• Franklane L. Sewell, artist to the chicken stars!

    by  • April 4, 2011 • History • 41 Comments

    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!

    An oil on board painting by Sewell

    An oil on board painting by Sewell

    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.” *


    Brahma by Sewell Reliable Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma by Sewell Reliable Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma female by Sewell Relaible Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma female by Sewell Relaible Poultry Journal Asiatics

    1919 books illustrated and published by Reliable Poultry Journal

    1919 books illustrated and published by Reliable Poultry Journal

    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.


    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell, the artist at work

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell, the artist at work


    Ideal Black Langshans-- By Sewell

    Ideal Black Langshans– By Sewell

    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.

    1901 Franklane L Sewell

    1901 Franklane L Sewell

    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.

    1908 Franklane L Sewell Poultry Manual

    1908 Franklane L Sewell Poultry Manual

    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.
    ***Robin Parkinson

    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


    1891 Franklane Sewell Poultry Show Varieties Madison Square Garden 1891 Print

    1891 Franklane Sewell Poultry Show Varieties Madison Square Garden 1891 Print


    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell


    Sweet portrait found by Kathi Wendt

    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.”


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    41 Responses to Franklane L. Sewell, artist to the chicken stars!

    1. April 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

      I particularly like the line “poultry keeping in all it’s branches, fancy and practical” “Fancy” is such a great word. But seems to be out of fashion.

    2. April 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Fascinating! Not only the introduction you’d given here of an amazingly talented artist but also of the links to both your own family and Robert Frost’s poem! I love watching hens and chickens and wish we were able to keep a couple here, but we aren’t permitted to. I, however, know nothing about the different breeds or their origins or histories. I will definitely view them in a whole new light though, after reading this post.

      The paintings and sketches you’ve shown here are remarkably detailed and really rather beautiful. Farmyard comes to town 🙂

    3. April 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      I’m so glad you posted this. When I researched our post about Dark Brahmas I found many beautiful illustrations, but until we exchanged emails, I didn’t realize that some of them were done by your relative. I must admit though, that painting of the Dark Brahma pair in your first photograph, is my all time favorite painting of any I’ve seen. Franklane Sewell did such a wonderful job of actually bringing the character of these birds through in his illustrations and paintings, and his attention to detail was remarkable! But then again, I’m probably a little biased, as that rooster in the painting looks almost exactly like our Frodo!

    4. April 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm

      Kerry, from looking into family history and using Google Books a lot for publications around this time, it’s clear that our manner of writing and speaking has changed. We use a lot more slang and not as many descriptive words, maybe. I say “neat, good and nice” a lot.

      Thanks, Desiree, this was certainly news to my sister and me, but has been fascinating to us, too. I won’t even mention our relative who invented boning (stays) for clothing from turkey feathers! (Warren Featherbone) Oops, I mentioned it.

      Clare, thanks for your support in this post. I’m so glad you can enjoy that painting. I wonder if it’s still for sale? I’m a chicken owner vicariously through your henhouse adventures.

    5. April 5, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      Love the title: Poultry herald manual! It all seems so quaint to our thoroughly modern eyes. Painting poultry? But I’d guess painting champion specimens might not be that far from Annie Leibovitz photographing the stars of our day, just don’t tell Sting or Bette or Yoko. And you’re related to the guy?! Wow. If I did a post on my notable family I’d be profiling religious zealots or car thieves.

    6. April 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Hi James,
      Sewell was admired among his peers and went to exhibitions just like we go to big flower & garden shows.
      “In 1894, Ezra Cornell, of Ithaca, New York, became interested in the new Partridge Wyandotte, and in 1895 began to breed in co-operation with Mr. Brackenbury. Mr. Cornell had heard of Mr. Brackenbury in a roundabout way. In 1893 Brackenbury had sent some buff feathers laced with blue to Franklane L. Sewell, the poultry artist. Mr. Sewell carried these feathers with him to the New York show and there showed them to Mr. Cornell, who was then breeding Buff Leghorns; and Mr. Cornell became so interested in the buff feathers laced with blue that at the close of the show he made a trip especially to see Mr. Brackenbury’s buff-laced Wyandottes, or Auburnettes.”

      I wonder what money value was placed on these chickens?
      Me, related? …I try to be humble.

    7. April 8, 2011 at 2:38 am

      Ah, you’re just bragging now with all these great historical characters who people your ancestry 🙂

    8. April 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Desiree, you’d be surprised to how how fast mentioning my ancestors and their many accomplishments can bring the liveliest conversation to a standstill amongst my friends. Only when I hang out with poultry lovers do I dare mention it. 😀

      • Willliam Kean Curtis
        March 19, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        Hi Sue,
        Debbie Peterson is my daughter and Franklane L. Sewell is my grandfather through my mother Elizabeth’s side of the family. I lived in there home for a few months with my siblings David, Eleanor, Ruth, twin brother Warren and Kenny.
        The last time I saw my grandfather was in 1947 at the Dayton Fair. He was judging chickens in the Poulty Barn. Ann Bulter, who lives in Ohio has been in contact with me quite a few times and has followed the Sewell genenalogy and shared both pictures of the Sewell family.
        I feel grateful to have his 1910 Standard of Perfection with his name F.L. Sewell engraved on it.
        Nice to have commicated with you.
        William Kean Curtis. Tucson, AZ

        • Sue Langley
          March 24, 2016 at 11:28 am

          Thank you William for your remembrances. I can just imagine, your grandfather slipping a feather in his pocket to get the color correct in his paintings.
          You’ll see a roundup of other relatives here and I’m always surprised and delighted to hear from another. We also received an email or two from Anne, but lost touch with her…

          I still hear from chicken breeders in my garden groups who have Franklane’s books in their reference libraries. His standard is still held today,…something to be very proud of.

          Thanks for commenting!

    9. lou fox
      August 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      this is great i have been looking for the artist that sketched a picture of three chickens that a chicken feed person gave my father inlaw many years ago the picture is signed by Mr Sewell and dated 1941 last year i had it reframed i am thrilled to find out who did this sketch it is a black and white 11×16 it is hanging in my breakfeast room it would be great to know what is worth

      • August 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

        Hi Lou,…amazingly chicken breeders still use books that include drawings by Franklane Sewell. I’m glad you could find this information which makes your drawing even more valuable with the story attached. If after finding out the dollar value, you did *not* sell it, then the value would prove then be priceless.

    10. Debbie Lonie
      December 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Dear Sue,
      I grew up in that house in Buchanan, and just recently found out that the Sewells built it. We purchased the house from the Hays family in the 1960s, and I mistakenly thought that they built it. That upstairs recessed porch was wonderful for mid-summer slumber parties!! Isn’t it a small world?

      • Sue Langley
        December 29, 2013 at 6:11 am

        Hi Debbie,…how wonderful to hear from you and I can imagine your surprise on finding this post! I wonder,..had you known about Franklane Sewell before? Since writing this, and because of Google, apparently, a few of Mr Sewell’s relatives have contacted me,…so interesting! Yes, a small world! ~~ Sue

        • Debbie Lonie
          December 31, 2013 at 5:15 am

          Hello Sue!
          Thanks for replying to my comment. No, I never heard of Franklan Sewell before!! I thought that an ancestor of the Hays had built the house, but had not checked any deeds or tax records. I, too, am a fan of family history, and love the research. Finding information like yours is such a thrill that just makes the research so much more fun. The house was truly a wonderful place for my large family to grow up in. I hope you get a chance to see it someday.

          • Sue Langley
            January 9, 2014 at 8:15 am

            I hope so, too,..our family has quite a lot of history in the Three Oaks area… I was glad to hear from you! ~~ Sue

    11. Arlene Frank
      February 3, 2014 at 8:20 am

      My Husband Is a direct descendant of Franklane Sewell. Franklane had a son Ralph. Ralph married Mabel and they had 2 daughters, Lorraine and Cora. Cora Sewell is my Husbands Mother. This does not have to go up on your blog. I would so like to gift my husband a Poultry Print of his Great Grand Father’s. Any advice as to where to look would be appreciated. He often speaks about a Worlds Fair painting Sewell did that was wall size, yet we have never been able to see a picture or read anything about it. Thank you for doing this research and putting this information out there.

      Arlene Frank

      August 27, 2014 at 11:27 am

      This website is awesome. My Mother was Lorraine Elizabeth Sewell Sharpe the Grand daughter of Franklin Sewell- daughter of Ralph and Mabel Sewell. The pictures on this site are incredible. I will have to share them with my children and grand children. I believe that is where two of my children get their artistic talents from. My Mother was also very artistic.

      Janet S. Bradshaw

      • Sue Langley
        August 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        Hi Janet,

        Thank you! I’ve received a few other replies and emails from your family nd we’ve solved few lines of genealogy with information they’ve given. Nice!
        I’m only related by marriage and long ago, but I’ve been so interested in this fascinating branch of our Michigan family.

        We have a family page, “Wyatt Family Museum,” where more is given…


    13. Robin Parkinson
      October 17, 2014 at 6:50 am

      My family lived for several years in the 1950’s in a house on Walton Rd between Niles and Buchanan Michigan. It was said that a chicken painter lived had lived there. There was both a very fine chicken and brooder coop on the property and you could seen in my bedroom that there had once been a large north facing skylight — a painter’s studio. As a kid, my first money-making scheme involved a couple dozen chickens in those facilities. This is great, I’ve always wondered who the artist was — Google works!

      • Debbie Lonie
        October 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

        Robin, it’s good to hear from another Buchananite! I would love to know more about the house that YOU grew up in. I wondered where the Sewell family lived before building the house on Fourth St. Apparently, the family ended up living in Niles — anyone know where that place is located?? I wonder if the Niles house is as much of a wonderland as our place on Fourth St. Robin, it sounds like you, too have good memories of a fun place to grow up.

      • Sue Langley
        October 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

        Hi Robin and Debbie!
        Now you both have me interested. I checked a Google map and see that indeed, Fourth St turns into Walton Rd as it heads east to Niles. Debbie, Niles is just a few miles east of Buchanan.
        Just for my own geeky info,..I’d love to know more,…what dates each of you lived in the house and what is the address numbers. I wonder if the house still is there? Do each of you still live in Michigan.
        Thanks so much for the detailed description of the house and chicken coops, Robin…so interesting!

        I hope each of you will email back,..doesn’t have to be public,..this info…

        Oh, I added another couple photos,…one of the artist at work in his studio later in Ohio. He moved I’ve determined between 1916 and 1925, he moved from Buchanan, Micigan to Ohio, according to the city addresses on his two daughters marriage certificates


        • Debbie Lonie
          October 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

          Sue, how are you connected to the Sewell family? I would love to tell you more about my ‘growing up’ home in Buchanan. The house is a huge ‘four-square” Victorian with extensive, gorgeous oak paneling in the ‘studio’ and the rest of the house. Our garage was narrow, built for buggies, with an attached shed for stabling the horses. It was built about 1904, and although the garage is gone, the house still stands. We lived there from 1962 until my dad retired in 1990, at which time the house was sold. I now live out of state, but was in Buchanan in Aug, and my dad and I went through the old neighborhood. Oodles of good memories there!

          • Sue Langley
            March 4, 2015 at 10:16 am

            Debbie, my great Aunt Leota was married to his brother-in-law, Ralph Kean! Not a close connection, but we still have papers and records from the family. Fun to know more about that period of time.

            • JANET BRADSHAW
              March 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm

              Franklin L. Sewell was married to Jessie Kean. Now that answers the question about my Grandfather’s name. He obviously was named after his Mother’s brother, Ralph. So interesting. My Mom’s brother, David Ralph Sewell, still lives in San Diego. He is about 78.

          • Sue Langley
            March 4, 2015 at 1:48 pm

            Here’s the family tree:
            David Watson Kean married Elizabeth Pratt
            4 kids

            Jesse m. Franklane Sewell
            3 kids
            Ralph Lorraine Sewell
            Ruth Marguerite Sewell
            Ruth Marguerite Sewell

            Mabel (died in childhood)
            Ralph m. Leota Ellison (My aunt) -no children
            Hugh – no children

            Many of the family were named after this bunch! And ALL the descendants come from Jesse’s side!

    14. Robin Parkinson
      November 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      The house is 3 miles north of Niles; Buchanan was further away so we thought of ourselves as “Niles” people. Perhaps this was the Niles house? I’m guessing it was built in the 1920s or 30s. Anyway, where the house was at the east end of Walton Rd. seems to have become Winns Rd. but the house is still there though from Google Maps, it looks as if the chicken and brooder coops are gone. We had a pony there and life was good. We moved East in 1959 and I now live in New York City.

    15. Crystal Jones
      March 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

      This is my great great grandfather! This write up about him is awesome, I love it!!!

      • Sue Langley
        March 4, 2015 at 10:17 am

        How nice that you found this then,…Crystal…I’m glad!

    16. Deborah Sue Peterson Tucson, AZ
      May 30, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      I am so glad to have found this site. My name is Deborah Peterson, but my maiden name was Deborah Sue Curtis. My father is William Kean Curtis and my mother is Frances Rose Curtis. My mothers maiden name was Shnider, she is the great grandaughter of president Buchannan, but that’s a whole other story 🙂 . I am an only child, and I am the Great granddaughter of Franklane L. Sewell. My fathers parents name name were Elizabeth Sarah Sewell, she was married Donald Grant Curtis. They had 6 children . David Grant Curtis, Elenor Curtis , Ruth S. Curtis, Warren Frank Curtis and William Kean Curtis who were twins, and finally Kenny Curtis. I don’t know ho long the stayed married for , But at some point my fathers mom decided she couldn’t care for all the children and the got seperaeted to different foster homes. Elizabeth then remarried Gerorge Davies, and had 2 more children. My aunts; Victoria Davies and Christine Davies. I own one of his painting and a sketch. Just thought it was nice to find out who was who out there. BTW We were mostly from the Dayton OH area. Debbie : )

      • Jeffrey Curtis
        December 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm

        Hi Debbie! Good to see you on this site. Just happened to stumble on it.

    17. Debbie Peterson
      June 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      If anyone has anymore items for sale of my Great grandfather F L Sewell Or any more articles I would very much be interested. Thanks, Debbie

      • Sue Langley
        June 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        Debbie, have you been able to find any items or paintings from your great grandfather to buy ever? Everything here is from the internet searches once I learned of this relative, only by marriage and distant to me. I was fascinated by the story, though, and the comments here have been such a reward!

        Some families keep a lot of artifacts and papers and some don’t we have found, but in our family history correspondence we found a treasured photo, just s scan, of a great grandmother that answered a lot of questions. We still do searches for mysterious relatives, knowing that more and more facts and info are added online each day.

        Nice to hear from you,…I was reminded to add the facts in your above comment to our Family Tree program. I have heard from other relatives of Franklane’s, so if you’d like to email me directly you can. suewylan@gmail.com
        ~~ Sue

    18. Jeffrey Curtis
      December 12, 2015 at 7:42 am

      We have a few sketches of his work that our family have passed down thru the years. My uncle, Bill Curtis, has an actual painting. We are descendants of Franklane, as we are told. We live in Dayton, Ohio.

      • Sue Langley
        December 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

        How nice to have the sketches and painting, Jeffery. As you can see from the comments,…here are a variety of relations who’ve probably found this page from a Google search. Which one of the Curtis sibs was your parent? I hope you enjoy seeing the stories here, especially the ones about the family home.

        • Jeffrey Curtis
          December 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm

          I am the oldest son of Kenneth Gordon Curtis. I have a younger sister Cindy and younger bother Tim. Franklane was my Great Grandfather. Debbie Peterson is my cousin. Her dad, Bill Curtis, is trying to track down Franklane’s work just to how much was done. This is a great site. Would love to see more on Great grandfather and more relatives.

          • Sue Langley
            December 20, 2015 at 9:37 am

            Hi Jeffrey,
            Here’s a link to my family history website,…for the Kean family. Leota Ellison Kean was my great aunt,…so our connection to the Sewell’s is tenuous. BUT, my sister and I found his story fascinating,…especially how he’d slip a chicken feather in his pocket so he could use it later when painting the exact colors. I have to enter more of what we have as far as family tree and also have to add the family members you all have mentioned. I’m glad you family has found this bit in your searches..


    19. Deborah Peterson
      March 26, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      This is your cousin Debbie! nice to be in touch with you again! Your parents are going to be here in a couple of days to visit my mom and dad. Who has grandpa Sewell’s stuff? You or Aunt Jan and Uncle Kenny? Love Debbie 🙂 You can get my Ph# thru them, or go to my FB @ gypsybutrfly@comcast.net 🙂

    20. Deborah Peterson
      April 5, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Hi Sue,
      By now my father William Kean Curtis and my cousin Jeff Curtis have gotten in touch with you. I am sorry I kinda fell out of the loop there for awhile. Things got really busy for me in the past few years. I know i promised you a photo of my great grandfathers painting that own. I will try to get to that by this weekend some time. Most of the the prints, or information that have collected , I have given to my father “William K. Curtis” He owns most the rest of the important things like old poultry journals . books etc. We have accumulated a lot lately.I suggest you stay closer in touch with him. He actually lived great grandpa Sewell and remembers the chicken coops and cleaning them out and stuff like that. If you have a Face Book acct., you can find me on there. I am under Deborah Peterson Tucson, AZ. i will keep in touch with you as best I can. I have been very busy going back and forth to LA. Sincerely, Debbie Peterson 🙂

    21. Kathi Wendt
      January 14, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Hello! I own a sweet little painting of a little girl 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.

      • Sue Langley
        February 28, 2017 at 6:53 am

        Hi Kathi, If you don’t mind, email me a photo of your painting and I’ll add it to this article. Maybe someone can identify it! Fun! I’m so glad you found this post! suewylan@gmail.com

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