Daguerreotype, circa 1855

H. 3¾, W. 3¼ in.

Gift from the Geneva Frost Estate, Maine

Courtesy Concord Museum, Concord, MA

A previously unknown image of Henry David Thoreau’s sister, Sophia, has been bequeathed to the Concord Museum on the bicentennial of her famous brother’s birth. The museum holds the largest number of artifacts related to the author and, notes curator David Wood, “It is especially remarkable that her image should come to the Concord Museum, since all the great Thoreau objects in our collection came through her hands.”

The discovery of this image of Sophia (1819–1876), a gifted amateur botanist, calls attention to her role in her brother’s legacy. Like many writers and artists, Henry David Thoreau became famous after his death. Despite some contemporary indifference to his literary efforts, his sister maintained faith in his work and took responsibility for safe-guarding his personal possessions and manuscripts. Adds Wood, “Thoreau’s literary legacy and his material legacy owe a great deal to Sophia.” Sophia’s image will be incorporated into This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal, the most comprehensive exhibition ever created about Thoreau, when it opens at the Concord Museum, September 29, 2017.