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

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Matthias Meeker, father of William (cousin of Samuel), gives hope during the plague of 1793, William Parson Meeker cont.


Matthias Meeker (1744-1832), father of William Parson Meeker and brother of the sitter’s father Captain Samuel Meeker, leads Springfield NJ in giving hope to the citizens of Philadelphia in 1793.

The yellow fever raged through Philadelphia in the year 1793 and the citizens could find no refuge in other cities and towns…

“While our citizens were proscribed in several cities and towns—hunted up like felons in some— debarred admittance and turned back in others….it is with extreme satisfaction I have to record a conduct totally different, which ought to make a strong impression on the minds of the people of Philadelphia, and call forth lively emotions of gratitude.
…At Woodbury, in NJ, at an early period of the disorder, a meeting was held for the purpose of determining on what steps were requisite to be taken…A respectable number of the inhabitants of Springfield, in NJ, met and after full consideration of the distresses of our citizens, passed a resolve, offering their town as an asylum to the people flying from Philadelphia and directing their committee to provide a suitable place as an hospital for the sick. The Rev. J. Artsdalen, Matthias Meeker, and Matthias Denman, took the lead in this honourable business.” From "Miscellaneous Essays Matthew Carey" ~Originally published Philadelphia, 1830~ Ayer Publishing 1966 p. 64
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William Parson Meeker, first cousin to Samuel and involved in the firm of Meeker, Denman & Co. of Philadelphia, was also painted by Gilbert Stuart (see last two entries). The similarity of dress in the two portraits of William and Samuel~ high neck cloth, ruffled shirt, waistcoat and overcoat, and hair pulled back with a ribbon …provides compelling indication that the two portraits were painted at about the same time. It may be speculated that these two men, the 'older gentleman and his younger cousin', flush with family/new-found wealth and co-partners in their shipping firm, commissioned Stuart to do their “likeness”. This signaled the ultimate in social and economic success. Appropriately, Samuel Meeker, being older and I speculate the head of the firm, commissioned a slightly more formal, expensive portrait (with accents of sky, drapery, and paperwork in his hand.)
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This room, in a five-bay, two-and-one-half-story stuccoed stone house with gable roof, built by Mr. Deshler in Germantown on the Schuylkill River in about 1777, was rented to President Washington during the yellow fever outbreaks in Philadelphia.
Here you can see how a portrait was typically hung in this time period. The portrait of Isaac Franks (1759-1822) (above fireplace mantel) is by Gilbert Stuart.

From Lawrence Park:

Colonel Isaac Franks
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart Germantown 1802

Isaac Franks was a son of Moses and Sarah Franks of New York City, and served under Washington during the whole of the Revolution, during which he received several wounds. After the peace of 1783 he filled various civil commissions. In 1782 he married Mary Davison of Philadelphia, and lived in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and at the time of his death was prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Philadelphia. About 1805 he removed to Ephrata, and about 1815 to Philadelphia. It was to Franks' house in Germantown that Washington retired from Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic.

It can be easily speculated that Samuel Meeker and others from the family retired to their country villa on the banks of the Schuylkill River. This villa was called "Fountain Green." More on that later!

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3 comments:

einbildungskraft said...

Small note of interest pertaining to the Deshler house, by my colleague David, he writes;
Beth - you have to stop enticing me with all this information featured so eloquently and, yes, completely on your site. Yes - it is all featured! (Ach!! Iche freue mich! Beth)

Now to your most recent entry - the portrait in the David Deshler home - believe it or not - the cousin to Catherine Wister Miles. David's father - also named David married the sister of Catherine's father John Wister - and when he, David, Jr. came to America, he went to work in his uncle's (John Wister) firm.
(It is unclear to me whether Deshler is the cousin, or Isaac Franks, maybe David can comment to this question. the editor :-)

Maureen said...

Curiouser and curiouser.

emikk said...

I don't know about this painting!

 
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