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Bogie’s Mother, part 1

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Humphrey painting

One year, thanks to the popularity of drawings like this, Maud Humphrey earned more than $50,000 in income while her husband, a surgeon, made $20,000.

The cover of this year’s guide for the Holiday Tour of Homes features artwork by Maud Humphrey who, in the late Nineteenth Century, lived briefly at #5 Greenwood Street. An excellent artist, her work is often overshadowed by the fact that her son was movie actor Humphrey Bogart. Someone has traced a genealogy of mother and son that reaches back, purportedly, as far as England’s King Edward III (1312-1377).

Maud was born on March 30, 1868. Some records claim she was born in 1865. The confusion may come from the fact that her son put that earlier date on her death certificate and it shows up on her columbarium in Hollywood’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. The two were never very close so he may have been unsure just when she was born. The 1870 census lists her age as 2, which supports the later date.

Maud’s parents were John Perkins Humphrey and Frances Dewey Churchill. Both families were very prominent in Rochester at that time, especially in the First Ward where Churchills and Humphreys are concentrated on North Washington Street near Main. When Maud was born, her parents were living at #11; her father’s parents, Harvey and Elizabeth (Rogers Perkins) Humphrey, were at #7; her mother’s parents, Henry and Sarah (Dewey) Churchill lived at #3.

Harvey Humphrey was a lawyer and Monroe County judge who maintained an office on Buffalo Street (now West Main) with his son George Harvey Humphrey who lived on Atkinson Street. Judge Humphrey had graduated from Hamilton College where he subsequently taught for ten years. He was an original member of an intellectual society known as The Pundit’s Club, which originated in the Third Ward in 1854. It seems fitting therefore that the judge, well versed in Greek and Latin, reportedly read a chapter from a Greek language Bible the night before he died on May 1, 1877.

Henry Churchill and his wife Sarah, both born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, moved to Rochester in 1840. Henry was involved in a tanning business before becoming a partner in the Jesse W. Hatch shoe company. When Hatch withdrew, the business became Churchill & Co. Before long, it was earning $1,000,000 in annual revenues while employing more than 600 workers.

Maud’s father John P. Humphrey was part owner of a successful company that sold stoves. An uncle created a used bookstore on Spring Street that became iconic in Rochester well into the Twentieth Century. Clearly Maud was born into an ambitious and wealthy family.

At an early age, she showed an inclination for art and received instruction from a local minister, James Hogarth Dennis, rector of St. James’ Church on Gorham Street. Rev. Dennis had once studied at the National Academy of Design. By the time Maud was a teenager, she was already illustrating children’s books and magazines.

During these years, her mother’s parents moved onto Livingston Place (a.k.a. Livingston Park) in the Third Ward. In 1883, Sarah and Henry Churchill moved into #3 Greenwood Street. The following year, when the city renumbered many Rochester homes, their address changed to #5, the number that remains to this day. They invited their daughter’s family to live with them. That is how Maud became a member of our neighborhood for one year, two at the most, until in 1885, she left for Manhattan to study at The Art Students League of New York. An exceptional school, it continues to this day boasting such alumni as Georgia O’Keefe, Mark Rothko and Louise Nevelson.

Maud went on to Paris and studied at the Académie Julian where one of her instructors was an American named James Abbott McNeill Whistler. His most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, is more commonly known as “Whistler’s Mother.”

Returning to America, Maud discovered that very few people would hire a woman to paint their portraits. They were more receptive to her painting their children. Before long, Maud Humphrey’s images of happy, bright-eyed, well-dressed children appeared in countless publications. She was on her way to becoming one of the most successful illustrators in America.

In 1898, she married surgeon Belmont Deforest Bogart. On Christmas Day, 1899, Humphrey Bogart was born. Two daughters would complete the family but those children would never know the joy depicted in Maud’s canvas creations.

Next: Was Humphrey Bogart the model for the Gerber baby?