FAIRHOLT, FREDERICK WILLIAM (1814–1866), engraver and antiquarian writer, born in London in 1814, was the son of a German named Fahrholz, who came to England and worked in a sugar, and then in a tobacco manufactory, anglicising his name to Fairholt. Frederick William was his sixteenth child by his wife, the daughter of a Spitalfields silk-weaver named Dugwell. At school Fairholt used to fill up the large capitals in his copybook with pictures, and he received regular drawing lessons when he was twelve. When a boy he was awarded the silver ' Isis' medal of the Society of Arts for a drawing; and before he was twenty-one he worked at print colouring, and was for some time the assistant of a scene-painter. For fourteen years, apparently in the early part of his life, he had employment in a tobacco factory. When twenty-one he became an assistant to S. Sly, the wood-engraver, and from this time worked steadily at engraving. He made many hundreds of drawings on wood to illustrate Charles Knight's publications, the ' Penny Magazine,' 'London,' 'Illustrated Shakespeare,' &c. The first important work entirely illustrated by him was Jackson and Chatto's ' Treatise on Wood Engraving,' 1839. Among the other works illustrated by him are : Halliwell's 'Sir John Maundeville,' 1839; Hawkins's 'Silver Coinage of England,' 1841 ; S. C. Hall's 'Mansions of England,' 1843-5; Halliwell's 'Life of Shakespeare,' 1848 ; Chatto's ' Facts and Speculations on Playing Cards,' / p.152 / 1848 ; C. R. Smith's ' Antiquities of Richborough,' 1850; Evans's ' Ancient British Coins,' 1864; Madden's ' Jewish Coinage,' 1864. He also illustrated Lord Londesborough's ' Miscellanea Graphica,' B. Faussett's ' Inventorium Sepulchrale,' and many of the works of Thomas Wright, the antiquary, including his ' Archæological Album,' 1845. Fairholt's antiquarian knowledge and fidelity as a draughtsman were much in demand for the illustration of learned publications, and he regularly drew for the Society of Antiquaries, for the British Archæological Association (from 1843 to 1852), and for the Numismatic Society of London (from 1854). He was also employed as artist and writer for the ' Art Journal.'
Fairholt was the author of the following works, most of them containing illustrations by himself : 1. 'Lord Mayors' Pageants' (Percy Society), 1842, &c. 2. 'Costume in England,' 1846; 2nd ed. 1860 (his best known work). 3. ' The Home of Shakespeare,' 1847. 4. ' Tobacco: its History and Associations,' 1859. 5. ' Gog and Magog,' 1860. 6. ' Up the Nile,' 1862. He edited several works for the Percy Society, including ' Satirical Songs and Poems on Costume,' 1849, and was editor of ' A Dictionary of Terms in Art' (London, 1854), 8vo, and of Lyly's ' Dramatic Works,' 1856, &c. He was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1844, and contributed to its proceedings during sixteen years. He was also a member of the British Archæological Association, and contributed to its ' Journal' (vols. i. ii,. v.; see Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc., General Index, vols. i-xxx.), and was a member (elected 1845) of the Numismatic Society of London. He wrote four papers in the 'Numismatic Chronicle.'
Fairholt's busy life was chiefly spent in London, and he used to say, 'I hate the country.' In 1856, however, he went with Lord Londesborough to the south of France and to Rome (his journey described in C. R. Smith's Collectanea Ant. vol. v.), and afterwards on two occasions to Egypt. Six years before his death he was found to be suffering from tubercular consumption, but he worked on as usual. He died on 3 April 1866, at 22 Montpelier Square, Brompton, and was buried in the Brompton cemetery. Fairholt was a companionable man, and among his friends were S. C. Hall, Halliwell, J. H. Rimbault, Thomas Wright, and C. Roach Smith, his executor. He bequeathed a collection of between two and three hundred volumes on civic pageantry to the Society of Antiquaries. His prints and works on costume he left to the British Museum, and his Shakespearean collections to the town of Stratford-on-Avon. His general library he left to be sold for the benefit of the Literary Fund.
[ C. R. Smith's Collectanea Antiqua, vi. 296-311 ; C. R. Smith's Retrospections, i. 218-26 ; Gent. Mag. 1866, 4th ser. i. 764, 913 ; Brit. Mus. Cat. ; Encyclop. Britann. 9th ed. art. ' Fairholt;' Numismatic Chron. new ser. vi. 15, 16 ; Proceedings, Soc.Antiquaries, 2nd ser.iii. (1866), 287-8.]