Portrait of Skinner Resurfaces

Can a picture tell a thousand words? Well the story behind this one might do just that.

The other week I had lunch with the Tessier family who have had a picture of William Skinner (shown on the mantel) in their house for the last 52 years – ever since Mr. Tessier brought it home from an auction at the Skinner mills in 1961.

Mr. Tessier owned Tessier Millwork and Lumber in Holyoke, MA, not too far from the mills and his family was certainly familiar with the Skinner company. (Mrs. Tessier wore a gown of Skinner’s satin on her wedding day.) Still, Mrs. Tessier didn’t quite know what to do with the portrait. She stored it in several places over the years (cedar closet, furnace room) and for whatever reason she never threw it out. The portrait became one of those things that she didn’t really know why she had it or why she kept saving it but she couldn’t just get rid of it either. It had history and, with each passing year, even more. Mr. Tessier died several years ago and still, she kept the photo.

Then Mrs. Tessier read an article in the paper about AMERICAN PHOENIX. When she learned about my book and relation to Skinner, she immediately wanted to give me the photo. Maybe this was why she had been saving it all these years! But the portrait was unmarked and one of her sons raised the question: Was it really Skinner? Her daughter Anne contacted me, asking me if I’d be interested in the photo  and was it really Skinner? I was completely blown away, both by the Tessier family generosity and by the resurfacing of this photo. Lunch with the Tessiers was an incredibly memorable experience as they handed me the photo in the restaurant and I peeled back its protective paper to see it for the first time. What is unusual about this photo is its size and clarity. It’s huge! And for a photo that is over 100 years old, it is in pristine condition. Mrs. Tessier didn’t know much about William Skinner but she became the perfect keeper of his portrait.




Left to right: Diane, Carol, Jean, Mrs. Tessier, Me, Anne and Michelle.

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