Biographies Header

Neysa McMein



 NEYSA MCMEIN, a famous American commercial illustrator and portrait artist was born in Quincy, Illinois on January 25, 1889 to her parents Harry Moran McMein and Isabelle Parker McMein. She attended Webster School and graduated from Quincy High School as an honor student in 1907 using her Christened name Marjorie Frances McMein. Early in her childhood she showed promise in art, music and dramatics. Marjorie acted in school plays at Quincy High School. In her Senior Class play she played the leading role of Kate in "She Stoops To Conquer" which was performed at the Empire Theater. She studied music in Quincy, but didn't take up art seriously until after her high school days when she entered the Chicago Art Institute. During school she began doing art work on greeting cards and other advertising. She did a brief stint as an actress, but soon turned to her commercial art. It is said a numerologist gave her advice about changing her name and she soon adopted the name Neysa. Other people say that Neysa hated her name of Marjorie and she saw a fast shiny black Arabian horse named Neysa at the stables of Homer Davenport and decided to change her name. After her name change her Star began to rise.
     When Neysa arrived in New York she was a very beautiful liberated woman in all aspects and an ardent supporter of women's suffrage. Neysa studied at the Art Students League of New York for a few months. She sold her first drawing in 1914 to the Boston Star. Later she sold a cover to the Saturday Evening Post. She drew pastel drawings of chic, healthy American girls which proved to be highly popular. Early on she began receiving a number of commissions for her work, often receiving $1,000 for her magazine covers with later commissions reaching $2,500 for the outstanding portraits she produced. During World War I Neysa spent time drawing posters for the United States and French governments. In 1915, Neysa did a portrait of Harry Horowitz "Gyp the Blood," the gunman who was an underworld figure and leader of the Lenox Avenue Gang in New York City who was about to be executed for the murder of Herman Rosenthal. Neysa's Patriotic posters were so well received by the public that they were used throughout the country in both World War I and II. Many of her posters were done with the Red Cross and special drives. During the World War I era she volunteered as a YMCA entertainer and spent months visiting American camps in France. When her father Harry who had been a longtime member of the editorial staff of the old Quincy Whig died in 1918 she rushed home to be with her Mother.
     During her return to Quincy she was invited by the staff at the Quincy Journal to speak of her experience in France for a benefit of a united war fund. She spoke on the evening of November 13, 1918 at the Empire Theater to a packed house who felt that her speech was the most memorable of any given during the war years. Neysa spoke a second night since many who wanted to attend the first night had been turned away because of the large crowds. Her speech was well received in her hometown of Quincy and spoken of often by her local family and friends.
     In late 1918 after her father died, Miss Neysa McMein took her invalid Mother Isabelle to New York to live with her. Her Mother died several years later. Neysa returned to Quincy for her final visit when she brought her Mother home to be buried in Woodland Cemetery.
     Between 1923 and 1937 Neysa created all the covers for McCall's Magazine. She also did illustrations during that time for Woman's Home Companion, Colliers, Photoplay, McClure's Magazine and others. She did graphics for Palmolive soap and Lucky Strike cigarettes. General Mill's    Marjorie C. Husted commissioned her to create the image of "Betty Crocker," a fictional housewife.
     In 1923, Neysa married John G. "Jack" Baragwanath, a mining engineer and author. They had a daughter Joan Baragwanath who married Fred G. Leech.
     Neysa lived in New York and had a successful career as an illustrator and designer all the while living an exciting, lively social life. The Algonquin Hotel is a historic hotel opened in 1902 in Manhattan, New York that Neysa and her friends frequented. In 1919, Neysa and her friends formed a daily meeting site at the hotel and their group became known as the "Algonquin Round Table" set. You would find many members of this same group of interesting people visiting at Neysa's West 57th Street art studio apartment. Some of her immediate circle of friends included Alexander Woollcott, F.P. Adams, Elsa Maxwell, Mary Pickford and Anita Loos. In her New York apartment you would often find numerous famous people hanging out with the likes of Harpo Marx telling jokes and Irving Berlin playing the piano. Neysa's apartment was located across the street from Carnegie Hall so on any given night you could find famous friends like Helen Hayes, Cold Porter, George Gershwin, Noel Coward, Walt Disney, Edna Ferber and her friend the American actress, screenwriter and playwright Olga Petrova joining in the laughter, music and just plain fun. Neysa loved games and actually made the game of "Charades" popular in America.
     Jack Baragwanath and Neysa had an open marriage while sharing their true love and always remaining totally devoted to each other. After her McCall Magazine contract ran out in 1938, Neysa the beautiful, lovely Quincy, Illinois girl concentrated on doing more portrait paintings of such famous people as Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Dorothy Parker (shared living quarters with Neysa for a short time), Janet Flanner, Katharine Cornell, Helen Hayes, Charlie Chaplin, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and numerous other well known people.
     At her death one of Neysa's deceased area relatives had been her great-aunt Miss Anna Gallagher, a prominent teacher in Quincy for many years. Other relatives of Neysa were former Quincyans her cousins, Warfield McMein of Hannibal, Missouri, Mrs. Elizabeth McMein Cummins of DeMoines, Iowa, Mrs. J.A.S. Ehart of Miami, Florida and Mrs. Margaret Parker Condas and Donald Parker of Chicago. The late William H. McMein, George McMein and Mr. Parker were her uncles.
     Neysa McMein, a native Quincy artist died in New York at St. Luke Hospital after a brief illness. Her funeral services were held at the Holy Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, New York City with her burial near her husband in Rhinebeck Cemetery, Rhinebeck, New York. At the time of her death Neysa and her husband John enjoyed homes in Port Washington, Long Island and Havana, Cuba. They still had their apartment in New York City where her principal "Art Studio" was located.

COMPILED: By Donna, Published: July 16, 2014]

Woodland Cemetery
Block 7 Lot 6
Harry McMein 1863-1918 (int: 19 Oct. 1918) (Father)
there are Gallaher's buried here also
Frances G. McMein "Mother" 18 June 1837 - 12 June 1887 (Neysa's Grandmother)
[Source: Woodland Cemetery Vol. I]

Block 15 Lot 44
Parker, John W. 1833 - 1918 (int: 17 Jan. 1918)
    Margaret E. 1833 - 1895
    Edward M. 1865 - 1881 (d. 8 Apr. 1881 - 15y 7m 24d)
    Belle Parker McMein 1861 - 1923 (int: 28 Mar. 1923) (Mother)
Headstone: McMein, Belle
Parker, Frank A. n/s (no stone) (int: 27 May 1926)
Harry and Belle are not buried together according to the cemetery books.
[Source: Woodland Cemetery Vol. III]

Grandfather is Hugh McMein, his obituary doesn't state where he is buried, nor is he in the Woodland Cemetery book

Debbie Gibson, Copyright 2006
IL Genealogy Trails and History Group!
All Rights Reserved with Full Rights
Reserved for Original Contributor