b. Apr 1851 - d. 1930; eldest son of Charles H. and grandson of Presbyterian Rev Comfort Williams, first settled clergyman in "Rochesterville" (ca 1818); Charles M. attended the local Free Academy, received an AB from the University of Rochester in 1871, was admitted to the bar in 1875, and became a prominent attorney; active member of the University's Board of Trustees, 1888-99, and a significant benefactor of the University and its library; a memorial prize is offered at the University each year in his and Mary Washington Williams (his wife's?) name for accomplishment in English. This unusual and striking portrait was apparently dubbed "Hobby Gray" when painted and caused something of a stir in Rochester. According to the Daily Union (2 May 1854): "There is a picture in Elder's window in the Arcade, which attracts considerable attention. It is a painting of a little boy standing beside his hobby-horse, neatly executed...." Apparently the original commission would bring Cook $110, but he told his brother Ransom that the little boy's mother suggested the father would raise the fee if the portrait were "elegant." "So," wrote Cook," I added a horse." The father was reluctant to increase the fee, however, which in the end apparently earned Cook $114; clearly bitter, Cook wrote that the painting was said to be the best oil "seen out of New York City -- and ... worth $200." [For more on this painting see A Closer Look.]
Courtesy of Rochester Historical Society, acc #1979.044.0003
This portrait is a classic Cook work, including the artist's hallmark red seat and his finely crafted lace rendering. Although the woman in this painting is unknown, could she be Alice Chester, who is noted below? We may never know for sure, but the date and location are consistent with Cook's long-ago written reference to her. Along with the artist's signature, the portrait's reverse also carries the following stenciling, which has never been seen on another Cook painting: GOUPIL & CO / Artist's Colourmen & Print Sellers / 366 Broadway / NEW YORK. Goupil & Co. was a leading French art dealer and art materials supplier with offices throughout the world, including New York City. With Goupil's offices moving to 366 Broadway in 1854, it would appear Cook purchased the canvas for this portrait from the firm's trade catalog soon after their relocation.
This oil on canvas portrait of an unknown sitter was posted on the WorthPoint.com website in October 2018 as being available for sale via an eBay auction. As no such listing was located on eBay, the exact status of the painting is difficult to determine. The portrait apparently was found in New Jersey and measures approximately 30 1/2" x 25 1/4". Although the eBay seller only "attributed" the portrait to Cook, in addition to the artistic style and execution being totally consistent with Cook's, two other very specific clues allow the caretaker of this site to give full credit to Cook for this wonderful rendering: the presence of Cook's hallmark red chair and the "Goupil & Co" stenciling found on the back of the canvas. This stenciling is identical to that found on Cook's 1854 Unidentified Lady in a Green Dress. And since these are the only two Cook paintings ever found with the Goupil name clearly visible on the canvas, the caretaker also feels comfortable assigning the same 1854 date to "Unknown Man".
b. 5 May 1837, Ballston, NY - d. 12 Sep 1884, Montreal; eldest daughter of Albert Tracy Chester and Rhoda Elizabeth Stanley Chester; on 3 June 1858 married Hubert R. Ives of New Haven, CT; had three children; the Ives resided in Montreal for over 35 years, where Hubert was an iron manufacturer and an inventor of, among other things, improved household tools and boiler furnaces. Alice's father, the Reverend Chester, like Cook from the Ballston area, was a prominent churchman in Buffalo; he also wrote poetry, published in at least one prominent magazine, Godey's; he apparently maintained his ties with the Saratoga area and named his youngest son Walworth. Cook's letters indicate he and the Rev met socially in Buffalo, where some of Chester's friends suggested that a gift of a portrait would help introduce Cook to "the wealthiest class." The portrait was begun in Buffalo that summer and finished in Rochester. Although in debt, critical of the clergy, perhaps jealous of Chester's success with his poems, and loath to give up a $50 fee, Cook painted a head or bust of Chester's eldest and gave it to the family; he later heard that the Chesters did not approve of the portrait, had it sent to him, and refused to return it to Chester though the churchman "wants it wonderfully now." Apparently, the painting never was returned to the Chesters as the portrait was noted in an undated (c. 1885) newspaper article as one of several paintings in Cook's Saratoga Springs studio.
b. ? - d. 1864; originally from Rome, NY and known as an "extensive speculator"; married Laura Fish (1807 - ?), lived in Ithaca and Rome, NY, and had at least one son born in 1836 before heading to Detroit; divorced ca. 1852 and then married Mary Ann Baines; ca. 1843 built a mill in Auburn, MI - said to have been the finest mill in the state of Michigan; soon after, however, Stewart became bankrupt, forcing the mill's sale; although specifics are unknown, other business failings apparently plagued Stewart in later years as he was described as "eminent, but ultimately an unfortunate financier"; president of the Detroit and Pontiac Railway from 1852 to 1855 during which time Stewart negotiated the purchase of land to extend the railroad's reach across Michigan; the D&P consolidated under the name Detroit & Milwaukee Rail Road in 1855 and Stewart was named President of this concern in late 1857; by 1860 he also was a Director of Sandusky, Dayton, & Cincinnati Rail Road Company; died of a paralytic stroke. In a letter to Ransom from Rochester dated 13 Aug 1854, Cook mentions that he has worked on a bust of "Mr. Stewart," president of the Detroit and Pontiac Railway for which he should earn $50. Cook's letter suggests he may have also painted Mrs. Stewart at this time.
An Amusing Storing about Nelson Paine Stewart as Related by his Great-Grandson
From All Aboard! A History of Railroads in Michigan by Willis Frederick Dunbar (1969)
Detroit-Pontiac Railroad promoter, Nelson Paine Stewart, and "Salt" Williams, a railroad detractor, made a bet as to which would win a 25-mile race from Pontiac to Detroit: Stewart's train or Williams's team of horses pulling a carriage. The winner was to be waiting at Detroit's Griswold House with dinner ordered, and the loser was to pay for the dinner and hand over $5,000. The road between the two towns was sandy and full of ruts, so Stewart didn't see how he could lose. Yet when the train got to Detroit there was Salt waiting with a sign, "Dinner is ready, Nelson." The night before the race, Salt and his cohorts had taken away all the cordwood stacked along the railway making it necessary for Stewart and others aboard to chop and saw wood every few miles to provide fuel for the locomotive.
Every aspect of this wonderful portrait is skillfully rendered as the artist enters his more mature mid-century form. Cook has perfectly captured this unidentified girl's childhood innocence with a facial expression and eyes that invite us to ponder whatever became of her in later life. Unfortunately, we will never know. But what we do know is that the artist has also taken great care to paint his young sitter with superbly realistic hair ringlets and an exquisitely detailed dress to match. The absence of a background seems appropriate as it allows Cook's young patron to take center stage without any unnecessary distractions. The 24" X 18" portrait is oil on board (a rarity for Cook who preferred canvas) and as indicated on the reverse was restored by S. M. Curioni in 1972. In 1928 the painting was donated to the Rochester Historical Society, which at some point de-accessioned the portrait. It was eventually sold at auction for $600 in October 2014 by Cottone Auctions in Geneseo, NY.
b. 1823/1832? - d. 23 Sep1907 in Riga, NY; buried Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY; although Emily's headstone clearly says her birth year was 1823, many census records from 1860-1900 suggest she was born closer to 1832; in August 1852 became second wife of Erastus Ide [1818 - 1879] and three children soon followed, Lily , Warren , and Clara ; Erastus's first wife, Elizabeth Jane Carson of Pittsfield, MA, died on 7 Apr 1848 at the age of 23; Elizabeth was the daughter of Erastus's business partner, David Carson, with whom starting in 1850 he co-owned the Carson and Ide Paper Mill at Moonda Creek near Newburgh, NY, by 1870 simply known as the Ide Paper Company, and eventually sold in 1876; Erastus, who was originally from Riga, NY near Rochester, also at various times practiced law, served on the Court of Common Pleas in Monroe County, was appointed Examiner by the governor for the NY State Court of Chancery, served as a ward-level school commissioner, and represented the Newbury District of Orange County, NY in Albany. In a letter to Ransom dated 13 Aug 1854 from Rochester, Cook mentions he is working on a "bust" portrait of Mrs. Ide of Newburgh, NY, and that her husband is "in company with Carson" making paper; he also mentions the $50 he expects from this work. Apparently Emily Ide had come to Rochester on a visit with Erastus from Newburgh. The disposition of this portrait was unknown by the caretakers of this site for a number of years until notified in September 2016 by Carol W. Brown [Historian, Irondequoit Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Rochester, NY] that the painting was proudly displayed at the DAR-owned Hervey Eli House in Rochester. The portrait was donated to the Irondequoit Chapter of the DAR by Emily's daughter Clara upon her death in 1912. The painting is signed on the reverse, "Nelson Cook, Painter, Rochester, N.Y. 1854."
Exact identification unknown, but may be Lucy A. Jones Naramore (name also found as Ann Jones Naramore, with "Ann" possibly being Lucy's middle name) (?), b. 1825, Union County, PA - d. 30 Sep 1858, 10 days after the birth of her second son, John M. (Her first child was Willard W.) Married in March 1848 to Hon. Willard Parker Naramore (b. 19 Dec 1824 in Junius, NY - d. 1910 in Illinois), a respected physician, preacher, financier, and politician. At an early age Dr. Naramore moved with his family to Ohio, where he eventually received his medical degree in 1845. One year later he moved to Stephenson County, Illinois and began what became a very successful medical practice, which in turn allowed him to enter the field of banking and finance, at which he also excelled. Soon after his arrival in Illinois, he established the Mt. Pleasant Church of Christ, where he preached for many years. Although once an avid Stephen Douglas supporter, with the outbreak of the Civil War he changed his political allegiance to the Republican Party and Union preservation. Dr. Naramore's political ambitions were confined to the local level (e.g., State Legislature 1859-60), but many felt he would have been very successful had he pursued national office. Among his close acquaintances was Melville W. Fuller, who went on to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In Nov 1859 Dr. Naramore married his second wife, Mary Brower (b. 1835 - d. 1895), who like his first wife, was also from Union County, PA. Mary bore him 5 additional children.
From the Permanent Collection of the Canton Museum of Art, acc #75.78
b. 1 Mar 1826, Minaville, NY - d. 1892, Schenectady, NY). Sadly, other than she was the wife of Benjamin Franklin Potter (1815-1870), very little is known about Mary Smith Potter. Husband Benjamin was an attorney who served in a variety of civic functions in Schenectady, including Exception Master for the NY State Court Third District (1845), Clerk for the Schenectady Board of Supervisors off and on from 1845-1850, Schenectady County District Attorney (1847), and Mayor of Schenectady (1860). In 1854 he partnered with brother Platt Potter and Clark Cochrane in a Schenectady law firm for an unknown number of years. And in 1865 Benjamin was a Director of the Schenectady Water Company when it first incorporated. The portrait image is from the Frick Collection, which indicated the painting is signed on the reverse: "Nelson Cook, Painter, Rochester, 1855." Frick also said the painting was part of the Mrs. Harry Van Ness Philip Collection in Schenectady, NY. Such a collection (The Van Ness-Philip Family Papers) still exists today at the New York Historical Society (NYC), but there is no mention of the portrait as being in its possession. Given the Potters' strong ties to Schenectady, it's unclear what wife Mary was doing in Rochester in 1855 when her portrait was painted.
This portrait is signed "Nelson Cook" on verso, as was his custom for most of the portraits he painted; there is also a label on the lower stretcher bar stating that it is a self-portrait. However, at this time there is no independent confirmation (ie, letter, diary, article, etc.) that Cook ever did this self-portrait [see the 1832 self-portrait], and the Rochester Historical Society makes no definitive claim that it is, in fact, Nelson Cook. The label could have been added later by one who, for reasons unknown, simply assumed it was a self-portrait. A comparison of this portrait to the artist's photograph [below, right], apparently taken just three years before the painting, suggests similarities and differences. Could the "self-portrait" actually be of Nelson's brother Ransom, although Ransom was likely too old for this sitter in 1856 [see portraits from 1844 and 1857 and Ransom's photograph]? Or perhaps the "self-portrait" might be better labeled "Unidentified Man." Visitors to this website are invited to make their own visual comparisons; let us know what you think.
Portrait courtesy of Rochester Historical Society, #1980.000.0043
Photo courtesy of H. A. Eastman
b. 1811 in Edinburgh, Scotland - d. 28 Aug 1905 in Rochester, NY; buried Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester; married Mary M. Parcells, who died 8 Oct 1863 at age 50; briefly moved to US with father ca. 1810, returned to Scotland for several years, and then permanently relocated to US in 1813; for many years President of the Rochester Athenaeum (today's Rochester Institute of Technology); Mayor of Rochester, 1874-1875; in 1876 with Rev Thomas Gallaudet, the eldest son of deaf-mute advocacy pioneer Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, helped establish the Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, which Alexander Graham Bell described as "the best disciplined and most admirably conducted institute in the country"; served as Vice President and President of the Institution for many years; associated with area financial institutions, including the Monroe County Savings Bank where he served on the Board of Trustees during the 1890s.
Courtesy of Rochester Historical Society, #1994.350.0001
b. ca. 1813 - d. 8 Oct 1863; buried Mt. Hope Cemetery, Rochester, NY; wife of George Clarkson, with whom she had at least one daughter, Mary M. and presumably a son, George P. [1835 - 1897], who is buried in the same plot as Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson.
Courtesy of Rochester Historical Society, #1994.350.0002
Wamsley is listed as owner of Portrait of a Gentleman in record of National Academy of Art & Design Exhibition, 1856, catalog number 196. Could he be the "gentleman"? Cook suggests in letter from New York City in May 1860, that he is to do a portrait of a "Mrs. Wamsley."
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