DEPEW, Senator Chauncey M. (1893)

Three quarter portrait.

Present Whereabouts Unknown

The Journalist, New York, March 18, 1893
Mail & Express, New York, Wednesday evening, March 29, 1893 (line illustration)
Brooklyn Eagle, March 29, 1893
Times Union, Albany, March 29, 1893
New York Evening Sun, March 29, 1893
The New York Times, Thursday, March 30, 1893
The New York Daily Tribune, Thursday, March 30t, 1893
Express, Albany, March 30, 1893
New York Recorder, March 30, 1893
New Yorker Staats Zeitung, March 30, 1893

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The sitter was a United States Senator, President and Board Chairman of the New York Central Railroad, and notable Public Speaker. Son of Isaac Depew (d. 1869), shipowner and merchant, and Martha Mitchell Depew (d. 1872). Graduated Yale University in 1856, he was admitted to the bar in 1858. Served in the New York state legislature and elected New York’s secretary of state in 1863. Depew joined the New York Central Railroad in 1866 at the invitation of ‘Commodore’ Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), advancing to the presidency in 1885. In 1899, at the age of sixty-five, he embarked on a twelve-year tenure in the United States Senate, but, until the end of his life, remained Chairman of the Board of the New York Central. In 1871 Depew married Elsie A. Hegeman (died 1893), with whom he had one son, Chauncey M. Depew, Jr. (1872-1931). He married secondly May Palmer (d. 1940) in 1901; they had no children. A leading business and political figure Depew was considered the most distinguished public speaker in America; in 1886 he delivered the principal address at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty; six years later he was chosen to speak at the laying of the cornerstone of Grant’s Tomb; and, in 1892 he presented the dedicatory oration at the Chicago World’s Fair. At the age of ninety-one, in 1925, his annual birthday speech was broadcast on the radio. He was known of “the most recognized living American, with the exception of the President of the United States.” Depew died in St. Augustine, Florida, aged 94 on April 5, 1928 of bronchial pneumonia. He had signed his will on January 26, 1928, prior to his departure.

Bibliography of sitter:

William A. Eardley, Chronology and Ancestry of Chauncey M. Depew with Fifty-four affiliated families of New York, New Jersey and New England, Privately Printed, New York, 1918

Chauncey M. Depew, My Memories of Eighty Years, New York, 1924.

A three-quarter length portrait of Depew was presented to the New York State Capitol at Albany on March 28, 1893 according to the Mail and Express, New York, March 29, 1893, the reason being that it replaced ‘a small crayon many years ago, and looked inconspicuous and inadequate.’

The Journalist, New York, March 18, 1893 says that the picture donated in 1893 was that exhibited [at Knoedler’s] in 1891, but this cannot be correct for two reasons: the fact that the 1890 portrait was the property of Depew at the time and was exhibited at Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1897; and secondly that the line illustration, the only evidence we have for the look of the portrait, clearly shows Depew’s right hand raised, which in the 1890 portrait it is not.

What is known is that in 1900 when Depew asked Muller-Ury to paint a picture of him as he had looked in 1863 (see separate entry) this required the removal of this portrait of Depew by Muller-Ury at Albany.