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Bogie’s Mother, part 2

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5 Greenwood Street, Rochester NY, Maud Humphrey's Home

For a year or two during her teenage years in the mid-1880s, Maud Humphrey lived at #5 Greenwood Street.

If you missed it, read Bogie’s Mother, part 1.

In the 1890s, Belmont DeForest Bogart courted the highly successful artist Maud Humphrey. The attraction was mutually intense and marriage seemed imminent. However, Maud was a feminist and an outspoken advocate of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony—too independent for Bogart’s taste. They broke up and seemed to go their separate ways.

Shortly after completing his medical degree at Columbia University, Bogart was on standing on the side of a street when a horse-drawn ambulance passed by. Something caused the wagon to topple. It landed on Dr. Bogart, severely fracturing one of his legs. The bone was poorly set and didn’t heal properly. It was re-broken and set again. Recovery was long and painful. Maud returned to nurse him through his convalescence. Because it would have been unseemly for her to stay with him around the clock without a chaperone, she determined that they should get married. The wedding took place on May 28, 1898. Both were thirty years old, although Belmont was nearing his 31st birthday.

The Bogart family was of Dutch origin. One ancestor was reportedly the first European to be born in what is now New York State. Belmont was born at Watkins Glen in July of 1867 to Adam Bogart and Julia A. Stiles. Tragedy marred his earliest years. An older brother, at the age of six, sped down a highly polished banister of a long, steep stairway, flew off it at the bottom and sustained fatal injuries when he hit the hard tile floor. Julia blamed Adam for their son’s death and, when she died a year later, her will assigned her one-year-old son to the care of a guardian and not to her husband. Adam challenged the will. After a two-year battle, he finally gained custody of young Belmont and the two of them moved to New York City. Adam pioneered the use of lithographic printing on tin advertising signs and, following his death in 1892, left his son a sizable inheritance.

Shortly before the birth of Belmont’s first child—the future actor Humphrey Bogart—he purchased a summer home, Willow Brook, on Canandaigua Lake. It was a large two-story “cottage” on 55 acres of land. Years later, the actor recalled happy times on that lake where his father often took him sailing, a skill he learned quickly and enjoyed throughout his life.

Maud made sketches of her baby boy and one of them appeared in advertisements for Mellin Baby Food. Years later, those ads became the basis for a story that mistakenly claimed the actor was the model for the Gerber baby.

Maud delivered two more babies, both girls, but she and her husband were never deeply involved as parents, leaving childcare for the most part to servants. Insisting the children call her Maud and never “mother,” she devoted long hours to her work, which incurred her son’s resentment.

She and Belmont both struggled with pain. Maud suffered from a painful skin condition known as erysipelas and had frequent migraine headaches. While recovering from his injuries following the accident, Dr. Bogart developed an addiction to morphine. Steady use apparently dulled his senses because Maud often criticized him for a growing ambivalence toward his medical practice. This was especially true when the Great Depression resulted in the loss of Belmont’s family fortune. By the time he died in 1935, the doctor had $10,000 in debts and $35,000 in uncollected fees.

Maud’s final years were not kind. No longer in demand at magazines that once filled their pages with her artwork, by age seventy, she was drawing sewing patterns for the Butterick Pattern Company. Her son invited her to move to Los Angeles and secured an apartment for her at the Chateau Marmont—home to many celebrities. Hesitant about making the move, she felt better when she found herself in the company of Laurence Olivier, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. She delighted in telling everyone that she was Humphrey Bogart’s mother.

After Maud died in 1940, her son revealed lingering resentment with two statements on her death certificate. First he recorded an incorrect birth date, making her three years older than she was. An even greater insult came several lines later. All her life, Maud Humphrey was a fiercely independent woman who provided major financial support for her family with her remarkable artistic talent. Humphrey Bogart listed her occupation as “housewife.”