Public Art and Family History
My great-great-grandfather Tom Kellogg was an inventor, industrialist, and market manipulator who built his fortune in public art that has supported subsequent generations. His son Daniel was a hardworking man who continued to build on his father’s fortunes expanding the Kellogg business empire of public art. Daniel never knew his mother, who left when he was young, and he received little care from his stepmother. Great grandfather Daniel Kellogg was fifteen and a month old when he met great grandmother Pearl Amanda at an orchard in Hartford, Connecticut. She was working in the kitchen that fed the seasonal apple pickers and teamsters. Great grandfather was a teamster hauling apples from the orchards to the railhead in Hartford, Connecticut. Kellogg was a great artist, and he owned a library where he did most of his drawings and engravings. He also owned a wagon, and a team of people assisted him to haul chestnut tree barks from which he carried out much of his arts and engravings. My great grandmother and great grandfather Kellogg got married in 1890 in Hartford, Connecticut, and began their own art business in the town.
In 1920, when grandmother Rose Kellogg died, my mother was with her. Grandmother was 45 years old, had a cut on her leg that would not heal, and she suffered from gangrene in the wound, which caused her death. My grandfather John Kellogg raised his remaining ten younger children with the help of his neighbors. On September 28, 1922, my dad’s father John Kellogg was killed in a train and truck crash. My paternal grandfather and another man died instantly. The Kellogg family was famously known for its involvement in art and carving of major incidents in their family. My great grandfather based on paternal grandfather Daniel Kellogg, who lived between 1820s and 1890s, was motivated by the desire to create an image purely out of memory that could be thought of as defining our family history in a foundational way, an image that I could point to say, “This is where I came from”. The collection and assembly of family arts and architectural materials starting with my own were a process that fuelled the creation of more and more public arts and the gradual creation of a family. This process had some difficulties, as did the process of assembling family stories for the third and fourth generation.
The father of my great grandfather had established his public art in Hartford, Connecticut, between the 1820s and 1850s. The Kellogg family lithographic business entered into selling and producing popular prints when the new style in American decorative arts and architecture was Gothic Revival. It should be noted that from the 1830s through the 1850s, battlemented towers, pointed arches, diamond-paned windows, tracery, stone buttress, trefoils, quatrefoils and other medieval conceits decorated every conceivable aspect of the man-made environment. Gothic Revival style was considered specifically well suited to country cottages of the middle class and suburban villas for the wealthy, as well as for churches of many denominations. Elements of the style were also applied to public and industrial buildings.
It is not surprising that the entire family lineage up to the third generation of Kelloggs incorporated Gothic elements into their prints and engravings, which would have been viewed and displayed in the context of this prevailing style. As the neighborhoods were engaged in the new business of transforming art into a commercial product, it was essential for the family of Kellogg to be perceived as current and fashionable, and their adoption of Gothic style as a means of positioning themselves in the vanguard of correct taste.
A comparison between the pictorial prints published by the Kellogg family business and those of their competitors reveals that the lithographers of Hartford, Connecticut, were even more enamored of the Gothicism than their Boston or New York counterparts did. In conservative Boston, the classical mode retained a stronghold, and printmakers tended to confine their output to straightforward depictions of people, places, and events in addition to the usual job printing. Kellogg adopted the convention of inserting a Gothic Church in the background of mourning prints to introduce a Christian element into the classically inspired composition of a willow tree and memorial pitcher.
The great grandfather David Kellogg took over from his father to run the family firm. He frequently inserted Gothic cottages into the landscape backgrounds of their prints and used Gothic architectural elements as framing devices for a variety of subjects. At the same time, my grandfather’s brothers Harrison and Fletcher were surrounded by the examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Hartford; and Harrison J. Kellogg was probably exposed to genuine medieval Gothic architecture as well as the English version of Gothic Revival during a trip to London in 1915. The Kelloggs promptly commissioned Austin to design their Gothic Villa on a gentle rise of land near Washington College. The house completed by September 1920 had a massive stone entry featuring a deeply recessed arched doorway and battlements on the roof. The main block of the house had an open arcade along the front, similar to the arrangement of slender columns and arches that marked the entrance to the Wadsworth Athenaeum.
Some details of the Kellogg house echo an illustration in Chester, one of the earliest American pattern books to include specimens of the Gothic style. In addition to architectural plates and representations of actual buildings, the enthusiasm for the medieval subject matter was manifested in the Kellogg prints of literacy subjects. Urban middle-class households were a natural market for the Kellogg print publishing business and many of their images celebrating the feminine sphere incorporate elements of the fashionable gothic style.
The firm established by my great grandfather Daniel Kellogg was successful because Daniel and his parents were attuned to the marketplace and served the needs of the print-buying public. This phenomenon is particularly apparent in their publication of family registers, family trees, and memorial prints to record genealogical information. For my great grandfather, the preservation of personal family history is not solely a phenomenon of our own times, and the Kelloggs seized upon the opportunity to publish and sell public art that proved to be both useful and ornamental.
In addition to preserving genealogical information useful for images of family life and mourning customs, these images contain some of the richest and subtlest iconography of any Kellogg prints. Moreover, the manuscript information reveals the use of these forms in towns far away from Hartford, Connecticut, where they were printed suggesting the spread of the firm’s output across the United States. These documents fascinate us for multiple reasons and provide a unique lens through which to view my family history.
Traditionally, genealogical information about a family was maintained in the family Bible. Indeed, the data on my great grandfather Kellogg is saved in the family Bible at the Connecticut State Library. In the late eighteenth century, in New England, amateur draftsmen began to preserve such documentation artistically on separate sheets of paper; as professional engravers, they even began to provide decorated forms for use by regional audiences. Richard Brunton of Connecticut was one of the first to engrave decorative registers, multiple examples of which are in the Connecticut Historical Society’s collection.
The Brunton’s images included the four seasons on some examples and allegorical figures such as Faith, Hope, Charity, and Peace on the others as lithography supplanted engraving for most commercial and pictorial purposes. One of the first family registers issued by Kellogg in the 1850s is based on a design by the Boston artist Henry Williams (1787-1830), which was earlier engraved both by William B. Annin in Boston and by Peter Maverick in Newark, probably in the late 1820s. Since my great grandfather Kellogg received his early training in Boston in the 1820s, he may have encountered the design there. However, Nathaniel Currier in New York also published a Family register with similar iconography.
As the different versions of this design suggest, many of the genealogical forms have their own line of descent, which is interesting to trace from the history of the families that owned them. This family register features the allegorical figures of Charity and Hope, which also appear at the time of membership certificates for Masonic organizations. For most of their family registers, the Kelloggs used a format featuring four columns for names, birth dates, marriages, and death. The various stages of life are presented in small vignettes above the four columns. Commonly, the vignettes above the columns feature a family walking, a mother with a child, a scene of a wedding, and a scene of a mourning figure beside a funerary monument.
The concept of the stages of life as distinct phases of the journey from the cradle to the grave was well known in the 19th century and would have been familiar to the Kelloggs and their customers. The Kelloggs public arts were published in at least five forms in this columnar style with variations in the framing devices and imagery. My great grandfather altered the iconography in one family register by depicting the allegorical figure of Hope rather than the grieving mother and child standing beside the monument in the graveyard. In other cases, variations were introduced in the framing devices and in the number and placement of the vignettes. A register published by Kelloggs & Comstock between 1848 and 1850 features eight vignettes; in addition to the four scenes of family life at the top favored by Kellogg, four scenes at the bottom show a house, a mill, a factory in a rural setting, and a church with a graveyard. With its eight detailed little pictures and its exuberant vine borders, this is one of the most elaborate family registers published in the 1840s or 1850s. The vignettes on this particular form were not replicated in the works of other lithographers, although at the same time that the Kelloggs were producing these forms in Hartford, similar forms were being published in New York by both Nathaniel Currier and his competitor James Baillie.
The final public art produced by the Kellogg firm is one of the few genealogical forms with a copyright statement, suggesting that the composition was original and that Kellogg wanted to prevent it from being copied by another publisher. Six large vignettes surrounded a central vertical space for listing births, marriages, and deaths. The upper section was framed by scenes entitled infancy and childhood. The lowest section in the latest public art where deaths are to be listed was framed by two vignettes entitled passing away and finis, showing respectively a candle guttering out on a table framed by a curtain waiting to close and a graveyard with the sun setting over the distant hills. In this type of public art, a butterfly, symbolizing the soul, lands on the nearest gravestone; apparently, the same butterfly was pursued by the children in childhood. During the thirty years that the Kellogg family firm published family registers, the iconography had become more complex, the drawing style more complicated, and the depictions of family life more elegant, reflecting changes in social life and customs.
The use of a tree with a sturdy trunk and many branches provided an effective format for the presentation of genealogical information. The name of the earliest known ancestor appeared on the trunk, with stylized branches presenting information on subsequent generations. Such family trees presented many generations in the design. Numbers on the various blank spaces were linked to a key explaining how to fill out the form. Families sometimes commissioned a lithographer to produce a family tree for distribution to members.
Memorial prints were among the earliest prints issued by Kellogg and his family firm. The simplest form featured a funerary urn on a columnar plinth framed by two young weeping willows, set in a landscape with a river flowing in the middle ground, with a church on its far bank and a ridge of hills in the distance. Laura Mills suggests that the willow tree appears in such prints because the power of the branches to regenerate after being cut is emblematic of the resurrection of Christ. The sailboats on the rivers refer to the soul’s voyage to heaven, while the church establishes religion as life’s indispensable guide. These elements appear in numerous memorial prints. Kellogg published two versions of this simple composition during the 1830s. The fact that the print was issued twice within such a short period suggests that it must have gained considerable popularity.
A related public art composition features a large urn on a square plinth with a woman leaning on the monument covering part of her face with her hand. The backgrounds of the two prints are similar to a river with a church visible on the far shore. The same composition also appears in an anonymous wood engraving at Yale University’s art Gallery and a lithograph published about 1830 by William Pendleton in Boston. Virtually, the same monument and willow trees appear in the three other arts issued by the family. One of the three in a vertical format features a single woman mourner, as in the earlier print, but her costume is more elaborate and the foreground and background are more richly detailed. The other two prints feature three people, a man, and two women, to the right of the monument. Although the compositions are very similar, in one of the prints the man looks straight out of the picture frame toward the viewer; the gazes of the two women are focused on the monument.
The draftsmanship is naive and amateurish, especially in the delineation of the figures and the lollypop trees in the background, but it has a certain folk art charm. In the other print, the draftsmanship is far more sophisticated and assured. The women’s pose is virtually the same, but the man has turned to face them, and postures elegantly, with a hint perhaps of classical contrapposto. The little church in the background has been replaced by an elegant country house. Clearly, the two prints are the work of different draftsmen, one vastly more skilled than the other is. Three of the most interesting Kellogg memorial prints feature monuments designed by James G. Batterson, whose stonecutting business, the New England Granite Company, was located on Main Street in Hartford, not far from the Kelloggs’ shop. The monuments designed by Batterson appear in three copyrighted prints, suggesting that he wanted to protect his designs and, possibly, that he commissioned the print. Because they are copyrighted, all three prints can be securely dated.
The first two, published in 1848, include a print featuring a simple Gothic monument with a single man at the left and a striking design showing a tall monument with a woman and two children beside it. The depiction of different combinations of men and women with or without children suggests that the firm was designing prints for very specific family situations. Arts showing a single man or woman might be used to commemorate a spouse or a parent. Prints with a young couple might record the death of a child. An important and often-overlooked aspect of these prints is the inscriptions; aside from their obvious genealogical significance, they also reveal a great deal about the people who bought and used Kellogg prints and demonstrate that these prints reached a truly national market. Like family registers, public arts can also provide fascinating insights into the lives of their owners and subjects.
Western migration is also documented in many of the Kellogg family registers in the Ohio State Historical Society and the Western Reserve Historical Society. By publishing a vast array of genealogical forms over more than three decades, the Kelloggs served the yearning of new American families to preserve their history. The images on the forms themselves reveal a great deal about nineteenth-century life in terms of dress and custom, and the allegorical figures suggest a fairly high level of education and knowledge among at least some of the purchasers. The inscriptions that the purchasers added to the Kelloggs’ blank forms clearly demonstrate that the Kellogg prints were used well beyond communities in Boston and that their owners played an active part in the USA public art.
In a broader context, my family history is a study of the evolution of a Native American family, which dedicated most of its time to public art and architecture. The Kellogg family history depicts extended support of the community and clan of single parents of the past to the present, adrift without any safety nets. Family history provides me with a greater sense of self-identity. When we know where we come from, we will have a fuller understanding of who we are. I must admit that some twenty years ago when I began to seriously embark on the study of my family’s history, I was experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. The vast majority of Kellogg prints depict the family’s commitment to growing the generational business since the early 1815s. As previously noted, lithographic interpretations seem to have been drawn largely from detailed records that have been preserved by the family from one generation to another. It is important to mention that when Kelloggs established their lithography business, the United States of America was a nation with one eye cast eastward on the Atlantic world and the other contemplating the seemingly limitless potential of western lands. The public art produced by the Kelloggs depicts that the history of the USA was closely linked to the sea from the age of exploration through European settlement.