The following sketch was written by Edwin Arnold Machen, William Henry’s nephew, in August of 1941.
William Henry Machen, artist, musician, linguist, architect, and naturalist, was born in Arnhem, Holland, on the Rhine, on February 10, 1832. He was the eldest son of civil engineer Augustine Ulysses Machen, a native of France, and Agatha (Kuyck) Machen, of Holland.
He sailed for America with his parents, four younger brothers, and two sisters in 1847. On the voyage, his sisters died of scarlet fever. They were buried at sea.
On arrival in the United States, the family went to Cleveland where they stayed for several months. Early in 1848, in the quest of farmland, his father and he journeyed to Toledo on horseback where they inspected two pieces of property which had been recommended; one piece being the land between Cherry Street and Monroe Street from Summit Street to the Maumee River, which appealed to the father from an investment standpoint. However, his sixteen year old son reminded him that it was not as suitable for farming purposes as the other piece located between what is now Collingwood Boulevard and Fulton Street from Bancroft Street to Central Avenue. The latter property was purchased, and in the spring of 1848, the Machen family came to Toledo and settled on this land.
Machen’s education had begun very early in life. When he was eight years old, he was already being tutored in Dutch, French, and German, and in the advanced grades he had added English and Latin. In art, he had had a private tutor and had also studied art at school. He had accomplished much in sketching and drawing by the age of ten. His father was a man of considerable talents, consequently he acquired much practical knowledge from him.
Devoting his spare time to the development of his natural talent for painting in oils, he was accustomed to stroll the fields and woods observing nature in the vicinity of his home on Collingwood (where the State Theatre now stands). After hunting grouse, woodcock, quail, pheasant or other wild game, he would bring them to his studio, hang them on the wall, and reproduce them on canvas. His amazing capacity for detail made these subjects most lifelike. One of Machen’s landscapes, entitled “Deep in June,” depicts a beautiful view of old Ten Mile Creek at what is now Central Avenue. The masses of foliage and the trees in full leaf vividly indicate the season. The old wooden bridge, from which the artist’s sons are lazily fishing, and the cows in the distance standing in the stream, give a feeling of serenity that is most soothing. This painting would be a credit to an “old master.”
In 1852, at the age of twenty, he painted a picture of Toledo from what is now Cherry and Superior Streets. Looking west from St. Francis de Sales Church, he put on canvas a panorama of what is now the heart of the business district. In the foreground is a pasture in which are seen cows, pigs, and chickens. In the background are the homes and out-buildings of many of the leading citizens.
In 1854, at the age of twenty-two, artist Machen was honored with medals by the Ohio State Board of Agriculture for his outstanding work in oils and watercolors. Many of his still-life game pieces are treasured by old Toledo families. In addition to his landscapes and game pieces, Machen painted many portraits. His lifesize canvas of Peter Navarre, the famous guide and scout, has been viewed by thousands. Another large canvas showing Fort Industry is owned by the Western Reserve Historical Society of Cleveland. In the ante-room off the main lobby of the Elks Club in Toledo, there is a massive marine scene that is most forceful in the artist’s masterful interpretation of color: the roaring sea and the breaking clouds after a storm. Other paintings that mark artist Machen as outstanding are the fourteen large, impressive stations of “The Way of the Cross” now hanging in St. Francis de Sales Church at Cherry and Superior Streets, well worth a visit to that venerable structure.
This church was where he directed the choir and played the organ for thirty-five years, for he was from his youth an accomplished musician. He composed masses and many pieces of sacred music — solos, duets, and quartets.
On February 2nd, 1861, Machen married Mary Ann Short, of Buffalo, New York, daughter of Patrick Short, who was a close friend of Grover Cleveland, and Mary (Clark) Short. They had ten children: seven boys and three girls.
Machen’s knowledge of architecture enabled him to compete in the national prize contest for the design for an Illinois monument to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. His sketch and blueprints, which were “Copyrighted August 18, 1865” and “Patented November 7, 1865,” were considered by the judges as highly meritorious, and it was said that had he been a member of the political party in power at the time, his design would have been accepted.
In 1880, he moved his family to Detroit where he was a teacher of art and painting at Detroit College and Sacred Heart Convent at Grosse Point. In 1894, they went to Washington, D.C., where he continued his painting, doing many portraits of prominent personages, including the late Cardinal Gibbons and Sir George Williams, of London, England, the founder of the international YMCA.
Being gifted in language, his ability as interpreter and translator was in demand. In this connection, at the age of 67, he was the official interpreter during the international Postal Congress, held in Washington in 1899. This post he secured after a stiff Civil Service examination which included English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish. His rating was almost perfect for all except the Spanish, on which he received a mark of 85 — he had only begun to study Spanish six weeks before the examination!
Accounting in large measure for Machen’s acquisition of knowledge was his unswerving power of mental application, according to his son, Dr. Francis S. Machen, of Washington, D.C., who says he was startled at times by his father’s grasp of scientific terminology. “He knew the derivation of medical terms from his keen knowledge of Latin and Greek … When he worked on a subject, of whatever nature, he completely disregarded the time of day or night until his work was finished. This power of concentration was one of his most extraordinary characteristics. No amount of research was too much or too arduous for him,” declares Dr. Machen.
As a tribute to his father, Dr. Machen writes:
“With all his comprehensive knowledge he had no pride of intellect. He was intellectually honest — a man of simple life and faith, guileless and above all a humble man. The great ones of life, I think, are humble. Real humility, it has been well said, values nothing as it does the truth. ‘He that keepeth understanding shalt find good.’
He was always a man of action, either of mind or hand or both. He always believed that if a man is to be an unerring prophet of successful things to come in his life work, his heart and soul must ever be aflame with a burning desire and steadfast purpose, despite hardships and distractions, to perfectly achieve difficult objectives. Otherwise, failing to realize these things, a man will feel, in large measure, unhopefully alone, even in a crowded world, in aimless and impotent seeking — his efforts proving to be only partial and incomplete.
Father must have early developed a personal asset of being able to enlist all his energies and talents in the firm prosecution of any endeavor he wished to make. It was a sort of religion with him — a perfect symbol of the scholar. Adding to that his superb power to observe, compare, and analyze is the logical explanation, I believe, of his surpassing achievements. He was his own university.”
William Henry Machen died in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 1911. His remains were brought to Toledo where they lie beside his wife in the family lot in Calvary Cemetery.
Additional notes by Cliff McCarthy
In his painting, W. H. Machen was undoubtedly influenced by his mother’s brother, G. Buitendijk Kuyk, who was an artist in Holland.
Family legend says that William Henry Machen met Mary Ann Short at a church bazaar white she was visiting her sister, Mrs. Katherine (Short) Crennan, who lived on Erie Street in Toledo.
William Henry, and his brother August F. Machen, performed in concerts for the Toledo Musical Association, in July of 1850. William Henry, only eighteen years old, played the ‘cello, while his younger brother played the violin. Apparently W.H. was fondest of Chopin, which he could play by ear.
In June 1854, his paintings were a feature of a Toledo Horticultural Society exhibit. The Toledo Blade reported: “Not only are there in the collection a very large number of native birds (more than most of us have ever suspected were to be found in this vicinity) but some of them are now painted and brought to the public notice for the first time by this young artist and naturalist.”
William Henry won a Silver Cup for his collection of animal paintings at the Lucas County Fair in 1854.
William Henry Machen was a curator of the Toledo Academy of Natural History in 1860.
Two items in the Toledo Blade in November of 1860, mentioned William Machen. The first concerned the near destruction of St. Vincent’s Orphanage on Cherry Street. In a letter, the Sisters of Charity offered this item:
“We take this occasion to acknowledge the special obligation we are under to those gentlemen whose prompt assistance on the night of the fire, to whom we are indebted for the preservation of the Asylum. Our chief preservers on this occasion were Mr. Dunlap, Mr. France, and Mr. W. Machen. Their laborious exertions arrested the progress of the flames which threatened to involve our dwelling, too.”
The next week, the following item appeared:
“We understand that Wm. Machen, the artist of this city, was in the Clarendon Hotel at Buffalo when it was burning. He had a narrow chance for his life, but happily escaped, though in rather a classically abbreviated costume.”
In 1910, William and Mary owned a home on 13th Street in Washington, D.C., where they, five of their children, and a black servant named Nancy Jordan lived. Their son, Francis, was attending medical school at the time.
Children of William Henry & Mary Anne (Short) MACHEN
WILLIAM HENRY MACHEN was born on 10 February 1832 in Arnhem, Holland. He died on 19 June 1911 in Washington, DC. He married MARY ANNE SHORT on 4 February 1861 in St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Buffalo, NY, daughter of Patrick SHORT and Mary CLARK. She was born in May 1841 in New York State. She died on 14 November 1914 in Washington, DC. William Henry MACHEN and Mary Anne SHORT had the following children:
i. AUGUST WILLIAM CONSTANTINE MACHEN was born on 10 November 1861 in Toledo, Lucas Co., OH. He died on 5 July 1919 in at home, 1102 Euclid St., Washington, DC. He married ANNA LOUISE “NAN” BAUMGARTNER about 1888, daughter of John Joseph BAUMGARTNER and Margaret Ann HAYDEN. She was born on 10 August 1863 in Westminster, Carroll Co., MD. She died on 13 August 1946 in 5116 Second St., Washington, DC.
ii. MARY AGATHA MACHEN was born on 6 February 1863 in Toledo, Lucas Co., Ohio. She died on 17 September 1900 in Washington, DC.
iii. CONSTANCE HENRIETTA MACHEN was born on 10 February 1864 in Toledo, Lucas Co., OH. She died on 24 February 1877 in Toledo, Lucas Co., OH.
iv. JOHN JOSEPH MACHEN was born on 2 September 1865 in Ohio. He died on 12 May 1924 in General Hospital, Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., OH.
v. WILLIAM ARNOLD MACHEN was born on 18 December 1866 in Ohio.
vi. ARTHUR MARY MACHEN was born on 22 April 1869 in Ohio.
vii. THERESA JOSEPHINE MACHEN was born on 2 December 1870 in Ohio. She died on 26 March 1961 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., CA. She married JAMES ALBERT PHILIPPS SR. on 21 August 1902, son of Henry PHILIPPS and Emma SEEGER. He was born on 11 April 1879 in Ohio. He died on 23 April 1957 in Los Angeles, CA.
viii. FRANCIS DE SALES STANISLAUS MACHEN was born on 18 December 1873 in Toledo, Lucas Co., OH. He died on 25 December 1956 in Washington Sanitarium, Takoma Park, MD. He married (1) HARRIET MCKEENE SLEMAN on 20 October 1904, daughter of John Bottiell SLEMAN and Mary E. She was born on 8 June 1880 in Hyattsville, MD. She died on 14 May 1931 in Washington Sanitarium & Hospital, Takoma Park, MD. He married (2) CATHERINE ETTER on 22 June 1932 in Baltimore, MD. She was born on 1 September 1888 in Washington, DC. She died on 27 August 1968 in Washington, DC.
ix. CHARLES HENRY ALOYSIUS MACHEN was born in May 1876 in Ohio. He died after 1948.
- 1850 U.S. Census for A. U. Machan (Washington Township, Lucas Co., OH).
- 1850 U.S. Census for Patrick Short (Ward 1, Buffalo, Erie Co., NY).
- 1855 New York State Census for Patrick Short (Ward #2, Buffalo, Erie Co., NY).
- 1860 U.S. Census for Patrick Short (2nd Ward, Buffalo, Erie Co., NY).
- 1860 U.S. Census for W. H. Machen (Washington, Lucas Co., OH).
- 1870 U.S. Census for William Machen (7th Ward, Toledo, OH).
- 1880 U.S. Census for William H. Machen (7th Ward, Precinct B, Toledo, Lucas Co., OH).
- 1900 U.S. Census for William H. Machen (E.D. #13, Washington, DC).
- 1910 U.S. Census for William H. Machen (Washington, DC).
- “A Sketch of William Henry Machen,” manuscript by Edwin Arnold Machen, Toledo, Ohio, August 1941.
- “Centenary of Machen Arrival Here Occasions Biography of William”, Catholic Chronicle, 7 May 1949.
- “City’s Youthful Days,” Toldeo Blade, 5 April 1969.
- “Toledo of Yesteryear,” Courier & Monroe Ad-Venture, 29 February 1972.
- “A Checklist of the Collection, Second Edition Revised,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, September 1977.
- California Death Index, 1940-1997 (as published at Ancestry.com, 10 July 2002), for Theresa Philipps, d. 1961.
- Correspondence of Henry Machen, of Basle, Switzerland to Mrs. Dr. Francis Machen, (dated June 11, 1966), copy provided by Charles Philipps of Greenbrae, CA.
- Death Notice for William Henry Machen, Washington Post, 20 June 1911
- Detroit Michigan Directory (as published online at http://www.Ancestry.com, dated 24 April 2000).
- Downes, Ralph C., “Conquest: Lucas County Historical Series, Vol. 1” (Maumee Valley Historical Society, 1968).
- Falk, Peter Hastings, ed., Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975, Vol. II, Sound View Press, Madison, CT, 1999.
- Machen, Edwin A. and Randolph C. Downes, “William Henry Machen: Pioneer Local Colorist,” Northwest Ohio Quarterly, Vol. XX, No.2, (April 1948) plus “Addenda,” November 1949.
- Notes on William Henry Machen, in possession of James F. Machen.
- Stafford, Dorothy, “The Men Who Made Toledo: William Henry Machen’s Many Talents,” Toledo Blade, 1 July 1951
- Toledo Blade, 7 November 1860.
- Toledo Blade, 15 November 1860.
- William’s Toledo Directory: City Guide and Business Mirror, 1860.