Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lispenard Stewart (1855-1927)

   This unusually named member of the New York State Senate was born on June 19, 1855 in Westchester County, New York, the son of Lispenard and Mary Rhinelander Rogers Stewart. Being a child born into wealth (one of his relatives was famed dry goods merchant and millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart), Lispenard Stewart received his education at private schools in New York City and later attended Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1876. After his tenure at Yale, Stewart began the study of law at the Columbia College Law School, receiving his law degree in 1878. Stewart is also recorded as being a lifelong bachelor, making him one of the few politicians profiled thus far to have never married.
   The name of Lispenard Stewart eventually grew to be a very prominent one in New York social circles during the late 19th century, and he was often named to various positions of the public trust. In 1885 he was named to the Committee of 100 important New York citizens to accompany President Ulysses Grant's body from his home in Saratoga, New York to its resting place in New York City. Stewart was also named to the Citizen's Committee that put together the celebration for the 100th anniversary of President Washington's inauguration in 1889.
  While still active in the social life of his native city, Lispenard Stewart was also acknowledged as a skilled politician. Periodicals on Mr. Stewart mention him as a staunch Republican, and for many years he was selected as a frequent delegate to New York Republican party conventions. In 1888 he was named as a Presidential Elector for New York, and attended the Republican National Convention in Chicago that nominated Benjamin Harrison for the Presidency.
   In the year following his service as Presidential Elector Stewart was nominated for a seat in the New York State Senate. He would win that election, and in that year (1889) became the only Republican State Senator elected in New York. During his Senate service, Stewart gained lasting notoriety by introducing the bill that created the Rapid Transit Commission for New York City. An excellent write up on Stewart's Senate tenure was given in the 1890 Annual Record of the Assemblymen and Senators from the City of New York, which notes that he: "is a man of large means, and spends most of his time attending to real estate matters, practicing law incidentally." Stewart's character is also attested to, with passing mention going to his opinions "being sought with respect", and that "already a useful member, Mr. Stewart could,  with greater independence, easily wield a weighty influence for good."
   Following his stint in the state senate Stewart continued to be very politically involved, serving again as a Republican National Convention delegate in 1896. He also was named to a seat on the New York State Commission of Prisons and would serve as its President from 1895-1902. A biography on Stewart (featured in the 1898 work Representative Men of New York, Volume II) states that he also enjoyed traveling and hunting, visiting countries such as Tunis, Russia, Mexico, and Egypt. The book further attests that "many heads of moose, elk, caribou, bear, manitou sheep and deer testify to his skill with a rifle."
   Stewart spent his final years engaged in business and charity endeavors, dying at age 72 on October 15, 1927. He was subsequently interred in a lavish mausoleum at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The rare portrait of him shown above was discovered in the earlier mentioned Representative Men of New York, Volume II. In addition to that portrait, another rare picture of this man appeared in an 1890 edition of the Frederick, Maryland News in an article about "eligible bachelors of New York." That picture has been provided below.

         This Lispenard Stewart obituary appeared in the Oct. 22, 1927 edition of the Newport Mercury.


  1. My uncle has a large oil portrait of Lispenard Stewart that he bought in NYC in 1966. It's lovely, but now that we're making an inventory of his estate it's not clear that any of my uncle's relatives are interested. I gather from your blog that Lispenard has no descendants but perhaps you or anyone reading this blog might know if any indirect descendants exist who might be interested? Or where I can find them? I'm not a genealogy buff so going that route would be a huge learning curve for me. Thanks for a fun blog!

    1. Hello! Seeing that Lispenard Stewart was unmarried and without children I really wouldn't have the foggiest idea as to where to start looking for relatives or possible descendants (though they would most likely be in the NYC area.) My first instinct would be to tell you that if none of your uncle's relatives are interested in keeping the painting, you may want to consider contacting the New York State Archives or Public Library for further information on the matter.
      I know that Stewart was a very prominent high society type in his day and I'm quite sure that a few historical societies in the NYC vacinity (as well as Newport, Rhode Island, a favorite vacation spot for him) would love to have it in their collections or archives, that is if you've ever considered donating it. I'd be interested in seeing this portrait myself, as the one print of him above is the only picture of him that I could find! During my research on him I did find mention of another painting of him (done by Thomas Cromwell Corner) that is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West, but sadly it isn't view-able online. I'm wondering if the same artist painted the portrait that your uncle purchased in 1966!
      That being said, I hope some of the above information helped, and I look forward to hearing back from you!

  2. Hi Unknow,
    I'm standing in front of Mr. Stewart's mausoleum at this very moment. Just read your comment after doing a quick search of his remarkable life. I'm in awe of him to say the least!
    How wonderful that you have his portrait.
    Please keep it for your pleasure. I know if I were the lucky owner, I would never want to let it go!
    Would it be possible to upload a photo of the portrait so that I might be able to see it?
    That would be a wonderful treat.

  3. I know that Green-Wood Cemetery, where Mr Lispenard Stewart is interred might be interested in obtaining the portrait. You can contact Mr. Jeff Richman, historian for Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Green-Wood is a National Historic Landmark and collects portraits and other memorabilia of its famous permanent residents. Mr Stewart's mausoleum is quite spectacular.;