works of other cut-and-paste artists, Honeywell cut the profiles of subjects facing both directions, to the observer’s left and right, but unlike the hollow-cut profiles, they are not reversible for obvious reasons. All of her profiles are inscribed and signed. She had a neat penmanship but had a habit of writing in a slight angle. This criterion is helpful in authenticating her works.

The curves of her bust typically resemble a “coat hanger.” The facial likeness is somewhat shallow. Her bust-ends were either rounded or pointed with some cuttings having a combination of both. Her work is not difficult to duplicate, and there are many copies in the market awaiting unwary buyers. It is best to acquire only those that are inscribed, signed, and pasted on to a wove paper. Since the black paper was black on one side only, when the black profile is held facing the light source, one should be able to see the white reverse of the black paper.

Sally (Sarah) Rogers was another female artist "born without arms." For the last two-hundred years, time seems to have forgotten about her existence, and there has never been a research project or an article written about her. Even Carrick, in her monumental work, does not mention Rogers. However, a British author, Nevill Jackson writing in 1938, mentions her as an “armless paper cutter”
[19] and cites an advertisement dated April 15, 1807 from the New York Commercial Advertiser. McKechnie repeats Jackson’s notes and adds that Rogers “also exhibited in Charleston, South Carolina, with another armless artist, Martha Anne Honeywell, in 1808.”[20] An ephemeral pamphlet exists in the holding of the American Antiquarian Society that contains a brief biographical sketch of Rogers, “A real object of charity...exemplified in the case of a little girl born in Lempster, County of Cheshire, and State of New Hampshire.”[21] As mentioned earlier, researchers and genealogists often mention that Honeywell was born in Lempster, N.H., but the reality is, it was Rogers. This confusion arises from the contemporary Boston newspaper accounts published in 1806. A single error, repeated several times in1806, was to become a fatal factor in misattribution for future generations.

From an advertisement in a Boston newspaper, Repertory, dated 29 August 1806, it becomes clear that Rogers worked alongside Honeywell during the summer of 1806, their year of debut. Rogers had secured a room at the Columbian Museum for her exhibition with Honeywell. It is overwhelming and incredible to find two contemporary artists, both of whom being young women and both equally handicapped. Unlike Honeywell, who had continued her exhibitions well into the 1840s, Rogers seemed to have disappeared after a short career. After her travels in the Boston area during the year 1806, she reappears in Charleston, S.C. with Honeywell in 1808.[22] Although Honeywell returns to Charleston in 1834-35, there is no mention of Rogers; in fact, there is not a single clue of her life after 1808. Groce mentions that Rogers’ paintings were, “shown at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1811 and 1813.”[23] What were the circumstances of those paintings? Were they actually painted in 1811 and 1813? On the other hand, were they exhibited during the two years but painted earlier? Through an inquiry, some crucial information was obtained from Cheryl Leibold, the archivist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts. The 1811 exhibition catalog describes one painting as, “Landscape painted by holding the brush in the mouth, (water color).” Whereas, the 1813 catalog describes the two paintings as: “St. Scholastic (drawing or water color)” and “Mount Sidney, seat of John Barker, Esq., painted without the use of her hands (water color).”

This writer believes that this Sally Rogers is the same Sally Rogers mentioned in Susan’s World of Genealogy by Susan Picknell. According to Picknell’s genealogical account, Rogers was born ca.1789, and she married Thomas Lamb in 1816, at Wendell, N.H. (Wendell 1781-1850, currently Sunapee Township) New Hampshire. It is interesting to note that both Lempster and Wendell are in Sullivan County. Her abrupt disappearance from the circuit was likely due to her marriage in 1816. She lived a long life. The record shows that Rogers died in 1871 and was buried in Pioneer Cemetery, Hartford, Michigan.

We know that Rogers was a painter, and that she was a little wonder. She also cut profiles with scissors held in her mouth. Just as Honeywell did without a question, Rogers cut her profiles in cut-and-paste. There exists not a single specimen of her profile. Perhaps due to her short career most of her work may have been lost. Alternatively, were they? Future researchers need to scrutinize unsigned and unattributed cuttings that are Honeywell-like with more care as some may be the works of Rogers.

Our next wonder is Saunders Ken Grems Nellis, also known as Master Nellis, who started touring as a teenager, a so-called no-arm-boy who made his debut ca.1829. His first appearance was reported by the National Intelligencer, Washington D.C., June 4, 1829 as the Saunder's Circus & A. L. Nellis Armless Wonder. A few years later at his home state of New York, the Albany Argus of December 1, 1834 shows an engraving of his exhibition at Albany Museum. In this ad he is shown playing a cello, using bow and arrow, and cutting a paper; he uses only his feet for the difficult acts. Carrick illustrates the exact same engraving from either a Salem or a Boston newspaper belonging to the Essex Institute. There exists a large, undated broadside of the same nature in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. Although an attempt was made to procure a photocopy of this broadside, it was not possible due to it size, 106x36cm.[24] With WorldCat, a previously unknown broadside was located in the holdings of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Rosemary Cullen, a senior scholarly resources librarian, was very helpful in this regards. Due to its small size, 24x16cm, a digital scan of the image was possible. The University attributes this broadside to ca.1860-62. Its attribution seems accurate as the city directory lists Nellis as a resident of Providence for those years.

Saunders was one of six children born to Johannes Philip Nellis and Gertrude Armstrong, descendants of Palatine German. He was born in Stone Arabia in March 12, 1817 and baptized in the Stone Arabia, Lutheran Church.[25] A contemporary account shows that he married Elizabeth, and according to a diary of one Alexander Muir, who has seen Nellis perform in Ottawa, he writes:

Thursday 2 October 1845 - We all went to see a dwarf man without arms perform some wonder feats with his toes, the same as with his fingers-such as loading and firing a pistol, playing the violin, shooting with a bow and arrow, cutting fancy papers with a pair of scissors. I asked if he was married. He said he was and had three children. This created a good deal of amusement. Everybody was much pleased with the many extraordinary feats he performed, all with his legs and toes without anyone to assist him. After this exhibition we adjourned to the drinking shop and had a great deal of fun." [26]

Nellis seemed to have enjoyed Canada as we see him again in 1857, this time in Charlottetown. In the September 14 issue of the Examiner, the following article appeared:

We understand that Mr. S.K.G. Nellis, born without arms, will give his astonishing & novel exhibition in Charlottetown on Tuesday 15th, Wed. 16th, & Thur. 17 of September. The following are among the many achievements of Mr. Nellis with his feet. Mr. Nellis will cut with scissors Valentines & Profile Likenesess, write legibly, fold puzzling letters, make boxes, open & wind a watch, take out & replace the crystal, load & discharge a Pistol, shoot with Bow and Arrow at a three cent piece held between the fingers of one of the spectators. Mr. Nellis will play several Marches, Waltzes Etc., on the Accordian, Triangle, Drum & Violin cello. Mr. Nellis will shave any one of the audience. He will also sing a favorite song, & close his singular & wonderful Entertainment by dancing a Hornpipe.

Carrick knew not a single example of cutting by Nellis. In fact, she writes only a paragraph about him. Other than a single broadside she mentions, her research on Nellis ends. Jackson’s only reference is through Felt’s Annals of Salem.
[27] Groce refers only to Carrick and Jackson but adds a city directory of Providence, 1860-62.[28] Through newspaper accounts, and the diary mentioned earlier, it is clear that Nellis was in Canada, but Russell Harper, who lists thousands of artists in his book, Early Painters and Engravers in Canada, does not mention him. McKechnie does no better. William L. Slout writes only a common knowledge sentence in Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: a Biographical Dictionary of the Nineteenth Century American Circus.

From 1829 through the early 1860s, Nellis was quite popular and kept a busy schedule throughout his career. He was not strictly a profile cutter, as we have seen, but an able entertainer with many talents. For the better part of this research, this writer believed that he cut profiles as a part of his act without additional charges, unlike Honeywell and Rogers, whose main source of income derived from painting and cutting. Perhaps, Nellis chose one or two volunteers from the audiences in each of his performances, and this may explain the rarity of his profiles. In fact, there is no record of any example of his profiles belonging to museums or private collections. This theory proved incorrect. A copy of the broadside from Brown University arrived. It clearly states that, “Likenesses &c. cut by him day and evening.” The difficulty here lies in attribution of his works. If the works are unsigned or do not have a provenance leading to Nellis, then such works just become unattributed or unattributable period ephemera.

Through good luck and much patience, an unquestionable silhouette by Nellis was located. One should be very skeptical in acquiring rare works of art, but on this instance its provenance was excellent, and to much blessing, the item did not belong to a specialized dealer. The profile was a part of a stampless letter lot, all dated in the 1830s and the 1840s from the same family. This family may be of interest to some genealogists as the name attached is, somewhat, well known in upstate New York.

If this single specimen is indicative of cuttings made by Nellis, it is safe to assume that he either drew an outline with a pencil held between his toes, or he could have used a pantograph with lead or pencil attached to a tracing device as there are minor traces of penciling within the borders of the profile. Although there are numerous accounts of Nellis using a pair of scissors, there is not a single mention of how the profiles were initiated. As a fully equipped traveling show, it would have been quite an easy task to take along a version of a mechanical tracing device. The type of paper he used for this profile must be noted. Unlike the earlier profilists who used wove paper and some laid paper, this cutting was made on a gsemi-glossy, machine made paper of the ca.1830, very typical of the period. If a ca.1810 silhouette were cut upon this type of paper, one would rightfully be suspicious of its origin.

Nellis made a double cutting of this image by folding a paper into a half, thus creating a double image upon cutting. The image is slightly off-centered to the right, and the subject boy wears a typical military style shako of the 1830s. The cutting shows confidence with no ragged edges, but as with Honeywell’s works, there are no eyelashes present. The inscription on the silhouette paper reads, “Charles P. Leonard when he was a small boy, the above was cut by Nellis, a no arm boy with his toes, Aug. 1839.” Charles Leonard was a son of Stephen Leonard and Jane Martin, a grandson of Walter Martin of Martinsburg and Lowville, New York. Walter was a Brigadier General during the War of 1812 at a militia level and a founder of Martinsburg, New York. The stampless letters mentioned earlier, all addressed to this Stephen Leonard while he was the postmaster of Lowville, are a part of this collection.

[1] Peter Benes, “Machine-Assisted Imaging After 1803,” in Painting and Portrait Making in the American Northeast (Boston: Boston University, 1994), 144.
[2] James Guild, “From Tunbridge, Vermont to London, England-The Journal of James Guild, Peddler, Tinker, Schoolmaster, Portrait Painter from 1818 to 1824,” Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society 5, (n.s.: 1937), 267-68.
[3] Lillian B. Miller, ed., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, vol. 2, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 483.
[4] Ibid., 530.
[5] William Bentley, The Diary of William Bentley DD.; Pastor of the East Church, Salem, Massachusetts, Vol.3, (Salem: Essex Institute, 1905-1914), 411.
[6] Alice Van Leer Carrick, Shades of Our Ancestors, (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1928), 107.
[7] “Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture,” New York Historical Society Collection, Item#Z2532.
[8] Ibid., Item#INV.10816.
[9] Ibid., Item#Z23468.
[10] George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), 324.
[11] Anna Wells Rutledge, Artists in the Life of South Carolina Through Colony and State From Restoration to Reconstruction (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949), 201.
[12] E. Nevill Jackson, Silhouette Notes and Dictionary (London: Methuen & Co., 1938), 116.
[13] “To the Benevolent and Curious,” Boston, Columbian Centinel, 21 June 1806.
[14] Carrick, 105.
[15] “To the Benevolent and Curious,” Boston, Repertory, 17 June 1806.
[16] Carrick, 106.
[17] Ibid., 106-7.
[18] David Wecker, “Museum brings oddities out of attic for exhibit,” The Cincinnati Post, Feb. 26, 2000,
[19] Jackson, 139.
[20] Sue McKechnie, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860, (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 1978). 779.
[21] Walpole, New Hampshire, Political Observatory, 1806.
[22] Rutledge, 201-202, 216.
[23] Groce, 545.
[24] Saunders K. G. Nellis, Novel Exhibition, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, (184[blank], BDSDS. 1847 PF.
[25] Nellis and Nelles Family Associations and the Herkimer County Historical Society, Nellis – Nelles, Immigrants from the Palatinate, 1710, Vol. 1, (Herkimer, NY: Herkimer Historical Society, 1997), 59, 153.
[26] Alexander Muir, From Aberdeen to Ottawa in 1845: the Diary of Alexander Muir, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990), 53.
[27] Jackson, 132.
[28] Groce, 468.

Benes, Peter. “Machine-Assisted Imaging After 1803.” In Painting and Portrait Making in the American Northeast, 138-150. Boston: Boston University, 1994.

Bentley, William. The Diary of William Bentley DD.; Pastor of the East Church, Salem, Massachusetts, Vol. 3. Salem: Essex Institute, 1905-1914.

Carrick, Alice Van Leer. Shades of Our Ancestors. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1928.

Groce, George and David H. Wallace. The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957.

Guild, James. “From Turnbridge, Vermont to London, England-The Journal of James Guild, Peddler, Tinker, Scoolmaster, Portrait Painter from 1818-1824.” Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society 5. 1937.

Jackson, Nevill E. Silhouette Notes and Dictionary. London: Methuen & Co., 1938.

McKechnie, Sue. British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 1978.

Miller, Lillian B. The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family. Vol. 2. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Muir, Alexander. From Aberdeen to Ottawa in 1845: the Diary of Alexander Muir. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990.

Nellis and Nelles Family Associations and the Herkimer County Historical Society. Nellis-Nelles, Immigrants from the Palatinate, 1710, Vol. 1. Herkimer, NY: Herkimer Historical Society, 1997.

Nellis, Saunders K.G. Great Natural Curiosity. Providence: ns, ca.1860.

Political Observer. Walpole, New Hampshire: 1806.

Rutledge, Anna Wells. Artists in the Life of South Carolina through Colony and State from Restoration to Reconstruction. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1949.

“To the Benevolent and Curious.” Columbian Centinel. June 21, 1806.

“To the Benevolent and Curious.” Repertory. June 17, 1806.

Wecker, David. “Museum brings oddities out of attic for exhibit.” The Cincinnati Post, Feburuary 26, 2000. http://www.cincypost/living/2000/wecker022600.html.

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