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Lot 399: 1889 Benjamin Harrison's Wife + Family Cabinet Card Very Scarce
29 October 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
1889 Benjamin Harrison's Wife & Family Cabinet Card
1889-Dated, Cabinet Card entitled, "Four Generations.", A Group Photograph of President Benjamin Harrison's Wife and Family, by Charles Parker, Washington, D.C., Extremely Fine.
This scarce original, gilt edged 6.5" x 4.25" Cabinet Card shows President Benjamin Harrison's wife, and her family. Text below image reads: "Mrs. Benj. Harrison, Baby McKee (Master Benj. Harrison McKee), Mrs. R.B. McKee, Mary L. McKee and Rev. Dr. Scott (in his 90th year). Four Generations. This Picture was taken in the White House." "PARKER" and "WASHINGTON, D.C." are printed at bottom. "Copyright 1889 by Chas Parker." printed in lower right corner of photo. Back stamp reads, "Charles Parker Photographer. 477 Penn Ave. Washington D.C.". Very scarce.
Benjamin Harrison's father-in-law, John Witherspoon Scott, bore a double title: "reverend doctor." Scott (pictured) was born in Pennsylvania in 1800, did post-graduate work at Yale and took a professorship in mathematics and science at Miami University, in Ohio. He was also a Presbyterian minister and an outspoken abolitionist.
The reverend doctor was rumored to have shielded runaway slaves in his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Whatever the truth, Miami University dismissed him for his anti-slavery beliefs.
He accepted a post at Farmer's College, a prep school in Cincinnati, where he became a mentor of a student named Benjamin Harrison. During his visits to the Scott home, Harrison became friendly with the reverend doctor's daughter, Caroline.
Young Harrison spent so many evenings at the Scotts' home that he got the nickname "the pious moonlight dude," according to The Complete Book of the Presidents by William A. DeGregorio. He and Caroline were married in 1853 at the bride's house. The reverend doctor officiated.
John Witherspoon Scott later became a clerk in the pension office of the interior department. He gave up the position when Harrison was elected president in 1888. A widower since 1876, Scott moved into the White House with his daughter and their family.
It was the president's custom to lead the family in a half-hour of Bible reading and prayer after breakfast, Anne Chieko Moore and Hester Anne Hale wrote in Benjamin Harrison: Centennial President. When the president was absent, his father-in-law took his place.
Caroline Harrison died in October 1892, two weeks before her husband lost the presidential election.
Her father died the next month, at age 92. An obituary described John Witherspoon Scott as "a man of wonderful physical vigor, tall, broad chested and well preserved mentally.