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 George Safford Waters  (1864 - 1938)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: Landscape painting, interior decoration, architecture, poetry, lyrics, musical composition and performance

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Ad Code: 4
George Safford Waters
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

George Safford Waters (March 21, 1864 - June 19, 1938) AKA: Safford Waters, G. Safford Waters.

Interior decorator, landscape painter, architect, musician, composer, lyricist, and poet.  

Born in Troy, New York to Matilda (b. 1841) and Clarence W. Waters (b. 1841).  His grandfather was Elisha Waters (1815 - 1904), the wealthy manufacturer of Troy's famous paper boats.  Elisha Waters and his sons, Clarence W. and George A., started making rowing boats in the late 1860s which they manufactured by gluing paper over wooden forms, letting it dry, then varnishing it.  The boats made by their company, E. Waters & Sons, were particularly light and stiff, making them ideal for racing.  This was proven in 1876 when crew teams based in the United States won no fewer than twelve major competitions while competing with Waters invention.  His creations were the forerunner of the modern fiberglass boat.

Into this illustrious family George Safford Waters was born.  When he came of age he decided to attend Trinity College, located in Hartford, Connecticut, where he received a Bachelor of Sciences in 1887.  Following his time there, he came to New York City where he attended Columbia College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Philosophy in Architecture in 1889.  During his time at college he became a member of the Epsilon Chapter of the fraternity Delta Psi.  He also began writing and submitting poetry for publication during this period.  Waters married Maude Rogers Selmes (c. 1865 - a. 1938) on Wednesday, the 9th of January, 1895 in Rome, New York, at the home of her grandmother, Mrs. Jacob Sharp.  They had two children, Roger and Cecilia.

Early in his career, Waters was a designer for the famous furniture firm of Herter Brothers, located in New York City at 5th Avenue and 20th Street.  For nearly all of the rest of his life he worked as an interior decorator, both on his own and sometimes with partners.  One of his business enterprises, the firm of Waters, Nichols, & Crowninshield, interior decorators, went bankrupt in 1914.  The many decades he worked as a designer indicates he was successful, even if he had an occasional misstep.

The Waters family lived in New York City most of the year, and often vacationed upstate where Maude's family resided.  During his youth, George Safford Waters was known to vacation on both Nantucket Island, Massachusetts and on Shelter Island, New York.  On Nantucket he painted a View of Jetties Beach, dated c. 1891, which is today housed in the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association.  He also painted on Shelter Island, where he stayed at the famous Prospect House Hotel, one of the largest hotels located at the east end of Long Island, New York.  He appears to have started coming to Shelter Island as early as the 1880s and continued to travel there as late as 1903 (his daughter Cecilia was born in nearby Southampton, Long Island around that time).

Though he may have exhibited his paintings, there are no known lists of his exhibitions.  He was, however, a member of the Architectural League of New York, and it is likely that he exhibited there during his tenure as a member.  His preferred medium appears to have been watercolor, of which there are known examples.  He used his abbreviated name "Safford Waters" to sign his watercolors as well as for credit on his musical works.

Waters is perhaps best remembered for his musical compositions and theatrical achievements, and appears to have been involved in these areas from his earliest days in college.  He was very successful in the 1890s writing and composing a number of new songs, including his biggest hit, The Belle of Avenoo A, which was made popular by the singer and Broadway actress Blanche Ring (April 24, 1871 - January 13, 1961).  The late 20th century band named "The Fugs" adopted the name of Waters's hit for the title of their 1969 album, "The Belle of Avenue A."

The following is a list of Waters's known published musical compositions:  The New Marguerite - Yum! Yum! Yum!, composer and lyricist (c. 1893); Goodbye Dorothy, composer (1894); Katie Gray, composer & lyricist (1894); Mike McCarthy's Wake, composer and lyricist (1894); Summer Girl, composer and lyricist (1894); The Belle of Avenoo A, March Song & Chorus, composer and lyricist (1895); Eena, meena, mina, mo, composer and lyricist (c. 1895); Professional Copy, One of the Gaiety Girls, composer and lyricist (1895); She is a Broadway Blonde, March Song and Chorus, composer and lyricist (1896); Fair Harvard (1896) The Irish Foot-ball Game, composer and lyricist (c. 1896); One New York, Two-Step, composer (1897); The Day That's Gone Can Never Come Again, composer and lyricist (c. 1897); There's a College on the Hill, composer & lyricist (1897, written for Trinity College); Be Ma Honey Gal, composer and lyricist (1898); Lucy, Tell Me I'm Your Beau, composer and lyricist (1898); She Used to Take Me on Her Knee, composer & lyricist (c. 1902); Artful Love Gavotte (u.d.), Belle of All the Belles (u.d.); The Summer Man, composer (u.d.); There's a Strange Fascination about the Stage, composer and lyricist (u.d.).  The following is a list of his known published theatrical compositions :  A Day and a Night in New York, musical comedy (1898); Tommy Rot, musical comedy (1902); Fad and Folly, musical comedy (1902); Funabashi, musical comedy (1908); The Shoplifters, musical sketch, with Irving S. Cobb (1908); Love's Garden, operetta (u.d.).

George Safford Waters died of a heart attack while in Ryan's Bar and Grill at 225 West 57th Street, New York City, New York on Sunday, the 19th of June, 1938, in his 74th year.  The New York Times reported that he was still in the decorating business at the time of his death.

The public institutions which are known to hold Waters's works includes:  Nantucket Historical Association, Nantucket, MA.  A number of his works also reside in private collections throughout the United States.

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