William Sidney Mount
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William Sidney Mount was born in Setauket on November 26, 1807. In 1814, at the age of 35 William’s dad died. At that time William was only seven years of age. His mother took her kids to her parent’s house (Grandma and Grandpa Hawkins.)
W.S. Mount was an artist, musician, and inventor. He invented a special violin called the "Cradle of Harmony" with a hollow back to make it sound louder than a normal violin. He did this because barn dancing was popular and loud, so it was hard to hear the music. He wrote a song called "In the Cars on The Long Island Railroad," in 1850. The song sounds like a train, so listen closely to hear the train. He also composed "The Musings of an Old Bachelor." William never married, so it is believed to be about himself. Click on the highlighted titles to hear these songs played on his invention, the "Cradle of Harmony." (All music on this page is courtesy of The Stony Brook Museums' recordings from the William Sidney Mount Music Collection. )
He attended séances at Thomas Hadaway’s house, which is now the Country House Restaurant. A séance is when people get together and try to contact the dead. W.S. Mount felt that Rembrandt, a great Dutch painter of the 17th century, was helping him with his painting skills through the séances.
W.S. Mount started painting because his brother, Henry Smith Mount, encouraged him to use his talents as an artist. Henry noticed William’s talent when William was a helper in Henry’s sign painting shop in 1824. The palette to the right looks like it might be a gift from Henry to William. Click on it to see it close up!
Mount was the first American artist who painted African-Americans in a nice way. He felt that slavery should be decided by each state rather than the Federal Government. Therefore, he did not agree with Abraham Lincoln’s beliefs. About this topic, he wrote in his diary, "mind your own business."
He liked to fish, walk, hunt, sail and visit places on Long Island. He liked to paint the things he saw. These are different scenes from the villages and their people. At night, he liked to go to taverns and play the flute or the fiddle. He traveled with a paint kit, so he can paint or sketch wherever he was.
William Sidney Mount grew up and became a very famous painter who was known world- wide. There is a school named after him in the Three Village School District. You can see many of his paintings at the Stony Brook Museums.
William Sidney Mount died in 1868. He is buried in the Presbyterian Church Cemetery. You can see his grave there.
Here are some more of William Sidney Mount's paintings and his invention, the "Cradle of Harmony". Click on them to see them close up!
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