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Mittie (Mary ) Taylor Whelpley Brush

 (1866 - 1949)
Mittie (Mary ) Taylor Whelpley Brush was active/lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts.  Mittie Brush is known for sculpture, aviation pioneer.

Mittie (Mary ) Taylor Whelpley Brush

Biography from the Archives of askART

Mary (Mittie) Taylor Whelpley Brush (1866-1949)

Mary Taylor Whelpley Brush (1866-1949), better known as Mittie Brush, was an American sculptor, inventor, and pioneering aviator who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 11, 1866. In 1885, while studying at the Art Students League in New York, she fell in love with her teacher, the painter George de Forest Brush (he was eleven years older). Unable to get the approval of her parents, the couple eloped and were married that year, on her twentieth birthday.

The Brushes became the parents of two sons (one of whom died as an infant) and six daughters. The story of the couple's life and the colorful setting in which they raised their children (adjacent to the residence of the Abbott Thayer family in Dublin, New Hampshire, and not far from Cornish, where the Augustus Saint-Gaudens family lived) was vividly recorded by their oldest daughter, Nancy Douglas Bowditch (a playwright and theatrical designer), in a book about her father's life (1970). Bowditch's brother was Gerome Brush, a sculptor and inventor who designed ship camouflage during World War I.

Over the years, Mittie Brush has largely gone uncredited as an artist, probably because her efforts at art were preempted by her husband's fame. However, in addition to bearing eight children, she was an accomplished inventor. When her husband bought a monoplane (because, with his friend and neighbor Thayer, he was conducting experiments in camouflage), she too began to experiment with airplane camouflage. When her husband's proposal for a see-through airplane didn't work, she invented alternative methods for minimizing its visibility, such as installing lights within the fuselage. She received five U.S. patents for her aeronautic innovations, extensive descriptions and drawings of which are available online through searches for U.S. Patents No. 1293688 (granted 1919), No. 1442323 (1919), No. 1367294 (1921), No. 619100 (1922), and No. 1686649.

A friend and neighbor of the aviator Amelia Earhart (who spent her summers in Dublin, with her publisher husband, George Palmer Putnam), Mittie Bush trained as a pilot and became the second woman (Earhart being the first) to be admitted to the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce.

Accordingly to an obituary in the New York Times, she died in Dublin, New Hampshire, on July 29, 1949.


Bowditch, Nancy Douglas, George de Forest Brush: Recollections of a Joyous Painter. Peterborough, New Hampshire: William L. Bauhan, 1970.

Interview with Nancy Bowditch conducted by Robert Brown on January 30, 1974. Transcript available online at Oral Histories Collection, Archives of American Art.

"Mittie Taylor Brush" entry in Roy R. Behrens, Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research in Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2009, p. 73.

"Mrs. George Brush" (obituary) in The New York Times. July 30, 1949, p. 15.

Submitted by Roy R. Behrens, Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar, University of Northern Iowa.

Biography from the Archives of askART
The following information is provided by Alma Gilbert Smith, historian and museum director of the Cornish Colony in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Mary Taylor Whelpley (1866-1949) married George de Forest Brush, her instructor at the Arts Student's League on her twentieth birthday. In 1886, they eloped together and were married by a local judge. The couple went on to Canada where George was busy producing some of his magnificent Indian paintings.  They lived in a teepee there until Mary became pregnant with their first child.  This is where their first child was born. The baby was delivered by a "city doctor" and named Alfred.  Unfortunately, Alfred died of diphtheria before reaching his first birthday.  Their second son, Gerome, was born during a blizzard on March 11, 1888.  The couple moved to Cornish shortly thereafter, where following George's love of the Indian culture, they continued to live in a teepee for a while camped near the Augustus Saint-Gaudens home.  It is Cornish Colony lore that the ladies from the Colony who were aghast that Mary was going to bear their a third child in a teepee, saw to it that the aforementioned structure accidentally burned, so the couple had to move into a small but beautiful home that they rented from their friend and patron, Charles Beaman located on Freeman Road in Cornish near where Maxfield Parrish and Lydia Parrish were to settle later.  As their family enlarged, they moved into larger and larger houses in the area between Cornish and Plainfield, NH where most of the members of the famous colony resided. There they raised their family, and Brush immortalized his beloved Mitty in several paintings as a Madonna with their children.   They had eight children, counting Alfred.  As George's commissions grew, they moved to Dublin New Hampshire where they bought a house near their friend, painter Abbott Thayer.

This is important and probably influenced George and Mary Brush and her eldest son, George in becoming interested in camouflage.  In 1909 because of his interest in  the "Protective Coloration" of birds Thayer had written  and published a small book on the coloration of birds.  Prior to the beginning of World War I, Thayer convinced the American Army to form a camouflage corp.  That probably was what influenced both Mary and her son George to become involved working with  the camouflage corp.  George  Brush bought a small monoplane and he, Thayer and Mary began their experiments in camouflaging it. Soon after, their son Gerome joined the Camouflage Corp.  Other members of the famed Cornish Colony:  Paul Manship, Barry Faulkner, Harry Thrasher and Abbott Thayer also volunteered and became members of the Army Camouflage Corp during World War I.   Barry Faulkner had the unenviable job of identifying the remains of his friend Harry Thrasher that was killed while serving in the ground camouflage corp after a disastrous attack in "Death Valley" near Dravegny, France in August, 1918.

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About  Mittie (Mary ) Taylor Whelpley Brush

Born:  1866 - Boston, Massachusetts
Died:   1949 - Dublin, New Hampshire
Known for:  sculpture, aviation pioneer