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Francis Meredyth Whitehouse was a prominant architect in Chicago designing numerous buildings and estates now recognized as historical sites. His wife, Mary Armour is the daughter of grain industry magnet George Armour.

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Featured Artwork: Francis Meredyth & Mary Armour Whitehouse, Bookplate

Bookplate Provenance

RSW's initials from lower left
RSW's initials from lower left

The image of this bookplate was sent to us by the plate's engraver John Hudson Elwell's granddaughter. As she explains in her email (transcribed below) she found it in her grandfather's bookplate files. She did not locate the plate itself but also located a type-written list of bookplates by her grandfather and first on the list was Francis Meredyth Whitehouse. We do not know who was commissioned first RSW or Elwell and his granddaughter did not find any further information either.

Festival Hall, Chicago Fair, 1933
The shield with the latin phrase, "Fides Scutum"

It is also worth noting that the bookplate can also be found in the digital archives of the State of Illinios. There it is cited that Mary Armour gave the bookplate to the West Chicago Public Library in 1922. Both Elwell and Woodward are credited, however, RSW is incorrectly cited as being from Delaware.

To the left, is a close up the shield with the latin phrase, "Fides Scutum." Our research has found that it means, "Faith is my shield," although there was also rigorous debate as the gender of Fides.

Email from Barbara Ash, granddaughter of John Hudson Elwell:

Hello Dr. Mark,

I found a copy of the Meredyth bookplate In my grandfather's file of bookplates). I don't believe we have the original plate. I also found a typewritten list of bookplates by John Hudson Elwell, and the Meredyth plate was first on the list. So my best guess is that RSW may have provided an artist's drawing, and my grandfather etched the bookplate. Who knows!

I have few of the original bookplates on copper or steel. It was my understanding that these were given to the individual who commissioned the work from my grandfather. The plates I have in my possession are copper and steel plates of various scenes, cards, etc., such as the one I sent you. I don't believe my grandfather put his initials on bookplates he engraved for his clients. He didn't sign or initial the etchings. He did Christmas cards for many individuals and signed all of these. Sometimes he would add a bit of watercolor to the print. My mother remembered helping him do this when he had printed many cards.

My grandfather had an old engraving press in the basement of his house in Newton Highlands. I remember this from the early 1940s when we would visit. I often found him at his workbench working on a piece. He also worked for Brett Engraving and at one time for Bigelow Kenard (jewelers) in Boston. When we were planning my wedding in 1971, my Mom insisted that the wedding invitation be hand engraved--not machine engraved or printed.

She found an old place on Newbury Street in Boston that hand engraved invitations. It turned out the woman who ran the place was an apprentice under my grandfather. Small world.

I was told there was a collection of the Elwell plates that had been donated to some public library, but I have no idea where they are located. I thought you might be interested in seeing the Newton Highlands Historical Archive. It has a brief piece on my grandfather. Go to the: Newton Historical Archives

It is interesting to piece some of this information together. Hope to meet you soon.

Dr. Barbara Ash
Professor Human Resources,
Learning and Performance Programs
Suffolk University,
Boston, MA

Additional Notes

Francis Meredyth Whitehouse
Francis Meredyth Whitehouse

Francis Meredyth Whitehouse (1848 - 1938) is the son of John Henry Whitehouse the 2nd Episcopal Bishop of Illinois and was a prominant architect in Chicago designing numerous buildings and estates now recognized as historical sites. He studied architecture at the University of Gottingen, Germany and held the distinction of being junior partner too whom many consider one of Chicago's first professional architects Edward Burling. He design several historical sites, most notably the Samuel M. Nickerson house now the home to the Driehaus Museum and the Church of the Epiphany of Chicago, as well as many estates on Chicago's famed Lake Shore Drive.

Whitehouse is also noted as serving as member of the architectural board assigned to design the grounds used for the Chicago's 1893 World Fair. He is credited with the design of Festival Hall (seen below). He is also the architect of credit for Ulysses S. Grant's Monument in New York City.

Whitehouse married Mary Armour, the daughter of grain industry magnet George Armour. He is credited with transforming the global distribution process for commodities. He created the grain elevator system, establishing grain trading standards as director and president of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBT), Commercial Club of Chicago, Merchants' Loan & Trust Company (MLTC), and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts which later became the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Art Institute of Chicago.

Festival Hall, Chicago Fair, 1933
Festival Hall, Chicago World's Fair, 1933

In an article by Harry Elmore Hurd about John Hudson Elwell, RSW is referenced...

The Breeze May 1, 1931

"Who could not guess the fondness of Francis Meredyth and Mary Armour Whitehouse for nature, and for Manchester, by looking at the bookplate designed by Robert Strong Woodward and engraved by Mr. Elwell. It is a garden scene: beyond the evergreen trees and the fountain Manchester Bay glints through a casement doorway. The armorial embellishment is inscribed: 'fides scutum.'"

The reference to "Manchester" is referring to Manchester by the Sea (MA) where Francis and Mary refurbished the Cove Farm Estate and then built their own estate, Crowhurst, on its neighboring property. For all intent and purposes Whitehouse retired while still in his prime in 1893.

'Crowhurst' the Whitehouse estate in Manchester
"Crowhurst," the Whitehouse estate in Manchester
'Cove Farm,' the neighboring estate
"Cove Farm," the neighboring estate in Manchester