The hot topic of voter fraud, raised by President Trump during the election of 2016, is not a new subject.

Visitors to the current exhibit in the Athenaeum’s Randall Gallery, “Painting Portsmouth’s Notables,” can find a connection to modern times while returning the solemn gaze of 15-year-old Margaret Badger, who was painted in 1847 by artist Jonathan Treadwell Jr. (1813-1883).

Treadwell was born in Cornish, Maine. By 1840, he was living in Westbrook, Maine, and working as an itinerant artist, traveling from central Maine to central New Hampshire.

Athenaeum exhibit researchers note that Treadwell was in Portsmouth in 1846, placing a Sept. 24 advertisement in the “New Hampshire Gazette.” Urging patrons to call on his rooms at No. 28 Market St. before he leaves town for other business. The ad ran through Jan. 26, 1847, researchers wrote.

The artist ran another ad in the “Rockingham Messenger” from Oct. 7, 1847 to Dec. 30, 1847, stating the artist was back in his rooms for a short time.

The dates are important because Treadwell voted in Portsmouth in March 1848, and the question of his residency became an issue.

As people now do when they show up at polls in New Hampshire without the right documents to register to vote, Treadwell signed an affidavit stating he lived in the place where he was voting.

“I Jonathan Treadwell testify and say that I came to this town two years ago last October (1845) from Portland, and commenced business as portrait painter, which business I have continued ever since in this town — that I am an American citizen and more than 21 years of age.”

Selectmen decided that Treadwell’s name should go on the checklist.

Treadwell was a Democrat; his case was among a number that outraged the opposition party, the Whigs.

The artist’s name appears in the pages of “Report of the Whig Investigating Committee on the Irregular Proceedings of the Selectmen on the Portsmouth Check List, and on Cases of Alleged Fraudulent Voting at the March Election, 1848.”

The authors contrasted Treadwell’s case with that of S.G. Phillips, a Whig.

Born in Maine, Phillips states in his affidavit that he came to live in Portsmouth in November 1846 “and have resided here ever since.” He wrote that he was gone five months “for a temporary purpose, and with the intent of returning again to said Portsmouth.”

Two people, Jacob P. Plumer and Benjamin Cheever, signed depositions attesting to Phillips’ intention to return to Portsmouth. But the selectmen decided Phillips’ name should not be on the checklist.

The report’s Whig authors fume: “Will any fair man pretend that Mr. Phillips has not as good a right to vote in Portsmouth as Mr. Treadwell, or that the conferring (of) this privilege upon the former, and withholding it from the latter, is not a plain and palpable abuse of power?”

So as Election Day nears, remember that passions at the polls have always run deep in New Hampshire.

“Painting Portsmouth Notables” runs through Nov. 3 at the Athenaeum, 9 Market Square, which is open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1 to 4 p.m. The exhibit at the 200-year-old nonprofit membership library and museum is free. For more information, visit www.portsmouthathenaeum,org

At The Athenaeum appears the second Sunday of every month in Seacoast Sunday.