Carlton Theodore Chapman, the artist, was actually born Theodore T. Chapman in New London, Ohio on Sept. 18, 1860. His father, Henry E. Chapman, had owned a furniture store and undertaking establishment that very year in a building immediately south of where the present hospital building is located. The senior Chapman was New London's first professional embalmer and had the first hearse in town. Margaret Lydia Merrifield, a daughter of Joseph Seymour Merrifield and Huldah Bates, resided three doors down the street in the present Vosatka (now Rankine) home.
Margaret or "Maggie" became Mrs. Henry E. Chapman on May 16, 1859, in New London. The next year, their first child -- Carlton -- was born. The boy was raised under the auspices of the Baptist faith as the local church records prove, but his scholastic education was received mainly in Oberlin schools where the Chapmans moved about 1873. The furniture stock had evidently burned in 1872, and the new business was set up in Oberlin. Margaret Merrifield Chapman transferred her membership to the Oberlin Baptist Church on Jan. 6th, 1873.
When Carlton Chapman recognized his artistic talent, he moved to New York and studied with the Art Students' League and at the National Academy. He also gained experience at the Academic Julien in Paris, and the South Kensington Museum and the National gallery in London. Chapman was a student of marine architecture; his studies were literally a museum of naval memorabilia; and nearly all his works were done with the sea in mind.
Carlton Chapman traveled for Harper's Magazine Weekly with the U.S. Navy to Cuba and witnessed nearly all the important engagements of the Spanish American War. He also worked for Scribner's Magazine -- illustrating Capt. Mahan's articles on famous U.S. Naval battles. Chapman illustrated the history of the War of 1812 by James Barnes. His works were purchased by the Duquesne Club of Pittsburgh, the Larchmont Yacht Club, Atlantic Yacht Club, and Lotos Club, all of New York; the Ellicott Club of Buffalo, and by several private collectors.
Among his awards are medals presented at Boston, 1892; the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, 1893; Atlanta, 1895; Pan-American exposition at Buffalo, 1901; and Charleston, 1902. Chapman's eventual home was at Toledo, where his mother died on July 25, 1913. Carlton Theodore Chapman passed away on Feb. 12, 1925. His last exhibition (posthumously) was at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1925.
If you look hard, you'll find Chapman in the Ohio Almanac,in the 1924-25 edition of Who's Who in America, on a file card or two in the Archives of American Art and the Frick Museum Library, and, occasionally, his canvases show up in the New York art salesrooms. But he is obscure and unknown to all but a few in New London and Oberlin. He was buried in Grove Street Cemetery here in New London, near the west end of the cemetery.
Written by Thomas S. Neel