Willie’s first playmate in Hong Kong,

Harry (Henry Sturgis) Drinker went on to live a fascinating life!

Man with the Cat by Cecilia Beaux

Henry Sturgis Drinker

Engineer, Lawyer, University President

Early Life and Career

As Sarah said, Henry was almost the same age as Willie –

born on the 8th of November 1850 in Hong Kong –

where his father was was an expatriate merchant from Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, when Henry was just 8 years old, his father died of dysentery in Macao.

His mother brought the family back to the United States, but she developed cancer and died just 2 years later.

Henry  graduated from Lehigh University, at the time a tuition-free engineering school for young men.

A talented mechanical engineer working for the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR), at just 21 years old, he was put in charge of the construction of the 2-mile Musconetcong Tunnel connecting Easton, Pennsylvania and New York City. Henry also got a law degree and practiced law for the LVRR for several years.

He left to become the fifth president of Lehigh University, where he used his business skills to expand the offerings of the school as well as the campus facilities and make it more financially secure. 


Family Life

Henry married Aimee Ernesta “Etta” Beaux.

She had suffered loss as a child as well, since her mother died when she was 3 years old, a few days after giving birth to her sister, Cecilia.

Cecilia Beaux became a famous artist who was extremely well known at the time.

Many of her paintings were of the Drinker family.

Les derniers jours d’ enfance by Cecilia Beaux

Mrs. Henry S. Drinker  by Cecilia Beaux


The Drinkers had six children, each of whom led a successful life:

Henry “Harry” Sandwith Drinker (1880–1965)

prominent lawyer, musician and composer,

sponsored the von Trapp family when they came to the US,

providing them with housing and financial support for their first three years.

Henry Sandwith Drinker  by Cecilia Beaux

Mrs. James Blathwaite Drinker and Her Son 

by Cecilia Beaux

James Blathwaite Drinker (1882–1971)

banker, executive with J.B. Drinker & Co.

Cecil Kent Drinker M.D. (1887–1956)

physician and professor,

founder of the Harvard School of Public Health

Portrait of Cecil Kent Drinker  by Cecilia Beaux

Aimee Ernesta Drinker (1892–1981)

interior decorator and writer


Ernesta – Child with Nurse  by Cecilia Beaux

Brother and Sister  by Cecilia Beaux

Philip Drinker (1894–1972)

chemical engineer and industrial hygienist,

co-inventor of the iron lung


Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897–1973)

historian and biographer,

winner of the 1958 National Book Award for Nonfiction


Cecilia Beaux


Henry Sturgis Drinker’s sister-in-law was Cecilia Beaux -an American portraitist, who was quite famous in her day.

Never marrying, she considered herself a “New Woman” who devoted her life to her art, studying in Philadelphia and then Paris.

She rejected the styles of impressionism and cubism, preferring classical and realist techniques.


Cecilia’s subjects were either elite members of society or her sister Etta’s family – the Drinkers.

She painted then first lady Edith Roosevelt and her daughter and even sketched President Theodore Roosevelt.


Dorothea and Francesca

by Cecilia Beaux

Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and Daughter Ethel 

by Cecilia Beaux


Cecilia’s works were exhibited at the Paris “Salon” Exhibition and also in the United States in Philadelphia and Chicago.

She was the first woman to have a teaching position at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she taught for 20 years.

Her paintings were similar in style to John Singer Sargent and someone at an exhibition once joked that her paintings “were the best Sargents in the room.”

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

by John Singer Sargent

In 1899, William Merritt Chase regarded her as “not only the greatest living woman painter, but the best that has ever lived.”

In 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presented Beaux with the Chi Omega fraternity’s gold medal, for “the American woman who had made the greatest contribution to the culture of the world.”

Works by Cecilia Beaux can be seen at

the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,

the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

and many other art museums in the US and abroad.


View Works by Cecilia Beaux
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