Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
68.58 cm x 55.88 cm | 27 in x 22 in
Framed: 90.17 cm x 77.47 cm | 35.5 in x 30.5 in
Signed and dated lower right, T.C. Steele / 1910
Gift of Lilly Family, Mr. and Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly III, West Falmouth, Massachusetts, to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1976
Eli Lilly (1838 – 1898) was an extraordinary man who is best known as the founder of Eli Lilly and Company headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Today, simply known as “Lilly”, the company is one of the world’s most respected international pharmaceutical corporations with a heritage that covers 147 years.
A man with a lifetime reputation of the highest personal and business integrity, he was a staunch advocate of federal regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. Eli Lilly suggested several reforms that were enacted into law a few years after his death, resulting in the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Deeply committed to manufacturing high-quality products for use by physicians, Eli Lilly rented a small two-story building, 18 feet wide by 40 feet deep, at No. 15 West Pearl Street, just south of downtown Indianapolis. He opened the door for business on May 10, 1876. Above the door of the little shop—probably the smallest pharmaceutical plant in the United States—hung a sign that read “Eli Lilly, Chemist”. ¹
(L) Eli Lilly 1876. (R) Bronze marker noting original location 15 West Pearl Street – the best way to see this marker is walking to 30 S. Merdian Stret, and it is on the side of the building (now Oceanaire Seafood Room). You need to stand facing Oceanaire doors and then walk to right (north) a few feet where the building is set back, and the marker is tucked in on the side of the building.
Today, Lilly operates in 120 countries and has approximately 33,000 employees worldwide. Lilly introduced the world’s first commercial insulin in 1923. Lilly is a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange (LLY) with over $28 billion in revenue.
The Lilly family came to the United States from England in 1789, settling in Baltimore County, Maryland. Eli Lilly was born July 8, 1838, at Fairmont Plantation on Old Liberty Road in Baltimore, Maryland.
Eli was named after his grandfather and was the first of 11 children born to Gustavus and Esther Kirby Lilly. Moving to Kentucky for more than a decade and then to Indiana, the family settled in Greencastle, Indiana.²
Determined that his children would have an opportunity to acquire the best possible education, Gustavus relocated the family in the spring of 1852 to Greencastle, Indiana, home of a noted Methodist school, Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University).²
- The Lilly family moved to Greencastle, Indiana in 1852. The Steele family moved to Waveland, Indiana in 1852. These towns are 24 miles apart.
- Eli Lilly was born in 1838 and T.C. Steele in 1847, making them 9 years apart in age.
- Eli Lilly attended Asbury College from 1852-1854.
- T.C. Steele studied painting at Asbury College in the summer of 1863 with Professor Joseph Tingley. ³
- Several Steele family members lived in the Greencastle, Indiana area including towns of nearby Bainbridge and Waveland. Steele family members are buried in Greencastle, Bainbridge and Waveland, Indiana.
- It is unclear if the Steele and Lilly families knew each other during this period, and we have seen no research into this subject.
Eli Lilly married his childhood sweetheart, Emily Lemon, who was born and raised in Greencastle, in January 1861. He also opened his own drugstore in Greencastle on the town square in the same month. In the spring of the same year, April 1861, President Lincoln issued a call to arms in the Civil War. This would influence Lilly to lock the doors of his new drugstore, say goodbye to his new wife, and join the infantry of the Union Army.
Lilly’s service in the Civil War is well documented. He recruited a company of men to serve with him in the 18th Independent Battery Indiana Light Artillery, also known as “Lilly’s Hoosier Battery”. Recruiting headquarters were set up at the Lilly Drug Store, located on the southeast corner of Greencastle, Indiana’s town square.
Lilly Family plaque is located on “Heritage Wall” Greencastle, Indiana Intersection of South Vine Street and East Washington Street (US 231)
“The Lilly Drugstore was a modest enterprise, and by April of 1861, when President Lincoln called for volunteers, patriotic Lilly answered the call of duty. He closed his drugstore, joined the Putnam County Rifles, and was soon drilling the young soldiers who had come from the homes and farms of Putnam County, Indiana towns and villages, and the campus of DePauw University and Wabash College. They trained on Greencastle’s Courthouse Square, and on July 23, 1861, Lilly marched his 21st Regiment of Indiana Volunteers up historic Washington Street and on to Indianapolis. Here they were ordered east to Baltimore, and Eli Lilly was at the same time promoted to the rank of Lieutenant under General Lockwood.”⁴
Lilly was promoted to the rank of major and gained command of the 9th Regiment Indiana Cavalry. He was captured by the confederate Army in September 1864 and released in a prisoner exchange in January 1865. In recognition of his valor, Lilly earned the rank of lieutenant colonel upon return to duty. He is often referred to as Col. Eli Lilly in books, essays, and lecture.
(L) Civil War Recruiting Poster used by Eli Lilly in Greencastle, Indiana. Credit: Marilyn S. Wolf, 20214 (R)9th Cavalry, 121st Regiment Indiana Volunteers: Left: Col. George W. Jackson, Right: Lt. Col., Eli Lilly. By permission, Indiana Historical Society.
Eli Lilly’s contributions to his country and his home city of Indianapolis are exceptional. His orientation toward philanthropy lives on today with the Lilly Endowment, Inc., one of the world’s largest philanthropic foundations and among the largest endowments in the United States, founded in 1937.
Eli Lilly died June 6, 1898, and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, section 13, lot 19.
“In the death of Colonel Eli Lilly, the state and the city lost a brave and gallant soldier, a distinguished citizen, a generous, public-spirited, and benevolent man. All good causes were sure of ready sympathy when presented to him. He loved Indianapolis; and everything that helped to build it up, to improve its condition, to make life easier and better for the people, won his loyal and unwearying support. He freely gave of his means; he gave more freely still of his personal endeavor.”Indianapolis News, 1898
Eli and Emily Lilly had one child, Josiah Kirby Lilly (1861-1948), who is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, section 14, lot 18. Emily Lemon Lilly (1844-1866), pregnant with their second child, died of malaria, along with the unborn child. She is buried in the Lilly plot at Crown Hill.
After Emily Lemon Lilly died of malaria, he married Marian Sloane. Their only child, Eleanor Wallace Lilly (1871-1874) died of diphtheria.
Note from files when Eli Lilly portrait was gifted to the Indianapolis Museum of Art:
“Images of the Lilly House made during the 1930s show that all but one of the pictures hanging in the first-floor room were portraits of Lilly family members. This portrait hung in J.K. Lilly Jr.’s ‘Golden Eagle’ at Twin Oaks, according to circa 1960 photographs.”
Twin Oaks is located at 555 Kessler Blvd, West Drive, Indianapolis – originally built for department store magnate Lyman S. Ayers II, grandson of the founder L.S. Ayres.
All In A Century, the First 100 Years of Eli Lilly Company, E.J. Kahn, Jr., January 1, 1975, 211 pages
¹ Colonel Eli Lilly, Lilly Archives, January 2008, https://www.in.gov/governorhistory/mitchdaniels/files/Press/lillybio.pdf.
² Traces, Colonel Eli Lilly the Right Man for the Job, Michelle C. Jarrell, Courtesy Eli Lilly Archives.
³From Munich to Brown County: The Life and Artwork of T.C. Steele at Peeler, Feb 1 – June 11, 2017, Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana
⁴ The Historical marker Database, https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=56304 and photo courtesy Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012