This miniature portrait is signed "H Williams" for Henry Williams (1787-1830) who was born in Boston and lived there all his life.
The sitter is identified on the reverse as "John Russell - Editor of Boston Commercial Gazette - died 1832". The Boston Commercial Gazette incorporated an earlier newspaper named "J Russell's Gazette" of which Russell was also editor. John Russell (<1761 - 1832) had a younger brother, Benjamin Russell. born in 1761/62, so he must have been born before then. As indicated below, John Russell was involved with other, earlier, newspapers, but does not seem to have been very successful as a businessman.
The collection includes a number of actual examples of one of his newspapers. Shown here are two of the newspaper mastheads, one from Monday September 8, 1800 for "J Russell's Gazette" and one six weeks later, from Monday October 20, 1800 after the name had been changed to "Boston Gazette".
Other examples in the collection are;
Monday, January 27, 1800
Thursday, May 22, 1800
Monday, June 23, 1800
Monday, December 1, 1800
Russell is shown as the sole publisher in the early copies, but has been joined by James Cutler as joint publisher after the name change.
Perhaps a sign of the impending name change is a "Necessary Notice" from the issue of May 22, shown here where Russell is seeking the payment of outstanding subscriptions totalling $3000. As the masthead shows the annual subscription was $4, this was a large number of unpaid subscription and so it seems that Russell may have been a better publisher than financial manager.
Perhaps this led to him requiring a new business partner in the form of James Cutler.
Needless to say there are many interesting advertisements in the newspapers. Two are shown here. One is from the front page of the January 27 issue, advertising the sale of "Three pair handsome double fortified 6lb cannon, together with 500 wt of round shot", a sign that piracy was still an issue.
The second advertisement, from the same issue, offers miniatures by Jacob Perkins, of George Washington, who had died on December 14, 1799, only six weeks earlier. An example of the miniature portrait is shown here. It was struck as a medal and they cost $2.50 each.
The medal is very rare, with only eight specimens known, as stated in the following reference from a Heritage Galleries coin auction of August 2000. In 200 years, the medal's value has increased from $2.50 to $9,200.
Lot 5007 - 1799 George Washington Gold Uniface Oval Mourning Medal or Badge, BU, slightly impaired by two slight bends in its thin wafer-like embossed shell. 25 mm x 30.5 mm. Rulau-Fuld 169. The death of the nation's first president, Dec. 14, 1799, began a national mania and period of mourning. These badges were apparently circulated in Boston in February 1800, mounted in elaborate lockets. Writing in the February 1954 issue of The Numismatist, Margaret Brown, then an associate curator at the Smithsonian Institution, attributed this gold shell badge to Jacob Perkins, one of the foremost goldsmiths and engravers in the Boston area. He based his Washington portrait on a profile etching by Joseph Wright done in 1790. Mourning jewelry, such as this, was very popular with ladies of the 18th and 19th centuries. Forty-six years ago Ms. Brown could only trace the existence of four specimens of this extremely important medal. Following publication of her article, two additional pieces were reported. According to Rulau-Fuld, writing just last year, only eight specimens are presently known, including the one offered here. Sold for: $9,200.00. 1096
Not a great deal is known about John Russell, although the following quotation appears to refer to him; "John Russell of the firm of Brooks & Russell was an elder brother of the famous Boston editor Major Benjamin Russell. On the first of January 1785 the name of the Massachusetts Gazette was exchanged for the HAMPSHIRE HERALD AND WEEKLY ADVERTISER. In June 1785 the Herald appears with the name of John Russell only, Mr Brooks either having died or left the concern. In August 1786 the Herald appeared with the imprint of Stebbins & Russell. The Herald, having had a brief suspension during the State stamp act at the time of the Shays Rebellion was permanently discontinued on the first of January 1787. The Hampshire Chronicle was commenced on the succeeding first of March by John Russell probably with the old printing materials of the Herald. His printing office was then near The Great Ferry on or near what is now known as Ferry street. On the first of January 1788 the Chronicle passed into the hands of Weld & Thomas. Mr Thomas, no other than the celebrated Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, was the real purchaser of the establishment and Mr Weld had been his apprentice. There seems to have been an intermediate proprietorship for Mr Thomas bought of Zephaniah Webster. Mr Russell left Springfield for Boston where he published the Boston Gazette for many years. He died in Maine about the year 1829." - History of Western Massachusetts: The Counties of Hampden, ... - Google Books Result
Major Benjamin Russell (13 Sep 1761 - 4 Jan 1845) was editor of the Massachusetts (later Columbian) Centinal in Boston from 1784 to 1828. Russell was an American journalist, born in Boston. He enlisted in the Revolutionary army, where he rose to the rank of major. After the war he began the publication of a semiweekly journal, the Columbian Sentinel. George Washington was Russell's idol, and his paper soon became the leading Federalist champion, its first great cause the adoption of the Federal Constitution. This paper Russell controlled for 40 years and, assisted by Fisher Ames, Timothy Pickering, John Lowell, Stephen Higginson, and George Cabot as contributors, made it one of the most influential organs of the Federalist party. He was one of the aldermen of Boston, was a representative to the General Court, State Senator for a number of years, was one of the Governor's Council, and in 1820 was a member of the Constitutional Convention. He resigned as editor of the Sentinel in 1828, but continued to edit till 1830 the Boston Gazette, which he had established in 1795. Russell originated the expression Era of Good Feeling. He married Esther Rice (1766-1798) on 21 Sep 1783 and then in 1803 he married Mrs Guest Campbell.