Friday, October 28, 2011

Cornelia A. Brownlee (1887-1968)

Update (Oct. 13, 2013)
Cornelia Arnold Brownlee was born in February 1887 in Princeton, Indiana. According to public records, her father, Charles R. Brownlee, married Sallie G. Hall on June 18, 1874, in Gibson County, Indiana. By the time of the 1880 census, Brownlee was apparently a widower and living with his mother-in-law, Catherine Hall, and her daughter, Mariah Hall. Charles Brownlee also had his two children, Paul S. and Theresa Brownlee, with him. According to an anonymous commenter (see the comments below), Brownlee married Mariah or Maria Hall, and from that marriage, Cornelia Arnold Brownlee was born. Evidently, Charles Brownlee's second wife died young, for on November 14, 1889, again in Gibson County, he married Charlotte Lockhart.

Cornelia Brownlee graduated from Princeton High School in the class of January 1905. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied under John H. Vanderpoel. Cornelia also studied with Dudley Crafts Watson (1885-1972) and his sketching class in Paris and in Europe, and she studied under a fellowship with the American Girl's Club in Paris. By 1920 she was in New York City. She married Waldo C. Walker on August 27 of that year. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, and a veteran of the Army Signal Corps during World War I, Walker was a newspaperman and a writer of short stories. He later became circulation manager of the New York Times.

Cornelia Brownlee provided illustrations for Designer (Feb. 1921), Woman's Home Companion (Feb. 1924, Mar. 1927), and Collier's (July 23, 1927). Unfortunately I don't have any images to show. By the 1930 census she was living in Manhattan with her husband and still working as an artist. Nineteen forty found her in Putnam County, New York, above New York City. Waldo C. Walker died on September 8, 1961, in Carmel, New York. His wife survived him by nearly seven years. She died in Fairhope, Alabama, on February 25, 1968, at age eighty or eighty-one.

Notes: Cornelia Arnold Brownlee Walker should not be confused with Cornelia Brownlee (ca. 1879-1933) of Marion, Indiana. That Cornelia was a music teacher.

Thanks to the anonymous commenters below for their information.

Original Article
The case of Cornelia Brownlee presents a mystery. There were at least two Indiana-born women--near contemporaries--who shared that name. One Cornelia Brownlee was born in 1887 in Princteon, Indiana, daughter of Charles and Charlotte Brownlee. She graduated from Princeton High School in 1905 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under the renowned teacher John H. Vanderpoel. She also went to Europe with Dudley Crafts Watson and under a fellowship from the American Girl's Club in Paris. In 1910, she was living in Princeton and employed as an artist. By the early 1920s, Cornelia was working as an illustrator for magazines such as Collier's, Designer, and Woman's Home Companion.

The other Cornelia Brownlee was born in Indiana in about 1879, perhaps in Marion. Her parents were John Q. and Frances Brownlee. She studied at the Strassburger Conservatory of Music in St. Louis and under W.H. Slierwood in Chicago and Rafael Joseffy in New York. In 1900, she was enumerated in the census while living in Crowley, Louisiana, and teaching music. This Cornelia Brownlee appears to have toured on the Chautauqua circuit during the 1910s. She was also head of the Illinois Wesleyan University music department from 1918 until an unknown date. From 1926 until 1933, Cornelia Brownlee taught music at LaGrange Female College in LaGrange, Georgia. On the night of November 15, 1933, she was traveling to Atlanta with some students when the car in which she was riding was involved in an accident. Cornelia Brownlee was thrown from the vehicle and killed. Seven students were injured. Her body was sent to her sister, Catherine W. (Mrs. William) Boynton, in Alton, Illinois.

I have also found a record for a Cornelia Brownlee who married Waldo C. Walker, a circulation manager for the New York Times. He passed away in 1961. Cornelia Brownlee Walker died in Alabama in 1968. The mystery remains. It's evident that Cornelia Brownlee the illustrator and Cornelia Brownlee the music teacher were two different women. But was Cornelia Brownlee the illustrator the same woman who married Waldo C. Walker? A second mystery: where is Cornelia Brownlee's art? I haven't been able to find any images of her work. I hope someone can offer a solution to the mystery.

Thanks to Jacqueline Hornsby, LaGrange College, and Clark Johnson, Troup County Historian, for information on Cornelia Brownlee.

Copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Cornelia Arnold Brownlee was married to Waldo C. Walker and the daughter of Charles Brownlee and Sallie ( Hall ) Brownlee. Cornelia was my great grandfather's niece. The Brownlee family bible is at the Princeton, IN. library. There is a lady in Alabama that has some of Cornelia's art. You can email me at

    Thank You

  2. Maria T. Hall was her mother. Sallie Hall was Maria's sister and married Charles after Maria died.