Historical portrait of Commodore Hull to be dedicated at ceremony

The portrait of Commodore Isaac Hull.
The portrait of Commodore Isaac Hull.

A ceremony to mark the addition of a portrait of Commodore Isaac Hull to the collection of the Derby Historical Society will take place Sunday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the David Humphrey's House, 37 Elm St., Ansonia.

The event is free and open to the public, with donations accepted. Refreshments will be served immediately after the ceremony.

Hull (1773-1843) is best known for commanding the U.S.S. Constitution during the War of 1812. Arguably the most famous ship in U.S. Navy history, the Constitution was one of the country’s original six warships and the only one of the six still in existence.

Hull grew up in both Derby and Huntington (then its own town and now part of the city of Shelton).

Painting is more than 200 years old

The portrait is historically significant for a number of reasons. Though others exist, this one is the earliest known portrait, painted when Hull was likely in his 20s, said Paula Norton, the Derby Historical Society’s deputy director.

“He actually would have sat for this portrait, unlike the others that exist of him,” Norton said.

The portrait has been dated to sometime before 1804. Hull commissioned the portrait as a gift for Commodore James Nicholson, a Revolutionary War naval hero who died in 1804. Hull served aboard the Constitution under Nicholson’s brother Samuel.

A Connecticut woman recently donated the painting to the Derby Historical Society. “We were so thrilled to receive this,” Norton said. “It’s one of the most exciting pieces in our collection.”

About Commodore Hull

Hull was commissioned a lieutenant in the newly formed U.S. Navy in 1798 and served on the Constitution during the new nation’s quasi-war with France. He further distinguished himself during the war with the Barbary states and was promoted to captain in 1806.

He took command of the Constitution in 1810 and was its commander in the ship’s best-known engagement, a victory over the British ship H.M.S. Guerriere in 1812. Later assignments included command of the Portsmouth and Boston navy yards.

The Navy has named five ships after him, most recently the destroyer U.S.S. Hull, which was an active ship from 1953 to 1983.

Locally, the bridge on Route 8 that goes over the Housatonic River to join Shelton and Derby is named after Commodore Hull.

Learn more about the Derby Historical Society at www.derbyhistorical.org.

Donald Eng, editor of The Valley Gazette, contributed to this story.