By E. Richard McKinstry, Winterthur Library Director and Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian
Maud Humphrey is acknowledged to have been one of the finest artists and illustrators of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but to those who know of her and her life, she may be even more famous for the son she had.
Maud was born in 1868 in Rochester, New York. She demonstrated her artistic talents as a child and not even into her teens began to take art instruction from a local minister, James Dennis, who had studied at the National Academy of Design. During the early 1880s, Maud began illustrating children’s books and magazines, and in 1885, she went to New York City to continue her studies at the Art Students League. In time, she won a Louis Prang and Company competition for Christmas card design and began working for publisher F. A. Stokes as an illustrator. In 1891 she traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian.
By 1893 Maud had found her niche: she was known as a painter of children. By the turn of the century she had become one of the best paid and most successful commercial illustrators in America, frequently using boys and girls to populate her drawings. Through her illustrations, she helped sell such products as Ivory soap, Elgin watches, Mellin baby food, Sunshine stoves, and Crosman Brothers flower seeds.
She also illustrated books, including Mother Goose, Babes of the Year, Sleepy Time Stories, and Little Colonial Dame. Coincidentally, Mabel Humphrey Green, Maud’s younger sister, was an author of children’s books.
In 1898 Maud married Belmont Deforest Bogart, a physician, and together they lived in New York City. They had one son, Humphrey, born one year after their marriage, and two daughters, Frances and Catherine. Well off financially, in 1910, when they resided on West 103rd Street in New York City, they shared a house with three servants. Humphrey, an obstreperous child by all accounts, would of course eventually achieve fame as an award-winning actor on stage and screen.
Despite popular belief, Humphrey Bogart was not the model for the baby on the Gerber baby food label, and his mother did not draw it. Gerber did not market baby food until the late 1920s, when Bogie was around 30 years old.
Just as her son’s films remain iconic, Maud still enjoys notoriety for her accomplishments as an artist—as the accompanying illustrations from the Winterthur Library show.