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 William Henry Gilstrap  (1840 - 1914)

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Lived/Active: Washington/Illinois      Known for: landscape and portrait painting, birds-eye city views

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William Henry Gilstrap
An example of work by William Henry Gilstrap
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was compiled and submitted by Ted Gegoux.

William Henry Gilstrap was born in Effingham county Illinois, April 24, 1849. His early education was in public schools of Effingham and McLean counties. In 1873 he began to study art in Lincoln, Ill., and later continued his studies in Bloomington and Chicago.  In 1877 he opened a studio in Bloomington.  During his residence there he produced many choice rural landscapes and portraits of many of the leading citizens of Illinois and adjoining states.  In 1886 he visited the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and there painted mountain and stream in bold rugged beauty.  In 1889 he, with his family, started West, stopping one year in Omaha and Sioux City, Iowa. 

In the fall of 1890 he settled in the city of Tacoma and opened a studio.  In 1897 he was made secretary and curator of the Ferry Museum of Tacoma.  He has done much to build up that institution.  Considering the financial support that institution has had, its growth has been marvelous under his management.  Some years ago he became interested in the Washington State Historical Society, and was made one of the curators.  In 1906 he was made assistant to the secretary.  During the year he was indefatigable in creating and maintaining an interest in historical work.  His individual investigations have placed before the public many almost forgotten facts of history.  At the annual meeting in January of 1907 he was elected secretary of the State Historical Society.  He has already done much to build up the society in members and influence throughout the state. (2)
W.H. Gilstrap, Noted Tacoma Pioneer, Dies (Obituary)
After an illness of three weeks with heart trouble, William Henry Gilstrap, secretary of the Ferry Museum and the Washington State Historical Society and one of the best known pioneers of the state, died at his home, 680 South I Street, Tacoma, August 4, 1914.  Mr. Gilstrap was in his day a prominent portrait and landscape artist.  He was 65 years old.  He was well known in Olympia and made frequent visits here.
Mr. Gilstrap assumed active charge of the Ferry museum in the early 90's and continued in that capacity until his death.  The organization was founded by Col. C. P. Ferry and originally was an art museum.  Chief among noted persons of public life to sit for a portrait for Mr. Gilstrap were President James A. Garfield; John A. Logan, famous civil war general; A. I. Hopps, a foremost evangelist of a quarter century ago, and Marie Litta von Elsner, a famous singer 25 years ago.
He exhibited much of his work at New York, Chicago, Omaha, New Orleans and other cities of the country.  His most famous painting was a birds-eye view of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier, painted on one canvas measuring 22 by 50 feet.  The picture was painted in 1891 for the Northwest Exposition Company, which held annual exhibitions in Tacoma.  It was destroyed by fire several years later when the exposition building on North Tacoma Avenue was burned.
Mr. Gilstrap was born near Beecher City, Ill., April 24, 1849, and grew to manhood on a farm.  When grown, Mr. Gilstrap left his home and studied art under various teachers at Chicago and other cities.  He came to Tacoma in 1890 and up to a few years ago continued his work. (3)

Secretary of the Washington State Historical Society
Secretary and Curator of the Ferry Museum, Tacoma
Paintings listed at Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums:
     "Peter Whitmer", Oil on canvas, 1884
     "Cows in Meadow", Oil on canvas, 1889
     "Mount Rainer, Puyallup Valley", Oil on canvas, 1890
     "Mount Rainer", Oil on canvas, 1893
     "Mount Rainier from Tacoma", Oil on canvas, 1894
Known Paintings
     Puget Sound and Mount Rainier "Big Picture", 1891, 22 x 50 feet .. destroyed by fire c 1894
     "The Spirit of the Fathers", 1918 .. completed and finished by Albert H. Barnes
     "Camel Caravan" .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Gray's Harbor", c 1890 .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Pastoral Scene of Road, Pasture, Cow, and Mountains", 1890, .. Washington State Historical Society
     "The Mountain", 1894,.. Washington State Historical Society
     "The Mountain, 1893", 1893 .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Trees At Steilacoom", 1890,.. Washington State Historical Society
     "Woman Wearing Mortarboard", c 1892, .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Old Cobbler", 1891, .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Pastoral with Sheep in Foreground", c 1890, .. Washington State Historical Society
Significant Portraits
     President James A. Garfield (1831-1881)
     John A. Logan (1826-1886), civil war general
     A. I. Hopps, evangelist c1890
     Marie Litta (Marie Eugenia von Elsner) (1856-1883), American Singer, famous at 10, dead at 27
     Rev. Myron Eells (1843-1907), painted 1895 "bible in hand, standing beside of his faithful pioneer mule", Wash State Historical Society.
 .     Early Washington missionary and ethnographer, author of History of Indian Missions on the Pacific Coast (1882) Son of Cushing Eells.
      Charles Oelsehlaegal, 3/4 size in oil
     "Jonas Stanup", Chief of the Puyallup Indians .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Man", c 1892, .. Washington State Historical Society
     "Man", c 1892, .. Washington State Historical Society
(1) Fine Arts Journal . "Art in the State of Washington -- its evolution and promise", Marian White, vol. XBVI, no. 1, January 1905
(2) Ryan's Legislative Manual, published 1907
(3) Olympia Daily Recorder, Tuesday ( ) .. W.H. Gilstrap, Noted Tacoma Pioneer, Dies
Newspaper articles:
     Puget Sound and Mount Rainier "Big Picture", 1891, 22 x 50 feet .. destroyed by fire c 1894
     The portrait of Charles Oelsehlaegal, 3/4 size in oil

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