John Goffe Rand papers, 1832-1960, bulk 1832-1873

A Finding Aid to the John Goffe Rand Papers, circa 1832-1960, bulk 1832-1873, in the Archives of American Art, by Jayna Hanson

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Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art

Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

John Goffe Rand (1801-1873) lived and worked in Boston, London, and New York as a portrait painter and inventor. Rand invented and patented the first collapsible artist's paint tube.

Rand was born in 1801 in Bedford, New Hampshire. As a young man, he worked as an apprentice to a cabinet maker. Although he showed talent, Rand chose to paint houses and signs and found that he excelled at portraiture. Discovered and encouraged by Samuel F. B. Morse, he moved to Boston and by 1828 established his own studio. While temporarly in Charleston, South Carolina, Rand met Miss Lavinia Brainerd whom he later married.

Shortly after their wedding, Lavinia and John Rand travelled to London where John continued to paint portraits. Among those whom he painted were members of the royal family and other figures in the English nobility including Lord Bexley, the Duke and Duchess of Inverness, and the Duke of Sussex.

While in London, Rand invented a collapsible paint tube made of tin for storing artists' mixed oil paints. Prior to this advancement, painters generally mixed pigments with oil in small amounts and stored the extra paint in animal bladders. The tin tube allowed unused paint to be stored and used later without drying out. In 1841, Rand patented the invention with the United States Patent Office. He went on to patent several later improvements. Other later inventions, however, were not as widely received, and most of his ideas were not financially successful.

Upon returning to the United States, John Rand and his wife settled on Long Island where he continued his career in painting portraits. The artist died in 1873.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The scattered papers of inventor and portrait painter John Goffe Rand measure 0.2 linear feet and date from circa 1832-1960, bulk 1832-1873. Included are biographical sketches, a will, lists of portraits by Rand, a small amount of correspondence, United States patents for the collapsible paint tube invented by Rand and later improvements, printed materials, a photo, and an example of one of the first paint tubes made in a factory.

Biographical Information includes an unpublished biography about Rand, typescripts of an obituary, short biographical sketches, lists of portraits painted by Rand, and a copy of his will. A small amount of correspondence consists of one letter written by Rand in 1864 addressed to his neice and typescripts of letters written by members of Rand's extended family concerning the artist and his works.

Subject files document Rand's invention of the collapsible tin artists' paint tube and include two patents from the United States Patent Office dated 1841 and 1844. The 1844 patent was for improvements to the tube. The patent applications contain diagrams and written descriptions of the tube. There are also clippings about the anniversaries of the invention.

Additional clippings are about members of the Rand family and a painting by Rand. One photograph depicts Rand's gravesite circa 1930. Artifacts include an example of one of the first collapsible paint tubes made in a factory.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 6 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:


  • Painting -- Equipment and supplies
  • Portrait painters -- England -- London
  • Inventors -- England

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs


The John Goffe Rand papers were donated by Rand's great-grandnieces Mary and Katherine Anglemyer in 1981 and 1985.

How the Collection was Processed

The John Goffe Rand papers were processed by Jayna Hanson in 2008, and digitized in 2010 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The John Goffe Rand papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

The papers were digitized in their entirety in 2010 and are available via the Archives of American Art's website.

How to Cite this Collection

John Goffe Rand papers, circa 1832-1960, bulk 1832-1873. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Information, 1873-1941, circa 1960
(Box 1; 5 folders)

This series consists of biographcial sketches of John Goffe Rand, an unpublished biography, a list of Rand's portraits, typescripts of Rand's obituary and his will.

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical Sketches, 1931-1941
1 2 "John Goffe Rand" by Mary Elizabeth Franklin, circa 1930
1 3 Lists of Portraits, circa 1960
1 4 Obituary, 1873
1 5 Will, 1873

Series 2: Correspondence, 1864, 1906-1960
(Box 1; 2 folders)

This series contains one letter written by John Rand to his niece and scattered typescripts of letters to and from the Rand family concerning the artist.

Box Folder
1 6 From John Goffe Rand 1864
1 7 Concerning John Rand 1906-1960

Series 3: Subject Files, 1841-1844, 1941-1956
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Found here are materials relating to the John Goffe Rand's invention and patent of the collapsible tin paint tube, including drawings and written descriptions. There are also patents from 1841 and 1844 for improvements to the tube and clippings celebrating anniversaries of the invention.

Box Folder
1 8 Patents, 1841-1844
1 9 Clippings, 1941, 1956

Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1900
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Newspaper clippings concern members of the Rand family and articles about John Goffe Rand's works of art.

Box Folder
1 10 Clippings, circa 1900

Series 5: Photographs, circa 1930
(Box 1; 1 folder)

There is one photograph of John Goffe Rand's gravestone.

Box Folder
1 11 Photograph, circa 1930

Series 6: Artifact, circa 1832
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Found here is a surviving example of one of the first collapsible paint tubes made in a factory, circa 1832.

Box Folder
1 12 Paint Tube, circa 1832