Friday, June 24, 2005

Mystery Delaware Marine Artist

Alexander Charles Stuart 1831-1898 was an artist working in Wilmington, Delaware, who largely painted marine scenes. He is also a man of mystery. In 1956, a distinguished committee assembled about 100 of his paintings for a 10-day exhibit in the old John Wanamaker store. One of these paintings, titled S.S. Republic, is shown at the right. It was borrowed from the Brandywine Room of the Hotel du Pont.

Betty Burroughs and William P. Frank, members of the committee and beloved News-Journal reporters, researched a 16-page pamphlet for the exhibition. They admit that much of the biographical information is conjecture. I will summarize it below.

Stuart was born in Scotland and educated in both medicine and draftsmanship in Scotland and England. He joined the English navy and sailed the world as a seaman. Around 1861, he showed up in the U.S. and joined the Union Navy. He may have served on the ironclad Monitor in the engine room during its battle with the Merrimac. After the Civil War, he settled in Chester, Pennsylvania, married, and raised a large family. By the 1880s, he was working for shipbuilder Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington as a draftsman and artist. He illustrated a semi-centennial history of the company in 1886. Stuart is also listed as an artist with a local studio in Wilmington city directories, but his home was listed as Chester. In later years, the studio was used by Frank E. Schoonover and Stanley M. Arthurs. In the 1890s, he deserted Wilmington. One story has him practicing gynecology in Eustis, Florida. Just before his death in 1898, he was living with a daughter in Camden, New Jersey.

The exhibition booklet, simply titled Stuart (1831-1898), includes more information including two letters to his children by him. But here is additional information about him from several online indexes of artists —

"Stuart was a marine painter whose work is owned by Atwater Kent Museum,Phila.; Delaware Historical Society; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Mariner’s Museum; Mystic Seaport Museum; US Naval Academy; and the Museum of the City of Mobile, AL. In 1860 he was living in NYC with his wife Dora, a Texan, and their two children. He served in the US Navy from 1863 to 1866, then spent the rest of his life along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester and Wilmington, where he painted ship portraits. He worked for shipbuilders. He was known to be a heavy drinker, and an 1884 newspaper from Eustis, Florida even carried his advertisement as a gynecologist. He signed his worked simply Stuart and sometimes used a monogram of an anchor conjoined with an S. He is listed in Falk's Who Was Who in American Art."

This confirms the Burroughs and Frank biography but they never mentioned the drinking, either because of ignorance or delicacy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Sometimes collectors need to settle for a facsimile or reprint of a book, especially when the original is costly or hard to find. History and genealogy researchers are often quite satisfied with these substitutes.

One good source of reprints is Heritage Books, 65 East Main St., Westminster MD 21157-5026. They list about 12,500 reprinted books from many publishers of all states including Delaware. Several thousand were reprinted by Heritage. They were, for instance, the publishers of the latest reissue of Scharf's 1888 History of Delaware. It is now out of print and auction prices are approaching those of the original because it has a far superior index.

Heritage books and its subsidiary Willow Bend Books issue regular catalogs. However, you can see their stock at