Often overshadowed by her more famous sister, Adelaide Nourse Pitman was an accomplished artist and craftswoman in her own right. Her work was featured at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and could be found in many homes around Cincinnati. Her own home on Columbia Parkway is perhaps the most complete collection of her work.

Adelaide Nourse Pitman was born on the twenty-sixth of October 1859 in Mount Healthy, Ohio, the youngest of ten children. While studying at the Art Institute of Cincinnati, she and her family lived in a house in Corryville, on the now nonexistent Falke Street. Adelaide’s twin sister Elizabeth was a realist landscape and portrait artist who left Cincinnati following the deaths of their parents in 1882 and traveled for several years before settling in Paris, where she painted most of her works. Elizabeth became much more famous than her sister, with the French government purchasing one of her paintings to be included in the permanent collection of the Musée du Luxembourg.

On August 18, 1882, Adeliade Nourse married Benjamin “Benn” Pitman in Sandusky, Ohio. Pitman was Nourse’s wood carving professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and, born in July 1822, nearly forty years Nourse’s senior. Benn was the brother of Isaac Pitman, the inventor of Pitman shorthand, and came to the United States from Great Britain to teach his brother’s system here. Following their marriage, the couple lived with their two children, Emerson and Melrose, as well as Benn’s daughter by his first wife, Agnes, in the Benn Pitman House on the southern slope of Mount Adams, near modern-day Columbia Parkway. The house was intricately decorated with wood carvings on most surfaces and furniture which was likewise crafted by the couple. Very few of the works credited to Nourse Pitman list her as the primary artist, often listing her husband as the designer, and disregarding her skill as a craftswoman. Her notable works consist of a bedframe on display in the Cincinnati Art Museum and the original organ panels at Music Hall. Her work also prominently Most of the carvings featured in the Ohio Room the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition can be credited to Pitman, but she was unable to attend due to illness.

Adelaide died from tuberculosis on September 12, 1893, and was cremated, following the practice set by her husband’s first wife, Jane Bragg Pitman. Like many artists, she remains under-credited, but Pitman should be remembered as a talented artist and craftswoman whose skill in woodcarving could hardly be rivaled.

Location

1727 Columbia Pkwy

Metadata

Michael Oteng, Logan Stumpf , Brenden Pulte, “Adelaide Nourse Pitman - Carver on Columbia,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/209.