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The Man from Shady Ledge

Note:  See the complementary Article about Frank H. Taylor in this issue: Nancy L. Gustke’s “The Special Artist”

Frank H. Taylor first came to the Thousand Islands in the summer of 1881 at the age of thirty five. He was born in Rochester, N. Y. but, early on, moved to Philadelphia where he spent the rest of his life until he passed away in 1927.

Almost all written material on Frank H. Taylor has to do with his life and accomplishments while living in Philadelphia. This article will not repeat that information but deal with his time at the Thousand Islands.

He was a man of many talents, nationally recognized as an author, illustrator, artist [watercolors], a photographer and designer with a keen interest in architecture. His works appear in many museums and libraries and are valued as a window into the past.

Frank H. Taylor soon built his summer home at the foot of Round Island and named it “Shady Ledge.” He had a strong attachment to Round Island,  [Shady Ledge illustration to the right] including it in much of his work.

NOTE:   All illustrations are from the collection of Robert and Prudence Matthews, Fisher’s Landing, NY.

Taylor’s first Thousand Islands project was a full page collage illustrating various river scenes including cottages on Round Island. If you’re fortunate enough to view this page in the August 13, 1881 issue of Harper’s Weekly, you will notice that at least two cottages have experienced little change to their outward appearance and are still recognizable after almost one hundred and thirty years.

The 1884 book (Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life), pictured at the left, was written and illustrated by Frank H. Taylor. Thirty of the one hundred and ten pages were devoted to the Thousand Islands and contain some very interesting information pertaining to that era. The cover and the  illustrations below from the book are early examples of his art work.

Two years later, Taylor wrote and illustrated the boat catalogue shown below.

It’s obvious that he was one of the rare illustrators who could also write and design. Before photography became prevalent, a person who possessed these three skills was referred to as a “special artist.” Newspapers could assign one person to do a job of three which was both cost saving and efficient.

In 1892 Frank H. Taylor designed, authored and illustrated the first Thousand Island “four track series” [shown left] for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad [NYC&HRRR]. In 1893, the first “official” Thousand Island four track series, numbered “10,” would be published. The NYC&HRRR would eventually have thirty five different four track series but to be number 10 indicates the great popularity of the Thousand Islands at that time. Notice that in the lower right hand corner is a blue stamp with the agent’s name, located in London, England. The Thousand Islands was an international summer destination.

The pen and ink illustration below (The Critical Moment) appeared in the 1892 Thousand Islands four track series shown above on the left. It is signed “F. H. Taylor” in the lower right hand corner.

The next year, Taylor completed Estes Standard Guide to the Thousand Islands. Guide books were very uncommon at that time as hotels, railroads, and steamship companies all published their own marketing pamphlets which, for all practical purposes, were also guide books. These pamphlets also promoted each others services as, what benefited one, benefited all. Therefore there was little need for a “pure” guide book.

Frank H. Taylor’s last year at the Thousand Islands may have been 1901. In 1895 he was listed as a member of the Thousand Island Club. Why is this relevant? Because the Thousand Island Club changed its name to the Thousand Islands Yacht Club in 1898 but Taylor’s name did not appear on the 1903 membership roster. One of his last known work is the 1901, sixty four page booklet shown at the right. The cover is a great example of Frank H. Taylor’s talent as an artist and designer.

Also attributed to 1901, are the two Frank H. Taylor’s illustrations shown below. These appeared in the Thousand Island St. Lawrence River Steamboat Companies Limited pamphlet of 1901.


Illuminations Opposite Alexandria Bay
Scene on Electric Searchlight Trip

By Robert L. Matthews

Robert L. Matthews (Bob) was introduced to the Thousand Islands when he married his wife Prudence (Hooked on Prudence).   It wasn't long before they realized that they were both collectors and after many false starts settled on hunting for Thousand Island memorabilia.  For the past eight seasons the Matthews generously loaned their collection to the Antique Boat Museum.  Bob is the author of two popular books:  Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life: Souvenirs from the Thousand Islands: Robert and Prudence Matthews Collection, and in 2009 he published A History of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club.  The Matthews have one daughter, two sons and five grandchildren. When not at their beautiful River cottage at Fisher’s Landing, they live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Posted in: Artists
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Sally L`Huillier
Comment by: Sally L`Huillier ( )
Left at: 7:35 AM Friday, January 15, 2010
I enjoyed this article, because I have seen one of Mr. Taylor`s paintings in a restaurant in Florida, and was surprised when the title of the picture, mentioned "Muskie Fishing on the St. Lawrence River". I had no idea that Mr. Taylor had lived here, and had also lived on the St. Lawrence River. I found the article very interesting.
Rosanne Withington
Comment by: Rosanne Withington ( )
Left at: 6:55 AM Saturday, January 16, 2010
Bob and Prudence Matthews are Thousand Islands Treasures. Several years ago Pru hosted a luncheon for a few of the Ladies of Round Island at their charming cottage in Fishers Landing. There was much river memorbilia artfully displayed. After lunch Robert asked if I would like to see a bit more of his collection. A bit more indeed....there was a treasure trove of historic books, pamplets, postcards, etc. Wonderful! Some of this collection has been displayed at the Antique Boat Museum.
Anne D.Potter
Comment by: Anne D.Potter ( )
Left at: 11:28 PM Monday, April 14, 2014
I am excited to see my cottage "Brun Arche" shown in your collection. Bob and Pru I would love to see your book. One summer when Frank Taylor wanted to raise some money, he came around Round Island and painted several of our cottages and I am happy to have the one he did of my mine. Best wishes to you both. Hope to see you both this summer.
Susan Harder
Comment by: Susan Harder
Left at: 10:01 AM Sunday, December 6, 2015
Enjoyed your article. I have encountered two of Frank Taylor's watercolor amongst paintings owned by my parents. They appear to be scenes from the 1,000 Islands. I would live to donate to a museum or library in the area.
Morris Huck
Comment by: Morris Huck
Left at: 1:02 PM Wednesday, July 18, 2018
I have a painting by F.H. Taylor of Rabbit Island homestead owned by the Bensons years ago, which also has a sailboat heading down Bensons Rift dated 1902.
I mdo nor know the owners of Rabbit island now but they could be interested in the picture. Also would like to find who to get in touch with to find it value.
Thanks, Morris Huck
Editor, Susan smith
Comment by: Editor, Susan smith
Left at: 10:50 AM Thursday, July 26, 2018
I am getting the information for you. Please email me at

Susan Smith
Arlene Daily
Comment by: Arlene Daily
Left at: 10:06 PM Friday, January 4, 2019
i was blessed to win one of Mr. Frank's painting over the weekend called Muskie Fishing in the St. Lawrence. Any idea of the value of his paintings.