THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Thursday, June 4, 2009

a striking resemblance, more than a mere coincidence?

Benjamin Hyde Cory (1896-1983) b. Fresno Ca, d. Menlo Park Ca
son of Carrie (Martin) & Lewis L. Cory
my grandfather, gg-grandson of Phebe Meeker, twin sister of the sitter Samuel Meeker
















Note: the amazing resemblance in the shape of the chin, and particularly the mouth; the fullness of the lips, the dimple in the bottom lip, and slight lift in the upperlip under the left nostril.
What is also remarkable, is Stuart's ability to nail an almost photographic image...

Ben (1896-1983), 'Pops', was born in Fresno Ca to a family who attempted to establish east coast gentility in the heat of this inland farm town of Central California, which at one time had hopes to rival San Francisco in both size and culture. Pops was sent back east for his education at Groton, Princeton, and Harvard Law, and on vacations rather than making the difficult and lengthy trip back to Ca he would stay with the Jersey 'aunties', one of which (Emma), possessed the Meeker portrait (passed down from parents Thomas and Mary, see family tree below--NOTE, the Samuel Meeker in the portrait is the twin brother of Phebe Meeker, and not the father who is also a Samuel Meeker). Without children, the portrait passed from Emma to sister Carrie, my great grandmother. This is when (year unknown) the portrait was successfully transplanted from Princeton New Jersey to the sunny soils of California.
Carrie and Lewis (the first lawyer in Fresno, he argued in front of the US Supreme Court on Ca water issues) lived a life of richesse in a large Victorian house located in what is now downtown Fresno. The household staff included butler & cook (married), chauffeur ''Cooey' (lived above the garage), 2 gardeners, upstairs maid; fresh flowers were brought in every day. The 3 story house comprised the basement (washing & ironing room), first floor (foyer, living room, parlor, dining room, breakfast room, sewing room, large kitchen), second floor (bedrooms), and third floor (servants' quarters.) My mom remembers being mostly confined to eating in the breakfast room, and during formal dining, children were to be 'seen and not heard'. A veranda encircled the house, providing shade and breeze to the residents. In the foyer there were Asian artifacts, signalling international travels. One trip to China, according to family lore, was taken to separate Pop's sister Margaret from her infatuation with a baseball player when both were attending Stanford University. The Gilbert Stuart (by this time thought to be by Peale) portrait of Samuel Meeker most likely hung in the parlor. Many years later, when Pops moved in with my parents after the death of my grandmother Susie, he asked that mom should hang "the old gentleman". Thus we can deduce he did not know the name of the sitter, most likely not even his mother Carrie bothered to look at the family-tree book which accompanied the portrait, that Emma compiled (pictured below.) I know that Emma must have done the research in the book, for she mispelled the name 'Cory.' Without Emma's interest in ancestry, identification of the sitter would more than likely, surely, have been lost forever.
In any case, she however did mistakenly presume that the sitter was the father of Phebe, and not the brother. Without my interest in ancestry, the identity of the sitter would have been also lost! I have taken up from where Emma left off, I thank her gratefully for having compiled the family-tree book which filled in so many blanks, and have deepened the research into precisely who Samuel Meeker was.


Epilogue; after the deaths of Lewis and Carrie, Pop's sister Edith continued to live in the family Victorian, but later sold the house, which was torn down and replaced with commercial properties, and moved with all proceeds, belongings and furnishings to the neighboring farm town of Clovis. Upon her death, my mother inherited some silver and jewelry, and the Portrait. The rest went to, as Susie (my grandmother) derisively called the care-taker couple, THE OAKIES.

3 comments:

The Clever Pup said...

Yes, I see the resemblance. The nose is the same too, unremarkable, straight, unobtrusive.

My son at 3 looked just like his GGG Grandfather, born 1853, despite all the additions to the gene pool!

I'm a big believer in sneaky recessive genes. I've been a light blonde all my life. No one, as far back as I have pictures for (abt 1860), has the slightest trace of blond. And before the milkman remarks start, I look just like my dad.

Interesting post, Beth, as always.

einbildungskraft said...

Thanks Hazel! I like your expression sneaky recessive genes :-)) Now, the photo of Ben was taken when he was a good 20+ yrs younger than Samuel was in the portrait [40], turn the direction of Ben's face, add a close shave... ....
The point when I remarked to myself hey there could be a resemblance here!, was an astounding moment. One must remember, in the beginning, we had no idea that this person in the portrait was even related...even Pops, who so looks like him, called him 'The Old Gentleman'. I think if Pops were still alive, and I showed him the two images as shown here, he would just "guffaw" and think that I was kinda nutty! But, surely he would have been secretly pleased.....aftr all, Meeker is one handsome dude. So was Pops.
In the end, this helps one to conclude that the image in the portrait, was an accurate portrayal of the sitter by the artist. Stuart's fame in achieving accurate likenesses of his sitters reached far and wide.

Maureen said...

My comment, before I saw your response to Hazel, was Handsome Devils, because they are.

 
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