Benjamin Thaw (1859-1933) belonged to one of Pittsburgh’s great steel families. He was a son of William Thaw and Eliza Burd Blair Thaw. Thaw fancied himself as a “capitalist”, as that is how he was listed in the 1930 census. In 1886 he married Elma Ellsworth Dows (1861-1931) and had five children, Rev. Stephen D Thaw, Benjamin Thaw Jr, another William Thaw, 2nd, and another Alexander Blair Thaw, 2nd, and Henrietta (see below). They lived at 5010 Morewood Place, Pittsburgh. Thaw Sr. built the mansion at the turn of the century for what at the time was the very sizeable sum of $135,000. It was a three-and-a-half storey building of grey brick with load bearing walls two feet thick with 20 rooms and eight baths along with a six car garage. They had a cottage, Beachmound, at Newport, RI for the summer and a house at 854 Fifth Avenue, New York that in 1891 had been remodeled by the firm of Lamb & Rich.
According to a newspaper cutting in the artist’s papers dated January 21, 1905, and marked ‘Pittsburgh’ and ‘on my way to Chicago’ by the artist, Muller-Ury was to paint this lady as soon as sittings could be arranged. Could this be the Mrs B. Thaw whom Edward Fowles recorded in Memories of Duveen Brothers (London, 1976) in 1913 as having been sold a painting by Fra Angelico?
Mrs Thaw was also painted with one of her sons by Frank W. Benson in 1900.
Their daughter Henrietta (1891-1942) may have had a picture from the artist, for there is a letter written from Morewood Place, Pittsburgh, dated February 13, 1915, in the artist’s papers which appears relevant to a second commission, which was probably not of the writer of the letter :
My dear Mr. Muller-Ury,
Just a line to tell you again of my appreciation for all you have done.
If it is perfectly convenient for you, I hope the picture will be here in time for the wedding.
I am looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday. I wish I could tell you how sincerely I appreciate your great talent and kindness.
Very sincerely, Henrietta Thaw.’
Henrietta Thaw (born April 19th 1891, died January 1st, 1942) married Lawrence Slade (1891-1942) of New York in 1915 apparently at Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee. He was the Paris representative of the Equitable Trust Company. Muller-Ury was listed in the Pittsburgh Press, Tuesday, February 16th, 1915 (as ‘Ury Muller’) amongst the guests at the Presbyterian wedding (along with inter alia social secretary Maria de Barril) at Moreton Place that afternoon at 4pm, having arrived from New York with 50 guests by train in four private coaches and given lunch at the Hotel Schenley. They eventually had five children: Elma, Prescott, Virginia, Lawrence and Sylvia.