Orcutt Family Portraits

Orcutt Family Portraits

Walk into many antique stores and you find photographs and portraits lost or discarded by families. Who were these people? How did their images end up in an antique store or even at a Cracker Barrel restaurant? Did no one in the family want to keep them? The Clinton  Orcutt family,  featured in the The Traveling Trunk, had three large portraits of family members. Two treasured portraits remain in the family; I am fortunate to have them. Where is the third?

My first memories of three Orcutt family portraits are seeing them in my grandmother’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. Although my grandmother never knew her grandparents, Clinton and Anna Orcutt, she treasured both of their portraits. When she downsized and moved to successively smaller apartments, they went with her, including her move to Tucson, Arizona. There was a third portrait that my grandmother chose not to keep, a painting of her aunt, Anna Ri Orcutt. My grandmother rarely uttered an unkind word, but she was not fond of Auntie Ri.

A successful businessman in Omaha, Nebraska, Clinton Delos Orcutt enjoyed a very comfortable life and many luxuries.  He and his wife Anna Dorcas Dutton probably had their portraits painted by an unknown artist, an itinerant limner, who moved from town to town. [1] None of the portraits are signed, nor are they dated. Using old photographs to determine their ages and fashion styles,  I believe they were painted in the 1890’s. If you need assistance dating photographs, I highly recommend an online article by Nancy J. Price, “Style Clues & Cues in Antique Photos.” It features links to other websites to analyse pictures and portraits.[2] A good book choice is Family Photo Detective by Maureen A. Taylor.[3]

The smallest of the portraits is a gold oval frame 28 x 31 inches. Centred on the top, bottom and sides are clusters of flowers. A gold plaque affixed to the bottom states “Anna Dutton Orcutt 1848-1899”. Whoever added the dates to the portrait made an error.The birth year noted on the plaque is off by six years because Anna was born in 1842.

Anna Dorcas Dutton Orcutt - portrait painted about 1890 in Omaha, NE. Portrait in possession of author.

Anna Dorcas Dutton Orcutt – portrait painted about 1890 in Omaha, NE. Portrait in possession of author.

Her profile shows a gentle face tinged with a bit of sorrow. She lost her two sons, one at age 12 and the other at 20. If she was anything like her daughter, Edith Orcutt Beaton, and her granddaughter, Anna Jane Beaton Hyde, then she was a gentle woman with a strong spirit and resolution. Anna Dutton Orcutt came from a long line of ministers and abolitionists and descends directly from Governor William Bradford.

Dressed for the occasion, Anna wore a dark satin dress with full sleeves. Frothy lace covered the bodice and neck and a matching band of silk encircles her throat. Pearl earrings adorn her ears, and her hair is sculpted into a topknot with loose curls around her forehead. She is a striking matron and society lady.

Clinton Delos Orcutt has a distinguished and kind face. He wears a dark suit with a starched white shirt and bow tie. His wavy silver hair and beard are neatly combed. When we packed his portrait up for storage for our overseas assignment, the mover asked, “Is this a relative of George Clooney?”  The answer is no, but I rather liked the question. The frame for Clinton’s portrait is much more ornate and larger than Anna’s. When I gaze at the two portraits facing each other on the wall, I can sense the quiet nature of Anna and the strength of Clinton.

Clinton Delos Orcutt - painted about 1890 in Omaha, NE. Portrait in possession of author.

Clinton Delos Orcutt – painted about 1890 in Omaha, NE. Portrait in possession of author.

The daughter of Clinton and Anna, and their fourth child, Anna Ri was considered the beauty of the family. Perhaps that is why her portrait was painted but not her two sisters. Her sweet young face looks out at the viewer and she sports a lavish, ostentatious, wide-brimmed hat decked with plumes. Her gown is elaborate and reflects fashion from the early 1900’s characterized by the S-shaped figure. The “Health Corset” of the 1900’s “removed pressure from the waist and diaphragm but resulted in thrusting the bosom forward and the hips back.”[4] White lacy frills on the bodice and skirt are framed by an even more embellished light gold wrap patterned with black silk ribbon and embroidery. Anna Ri’s portrait depicts her in a woodland scene. The rectangular frame is even more ornate than that of her fathers. I surmise that after Anna Orcutt passed away, Clinton wanted to make his daughters happy with whatever he could buy them.

Anna Ri Orcutt Jaques- portrait painted about 1900 Omaha, NE. Current owner unknown.

Anna Ri Orcutt Jaques- portrait painted about 1900 Omaha, NE. Current owner unknown.

My grandmother, Anna Jane Beaton Hyde, wrote a brief summary about Anna Ri and although she looks sweet in her portrait, those are not the memories my grandmother recalled.

 “Saga of Auntie Ri”

“Auntie Ri was very extravagant and society-minded. Mother [Edith Orcutt Beaton] said she used to keep the horses waiting all afternoon at Brandeis[5] 17th Street entrance while she bought clothes. Mother said the painting alone cost $850 without the gold leaf frame.”[Using an online calculator, if the painting cost $850 in 1900, today it would cost about $25,000.] 6

The Orcutt portraits are a historical and social document of their lives. They were a symbol of their status in life viewed by family, friends, guests and servants. “A portrait is more than a pretty picture of a famous or wealthy person.” [7] I imagine they were prominently displayed so that viewers could admire them. Did they grace the reception hall in the entrance of the home where Anna Ri’s portrait hung on the wall? You get a glimpse of Anna Ri’s portrait in one of her wedding album photos. Her sister, and my great-grandmother, Edith Orcutt Beaton, pose in the reception room amidst a profusion of palms decoratively placed for the big event. Anna Ri peers through the forest in her painting and the palm fronds.

Edith Orcutt Beaton 1905 at her the wedding of her sister Anna Ri Orcutt April 12, 1905.

Edith Orcutt Beaton at the wedding of her sister Anna Ri Orcutt April 12, 1905. Anna Ri’s portrait in the background.

What became of Anna Ri’s portrait?  I know my grandmother sold it to a friend in Omaha about 1979.  At the time, no one in the family did genealogy and my grandmother couldn’t know that it would become a passion of mine. If anyone has any ideas about how to locate this painting, please contact me.

Are the frames medium or high end? It’s a question I intend to resolve when I can analyze the portraits. If you have antique Victorian picture frames a helpful website to determine their composition and value is Northwest Renovation A Home Improvement Magazine.[8] Writing a blog about a heirloom always prompts me to re-evaluate the item and learn new details about its’ history.

© 2015 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

[1] “Currier Museum Online Curriculum.” Currier Museum Online Curriculum. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://curriculum.currier.org/portraiture/american_portraiture.html&gt;.
[2] Price, Nancy J. “Style Clues & Cues in Antique Photos.” SheKnows. N.p., 07 Apr. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/814584/genealogy-research-dating-vintage-photographs-by-clothing-and-hairstyles-1&gt;.
[3] Taylor, Maureen Alice, and Maureen Alice. Taylor. Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries. Cincinnati: Family Tree, n.d. Print.
[4] “Women’s Clothing.” – 1900s. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://www.uvm.edu/landscape/dating/clothing_and_hair/1900s_clothing_women.php&gt;.
[5] Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._L._Brandeis_and_Sons&gt;.
[6] “Measuring Worth – Results.” Measuring Worth – Results. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/uscompare/relativevalue.php&gt;.
[7] “Currier Museum Online Curriculum.” Currier Museum Online Curriculum. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://curriculum.currier.org/portraiture/american_portraiture.html&gt;.
[8] “Northwest Renovation Magazine.” Northwest Renovation Part One Taking Care of Your Antique Victorian Picture Frames Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://nwrenovation.com/miscellaneous-articles/part-one-taking-care-of-your-victorian-frames/&gt;.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Marion Edith ORCUTT BEATON -1879-1964
Parents: Clinton Delos ORCUTT 1840-1905 and
Anna Dorcas DUTTON ORCUTT 1841-1891
Spouse: Alfred James BEATON 1872-1916  and George Newell UTTENDORFER 1887-1972
Children: Anna Jane BEATON HYDE – 1907-1998  and Orcutt Phillip BEATON 1900-1971
Relationship to Kendra: Great-Grandmother

  2. Anna Jane BEATON HYDE
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT

HEIRLOOM POSTS shared by other bloggers:

Thanks to Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has a Story for suggesting doing posts on heirlooms and to Cathy Meder-Dempsey  of Opening Doors in Brick Walls for including a list of  Heirloom bloggers and their links.

True Lewis at Notes to Myself

Cathy Meder-Dempsey of Opening Doors in Brick Walls

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco at Everyone Has a Story

Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees

Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher

Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree.

Vera Marie Badertscher at Ancestors in Aprons

Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Please visit her 52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap for the links to posts in the comments.

About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in Heirlooms, My Family Ancestry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Every time I’m at Cracker Barrel I’m always drawn to the old pictures – secretly hoping to recognize one of my ancestors. I have heard that someone found an ancestor there and was able to obtain the picture. I enjoyed your story – and hope you can locate the picture. Maybe advertise in state.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      I think all of us long to find a missing family member when we find photographs in an antique store or Cracker Barrel. I too heard the story about someone finding an ancestor at Cracker Barrel. Advertising in state is a good idea, the local Omaha paper.


  2. Such lovely paintings and frames. Your great-grandmother is beautiful in her wedding dress. I hope someone steps up with information on your Auntie Ri’s portrait.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      It would be great to find who has the missing portrait and do they even know who it is? My grandmother’s friend surely passed on and maybe her family sold the portrait. Not sure I could afford it at today’s prices given the large gold frame. It would be fun to know where it is which is why I decided to blog about the portraits.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Regardless of the person involved, I hope you find the portrait of Auntie Ri. The quest to find her painting and your background research on her life would make a great book! Good Luck!


  4. Karen Kenagy says:

    I do enjoy reading about our family and you have such a way of ” letting them speak”. Clinton Orcutt does remind me of George Clooney. I swear I saw this portrait of Anna Ri in a Bed and Breakfast in San Diego.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Autefeh says:

    I hope you find the portrait . I love reading your blogs and learning more about our family. The way you write makes me feel like I’m going back to that time period and in a weird sence getting to know them in a way as if I personally heard the history straight from them.


    • treeklimber says:

      Thank you for reading and sharing your impressions Autefeh! One of the main reasons I write the history is to share it with family and hope they enjoy their family history. I’m happy you give me feedback. Do you know if your mom has photographed the heirlooms Mother gave her? They belonged originally to Anna Dutton Orcutt.


  6. Dale Sheldon says:

    How wonderful to have those beautiful portraits! We have several early photographs back to the 1850’s but nothing on canvas. Very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Dale, portraits and photographs are treasures, and the paintings of my 2x great-grandparents always hang where I can enjoy seeing them while I work on genealogy. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to reading more. Sharing ideas with other bloggers enhances the research and writing experience.


  7. Orcutt says:

    Ross A.Orcutt grandson of Fay and Dimis Wenner Orcutt ,Kearny,Neb.8185228498

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: THE ORCUTT FAMILY HOME – OMAHA, NEBRASKA | trekthrutime

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