Biographical information for John William Konvalinka (1858-1901)

My grandfather, John William Konvalinka (1858-1901) ("JWK-1858") was the only son of his father, John (Nepomuk Josef) Konvalinka, the immigrant ancestor and founder of the Konvalinka family fur business.

It appears that JWK-1858 did not enter the family business. He attended Columbia Law School and in1881 was practicing law at 262 Broadway. In 1881 he executed a lease on the Maiden Lane property for his father. [He may have been at Columbia Law School at the same time as Edwin H Brown, who married JK's sister, Eugenie Marguerite Konvalinka.]

[Apparently JWK-1858 was one of the first children of early Bohemian immigrants to enter a profession. Capek's book remarks on this, while incorrectly identifying him as a doctor.]

In August 1878 he was sketched by Winslow Homer:

Homer.jpg (35261 bytes)


The notations at the bottom read:

"Comp[limen]ts of Winslow Homer.

Taken at Mountainville, Orange County, NY  August 12, 1878"

Winslow Homer lived from about 1836-1910 and  by 1878 he was already quite well known.  He spent the summers of 1878 and 1879 at Mountainville, and it was there that he perfected his famous water color technique.

We do not know what connection there was or what brought "JWK 1858" to Mountainville. The property was owned by Lawson Valentine (Homer's most important patron) -- a prominent New Yorker who owned a varnish manufacturing business (one of their products was Valspar) -- in Brooklyn -- where my grandfather lived (thus providing the possible connection.)

An interesting sidelight is that the Rose family of Brooklyn also spent the summers in that area of Orange County and my grandfather married my grandmother Clara Rose. We wonder if they met in Mountainville, or if they already knew each other from Brooklyn, and Mountainville just provided the opportunity to get better acquainted.

"JWK 1858" died an untimely death in 1901, after an attack of Bright's disease -- a kidney condition which would easily be treatable today.. He left a widow and six children with limited financial resources, and this tragic event had a profound effect on my father "JWK 1891" (who had to go to work at age 14) and on the whole rest of the family.

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