Almira Edson


was a little-known painter of a group of New England family registers that were unusual in that they combined the typical features of the family record with those of themourning picture. Her unsigned watercolor-and-ink Woodard family register, of about 1837, was initially brought to public attention by Lipman and Winchester’s
The Flowering of American Folk Art 1776–1876
(1974).About seven years later, a family register for David and Anna Niles from about 1838 appeared at auction. The similarity of the Niles and Woodard records is sostriking that they can be attributed to the same hand. Each contains a central large drape in the form of an arch. Features commonly found in the family register— flowers, birds, hearts, columns, and mother with infant—surround the arch, while willows, tombstones, and mourners, characteristic of the mourning picture, are foundin the space between the lower arms of the arch.The Niles and Woodard families were both from Halifax, Vermont. A register for Dennis and Lois Stebbins, similar to the Niles and Woodard registers, was paintedabout 1835. The Stebbins family lived in Colrain, Massachusetts, just across the state line from Halifax. A register produced about 1836 was made for Oliver andOlive Wilkinson, who lived in Townsend, Vermont, about twenty miles from Halifax. A register from about 1834 for James and Jane Clark, also of Halifax, is verymuch like the others, with one very important difference: it is inscribed “Executed by Almira Edson, Halifax, Vt.”Edson was born in Halifax on January 20, 1803, to Jesse and Rebecca Edson. After Edson’s father’s death in 1805, her mother married Captain Edward Adams of Colrain, Massachusetts. At the age of seven years, Almira moved with her family to Colrain. In 1841 the unmarried Edson joined a religious community in Putney,Vermont, founded by the dictatorial John Humphrey Noyes. Almira fell in love with John R. Lyvere, a member of the community, and they asked permission from Noyes to marry. This was not granted, and during Noyes’ absence the couple crossed the border into Hinsdale, New Hampshire, and were married on September 18,1842. Upon his return, Noyes banished the couple, and they moved to Vernon, Connecticut.Edson’s last register, basically the same as the others, was painted about 1847 in Ellington, only a few miles from Vernon, for William C. and Emily Porter Russell.Edson died in Vernon on December 14, 1886.
See also

Family Records or Registers; Mourning Art
Kern, Arthur, and Sybil Kern. “Almira Edson, Painter of Family Registers.”
The Magazine Antiques,
vol. 122 (September 1982): 558–561