The Mysterious John Bos, a 19th Century Portraitist Who Lived in Pelhamville
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John Bos was a portraitist who specialized in "PHOTOGRAPHS PAINTED IN ALL METHODS." The text of his advertisement that appeared in local newspapers (one such image of which appears immediately above) read as follows:
BEGS leave to announce that he has REMOVED HIS STUDIO from 207 West 46th Street, New York city, to PELHMVILLE, Westchester County, N.Y.
PHOTOGRAPHS PAINTED IN ALL METHODS, CRAYON PORTRAITS A SPECIALTY, AT REASONABLE PRICES.
Mr. Bos will be pleased to have you call and see his work. Orders by mail promptly attended to."
John Bos was a resident of Pelhamville before he moved his studio out of New York City to the tiny little settlement in 1885. Indeed, by at least 1884 artist John Bos already was a prominent member of the Pelhamville community. That year, Bos was serving as Vice President of the Pelhamville Improvement Association, a local civic improvement organization that collected dues and helped pay for municpal improvements before the existence of the Village of North Pelham. See Pelham And City Island, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon], May 30, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 767, p. 3, col. 4. By 1887, Bos had become President of that important civic group. See PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], June 3, 1887, Vol. XVIII, No. 990, p. 3, col. 2. In addition, at least as early as 1885, John Bos was elected to serve as a Vestryman at the Church of the Redeemer in Pelhamville. See EASTER ELECTIONS . . . PELHAMVILLE, Supplement to Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Apr. 17, 1885, p. 1, col. 5. He also represented the Church of the Redeemer as a Lay Delegate to the One Hundred and Second Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York in 1885. See Journal of the Proceedings of the One Hundred and Second Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York, p. 29 (NY, NY: John C. Rankin, Jr., Printer, 1885).
In early 1890, a local newspaper reported that John Bos, "artist," of Pelhamville "was recently married to Miss Smith, sister of Lieut. Col. Smith of the 7th Regiment of New York city" (an apparent reference to Lieutenant Colonel Morgan L. Smith of the 7th Regiment). See Pelhamville, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Feb. 4, 1890, Vol. XXI, No. 1,269, p. 3, col. 3. The 1890 reference to the "recent" marriage between Bos and "Miss Smith" is a bit puzzling since earlier reliable references indicate there previously was a "Mrs. J. Bos" in Pelhamville as early as mid-1887. See [Untitled], New Rochelle Pioneer, Jun. 25, 1887, Vol. XXVIII, No. 13, p. 3, col. 5 (noting that "Mrs. J. Bos" had signed a petition in Pelhamville to move the planned location of the new train depot planned to be built in Pelhamville).
Although clearly an artist and portraitist named John Bos lived and worked in Pelhamville for much of the 1880s, that artist has turned out to be somewhat of a mystery. For example, research has yet to reveal any examples of paintings or portraits by John Bos, nor has a definitive biography of the artist yet been found. To make matters more difficult, there were a number of individuals of that name in and around New York City at the time. Nevertheless, there are snippets of potentially relevant information about John Bos that may shed light on his life and are collected below.
A "painter" named John Bos may be found in the City of New York as early as 1857. See New York, New York City Directory, 1857, p. 88 (showing John Bos, "painter," with a home at 364 Houston Street) (Ancestry.com, paid subscription required to access this link).
By 1875 a John Bos is shown as working as an "artist" at 191 Sixth Avenue, with a home at 137 East 122nd Street. See Goulding's New York City Directory for 1875-76, p. 123 (Ancestry.com, paid subscription required to access the link). See also New York, New York City Directory, 1878, p. 134 (showing Bos living at 137 East 122nd Street) (Ancestry.com; paid subscription required to access this link).
It appears that in 1880, John Bos -- a citizen of "Holland," an "Artist," and living at 137 East 122nd Street in New York City -- filed a Petition for Naturalization with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan that included the Oath of Allegiance to the United States reflected immediately below.
The text of the oath of allegiance immediately above reads as follows:
"United States of America )
Southern District of New York )
I, John Bos of the City and State of New York, artist, do declare on oath, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and that I do absolutely and entirely renounce and adjure all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the King of Holland of whom I have been heretofore a subject. SO HELP ME GOD.
[Signed] John Bos
137 E 122d
Sworn in open Court, this 23 day of Oct 1880 }
[Signed] John A. Osborn Jr.
Clerk of the District Court of the United States, For the Southern District of New York"
There also is evidence that in 1889, a "John Bos" had a studio in New York City at 42 West 23rd Street, and a residence Clifton on Staten Island. See New York, New York, City Directory, 1889, p. 193 (Ancestry.com; paid subscription required to access this link). However, as referenced above regarding his marriage to "Miss Smith," it seems that John Bos, portraitist, was still located in Pelhamville.
For now, the mystery remains. Can examples of paintings or portraits by John Bos of Pelhamville be located. Can a definitive biography of the artist be found? It seems this is yet another Pelham history mystery.
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