I am indebted to Al Sadler and Rick Burch for researching and providing much of today’s column. Al volunteers at the Lenawee County Historical Museum in Adrian. Rick is originally from North Carolina.
At the end of June, Rick visited Adrian to visit his family living in the area. Additionally, the trip consisted of visiting the Lenawee County Historical Museum. He came to see an original 16 by 20 oil painting on display at the museum. The painting is an urban winter scene with houses and a snowy street. It was signed “Henry E. Tausend 1954”.
We have not been able to locate a trace of when or how the painting arrived at the museum. It was displayed on the piano downstairs as we tried to identify the houses and learn more about Henry E. Tausend. We knew very little about him.
Al located a family tree on Ancestry.com containing an Adrian Henry Tausend as well as photos of several of his other paintings. He contacted the owner of the family tree and asked her if she was aware of “our” painting. She was not. However, she passed the information on to her cousin, Rick Burch.
It turns out that Henry Tausend was Rick’s great-great-uncle, and Rick’s job was to research and document Henry’s work. His enthusiasm for the discovery was obvious and understandable. Rick would plan a visit to Adrian.
During his visit, Rick shared photos of many of Henry’s works of art as well as Henry’s life story. Henry was a very accomplished artist. The following is from a biographical sketch Rick wrote:
“Henry E. Tausend was born in 1879 in Saginaw, and at 18 he was listed in the Adrian City Directory of 1897 as an art student of George Eldridge, an oil painting teacher who gave private lessons in Adrian.The 1900 census had Henry E. Tausend, 20, listed as a laborer living in his father’s residence in Adrian.
“Henry moved to Cincinnati in 1901 to pursue a career in art. From 1901 to 1909, he enrolled in evening classes at the Cincinnati Art Academy operated by the Cincinnati Art Museum. During the day he worked as an artist for The US Lithograph Co. producing art posters for the entertainment industry. While in Cincinnati, Henry E. Tausend had many pieces of his work exhibited.
“In 1912, Henry was in Niles, Michigan, working as an artist for the National Printing & Engraving Company, creating theater posters. During World War I, Henry lived in Brooklyn, New York and worked for The Latham Lithograph & Printing Company.
“Henry returned to Adrian in 1929 where he lived on Beecher Street with his brother’s family, John and Mattie, again working as an artist. By 1932, Henry had moved to 102 N. Center St. in Adrian. This is where, for many years, he had his workshop. Henry painted in oils and watercolors, and also drew in pencil and chalk. His works included cityscapes, clippers, nudes, landscapes, portraits, advertising and posters. Most of his works are signed “Henry E. Tausend” or “HE Tausend”, while others are not signed at all. ”
The painting was done while Henry was living in Adrian. Museum volunteers who studied it could not identify the actual location depicted. A photo of the painting was posted on the museum’s Facebook page and a commentator provided the clue. The large house on the left was at 410 E. Maumee; it was razed in 1970. The two houses in the middle are still standing. They’re on Locust, just south of Maumee.
Further investigation revealed that the painting was donated to the museum just before the COVID-19 shutdown. Due to the chaos of the closure, the donation file was temporarily lost. Interestingly, it was discovered that the painting had been on display in the house at 410 E. Maumee at one point, the painting house which has since been demolished.
Tausend committed suicide on August 19, 1957. Relatives living around this time reported that Henry had committed suicide after learning that his brother, John, had died. He is buried in Lenawee Hills Cemetery.
When Henry died, he had over 100 paintings in his studio at 102 N. Center St. The whereabouts of many of these paintings are unknown and they are not mentioned in his probate file. A search is underway to locate the missing paintings in order to establish a collection of Henry’s works. The painting that brought Rick to Adrian returned home with him to be part of this important collection.
The Lenawee Historical Museum helps Rick locate the missing paintings. If you know of any of Henry’s paintings, Rick would love to hear from you. You can contact Rick at [email protected]
Bob Wessel is Vice President of the Lenawee Historical Society and can be contacted at [email protected]