Rufus Choate

Photography Studio: Southworth and Hawes (American, active 1843–1863)

Artist: Albert Sands Southworth (American, West Fairlee, Vermont 1811–1894 Charlestown, Massachusetts)

Artist: Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808–1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire)

Date: ca. 1850

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: 20.4 x 15.3 cm (8 x 6 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937

Accession Number: 37.14.48


Rufus Choate (1799-1859), one of America's most capable lawyers and statesmen, served in both the state and federal government and was known for his classical orations. It is not surprising that Southworth & Hawes, whose studio adjoined Choate's law office, asked him to pose. Only after repeated requests from the photographers, who promised the sitting would take only fifteen minutes, did the busy lawyer agree. On the appointed day, Choate posed four or five times with the appropriate props-a law book and a bust of an orator-before rushing back to his client-filled office. Choate's famous wild locks, disheveled clothing, and haggard features are recorded in this faithful portrait of an overworked man who frequently suffered from debilitating headaches yet was driven by a prodigious nervous energy and an intense love of his profession.