Artifact in the Attic

Most days when Belmont Mansion’s doorbell rings, a visitor is at the door, curious to learn more about Adelicia Acklen, her home, and Nashville history. Yesterday morning, however, Hayes Acklen Noel, one of Adelicia’s descendants, visited us, bringing with him a 2.5” x 3.125” original artifact that he found in his grandmother’s attic. It was a cabinet miniature of Joseph Hayes Acklen, Adelicia’s son.

Images of Joseph Hayes Acklen as a child in the miniature (left) and as an adult (right).

Thanks to a ledger entry from the studio of artist we have known of this objects existence. What we did not know is what happened to it. According to the spidery handwriting on the back of the miniature it was "painted by John W. Dodge Nashville Tenn. finished Nov. 9th 1852. ____ of Joseph for J. A. S. Acklen $75.00."

Originally from New York, John Wood Dodge had no formal art education, but he was still well known for his miniatures. His studio in Nashville was open from 1838 until the Civil War, when his loyalty to the Union prompted him to return to New York. For more information on his accomplishments, check out his biography on the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery’s website -