Monday, October 20, 2014

Minnie Ellsworth Bartlett (1890-1963?)

October is the month for weekend drives to see leaves change to their autumn colors. Now, an artist who drew pictures of leaves.

Minnie Ellsworth Bartlett was born on June 29, 1890, in Seymour, Indiana. Her father, John E. Bartlett, was a sign painter. Minnie would carry on in that mix of art and business in her own working life. In 1907 he graduated from Shields High School in Seymour, an edifice surrounded by trees and once bordering a tract of forestland. From 1909 to 1911, she studied at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. Her instructors were Clifton Wheeler, Otto Stark, and William Forsyth. In her last year at Herron, Minnie landed a plum assignment providing 133 illustrations for the Eleventh Annual Report of the State Board of Forestry, 1911 (1912). Her drawings were of the trees of Indiana, a botanical key that proved to be the life's work of Charles C. Deam (1865-1953), a self-taught botanist and the first Indiana state forester. The Trees of Indiana was issued in book form in 1919. According to one source, Minnie Ellsworth Bartlett's drawings were used in that edition as well. I have the first revision of The Trees of Indiana from 1932. That book is illustrated with photographs.

Minnie Ellsworth Bartlett was listed as an artist in Indianapolis city directories for many years. Later she was employed as a stenographer and in other positions in business. I don't know her date or place of death, but I have found reference to an obituary for a Minnie Ellsworth, age seventy-three, in the Terre Haute Tribune, February 25, 1963, page 2. If anyone can find a copy of that obituary, I would very much like to see it.

Yellow-poplar is the tallest tree in the eastern United States, reaching heights of 200 feet or more in our pre-settlement forests. Indiana pioneers often built their cabins from poplar, which is naturally straight, easy to work, and resistant to termites. I have read of what was called a three-log cabin: three large-diameter yellow-poplar logs stacked one atop another to give plenty of head clearance inside. Also called tulip-poplar, tuliptree, or simply tulip, yellow-poplar is the state tree of Indiana. Its fall color is yellow. The springtime flowers are more colorful and very showy.

Sassafras is far more colorful in the fall, turning fiery orange and red. The fruits are also colorful. The stalk or peduncle is bright red, the fruit a strongly contrasting dark blue. The Latin name is now Sassafras albidum.

White ash, now in reduced numbers because of the emerald ash borer, is a common tree throughout Indiana and widely planted as an ornamental. The fruits are like little canoe paddles. Fall colors are extraordinary: an indescribable mix of purple, yellow, and crimson, all on the same tree at the same time but at different depths for a unique three-dimensional effect.

Sugar maple is the king of the fall forest in brilliant, almost luminous, yellow and orange hues. We are nearing peak season for autumn colors. Go out and see them before they are gone.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I just looked at the obituary from 1963 (Terre Haute Tribune). No real identifying information, nothing about art.

    1. Dear Monique,

      Thanks for checking that obituary. I followed your lead and found it, too. Like you say, there isn't anything to identify her as an artist. Also, she is referred to as Mrs. Minnie Bartlett. If she was a Mrs., she probably wasn't our artist. The Anonymous commenter below has found a different and more promising lead.

      Thanks for writing. Please feel free to keep checking the biographical and genealogical information I have posted on this blog. I strive to be as factually accurate as I can in everything I write.


  2. Terence i believe Minnie was a pseudo name used by Joan Ellsworth bartlett.. same birthday father city etc.. Joan E. Passed Dec 27 1977 (87).. I would like to know more about her if possible (I sent a email to hoosiercartoonist email)..