Edwin Austin Abbey

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey was born April 1, 1852, at 315 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA, and died August 1, 1911, at Chelsea Lodge, London, England, at age 71. He is the son of William Maxwell Abbey of New York City, NY, and Margery Ann Kiple of Buckingham Twp., Bucks Co., PA.

Mary Gertrude Mead was born March 15, 1851, in Torquay, Devonshire, England, and died June 20, 1931, in Brent, England, at age 80. She was the daughter of Frederick Mead of New York and Unknown of Unknown.

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey and Mary Gertrude Mead were married April 22, 1890, at the home of her father, No. 1 West 56th Street, New York City, NY.

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey and Mary Gertrude (Mead) Abbey had no children.


Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey was born April 1, 1852, at 315 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Mary Gertrude Mead was born March 15, 1851, in Torquay, Devonshire, England.

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey and Mary Gertrude Mead were married April 22, 1890, at the home of her father, No. 1 West 56th Street, New York City, NY.

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey died August 1, 1911, at Chelsea Lodge, London, England, at age 71.

Mary Gertrude (Mead) Abbey died June 20, 1931, in Brent, England, at age 80.

Edwin Austin "Ned" Abbey (1852 - 1911)

Father: William Maxwell Abbey (b. March 8, 1826, in New York City, NY d. 1897)
Mother: Margery Ann Kiple
Wife: Mary Gertrude Mead (painter, b. 1851, m. 1890, d. 1931)

Grandfather: Roswell Abbe (1789 - 1858) came from Amherst MA. and did not settle in Philadelphia until 1831.

Great Grandfather: Samuel Abbe (August 17, 1759, in Chatham, Middlesex Co., CT - 1841) was from Chatham, CT. 

GG Grandfather: Samuel Abbe: 1726 - 1806 in Chatham, CT

GGG Grandfather: Benjamin Abbe: June 4, 1694, in Salem, MA - 1765 in Middleton, CT

GGGG Grandfather: Samuel Abbe (1646 in Wenham, MA

and GGGG Grandmother, Mary Knowlton



1852-1868 Aged 1-16

Roswell Abbey (Abbey's Paternal Grandfather) William Maxwell Abbey Huguenot Descent Abbey's Maternal Ancestors A Wiltshire Family Black and White at Two Years Old Schools in Philadelphia First Instruction in Art "Oliver Optic's" Our Boys and Girls Will H. Low and his Boy Colleague.

EDWIN AUSTIN ABBEY was born at 315 Race Street, Philadelphia, on April 1st, 1852. The house still stands, but it has been altered within. His father, William Maxwell Abbey (1826-1897), was a Philadelphian of English and French extraction, who, after engaging in various forms of business, had settled down to brokerage and commission agency. He was the fifth child of Roswell Abbey (1789-1858), a typefounder, who spent much of his spare time on the invention of new mechanism not only for printing but for larger engineering purposes. Roswell Abbey was the first to apply electrotyping to the production of the matrices used in type-founding, and he devoted years in an attempt to perfect an engine driven by compressed gas an explosion during one of his experiments causing the injury that led to his death. From Roswell Abbey, beyond doubt, came much of his grandson Edwin's practical adaptivity and his swift, decisive manipulative gifts. Writing of his grandfather in later life Abbey, who admired him immensely, says that he was an unworldly man, a constant dupe of the crafty, and that he left a fine library.

Roswell Abbey, a New Englander by birth, came from Amherst, Massachusetts, and did not settle in Philadelphia, where he was greatly respected, until 1831, to leave it again only for two years, in 1844-46. His father, Samuel Abbey (1755 or 1760-1841), was from Chatham, Connecticut, but also had associations with Philadelphia, for he served there for awhile in Captain Coach's Company of Colonel Burr Bradley 's Battalion of the Connecticut Line. On retiring from the army Samuel Abbey settled first at Amherst , Massachusetts, then at Canandaigua, N.Y., and finally at Milo, Yates County, N.Y.


Farther back than this Samuel Abbey we cannot go, with any certainty, on the paternal side; but it was believed in the family that his right name was Abbaye, which he had changed to Abbey , and that he was descended from Huguenot emigres who came to America from England. Abbey the artist, the subject of the present book, while proud of this French strain, from time to time was interested in efforts that were made to link up his family also with Abbeys in England; but he could arrive at nothing very definite. Among his papers l find correspondence on the subject, and a copy of the will of William de Abbey, citizen of York, which was drawn upon July 15th, 1334.

So much for the paternal line. Abbey's mother was Margery Ann Kiple (born November i yth , 1825, in Buckingham, died April 15th, 1880), daughter of Jacob Kiple(1800-1889), of Buckingham, Buck Co., Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Kiple or Kypel (d . 1824) , who in turn was the son of a Jacob Kypel (d. 1797), of Freiburg, Baden.
This, the earliest member of the Kiple family of whom anything is known, emigrated from Germany to America in 1760, and settled in Hunterdon, New Jersey. Jacob Kiple married, on January 3rd, 1823, Jane Clancy, who was born in Chester Co., Pennsylvania, on July 2nd, 1802, and died in Philadelphia on January 17th, 1889. She
was the daughter of John Clancy and Margery Ferguson, both of Irish descent.*

Margery Ann Kiple was married to William Maxwell Abbey in 1848, and they had three children: Edwin Austin, born, as I have stated, April 1st, 1852; William Burling, born December 17th, 1854, and Jane Kiple, born April 16th, 1858. Of these only the last, who became a confirmed invalid, survives. William Burling Abbey died in 1917, only a few months after his only son, Edwin Austin Abbey the second, named after his uncle, was killed at the battle of Vimy Ridge in France, where he is buried. Although an American, he had enlisted with the Canadian forces in October, 1915, long before America joined in, and was gazetted a Lieutenant.*

* " My grandmother " (Mr. J. E. Kelly thus quotes a remark made to him by Abbey) " was one of the young girls who greeted Washington and strewed flowers in his path when he journeyed to New York to be inaugurated as first President." As this was in 1787, Abbey must have meant great-grandmother, but we cannot know which one (Was indicated, maternal or paternal.


On his mother's side Abbey was remotely of German and Irish descent. Any failure to derive his father's family from England was made good by the unequivocal English blood of his paternal grandmother's line. This lady, the wife of Roswell Abbey, was Elizabeth Truslow (1790-1863)^6 daughter of John Truslow ,of Durham, Connecticut, whose family hailed from Avebury in Wiltshire. In Abbey's veins, therefore, ran English, French, German, and Irish blood.

Almost immediately after Edwin or Ned, as he was called all his life by those with whom he was most intimate was born, the family moved to Ellicott's Mill, Maryland, where Mr. Abbey had heard of a business opening; but they were back in Philadelphia after a year. They lived then at 609 North 5th Street, a house which, the street having been since renumbered, must now be sought at either 971 or 973; and afterwards moved into 816 North 6th Street, where they remained for some three years. Later there was another move, to 321 Vine Street, and in 1865 to 830 North 6th Street, Abbey's last and longest Philadelphian home, and the house from which, as we shall see, he set forth to earn his living in New York.

A letter to him, in 1901, from a lady who remembered him as a very small child and wished, in his later triumphant days, to felicitate with him on his success, tells of very early artistic efforts. "If I also were an artist," she wrote, "I would draw you a picture of a two-year-old baby sitting in a high chair with pencil and paper, drawing omnibuses. On the opposite side of the room a lady embroidering; close beside the baby a little girl attentively watching the baby artist, ever ready to obey the demand of 'More paper, Emma, 'and to hunt and sharpen lost pencils. The baby was your self, the lady was your mother, and the little girl was I." To delineate omnibuses at two is to exceed the precocity even of that other Philadelphian painter (who was to become not only R. A. but P. R. A.), Benjamin West, who, it will be remembered, as a small boy did not wait for the attentions of any Emma, but himself pulled hair from the cat's tail to make a brush.

*In 1918 a collection of letters written by E. A. Abbey the second, to his parents, from camp and from the Flanders and French fronts, was published by the Houghton Mifflin Co., under the title : An American Soldier.


The only other incident of Abbey's childhood that I can recover is one of which he himself used often to tell. Having contracted a habit of dealing more daintily with his food than his mother thought well for a little boy, he was admonished by her, before accompanying her on a visit to some relatives , to remember his manners, and in
their house, at any rate, on no account to pick and choose. Nor did he. A glass of milk being given him with, all unknown to the giver, a large fly struggling in it, he was for postponing the refreshment; but on a nudge from his mother, who also had not seen what her son was only too conscious of, he dutifully drank it down , fly and all.

The first school which Abbey and his brother attended was at the south-east corner of Green and Dillwyn Streets , kept by Mrs. Elizabeth Hall. That was between 1859, when Ned was seven, and 1862. The two boys then moved on to the Randolph and the Jefferson, two of Philadelphia's public schools, and in 1864 to Henry Gregory's at 1108 Harbel Street. Gregory, who afterwards became Vice-President of Girard College, was assisted by his son, till lately a Professor at the University of Leipsic; by De BennevilleK. Ludwig, who became principal of the Rittenhouse Academy; and by the late Gerald F. Dale, who died as a missionary in India.

In a letter written in 1907 to Mr. G. H. Putnam, in relation to some misleading statements which had found their way into print, and to which we shall come later, Abbey wrote thus of these early days: "My mother was a very well-read woman, who, early in my life, as long as my memory goes back , did what she could to develop and guide my tastes primarily my literary tastes. She carefully preserved my childish essays in drawing, but this predilection of mine amounted to nothing until I was fifteen or sixteen years of age. My father, who was then engaged in an agency for yellow pine tim









Abbey, Edwin Austin
Born: April 1, 1852, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: August 1, 1911, in London, England
Vocations: Illustrator, Painter
Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County; Harrisburg, Dauphin County

Keywords: American Society of Architects; The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania; Boston Public Library; Harper’s Weekly; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; The Quest for the Holy Grail; Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne; Royal Academy in London; Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour; University of Pennsylvania

Abstract: Edwin Austin Abbey was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1852. By the age of 14, he started to study art and shortly thereafter attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1870 Harper’s Weekly employed him as an illustrator. He was eventually commissioned to paint murals for the rotunda in the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. These murals include The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, Reading of the Declaration of Independence, and Penn’s Treaty with the Indians. Abbey completed the murals in 1908 and died in 1911 in London, England.


Born Edwin Austin Abbey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 1, 1852, to William Maxwell Abbey and Margery Ann Abbey, Edwin quickly became learned in art. At the early age of 14 he started to study under a fellow Philadelphian, Isaac L. Williams, as a portrait and landscape painter. He studied there for two years before getting an apprentice draftsman position, as per the wishes of his father, with the publishing firm Van Ingen & Snyder. At the same time he took night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, his first formal arts school; this also turned out to be his last.

At the age of 19 (1870), Abbey had his first drawing published in Harper’s Weekly, titled The Puritans’ First Thanksgiving. Shortly thereafter he was hired by Harper & Brothers publishing company based out of New York City as an illustrator. By 1878, he had fallen into the graces of those in charge of Harper’s and was sent to England to research Robert Herrick’s poetry in order to compose illustrations for them. While there, he spent time in Stratford-on-Avon where he gained an appreciation for Shakespeare, something that would prove to be beneficial later in his career. For the next several years Abbey toured Europe studying different styles of painting.

Throughout the rest of his career, Abbey would spend time traveling back and forth between his house in England and New York, where he had ties to the Harper’s Publishing Company. In 1883 he was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour, an honor he would not have received without studying in Europe. In 1885, Abbey exhibited his first drawing at the Royal Academy in London. Two years later Abbey started to illustrate the comedies of Shakespeare for Harper’s. In 1889 Abbey won a first class medal from the Paris Exhibition for his drawings from Old Songs. By 1892, Abbey started to travel, gathering research for what could be considered his most important works, The Quest for the Holy Grail Murals in Boston. In order to do this, he traveled all over Germany. Abbey was able to complete the first half of The Quest by 1895, the same year he was elected as an honorary member of American Society of Architects and as an Associate of the Royal Water Colour Society.

In the next few years Abbey exhibited many of his works from his Shakespeare series in the Royal Academy. Also during this time, he was awarded the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Gold Medal of Honor for his distinguished career. In 1901 the second half of The Quest is completed and installed in the Boston Library. The following year he was awarded an honorary LL.D. by The University of Pennsylvania, as well as being appointed the official court painter of the King’s coronation in Westminster Abbey by Edward VII. Abbey also accepted a commission to decorate the new capitol building for Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, this same year. The decorations were displayed in London prior to being installed in the rotunda in Harrisburg in 1908. Three years later, in 1911, after several months of sickness, Abbey succumbed to illness in London. He died on August 1, 1911, at the age of 59.

Abbey’s murals in the Capitol Building in Harrisburg show different aspects of life that are important to the state, including steelworkers, The Declaration of Independence, and many historical figures. These include historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, William Penn, and Daniel Boone.

Abbey was first known for his illustrations, although he was a prominent water color painter as well. His most notable illustrations were for the Shakespearean plays that were included in Harper’s Weekly. He later used his illustrations as inspiration for his water color paintings such as May Day Morning. His illustrations for the Shakespearean comedies also poured over into his works with oil. Several of his paintings came from this, the most known being Hamlet, The Queen in Hamlet, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne.


  1. The Quest for the Holy Grail (1901)

  2. Dirge of the Three Queens (1895)

  3. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne (1896)

  4. Hamlet Play Scene (1897)

  5. Near Easthampson (1878)

  6. The Round Table of King Arthur (1891-1895)

  7. The Oath of Knighthood (1891-1895)

  8. The Queen in Hamlet

  9. Anne Hutchinson on Trial (no exact date ? late 1800’s)

  10. Appearing in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, (all murals were hung in 1908 unless noted below)

  11. The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania

  12. Reading of the Declaration of Independence

  13. Penn’s Treaty with the Indians

  14. The Camp of the American Army at Valley Forge (1911, completed by apprentice after his death)

  15. Passage of the Hours

  16. Men at an Anvil


  1. Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911). New Haven: Carl Purington Rollins Office of the Yale University Printing Service, 1973.

  2. Lucas, E.V. Edwin Austin Abbey: Royal Academician. Vol. 1 & 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

  3. Waring, Courtney M. “?The Quest for the Holy Grail’ Murals by Edwin Austin Abbey.” Diss. Penn State U, 1999. University Park.

  4. Walace, Natasha. “John Singer Sergeant’s Edwin Austin Abbey.” John Singer Sergeant’s Virtual Gallery. 11 Jan. 2005. 8 Feb. 2006. <http://www.jssgallery.org/Paintings/Mugs/Edwin_Austin_Abbey.htm>.

For More Information:

On the murals in the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, please visit the Pennsylvania State Legislature’s website on the murals at: <http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/VC/visitor_info/brown/apotheosis.htm>.

This biography was prepared by Matthew Ashton, Spring 2006