Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Portrait of Ninian Edwards

James William Berry (1805-1877)
Collection of the Springfield Art Association

Like many artists in the antebellum West, James William Berry was not formally trained in art; what artistic training he had was likely acquired either from a design book or a brief apprenticeship with an itinerant artist. The son of Illinois’s first Auditor of Public Accounts, Berry was fortunate to have a ready clientele among his father’s political contacts.

This portrait, painted in 1827, depicts Ninian Edwards, then the fifty-one year old sitting Governor of Illinois. After Governor Edwards’ death in 1833, this portrait passed to his youngest son, Benjamin. Its presence in Edwards Place served not only as a memorial of a deceased loved one, but also as a reminder to Benjamin’s visitors of his distinguished family history.