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Where Marie H. Stewart lived from 1916-1952

And we aren’t talking an electronic tablet, either.

If you caught the story about the Lincoln tablet a few weeks ago, you already know that the tablet in question is typically attributed to Rudolf Schwarz. It was designed by Shortridge High School art student, Marie Stewart. But who was she? And why haven’t we heard of her? Most likely because she was a woman.

Marie Harrison Stewart was the eldest of three daughters born to dentist, Elmer Elliot Stewart and Alta Mae (Scoby) Stewart. Born in Eaton, Ohio on August 20, 1888, Marie was raised primarily in Richmond and Indianapolis, Indiana, and showed a clear aptitude for art at a young age. It continued to be her passion throughout her life, and all evidence of her existence is related to her love and lifetime devotion to art.

She started entering contests as a teenager. The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune held an art contest in January 1902, while the Stewart family still lived in Richmond, Indiana. Marie won first prize for her entry.

After the family relocated to the Indianapolis suburb of Irvington, at 86 North Ritter, it was January 1904 when Miss Stewart won first prize in an art contest sponsored by Sommers Furniture, scoring a free one-week trip to the St. Louis World’s Fair. Did her trip there inspire what was to come? Did she visit the Lincoln Exhibition– west of the southwestern border of the Agriculture building? (click this link to view full size)

Map of St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904. Washington University Archives.

In 1905, she won honorable mention among out of town entrants for a poster contest held by the E. R. Thomas Motor Company of Buffalo, New York.

The most noteworthy win within her lifetime came in early 1906, when the Commercial Club held a contest to create a marker for Indianapolis’ most historic site; only designs submitted from the art departments of Shortridge and Manual High Schools were allowed to enter the contest. Not only did her design appear for decades in a prominent location and featuring one of the city’s most meaningful historic events, but the celebration unveiling the new tablet was observed by thousands. From that moment through her obituary and beyond, she was known as the woman who designed the Lincoln tablet on the Claypool Hotel.

Marie Stewart with her winning design of the Lincoln tablet

Imagine what it would be like to return to the Claypool Hotel for events through the years, seeing your artwork so publicly displayed. Whatever else happened in life, it seemed certain that tablet would remain on that historic corner.

1906, Senior yearbook photo from Shortridge High School

And while that may have been the largest achievement of her artistic career, she continued to devote herself to art throughout her life, winning many other competitions and participating in numerous art shows and contests. How did she feel when she came in as runner up to create the event poster for the Fall Festival Association of Richmond, Indiana in 1909?

Other winning entries include: “best bag” in leatherwork art at the 1916 Indiana State Fair; first prize water color at the 1919 State Fair; first prize at the State Fair of 1921, for a black and white block print; third place in the 1932 State Fair in the “Design: costume, interior, textile, wall paper” category; first place at the 1934 State Fair for a Crayonex table cover; the Jessie Mae Holcomb Memorial prize in the 18th annual Hoosier salon exhibition at Ball State in 1942, for “Flowers and Figurien;” and among listed winners of the “Poets Corner” art contest.

After high school, she attended the John Herron Art Institute from the fall of 1908 through the spring of 1909. It wasn’t until she was in her 40’s that she obtained a Bachelor of Arts from John Herron Art Institute in 1932, after which she obtained her Masters from Butler University. Her excellence was rewarded with an inviation to become a member of the honorary scholastic society, Phi Kappa Phi. Her obituary says she also attended the Pratt Institute of Teacher Training in New York City.

By 1916 she was an Assistant of the Art department of Indianapolis Public schools. The same year, she moved to 314 Graham Avenue, staying in Irvington, where she lived until she retired and moved to Ohio in 1952. In 1944, she worked under the direction of Harry E. Wood, director of fine and practical arts and vocational education for IPS. Her title changed intermittently through the years, but always in the service of the art department for Indianapolis Public Schools.

1932 Herron graduation picture of Miss Stewart

She had a one-woman show at the Hoosier Art Gallery, housed in the State Life Building, number 610, in October 1947 and was listed among exhibitors in numerous other shows. Through the years, there were many other shows. The Indiana Artists’ Club filled six galleries at L. S. Ayres in 1935, when she displayed a print called “The Bardley Homestead;” another show at L. S. Ayres in 1938 featured her water color, “Bowl of Lillies.” A Hoosier salon event hosted by William H. Block and Co featured one of her pieces in 1941. Her work also appeared at John Herron (now Indianapolis Museum of Art/ Newfields), Indiana Artists Exhibit and the Hoosier Salon, in addition to many years at the Indiana State Fair. As late as 1957, she was listed among nine artists in Oxford, Ohio showing work at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

She died in April 10, 1963 en route to the hospital in Oxford, Ohio, and is buried at College Corner Cemetery in West College Corner, Union County, Indiana. She has, as best I can tell, had been all but forgotten. Until now.

She’s buried just over the eastern Indiana state line in Union County. You can leave her a work of art here.

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