Large Charcoal Portrait of James V. Mansfield by his son, artist John Worthington Mansfield, ca. 1870s.
in honor of
Curator Emeritus of Maps
This 30” x 21” charcoal on paper bust portrait of the Spirit Postmaster depicts James Mansfield in his later years. The artist was his son, John Worthington Mansfield, who had made a career for himself as a painter. The portrait is in a walnut frame with gilt liner.
About this Collection: The James V. Mansfield Papers
The William L. Clements Library had the unprecedented opportunity to acquire a large portion of the papers of James V. Mansfield (1817-1899), his wife Mary Hopkinson Mansfield (b. ca. 1827), and their children John Worthington Mansfield (1849-1933) and Mary Gertrude Mansfield (1854-1922). James Mansfield was born in 1817 in Massachusetts and worked as an itinerant penmanship teacher and a dry goods merchant in Boston before establishing himself as a spiritualist medium in 1857. James Mansfield’s services included delivering séances in person or acting as a writing medium. You were able to send to Mansfield a letter to a deceased family member or friend, and he would channel the departed, who would then respond to the unopened letter. Mansfield would return the reply and the original letter for a fee. For this service he gained the moniker “spirit postmaster,” and is now recognized as one of the founders of the American spiritualist movement, alongside Charles Foster and Henry Slade.