Mrs J. C. Bancroft, née Harriet B. James, was the wife of the politician, diplomat and collector John Chandler Bancroft, also known as Bancroft Davis. They had a son, Wilder D. Bancroft (b. ca 1868) and daughters, Pauline (b. ca 1870) and Janet (b. ca 1877).
Harriet Bancroft's husband became Secretary and chargé d'affaires at the American Legation in Great Britain in 1849. He served in various high state offices including Assistant Secretary of State, United States Minister to Germany and Judge of the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington D. C. He was also the American correspondent for the London Times from 1854 until 1862.
The Bancrofts collected Japanese prints as well as a number of JW's works, including Arrangement in Black: Girl Reading (YMSM 223) and Silver and Blue: Southampton (M.1142). They suggested JW paint their daughter Hester in June 1891, but this did not take place. The Evolution of the Butterfly (M.1317) was drawn for Harriet Bancroft probably in the spring of 1891. She lent both it and Silver and Blue: Southampton (M.1142) for exhibition in Boston in 1904. In June 1892, the Bancrofts offered £600 for Dr John Cavafy's four works by JW (The Last of Old Westminster (YMSM 39), Battersea Reach (YMSM 45), Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56) and Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64)), but their offer was rejected in favour of the £650 offered by E. G. Kennedy of the New York dealers Wunderlich.
US census 1880 at http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004.03); Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.