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Ruggles, Edward (1817-1867)

Artist, Physician

Described in his obituary as a "well-known artist and critic," Dr. Edward Ruggles was a friend of the Whitman family who was an "eccentric physician and painter in Brooklyn" (New York Times, March 12, 1867, 5; G. W. Allen 323). Ruggles earned his medical degree at Bowdoin College sometime around 1840.

Ruggles' connection to Pfaff outside of his friendship with Whitman and his family is somewhat tenuous. A. L. Rawson, though, does describe Ruggles as a friend of Ada Clare, which does not place him at Pfaff’s proper, but does suggest that he spent time at Clare’s 42nd Street home where many Bohemians were known to gather (103). Another reference that may indicate Ruggles' connection to Pfaff's comes from a note in The Saturday Press, which was edited by Henry Clapp. Following a column written by "Figaro," who was Henry Clapp, there is a note about an exhibition of Ruggles' paintings. The author provided his opinion of Ruggles' work writing "the demand for these beautiful little pictures is such that hundreds of imitations of them are in the market, but so badly done" (The Saturday Press, Feb. 10, 1866, 89). The fact that Ruggles' work was mentioned in The Saturday Press suggests that Clapp was at least aware of his work and if in fact he did write the note about his exhibition following his column then it can be further deduced that Clapp was fond of Ruggles' "gems."

In the later years of his life, he gave up his medical career and exclusively devoted himself to painting (New York Times, March 12, 1867, 5). His "cabinet pictures" were known as "Ruggle Gems" and they "were greatly in demand at the time of his death, though apparently other artists were contemptuous of them. Many thought him eccentric, and apparently some found him unpleasant: ’For the shams and phariseeisms of life he had no sympathy and not much charity; and he did not hesitate to say what he thought for fear of consequences. To say things which run counter to common prejudices is not to court popularity; and it may be that Dr. Ruggles sometimes gained disfavor by such a course without securing any compensating advantage’" (G. W. Allen 323-24). Gay Allen suggests that "[h]e sounds very much in some ways like Walt Whitman himself" (380). Nevertheless, the obituary in the New York Times notes that Ruggles "loved the deepest and was appreciated the highest by those who knew him best" (New York Times, March 12, 1867, 5).