Many of the portraits and paintings in our collections are in what we’ll optimistically call “open storage” – that is, they’re hanging on the walls of our administrative office. One that frequently invites comment is this fellow, the comment usually being “Hey, there’s Teddy Roosevelt!”
Not only is there a strong resemblance, but he is also hanging next to two portraits of George Washington; the presidential association is understandable. However, our man here is in fact Col. Louis Mervin Maus, U.S. Army.
Col. Maus was born in 1851 in the Colesville/Burnt Mills area, where his parents Isaac and Mary Maus owned “Mount Radnor.” (The senior Mauses moved to Rockville around 1870, so the family is frequently associated with that town rather than Colesville.) He had six siblings, including older brother Brigadier General Marion Perry Maus, whose own Army career rates him a wikipedia page. Col. Maus attended medical school at the University of Maryland and joined the Army as a surgeon in 1874, eventually attaining the rank of Assistant Surgeon General in 1907. He served in many locations, notably in the Dakota Territory in the 1870s and 1880s, in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and in the Philippines in the early 1900s.
He married Anna Russell of Kentucky in 1876, and they had two daughters, Mary and Louise. In the 1880 census all four Mauses are living at Standing Rock, Dakota Territory; in 1900 Anna and the girls are at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, with the Colonel “enumerated in the Philippine Islands.” We can speculate that they moved around frequently, living a life similar to those experienced by military families today.
The portrait was donated, along with many family photos and archival materials, by Col. Maus’s grandson Laurence Halstead, Jr. Among those materials is Mr. Halstead’s somewhat partisan summary of his grandfather’s career:
“Col. Lewis [sic] Maus joined the Army as a contract doctor in 1874. He served at many western army posts, even Ft. Apache, where he lived in a sod house. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his Commanding General Nelson Miles of the 7th Calvary, for saving a small hunting party of officers and men from sure death when they were surrounded by a band of Sioux Indians on the war path outnumbered about 30 to one, unarmed he left the party and talked the war party into leaving without harming the soldiers. Later he was given the Distinguished Service Medal (2nd highest award) for this act of bravery. He is given credit for stopping the cholera epidemic and the bubonic plague in the Phillippines during the Spanish American War. He should have been made Surgeon General of the Army when he had the seniority and magnificent record but he was blocked by high ranking officers and I believe because of his strong belief that the use of alcohol was detrimental to the solider (he was one of the first to make studies of the effects of alcohol on the human body). It was he who was responsible for having the whiskey and beer removed from the Post canteens. This naturally made him enemies in the hard drinking army of that day.”
Other non-relatives have echoed these sentiments, including some of Maus’s contemporaries – collected in a small booklet (cover shown below) – and modern historians. Lt. Robert D. Gorodetzer of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center wrote in 1971, “Throughout military history recognition has not always been given men for their achievements, but every so often an oversight is corrected. This should be considered in the case of Louis M. Maus, Colonel, MC, U.S. Army, who served on active duty for 41 years. . . . Maus’ stand on alcohol made him unpopular in many quarters. He was an ardent prohibitionist and favored the removal of beer from all Army facilities. Some believe this stand on alcohol may have been the reason he was never promoted to the grade of general. In an era that saw many advances in medicine, Colonel Maus should be remembered for his accomplishments.”
Col. Maus retired from the Army in 1919, and he and his wife moved to Washington, DC. He died in 1939, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. If you’re looking for more information on his life and career, stop by our library, or read his own words; a few works, including “An Army Officer On Leave in Japan” (1911), are available as ebooks.
As for the portrait itself, it measures 20″ x 24″ in a (somewhat banged-up) gilded frame, 27″ x 31″. It was originally cataloged as an “oil painting,” but in fact it is a hand-tinted photograph, or at any rate a hand-tinted print, on a panel. The tinting is skillfully done, but a closer look (above) shows what looks like both paint and pastel over top of the original image. Some cursory research on my part indicates that there were 20″ x 24″ large format cameras available around the turn of the last century. The image is undated, but perhaps an eagle-eyed reader can tell me what rank his uniform indicates? I see the medical insignia on his left sleeve, but I’m not sure if this portrait shows him as Lt. Col., Chief Surgeon (promoted 1898), Lt. Col., Deputy Surgeon General (1902), or Colonel, Assistant Surgeon General (1907).