"They're After Us, John!" by John Henderson Betts (1898)
John Henderson Betts (born April 6, 1877) was one of Howard Pyle's more promising pupils at the Drexel Institute. His work was shown in the first exhibition of work done in the School of Illustration (1897) and Pyle featured one of his pictures in his article, "A Small School of Art" (Harper’s Weekly, July 17, 1897). Betts was also one of the ten students awarded scholarships to the first Summer School of Illustration at Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1898. While there he made six illustrations for The Boys of Old Monmouth by Everett T. Tomlinson (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1898), including "They're After Us, John!" He appears in these two snapshots taken that summer, on the porch of Washington's Headquarters, where the male students boarded:
Front row: William F. Weed, Clyde DeLand, Frank Schoonover. Back row: Stanley Arthurs, Winfield S. Lukens, John H. Betts (in shirt sleeves), Robert L. Mason
Top to bottom: Robert L. Mason, Stanley Arthurs, William Francis Weed, James Wood (an instructor in Drexel's Antique Class, who backed up Pyle that summer), John H. Betts, Clyde O. DeLand, Winfield S. Lukens
Coincidentally - and if my genealogical calculations are correct - John Henderson Betts was also the third cousin of his classmate Anna Whelan Betts (1873-1959) and her sister Ethel Franklin Betts (born 1878), both Pyle students. He married Mary Furman Smith on November 1, 1900.
Despite his promise, Betts is little remembered today, for on March 3, 1902, he came to a terrible end. The Germantown Guide for March 15, 1902, described what happened:
Germantown Artist's Awful Death
John Henderson Betts met a shocking death on Monday by falling down the elevator shaft from the eleventh floor of the Real Estate Trust Building, southeast corner of Broad and Chestnut streets. Mr. Betts was hurrying to keep an appointment with his father, Colonel Charles M. Betts, a wholesale lumber dealer, whose office is on the twelfth floor of the building. The only other passenger in the car was Mr. William A. Messinger, of Clayton, Pa., who alighted at the eleventh floor. He says he heard the doors of the elevator shaft behind him. Almost immediately after that he heard a noise as if the doors had been reopened, and a scream which caused him to look around in time to see Mr. Betts go headlong over the edge of the platform through the doorway and into the shaft. Albert F. Gault, the boy in charge of the elevator, said that just as he started the car Mr. Betts said something to the effect that he had passed his floor, and clutched at the doors. The lever was at once reversed and the next thing Gault knew his passenger had disappeared. The body was taken to the Morgue, where it was identified soon after, when it was removed to 2034 Spring Garden Street, the residence of the deceased's father, where the funeral services were held on Thursday morning. Mr. Betts resided with his wife, to whom he was married in 1900, on Pomona Terrace, and was in his twenty-fifth year. He was a graduate of the Friends' Central School, and four years ago finished a course under Howard Pyle, the celebrated illustrator, at the Drexel Institute. He at once established himself as an illustrator became very successful, having his studio at 430 Walnut street. Among the most conspicuous books he has illustrated are Edward Robins' "Washington and Braddock's Campaign" and "An Iron Horse Chase; or, a Boy's Adventures in the Civil War." Mr. Betts also illustrated John Habberton's "Some Boy's Doings," and had only recently completed four illustrations in color for Mr. Robin's "A Boy in Early Virginia." He also illustrated Charles Heber Clarke's "Captain Bluitt," and was engaged at the time of his death in the illustration of a magazine story by Julien Gordon (Mrs. Van Rensselaer Cruger). He had also contributed illustrations to the Century, Scribner's and other magazines.