Two rare views of the Nahant House, a pioneering resort venture of Boston merchant Thomas Handasyd Perkins, opened in 1823 on the east end of the Nahant peninsula. The resort’s most distinctive features were the porches running around the two main floors of the building, the lower reserved for men and the upper for women. After many years of success and massive expansion, the Nahant House was destroyed by fire in September 1861.
The views are very rare, though the Boston Athenaeum holds impressions of both as well as an original 1824 pencil sketch for the view issued by Pendleton’s. The Athenaeum holds another print, also by Derby and printed by Pendelton’s, depicting the Nahant House from a different angle and at a greater distance.
Mary Jane Derby (1807-1896)
Artist Mary Jane Derby produced views for the Boston lithographic firms of Pendleton and Senefelder:
“Derby was born into an eminent New England merchant family . As a freelance artist she drew on stone for Pendleton’s and Senefelder’s in the late 1820. In addition to illustrating scenes and views from her own life, she occasionally drew European views, including a lithograph of Roman ruins, possibly copied from another source. She often signed her work “MJD.” In the mid-1830s her eyesight began to fail, and this, combined with the domestic cares of marriage and a growing family, eventually led her to give up her artistic aspirations. Her last known lithograph was printed in 1845 by E.W. Bouve and depicts the New Bedford Church where her husband, the Reverend Ephraim Peabody, was pastor.” (Pierce & Slautterback, p. 170)
The early Boston lithographic firms encouraged the contributions of female artists:
“The Pendleton brothers must also have felt that lithography was an acceptable female endeavor, for an advertisement for their shop at 1 Graphic Court features a woman drawing on a lithographic stone. The desire of the early firms to attract as many lithographic practitioners as possible, their implied willingness to accommodate individual needs and methods of working, and the curiosity and excitement inspired by a new opportunity for printmaking certainly contributed to the number of women associated with these early Boston firms.” (Pierce & Slautterback, p. 5)
The views are mentioned-though not illustrated-in Pierce and Slautterback, Boston Lithography, p. 5. A history of the Nahant House is given by Bryant Franklin Tolles in his Summer by the Seaside, pp. 89-90.
Both views mounted on card stock. The view bearing the Pendleton imprint has been trimmed close to the neatline and title; the latter has had the title trimmed away.