"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Elijah Stansbury

This c. 1815 portrait of Elijah Stansbury by African American painter Joshua Johnson hangs in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore Maryland.
"In Pursuit of Glory

From his earliest Memories, Elijah Stansbury (1791-1883) wanted to be a soldier. As one of thirteen children of Elijah Stansbury, Sr., a large landholder in Harford County, Stansbury grew up knowing his father wanted him to be a farmer. Determined to make his own way, he refused his father's offer of substantial landholdings and apprenticed himself to his older brother, a Baltimore bricklayer. Stansbury arrived at a pivotal moment in Baltimore's history. The War of 1812 was just beginning and to a young man eager for soldiering no better opportunity could have arisen. Stansbury promptly enlisted in Captain John Montgomery's Baltimore Union Artillery as a private. Stansbury's military service was long remembered because he was one of the last surviving 'Defenders of Baltimore,' living to the remarkable age of ninety-two years.

After the war, Stansbury assumed his brother's business, expanding it to include dry goods and building supplies. Like other men who found success in the city, Stansbury wanted his portrait painted. For the job he chose artist Joshua Johnson who also lived in close proximity in Fells Point. Stansbury is depicted with a book and a sealed document, attesting to his position as an educated, suceessful gentleman of business. In fact, Stansbury went onto a career in public service, serving as the Mayor of Baltimore from 1848 to 1850. " -- Maryland Historical Society
Elijah Stansbury, Aged 90.
The Defenders of Baltimore, Harpers Weekly, Sept.  25 1880

The MD Archives gives this account of Elijah Stansbury's Mayoralty.
 "Elijah Stansbury was Mayor of Baltimore from November 13th, 1848, to November 11th, 1850.

Efforts at systematic street paving were made during this administration; the site of the House of Refuge (Maryland School for Boys), Gwynns Falls near Frederick Road, as previously authorized, was purchased; Union Square was completed; a cholera epidemic raged in 1849.

Sections of the Schroeder's Run were enclosed in a sewer and other drains were built in the beds of parts of Chatsworth (now Myrtle Avenue) and Centre Streets. Iron bridges were erected over Jones Falls at Centre Street, at Eastern Avenue and at Foundry (now Bath) Street; and a wooden bridge was placed over Harford Run at Madison Street.  Harford Run is now almost completely covered and many bridges over Jones Falls were abandoned when the conduits under the Fallsway were constructed.  A new Fish Market at Hanover Market was built during this administration.

Ordinances providing for the erection of the Maryland Institute building over Marsh Market (destroyed in the fire of 1904), and a new schoolhouse were passed. The opening of Caroline Street, from Gay Street to Point Lane (Lamont Avenue), and also part of the Ferry Point Road, near Ferry Bar, were authorized. Provision for ‘building a sewer over part of Harford Run (Central Avenue) was made.

During Mayor Stansbury's incumbency, agitation for the political separation of Baltimore City and Baltimore County developed, which separation was later (in Mayor Jerome's term) consummated by the adoption of the State Constitution in 1851.

Baltimore's population in 1850 was 169,054." -- Archives of Maryland

Stansbury's biography The Life and Times of Hon. Elijah Stansbury, an "Old Defender" and Ex-mayor of Baltimore by Archibald Hawkins features this photo of Stansbury, on which the Harper's engraving seems to be based.

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