December 15, 2010
Lizzie’s Christmas Cards
Hopedale in December
No. 169, The Branded Hand, ended with the question of whether Emily Gay’s sister married Jonathan Walker. It now
looks even more unlikely that she did, after seeing the census records turned up by John Butcher.
Elizabeth Bullock Humphrey
The Humphreys were one of the most prominent families of the Hopedale Community. In Anna Thwing Field’s article
on abolitionism in Hopedale, she wrote the following about a family of escaped slaves. “In the opposite house, a man,
woman, and two children, all black, dwelt one winter in the cellar kitchen and one summer in the attic. The oldest girl
went to school and learned to read and write.” Based on the description of the location of the house, it’s very likely that
it was the Humphrey home. An 1870 map shows the house located on Hopedale Street, south of the library, where
Hope Street used to connect to the Hope Street bridge.
Lizzie Humphrey, our real artist, received here her first preparation for the career in which she won distinction. Dear
Lizzie, loveliest of girls, and always our Queen of the May. Ellen Patrick, Hopedale Reminiscences.
Daughter of William H. and Almira (Brown) Humphrey of Barrington and Cumberland, R.I. Born May 13, 1841 in
Millbury, Massachusetts, the only one of the five Humphrey children who lived beyond infancy. Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey
came to Hopedale May 1, 1849 and soon after their arrival became members of Hopedale Community whose
principals they upheld to the end of their days. Adin Ballou said of the Humphreys, “This family belongs among our
most exemplary people.”
The following brief statement about Elizabeth Humphrey is loosely quoted from a biographical sketch by Mary J.
Jacques who lived in Hopedale and was a close friend of the Humphrey family
When the time came to decide what she (Elizabeth) would do with a life that she was resolved should be lived to
some purpose, a natural facility with the pencil gave a rational basis to her choice of art as her vocation.
After a course of study at Cooper Institute, New York, she established herself in Boston, determined to devote her
future efforts mainly to design for illustration. However, this plan was altered by the award of Second and Third prizes
at the exhibition of Christmas card designs in 1881 and the large popular vote for the Boston Card in 1884, and she
turned to original Christmas card design exclusively, a field in which she was highly successful. Incidentally, Miss
Humphrey used village children very often as models. For example, in the Boston Card, already referred to, the little
girl was modeled by Annie Knight, the boy by Arthur Draper and the young lady by Marjorie Humphrey, adopted
daughter of the Humphreys. The O’Connell children, of whom our Mrs. Kent was one, were also favorite models. (My
guess is that Mrs. Kent was Nellie Kent, who for many years in the mid-twentieth century was the Hopedale reporter for
the Milford Daily News.)
Frail health made a winter visit advisable to a milder climate than that of New England, but the hoped-for results were
not realized. Elizabeth Humphrey died in Hamilton, Bermuda, April 3, 1890; in another month she would have been
forty-nine years old. Her grave with those of her father and mother is in Hopedale Village Cemetery.
There was no author’s name on this, other than the mention of Mary J. Jacques as the source, but it was probably
written by Rachel Day, who in another page in the same folder at the Bancroft Library, listed the people in a portrait
painted by Elizabeth Humphrey. Click here to see a few examples of Elizabeth’s work. Below is another brief
biography, found online.
Illustrator and landscapist, Elizabeth B. Humphrey was born on May 13, 1841, in Millbury, Massachusetts, growing up
there until 1849, when the family moved to Hopedale, Massachusetts. She painted well-regarded New England
landscapes, and made popular drawings of children. But she was best known for her association with the Louis
Prang Company of Boston, for whom she produced chromolithographs, illustrations and Christmas card designs.
These best-selling cards won awards in 1881, 1882, and 1884. http://www.askart.com/AskART/artists/biography.
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Click here to see more of
Elizabeth Humphrey's work.
The Humphrey house on Hopedale Street