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Rachel Lovell Wells

Rachel Lovell Wells (1735-1796) of Crosswicks was a wax sculptor and entrepreneur. As children, Wells and her sisters created images in bread dough and clay which they then colored with natural dyes. Wells advanced to working with wax in later years and throughout her artistic career.

Wells and her sister Patience Lovell Wright created a new use for wax by generating contemporary pieces. Wells sculpted biblical figures while Wright made modern ones. The pair started a joint business in their respective homes. Additionally, secondary sources have stated that the sisters invented a system for spying on the British while Wright was living in England. While no evidence has been found to fully support these claims, it appears that in 1773 Wells received a wax head of Lord Chatham from her sister. Wright had evidently hidden dispatches for the Continental Congress at Philadelphia in the wax sculpture.

Questions to Explore

How did Well’s start sculpture in wax? How is different form other sculptures?

What does the wax head of Lord Chatham represent?

How did people perceive Wells’s wax sculptures? 

Additional Resources

Burstyn Joan N and Women’s Project of New Jersey. 1997. Past and Promise : Lives of New Jersey Women 1St Syracuse University Press ed. Syracuse N.Y: Syracuse University Press. https://www.worldcat.org/title/35222993.

Applewhite Harriet Branson and Darline Gay Levy. 1990. Women and Politics in the Age of the Democratic Revolution. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. https://www.worldcat.org/title/21038532