Portrait of leading founder John Wesley Powell
Club members will find that the beloved portrait of leading founder John Wesley Powell (1834-1902, CC:1878-1902) has duplicated. The original now hangs in the 1878 Grille, out of the way of harmful UV light that could damage the fragile pastel drawing. A reproduction archival print on canvas now hangs in its original location, centered in the Awards Hallway facing out toward the main entrance and lobby.
The original Powell portrait, dated 1897, was created by Member-artist Eleazar H. Miller (1831-1921, CC:1893-1899), who presented it to the Club in lieu of a year’s dues. (It should be remembered that in 1879 dues was set at $20 per annum. Hence, this represented quite a good deal for the Club.)
Powell had become the second director of the United States Geological Survey in 1881, in the year when he was also President of the Cosmos Club. The portrait represents the mature, established leader of a senior federal agency.
Miller, a native of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, moved to Washington, D.C., at age 17 to pursue his passion for painting. To finance his education, he worked as an illustrator for the National Intelligencer. Miller would go on to be a portraitist, opening his own studio in 1885. In addition to portraits, Miller created book illustrations and landscape scenes. He remained in DC for the rest of his life, passing from natural causes at the age of ninety.