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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Review Volume of Biographical Sketches of The Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Massachusetts published by Biographical Review Publishing Company in 1896.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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ELBRIDGE KINGSLEY, the “artist engraver,” who has been pronounced by good authority to be as strong a personality in American art as was Jean Francois Millet in that of France, was born in Carthage, Ohio, September 17, 1842. He is a son of Moses W. and Rachel W. (Curtis) Kingsley, both natives of Hatfield, Hampshire County, Mass., in which town the former cultivated a farm. He spent his life, with the exception of a few months passed in Ohio, in Hatfield, dying there in 1893. Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley reared six children, of whom Elbridge was the oldest.

Elbridge Kingsley was reared on a farm. He gathered the elements of his education in a wooden school-house on a hill, guarded by a patriarchal elm, while his out-of-school hours were pretty well taken up with farm work. One of his duties was the task of driving the cows to “Jericho,” a wild tract of land used as a common pasture, some two miles from the village. At first he drove only the cows from the home farm. Later he drove those of two of the neighbors, for which he received two shillings a week. And as the barefoot boy trudged along behind the indolent, slow-moving animals, his quick eye noted the beauties of Nature’s panorama, and learned many a secret destined to be of use to him in after life. In the garret of his home was a goodly store of old papers and books, which contained many a tale of Indian warfare that made its impress on his boyish imagination. The result was that Indian chiefs and squaws, trappers and cowboys, done on brown store paper, decorated the walls of his bedroom. One warrior of gigantic frame and gorgeous trappings attracted his father’s attention; and his friend, the village blacksmith, was invited in to pronounce upon the drawings. With bated breath and throbbing heart young Kingsley watched the muscular art critic, who was very near-sighted and poked his grimy fingers over the picture to assist his vision. “Pretty good, considerin’!” was the judgment rendered; and on the strength of that Elbridge was sent to join the class of a travelling teacher who happened to be in town, giving lessons in Grecian and Oriental painting. The lessons ended in a few weeks, as the teacher, in pursuance of his itinerary, then left town. When fourteen years of age he was sent to Hopkins Academy in Hadley; and for two years he alternated between Hatfield and Hadley, attending school in winter and working on the farm in summer. In his sixteenth year he entered the office of the Hampshire Gazette to learn the printing trade, remaining until twenty-one years of age. In the mean time his drawing was not neglected; and sketching went on as steadily as the opportunities came, in an out-of-the-way corner of the building. In 1863, having attained his majority, and equipped with a new suit of clothes as-well as with a fair knowledge of the printer’s trade, he started for New York City. In the city he had many adventures such as usually befall a country boy on his first visit. He finally obtained a position as compositor on the Tribune. At the same time he began to attend the evening course of drawing and painting at Cooper Institute. After changing his place of employment several times he finally gave up type-setting and devoted his attention to wood engraving. Most of his work at this time was upon mechanical illustrations; but he was occasionally enabled to do a block for Harper’s, through the firm that employed him. While in New York he was for some time city correspondent for the Hampshire Gazette. In 1871 he returned to Northampton and engaged in the printing and engraving business with Messrs. Snow & Harris. There he became acquainted with J. Wells Champney and C. A. Burleigh. He now began to work in oil colors out of doors, and one winter he walked daily to Amherst, in order to sketch from the casts in the college gallery. In 1874 the firm with which he was connected dissolved, and he went back to New York. In that year he cut a block for Scribner’s Magazine (now the Century), which so pleased the art department that his connection with that publication has continued to this day. This was in reality the beginning of Mr. Kingsley’s career as an engraver. He returned to Hadley every summer to do open-air sketching; and believing that an artist, in order to faithfully portray Nature, must see her in all her varied aspects, he had a car built which is a diminutive studio and dwelling-house on wheels. In 1882, while out in this car in the woods near Hatfield, Mr. Kingsley performed a feat in wood engraving that had never been attempted before. This was cutting a block directly from nature. The engraving subsequently appeared as a full-page cut in the Century, together with a description of his method of working by the artist. Since that time he has regularly contributed original engravings of this sort to the Century and to St. Nicholas, most of them being made from or suggested by scenery in Hampshire County. It will be readily seen that this departure raised wood engraving from the position of a handmaid of the graphic arts to that of a creative and primary art, which Mr. Kingsley claims it is. In 1885 he illustrated Whittier’s “Poems of Nature.”

Years ago Elbridge Kingsley was ranked by Hammerton, perhaps the ablest of English art critics, in his “Graphic Arts,” as one of the best wood engravers in the world. Since then he has made a decided advance, and the power and delicacy shown in his landscape work have never been excelled. He received the highest award for wood engravings from the Paris Exposition of 1889; and in 1893 he had thirteen small engravings marked as medal winners at the Chicago Exposition. In the same year he was awarded a gold medal at the Midwinter Fair held in San Francisco. In a lecture on wood engraving written by him he gives his ideal of what an artist should be, as follows: “Rising on the heights of knowledge but enlarges the horizon, and true art for the individual begins where his training leaves off.” As a colorist Mr. Kingsley displays in his paintings a daring and originality that is unique, while nevertheless true to nature; and a recent writer places him before George Inness in the handling of color.

While in New York Mr. Kingsley was united in marriage with Miss Emma Brown, a native of New York City, of English descent. She died eight months after marriage. Three years subsequently he was again married, his bride being Elizabeth E. Cook, of Brooklyn, N. Y. She passed away in March, 1891, leaving three children — Emma B., Mary R., and Lepha N. — all of whom are living with their father.

His home is a picturesque two-story house, surrounded by well-kept lawns and hedges, situated in a pleasant part of old Hadley. He is always ready to receive a visitor who is interested in art, and to show his studio and several smaller rooms where he engraves and paints, the “den” downstairs where he reads and writes, and finally the famous car. Democratic in the extreme, he knows no difference between rich and poor; and his optimism sees a sunbeam in every shadow. His mind is an exhaustless reservoir of poetic beauty; and his heart is filled with kindliness, generosity, and sympathy. Verily, Elbridge Kingsley is a rare man, and one of whom New England may well be proud.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in the Biographical Review Volume of Biographical Sketches of The Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Massachusetts published in 1896. 

View additional Hampshire County, Massachusetts family biographies here: Hampshire County, Massachusetts Biographies

View a map of 1901 Hampshire County, Massachusetts here: Hampshire County Massachusetts Map

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