Theodore Clement Steele, American, 1847–1926
Oil on canvas
99.69 cm x 74.29 cm | 39 1/4 in x 29 1/4 in
Framed: 134.62 cm x 109.22 cm x 8.89 cm| 53 in x 43 in x 3 1/2 in
Signed and dated lower right, T.C. Steele | 1894
From the collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
T.C. Steele painted portraits of husband and wife Henry and Matilda Schnull – Henry in 1894 and Matilda in 1895. These portraits are conformed in size of canvas and framing selected. Both have conformed brass nameplates at the bottom. The portraits present Henry sitting, turned slightly to his right, and Matilda sitting, turned slightly to her left. When arranged together the couple are facing slightly inward toward each other, Henry on the observers right, Matilda on the left.
These are excellent examples of T.C. Steele’s technique in portraiture. They are unique; featuring individual portraits of both husband and wife, facing inward toward each other, and in conformed canvas size and framing selection. These portraits both reside in private collection in Cambridge, Massachusetts and remain hanging together in a private residence to this day. We are grateful to the owner who provided the provenance and granted permission to have these remarkable companion portraits of the Schnull’s photographed and documented for our virtual gallery.
T.C. Steele would have been living with his family at Tinker Place when these paintings were completed and most likely, he painted each of them in his studio at the Tinker residence. Steele returned from his study in Germany in 1885, and became the most sought after portrait artist in the area during his time at the Tinker residence. His wife Mary Elizabeth Lakin “Libbie” Steele who later died of tuberculosis (1899) would have been residing with the artist at Tinker place during the time these portraits were completed.
Heinrich “Henry” Friedrich Schnull (1833 – 1905) was born in Hausberge, a small town in Westphalia, Germany. When Henry was eighteen he was determined to change the course of his life and set sail for America from the port of Bremen, aboard an old-fashioned sailing vessel. He landed to meet his brother August who had preceded him to America by two year and had settled in the town of Indianapolis. When young Henry disembarked in New Orleans after a seventy-three day voyage, bother August was there to meet him.⁴
Henry and his brother August had both apprenticed as Kaufmann (German for merchant) in Germany learning the methods of trade and accounts. The first began in buying and selling farm produce in central Indiana. They established a wholesale grocery business warehouse on the southeast corner of Washington and Delaware Streets in Indianapolis, and shortly thereafter August decided to return to Hausberge where he bought a small Scholss (German for chateau, or manor house) and lived as gentleman until his death in 1918.
Henry Schnull became a leading merchant and banker in Indiana, and a highly regarded, prominent citizen of Indianapolis. He was the first president of Merchants National Bank and is known as the “Founder of the Indianapolis Wholesale District” or the “Father of the South Meridian Street Wholesale District”. He was also an originator of Das Deutsche Haus (The Athenaeum).
The Indianapolis Wholesale District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area includes The former Schnull & Co. Building building constructed by Henry Schnull in 1863, and designed by local architectural firm of Vonnegut & Bohn. The original Schnull’s Block, built in 1862 or 1863, stood on the corner of Maryland and Meridian Streets in downtown Indianapolis. The building collapsed in the late 1980s and was demolished. The 1896 Schnull and Co. Building, which stood just south of the original building, was demolished also in the late 1980s to build the Circle Centre Mall.²
Henry married Matilda Schramm (11 December 1856³). They had four children, Emma Schnull (Vonnegut), Nanette “Nannie” Schnull (Vonnegut), Gustav Adolph Schnull, Julia Wilhelmene Schnull.
Two of the girls married Vonnegut brothers Clemens Jr, and Bernard.
- Emma Schnull (1857 – 1939) married Clemens Vonnegut, Jr., son of Clemens Vonnegut, Sr.
- Nanette Schnull (1859 – 1929) married Bernard Vonnegut, son of Clemens Vonnegut Sr.
Henry and Matilda’s son Gustav A. Schnull and his wife (also named Matilda) Matilda L. Mayer Schnull built a prestigious home on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, which is owned today by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Called “one of the best-designed of the city’s Meridian Street mansions” by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The house is also an outstanding example of the architecture of Bernard Vonnegut and is one of the few remaining examples of French Romanesque architecture in Indianapolis. The home is located at 3050 N. Meridian Street and built in 1904. The Schnull-Rauch House is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.
The home is referred to as Schnull-Rauch House. After Gustav’s wife (Matilda Mayer Schnull) death in 1923, their daughter Gertrude and her husband John G. Rauch, a lawyer who became president of the Art Association of Indianapolis, moved in and joined Gustav in the home. Gertrude Schnull (Rauch) and John G. Rauch remained in the home until the late 1970’s.
Known not only as a distinguished business leader in Indianapolis, Henry along with his wife Matilda Schnull were also known for their philanthropy and generosity to those less fortunate.
“Henry Schnull’s death in 1905 was reported in papers across the country and in Germany. The titles in Germany read; “Vom Tagloehner zum Millionaer,” from day laborer to millionaire, and, indeed, by the time he had amassed a fortune in real estate and other holdings. Henry and Mathilde had been known for their generosity and warm hearted, compassionate attitude toward those less fortunate, but it was six months after Henry’s death, in May, 1906, that the full impact of this generosity on the Indianapolis community was realized. On behalf of his father, Gustav distributed $20,000 to 34 charitable organizations benefacted included the Charity Organization Society in many ways a precursor of the United Way, the Flanner Guild, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, and the German Ladies Aid Society. Mr. Schnull’s gifts were made without regard to race or religion and they were intended to benefit the most unfortunate. An article in the Indianapolis Star on May 16, 1906 describes Henry Schnull’s impact on these charities in a manner which continues to ring true today…”⁴
Indianapolis Star, May 1906
Henry and Matilda Schnull are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Section 6, Lot 35.
Bibliography and further reading on the Schnull Family
- Letters of Jakob Schramm and Family from Indiana to Germany in 1836, translated by Norma M. Stone, great-granddaughter of Jakob and Julie Schramm, with Notes by Emma Schnull Vonnegut and by the Translator, The Dartmouth Printing Co., Hanover, NH, 1951, 111 pages
- The Schramm Letters, Written by Jakob Schramm and Members of His Family from Indiana to Germany in the Year 1836, translated by and edited by Emma S. Vonnegut, Indianapolis, IN, Indiana Historical Society, 1935, published as Indiana Historical Society Publications Volume 11, Number 4, pp. 221 – 302
- Indiana Magazine of History, September 1981, Volume LXXVII, Number 3, see “Letter of Jacob Schramm in Indiana to Karl Zimmermann in Germany 1842,” pp 268 – 287
- History of Schnull-Rauch families, submitted on February 18, 1983 by Caterina Griner Gregor, Janet Preheim Lautzenheiser, Catherine Wood Lawson, Hazel Francis Lemen, members of the Provisional Class of 1982 of the Junior League of Indianapolis, 10 3/8” x 13 5/8”, 54 pages
- Family Chronicle, by John George Rauch, Sr., privately published in London, England, circa 1960
1“Schnull & Company Building (Commercial), 110-116 South Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Marion County, IN.” The Library of Congress. Accessed February 9, 2021. https://www.loc.gov/item/in0318/.
2Steele, David E. Interview with Dr. James A. Glass, Principal, Historic Preservation and Consulting, LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana. Personal, December 30, 2020.
3History of Schnull-Rauch families, submitted on February 18, 1983 by Caterina Griner Gregor, Janet Preheim Lautzenheiser, Catherine Wood Lawson, Hazel Francis Lemen, members of the Provisional Class of 1982 of the Junior League of Indianapolis, 10 3/8” x 13 5/8”, 54 pages.