The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Horace H. Doty, 1824 or 1825-??

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1824 or 1825
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:


Captain Horace H. Doty, officer of marines, specialist in signal lights and lighthouse illumination. He was married to Astide.


In 1866 Whistler and Doty were involved in a plan to sell arms to Chile during a dispute with Spain (see #04335). Doty advanced substantial sums to Whistler (#12971). The exact nature of the relationship between Whistler and Doty is not clear, although Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904), portrait painter and designer [more], told William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more], on 2 November 1866, that Whistler was employed to carry 'mines' to Valparaiso.

Doty invented, promoted and patented several useful devices including signalling rockets and mineral oil burners for light houses, but is not known to have been involved in armaments. It appears that Doty was not pleased with the result of the mission. According to the Pennells, immediately after Whistler's return, 'when he got out of the train at Euston, or Waterloo, some one, besides his friends was waiting ... Somebody got a thrashing'. It is also possible that Whistler was suspected of having an affair with Doty's wife, Astide, during the voyage to Valparaiso.

In 1869, during the time of JW's threatened expulsion from the Burlington Fine Arts Club, H. H. Doty spread such rumours about JW in London which threatened his case. JW called on Captain Hunter Davidson, the captain of the frigate 'Henrietta', who had had experience of H. H. Doty's 'mischief', to give a character reference (#00802).


W. M. Rossetti's diary, [2 November 1866], University of British Columbia, Angeli-Dennis 15/1; Doty's Universal Code for Night Signals by 'flashlights'. Auxiliary to 'Commercial Code of Signals', London, 1868; The Doty burner for employing mineral and other oils in lighthouse illumination, London, 1874; UK census 1881 from (accessed 2004); Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, p. 136; Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 81.