Collections on Display
Jane and James Rundlet Silhouettes
These silhouettes are the only surviving images of James Rundlet and his wife Jane. For a man who left such a large mark on his world, it seems strange there is no known likeness of him. However, his children and ancestors are well represented in portraits throughout the house.
Portrait of Louisa Catherine Rundlet May (1817-1895)
One of the youngest Rundlet girls, Louisa Catherine’s portrait hangs in the parlor today. After marrying George Hall, Louisa moved from New Hampshire with her husband. After his death, she returned to her childhood home with her twins, Jane and James. Her grandson Ralph left the house to Historic New England in 1971.
Langley Boardman Lolling Chair
In the early and mid-nineteenth century, Portsmouth became a leading site for furniture production. Trailing only Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, the region produced furniture for export as well as for local sale. One of the most successful furniture makers was Langley Boardman. Town records show his rise in status, changing from "cabinetmaker" to "merchant" by 1816, then to "gentleman" by 1822 and to "Esquire" by 1825. Unlike most men who achieved great wealth, Boardman did not relinquish his trade and never gave up cabinetmaking. He built a fine house just down the street from James Rundlet’s mansion. There are many examples of Portsmouth furniture owned by James Rundlet in the house. This example of a lolling chair, first owned by Samuel Lord, was possibly made by one of Portsmouth's leading cabinet makers, Langley Boardman, in the 1820s. Lord’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Lord Morrison, chose to be portrayed sitting in the chair when she commissioned U.D. Tenney to paint her portrait in 1874. Her daughter, Mary Ann Morrison married James Rundlet May and after the sale of her childhood home to the Portsmouth Historical Society in the early twentieth century, she brought many family items to the Rundlet-May House.
Argus May’s Dog Collar
James Rundlet May’s love of animals is apparent throughout the house. From the prints of dogs on the walls, to sideboard hardware in the form of cat's heads in the dining room, and especially the family pets' collars that appear throughout the house, the imagery of beloved pets is something many can relate to. May became a founding board member of the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a post his son Ralph maintained. A pet cemetery on the grounds of the house holds many of the May men’s animals and even a songbird called Sunny Boy.
Rundlet purchased these mirrors shortly after moving into the house and designated them to the best parlor. They hang over the peach damask paper imported from England, and are thought to be of English origin themselves. The mirror form was adapted to serve as a base for the plethora of neoclassical decorative elements popular in the early nineteenth century and features acanthus leaves, grapes, balls, oak-and-acorn clusters, and a hippocampus. The mirrors are mounted on opposite walls, strategically placed to reflect light from the windows, the original firebox, and other fire light. Although the furniture was rearranged by later generations, the mirrors remain in the original place that the patriarch had intended.