Bogie’s Mother

~ By Jim DeVinney

Part 1

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.

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.

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.

Part 2

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.

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

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.”

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