Thomas Waterman Wood (1783–1872)

The Yankee Pedlar, 1872

Oil on canvas, 28 x 40 in. (71.1 x 101.6 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 1998.3

In his portraits and genre paintings, Thomas Waterman Wood combined realism and moralizing narrative to document American life during the mid- and late nineteenth century. The Yankee Pedlar presents a moment of negotiation between a persuasive peddler, who offers manufactured and luxury goods, and a cautious yet eager farm family, accustomed to the barter exchanges more typical of agrarian life. As a Vermont native, Wood was familiar with such transactions in the northeastern United States. His model for The Yankee Peddler was a celebrated tin salesman known as “Snapping Tucker” from Calais, Vermont. Based on a veritable fixture in midcentury rural culture, Wood’s peddler reflects a figure of the past for America’s rising urban population. In an era of evolving, complex economic relations and competitive commercialism, The Yankee Peddler personified ideals of thrift, hard work, and plain dealing associated with a simpler time and a vanishing way of life.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.