America’s Sketch Artists
Part 6 of 6
Elizabeth O’Neill Verner
Liz Verner was likely one of the most traveled and best educated artists of her era. As a graduate student she spent time in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. As a post-graduate student, she studied at the Ursuline Academy in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Central School of Fine Arts in London, England.
Born on December 21, 1883, her mother often teased that Elizabeth was an early Christmas present. That may have been but being born in that era was a factor in life that made it possible for Elizabeth O’Neill to enjoy great success.
The economic panic of 1873 is nearly forgotten today, but it was a serious time when the currencies in Europe and North America lost nearly half of their values. The panic developed in September 1873 and lasted unabated into 1877. The most distressing part of the panic was the agonizingly slow recovery that took nearly two decades.
As the economy reached a reasonable state at which investitures became reliable, the healthy dollar made it possible for Elizabeth to study in her chosen field. So, by age 22 in 1905 she had passed through more than a dozen European capitals and had worked as a resident in two American cities. In later years she worked is such places as Williamsburg, Virginia, New York, Savannah (GA), Fayetteville (NC), West Point (NY), and Princeton (NJ).
Elizabeth O’Neill married Ebenezer Pettigrew Verner in 1908. They had a daughter and a son. Mr. Verner was an analytical chemist in partnership with Francis L. Parker, Jr. at Parker Laboratory in Charleston. (Have you ever had an ultrasound? Parker Laboratory is the company that makes the gel that eases the discomfort of that procedure.) Verner died in August 1925 at age 43.
Elizabeth Verner lived 54 years beyond her husband. She lived most of those years in Charleston, where she was much involved in projects centered around historical restoration and preservation. She managed to publish at least six books of her drawings and illustration.
One of Verner’s most successful series were the images she created at Mount Vernon, Virginia in 1930. In this very rare circumstance Mrs. Verner held a copyright on the images, but in a special agreement the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Auxiliary held an identical copyright on the postcards. The successive copyrights in 1931 and 1932 began a long list of Auxiliary sponsored cards (Some of which you will read about in future issues of Postcard History.) The card titles are: The West Front, Mount Vernon, Va.; The Palladian Window, Mount Vernon, Va.; The Coach House Gate, Mount Vernon, Va.; The Barn, Mount Vernon, Va.; The Wall of the Vegetable Garden, Mount Vernon, Va.; The Piazza at Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, Va.; Nelly Curtis School House, Mount Vernon, Va.; and The Tomb of General Washington, Mount Vernon, Va.
Other series of cards from specific locations are: 40 images in at least 100 iterations of Charleston, South Carolina; two images in Walterboro, South Carolina; one image from Cambridge, Massachusetts; four images at Ipswich, Massachusetts and two images from Brevard, North Carolina.
Additional images include four from Fayetteville, North Carolina; one at Arlington, Virginia; and 14 images in New York.
The Verner postcards that show her artwork were published by Albertype Company in Brooklyn, New York. The vast majority are sepia tones on a dark cream paper stock. The artwork was usually done in black or brown inks and infrequently softened by gouache. Each image was copyrighted.
Mrs. Verner died in Charleston, South Carolina, at the home of her daughter in April 1979. She was 95 years old.
This concludes Postcard History’s look at sketch artist postcards. If you have enjoyed the series please tell us by making a comment below.
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