According to the notes penned on the back of the mount, this cabinet card portrait depicts Malcolm Westcott Hill, age 18, in 1893, while Hill was a student at St. Paul’s School in Garden City, Long Island, an Episcopal boarding prep school with a progressive science curriculum.
Young Hill went on to study at Johns Hopkins University and became an electrical engineer and electrical contractor. During the first World War, he attended Engineer Officer’s Training Camp at American University in Washington, DC, serving the Corps of Engineers until 1919, when he mustered out with the rank of captain.
Hill’s family had roots going back to two of the republic’s earliest conflicts: The American Revolution on his mother’s side, and on his father’s side, the War of 1812.
Malcolm’s grandfather, Thomas Gardner Hill(1793-1849), was a sergeant in Captain McKane’s Company, Maryland 27th Regiment during the War of 1812, and said to have been at the Battle of North Point. Malcolm’s father, Thomas Hill (1834-1909) was a prominent businessman of Baltimore.
Malcolm’s mother, Harriett Louise Westcott, could trace her roots back to the Revolutionary War, when her great-grandfather, Capt. Samuel Westcott (1757-1854), commanded a company in Col. Silas Newcomb’s First Battalion, of Cumberland County, New Jersey.
Malcolm’s grandfather George Burgin Westcott (1801-1887), relocated from New Jersey to Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland, where he amassed land and wealth and served as president of Kent National Bank, president of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Kent County, member of the Board of Governors of Washington College, and was prominent in the Episcopal Church.
The house they occupied in Chestertown from the 1830s to 1910, now known as the Geddes Piper House, is the headquarters of the Kent County Historical Society. They owned 320 acres of “Hinchingham,” west of Chestertown, on the bay, but there is no evidence that they lived in the historic house of the same name.
The studio where this portrait was taken was the busy and successful business owned by Harry Lenfield Perkins (b. abt. 1854, Maryland), and founded by his father, Palmer Lenfield Perkins (b. 1824, Burlington Co., New Jersey). According to Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, 311 E. Baltimore Street (old 103 W. Baltimore) was the studio’s address 1887-1897.
Like the Hills and the Westcotts, P. L. Perkins was a zealous and involved member of the Episcopal church. The Perkins belonged to Ascension Protestant Episcopal Church, Lafayette and Arlington streets (from 1932 called St. James Episcopal Church Lafayette Square); the Hills to St. Peter’s, from 1868 located at Druid Hill Avenue and Lanvale Street in Bolton Hill (today owned by Bethel A. M. E. Church).
Perkins chose a vignette style for this bust portrait, in which the background is burned out to create a soft, almost floating effect. Malcolm’s head is tilted to the left, his eyes raised up, as if gazing into his promising future–a style now familiar to generations of school portrait victims.
St. Paul’s School for Boys, an impressive Gothic Revival complex built ca. 1880, was dedicated to the memory of the founder of Garden City, Long Island, Alexander Turner Stewart. It was run by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. Empty for decades, preservationists have been engaged for years in a struggle to save the buildings from demolition and find new uses for it.