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Center, Addison

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Captain Addison Center (1830–92) was born in Gloucester. He was an artist of some skill and was listed in the local newspaper in 1858 as one of the three artists then resident in town. (1) He collaborated with Fitz Henry Lane on at least one piece of public art—a tableau for the Library Festival in 1858. (2) In 1872 he designed a new Town Seal, the center of which was “a fishing schooner anchored on the banks, copied from a picture painted by that talented artist, the late Mr. Fitz H. Lane.” (3)

In 1887, the newspaper reported that a copy made by Capt. Center—of Fitz H. Lane’s painting showing Fort Point in 1842—was on display in the window of John C. Calef’s store on Main Street. (4) Center was known for his portraits, especially of popular war heroes, but he also painted landscapes, and there is evidence of at least one marine painting. (5) He was a deputy collector of customs, businessman, artist, and captain in the Union Army. Before his appointment as Deputy Collector, he gave his occupation as ‘artist’ on all censuses, and his obituary stated: “it cannot but be a matter of regret that he did not give himself wholly to Art.” (6)

Addison Center lived most of his life in houses on Washington Street near the railroad crossing. As a young man he worked in a stationery store on Front (now Main) Street run by his cousin Henry Center. His title of Captain came from his military service, not from any maritime activity. He was a member of the Volunteer Militia, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was elected Captain of Co. G, 8th Regiment. In October 1861, he took command of Co. C, 23rd Regiment, the so-called Essex Guard, and led them through campaigns at Roanoke, New Bern, Bermuda Hundred (where he accidentally shot himself in the foot), Petersburg and elsewhere. He served as Republican Representative in the Massachusetts House in 1866, and became Deputy Collector of Customs for the Port of Gloucester in 1868.

Center was an excellent draftsman whose penmanship was so exquisite that the School Department and the Masonic Tyrian Lodge—of which he was a member—often called upon him to write testimonials and diplomas.
He was married three times and had six children, five of whom survived him. (7)

– Stephanie Buck

(1) The other two were Fitz H. Lane and Alfred J. Wiggin, Cape Ann Advertiser, January 2, 1858.

(2) Gloucester Telegraph and News, March 3, 1858.

(3) Cape Ann Advertiser, February 9, 1872.  Center's design was not used.

(4) Cape Ann Advertiser, April 15, 1887.

(5) The schooner "Electric Spark," dated 1869 and signed A. Center. Cape Ann Museum Artist Files.

(6) Gloucester Daily Times, January 2, 1892.

(7) He married Elizabeth Story Gaffney (1833–59) in 1858; Mary Forbes Phelps (1836–76) in 1861; and her younger sister Eliza Phelps (1842–1929) in 1878.

Also filed under: People »  //  Contemporary Artists »

Related tables: Center & Co. »  //  Gloucester, Mass. Town Seal »

1858 Cape Ann Advertiser 2.27.1858
Procter Brothers
Various dates
From bound volume owned by publisher Francis Procter
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"A CARD. – The Ladies of Gloucester who are interested in the Lyceum Library, and who projected the recent Festival in its behalf, take this method of returning their sincere acknowledgements; 

To Messrs. F. H. Lane, Addison Center and John Trask for their arduous and truly artistic labors in the preparation of Tableaux; . . .

To Robert Fears, Esq., who gratuitously opened his large and commodious Sail Loft for their use and exerted himself to make their occupancy of it agreeable;...

To Samuel Sawyer, Esq. of Boston, for his generous and unexpected donation of fifty dollars, thereby laying the Library under still another obligation to him;...


1855 Procter's Able Sheet 9.1855

"Business Directory Listings"

Artists – Fitz H. Lane, residence on Duncan Street

             Addison Center, residence on Washington St.

1858 Gloucester Telegraph & News 3.3.1858
Gloucester Telegraph & News

Fitz H. Lane, Addison Center, and John Trask created a tableau for the Library festival.

photo (historical)
Captain Addison Center
William Augustus Elwell, Gloucester
c. 1864
Carte de visite
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »

Gloucester Town Seal
Addison Center
designed 1872
1873 Gloucester City Directory (1)

"The design is very pretty and appropriate . . .In the centre of the seal is a representation of a fishing schooner anchored on the banks, copied from a picture painted by that talented artist, the late Mr. Fitz H. Lane." (2)


1. Gloucester City Directory. (Gloucester, MA: Sampson, Davenport, & Co., 1873), front page.

2. "The Town Seal": designed by Capt. Addison Center," Cape Ann Weekly Advertiser, February 9, 1872. 

photo (historical)
Home of Capt. Addison Center, 155 Washington St., Gloucester
Corliss and Ryan
Cabinet card photograph
4" x "6"
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
Schooner "Electric Spark" of Gloucester
Addison Center
Oil on paper based board
Cape Ann Museum Collection

Handwritten on back:  

Sch. Electric Spark of Gloucester.  Commanded by Samuel V. Colby.  At anchor at Port Mulgrave, N.S. (Nova Scotia)

July 1859

Bound on a mackerel trip to Bay of Chaleur.

Painted by Capt. Addison Center from an ambrotype.

Self-Portrait as a Union Officer
Addison Center
oil on canvas
Cape Ann Museum, Gift of Mrs. Eleanor Dexter, 1979 (2200)
Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Center%2C+Addison (accessed July 20, 2024).
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