Today, since the backyard hen house is the new dog house, I have a short biography to share for any of my chicken loving friends.
Documenting chicken breeds and,….family history!
Franklane Sewell (1866 -1945) lived in Buchanan, Michigan for many years in a house on Walton Road, a house with a north facing skylight. There was both a very fine chicken and brooder coop on the property. Mr. Sewell gained a national reputation as a painter of poultry, specializing in paintings and line drawings to document the characteristics of standard breeds. He painted the stars among chickens!
Franklane Sewell’s prominence as a poultry artist is evidenced by his drawings still being used by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, and also by his being mentioned in a poem by Robert Frost. In the poem, “Blue Ribbon at Amesbury,” (1936), after mentioning some attributes of a prize hen: “In her, we make ourselves acquainted/With one a Sewell might have painted.” *
Examples of Sewell’s art can be found online. In The Asiatics, T. F. McGrew (Reliable Poultry Journal, 1902), included two drawings each of the ideal male and female Brahma chicken by Sewell (above). Another drawing by Sewell included in this work was of Langshans (below). A lovely painting (above) is also pictured online at an auction house.
Presently, chicken breeders and those who raise chickens at home, are still fond of Sewell’s work which shows such detail and passion for perfection and the different breeds. His artwork is discussed on blogs and chicken raising forums today.
Franklane Sewell built a distinctive house** on Fourth St. (also called Walton Rd***) in the small town of Buchanan, Michigan which still stands, with a special studio space with a skylight. He wrote one book there called, ‘The Poultry Manual; a guide to successful poultry keeping in all its branches, fancy and practical’ which is available online at Archive.org. He illustrated many other books, all which helped to set a standard in chicken breeding still used today. Clare from Curbstone Valley Farm, pointed out to me his photo, included in one of the online publications on her bookshelf.
A hobby I share with my sister is researching and preserving our family history. This is how we found out about Franklane Lorraine Sewell. He married into our Michigan branch of the family
* Critical Companion to Robert Frost by Deirdre Fagan
** This house has a recessed front porch with balcony above. Inside, the main room is two stories high with a balcony. The house was next-door to that of his wife’s parents, David and Eliza Kean, who were my great great aunt and uncle.
The Poultry herald manual: a guide to successful poultry keeping at archive.org
Full text of “The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans at archive.org
Kathi Wendt saw this article and emailed to me, “I own a sweet little painting of a little girl, above, signed by F.L. Sewell and dated 1892. After doing a bit of research, I am confident that the signature is that of Franklane Sewell. There is a good amount of information regarding his poultry artwork and this article is especially informative. I am curious if anyone has additional information about the subjects of other paintings.”