Portraits and Paper Art — The Schröder Family at MdHS

Schroeder cutwork1detail

Paper cutwork scene (Detail), 1854, Mary Eliza Sanderson, Museum collection, 2012.29.3, MdHS.

Schr Henry

Henry Herman Schröder

The museum staff refreshed the Folk Art gallery several months ago and in perusing the newly installed pieces, this intricately designed paper cutwork immediately caught our attention. The delicacy of the work, coupled with the knowledge that a ten-year-old girl had created these mini masterpieces captivated our imaginations. Who was this child? Label copy identified her as Mary Eliza Sanderson who made this scene for her cousin, Mary Schroeder Albert “a descendant of Henry Herman and Mary Schley Schröder whose portraits hang elsewhere in the Society.” Hmm, but where?

Schr Mary

Mary Schley Schröder

Walking around the corner to the Deutschland exhibit, we saw the Henry Herman Schröder (1778–1816), portrait in the section on immigration, “Building a Community.” A successful and prominent German American, he had emigrated from Wandsbeck, Schleswich-Holstein to Philadelphia and later settled in Baltimore where he earned a secure living as a merchant, built an elaborate home and named it for his birthplace. The closing sentence in this label directs the viewer to the “companion portrait of his wife . . . in the The What and The Why: Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society” gallery on the first floor.

On we went, across the bridge and down the stairs to “The What and The Why,” and there is the lovely face of Mary Schley Schröder (1774–1840), captured in oil on canvas by Rembrandt Peale in 1815, the same year as her husband’s. An exquisitely fine sampler stitched at age fourteen is displayed, documenting her roots in the Schley family. Also in this space are full-length silhouettes of Margaretha Elizabeth and her sister Mary Anna, two of the Schröder’s five children. The search for more on the Schroeder family took us to the library where there are several collections of family papers, among them court and estate documents revealing that Henry Schröder and the Schley family were connected by business as well as marriage, the deed for Henry Schroeder Junior’s Rhode Island home, business papers, reminiscences, and family history information.

Beyond the artifacts are the donors who leave these treasures in our care and in this scenario the donor history prompted additional questions. The 1854 paper cutwork by Mary Eliza Sanderson as a “Birthday Present” for her cousin Mary Schroeder Albert is a 2012 museum purchase. Henry Schröder’s portrait, a gift of William Lee McKim, arrived in 1972. Serendipitously, or perhaps not, Mary’s portrait is a 2012 bequest from the estate of McKim Dangerfield. Who separated the couple, why, and was there an agreement to bring them together again? And how do the McKims link to the Schroeders?

Daughter Margaretha Elizabeth married Jacob Albert. Their daughter Mary Schroeder Albert, the likely recipient of the paper cutwork, married Robert Vanderburgh McKim. His brother, William Lee McKim, gave Henry’s portrait to the Maryland Historical Society forty-five years ago. Mary Albert McKim later married George Cobb Wilde, their daughter Mary Wilde married Reverdy Johnson Dangerfield, and their son, McKim Dangerfield left Mary’s portrait to the MdHS after his death in 2011.

This trek through the galleries following label clues and circling back to the library for additional information was a simple exercise in pulling together objects and documents to tell a multi-dimensional story. And, as often happens, raised more questions than we have answered to date. What was Mary Eliza Sanderson’s connection to her “cousin Mary Schroeder Albert.” Was there an agreement between the Schroeder descendants to reunite Mary and Henry’s portraits? The answers for now remain elusive and the sands are through the hour glass in wrapping up this brief post. But, as always, we welcome comments and additional information.

(Patricia Dockman Anderson)

Patricia Dockman Anderson specializes in nineteenth century history. Dr. Anderson is the Director of Publications and Library Services for the Maryland Historical Society.

Sources and further reading:

Schroeder Papers, MS 2294 and MS 1417; Diehlman/Hayward biographical file; museum exhibit labels and text panels, Folk Art, Deutschland, and The What and The Why: Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society.

Schr paper cutwork 1

Paper cutwork scene, 1854, Mary Eliza Sanderson, Museum collection, 2012.29.3, MdHS.

Schroeder cutwork1

Paper cutwork scene, 1854, Mary Eliza Sanderson, Museum collection, 2012.29.3, MdHS.

Schr paper cutwork 2

Miniature paper cutwork , ca 19th century, Museum collection, 2012.29, MdHS.


Miniature paper cutwork , ca 19th century, Museum collection, 2012.29, MdHS.


No comments yet.

Post a comment


Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Pinterest