BIRCH, Stephen

Present Whereabouts Unknown.


The sitter was born March 24, 1872, and died aged 68 on December 29, 1940 after abdominal surgery. He married Miss Mary Rand in Minneapolis on June 24, 1917 (she died of cancer in 1930) and had two children: Stephen Birch Jr. (died 1970) and Mary M. R. Birch. He was involved in the Burlington & Quincy Railway Company and with copper corporations.

Bibliography of sitter:

Elizabeth A. Tower, Ghosts of Kennecott: The Story of Stephen Birch, Anchorage, Alaska 1990.

Painted in New York in 1911. He was apparently red-headed. He lived in 1915 at 272 West 90th Street, New York City, and at Mahwah, New Jersey, at 110 Ramsey Street in 1918.  Birch had been a former tutor to the nine Havemeyer children, and was sent by the family to Columbia University, and in 1899 they financed a trip to Alaska where he developed a major find of copper; with the assistance of the Havemeyers, a Guggenheim and J. P. Morgan he formed the Kennecott Mining Company. Birch and his wife lived opposite the Havemeyer mansion in the Ramapo Valley in New Jersey, in a house built by them for their daughter Lillie, who had married daringly the overseer of the Havemeyer estate, John Mayer.  Lillie died of a gunshot wound in the mansion in 1900; her family said it was an accident.  In 1917 the Havemeyer family sold the house and 730 acres of their 1000 acre estate to Birch.  The estate was inherited by their son in 1940, but was inherited by the family of his sister Mary in 1970, and is now part of Ramapo College.

The sitter was a member with H.O. Havemeyer and Muller-Ury of a society called ‘The Knights of the Round Table.’

The following letter is dated May 11, 1911, and was written from 165, Broadway, New York, is in the artist’s papers:

‘Dear Mr. Ury:-

Have been out of town and have not had an opportunity to call on you in person to tell you how much my mother and sisters appreciate my portrait.

They had nothing but admiration for it, although my mother did say that it looked like me when I was good tempered. I’m afraid that is not the way I look when I am down town, hence the reason why Mr. Ralph joked about it. Mr. Steele said it was the finest he ever saw; there was so much life and it was an exact portrait.

                          Faithfully yours, Stephen Birch.’

His mother was Mrs. Stephen Birch (Miss Emily L. Marshall) and his sisters Emily M. Birch and Frances L. Birch.