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Marshall, William Edgar (1837-1906)


William Edgar Marshall was born to Scottish parents in New York City in 1837. At a young age, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he earned a living as a watchmaker. He then worked for the US Treasury Department, where he learned how to engrave portraits. In 1858 he was given a rare opportunity to work for the American Bank Note Company, where he spent “several years and became one of its best engravers." At the age of 21, he set off for Paris, where he planned to learn how to become a great painter. He returned to the United States during the Civil War, when "news of the assassination of Lincoln brought him home to paint, from photographs and descriptions, a portrait of the martyred President” (Hartt). He also painted several notable figures including Ulysses S. Grant and George Sherman during this period ("William E. Marshall Dead," 7).

Marshall's connection to the Pfaffs is best described in the obituary of Charles Pfaff, where he is called one of the “Knights of the Round Table” of the “lions of Bohemia” (“In and about the City” 2). Marshall set up his New York studio in 1866, which was located at 711 Broadway, near Washington Square ("William E. Marshall Dead," 7). His home became a popular haunt for artists and writers of the day, including Georges Clemenceau, due in large part to the fact Marshall “had an engaging, humorous personality and in conversation could draw from a wealth of entertaining anecdotes concerning his famous sitters” (Hartt). According to his obituary, visitors to his studio may have heard him share his "pleasant anecdotes of Emmerson, Longfellow, Dickens, Hawthrone, and Holmes" ("William E. Marshall Dead," 7). He died at the age of seventy from pneumonia in his studio, which he kept through the years.