When Eleanor Silliman Belknap was born on April 28, 1876, in Louisville, Kentucky, her father, William Richardson Belknap was 27 and her mother, Alice Trumbull Silliman (daughter of Benjamin Silliman, Jr. and Susan Huldah Forbes), was 29. Eleanor lived at Lincliff, a home built in the early 1910s by her father.
Both Eleanor and her sister Alice attended Vassar College, then a women's college. Eleanor wrote short stories and anecdotes for the early version of The Miscellany News. She planned skits for campus performances and wrote essays, plays, and poems. She was selected salutatorian of her Vassar class. Although a mathematics major at Vassar, she wrote her salutatory address about modern art. She participated in intramural sports and is mentioned in a book about the evolution of women's sports in American colleges. The author Louise Mead Tricard wrote in 1996 about American women's track and field from 1895 through 1980, using as a resource the Vassar College Library archives of scrapbooks kept by former Vassar students. Eleanor Belknap Humphrey's scrapbook is cited as one of the references in the bibliography (page 666 of 746 pages) of Tricard's book.
Eleanor Belknap Humphrey was a donor of art to the Speed Museum and gave archives and artifacts to the Filson Club. She and her sister Alice were among the private sponsors of a large two-volume history of American architecture which was a Works Projects Administration (WPA) project.
Eleanor Humphrey retrieved the Matthew Jouett portrait of her ancestor Catherine Cornelia Prather (first wife of Rev. Edward Porter Humphrey, one of the founders of Cave Hill Cemetery) from the Speed Museum collection. This 1822 portrait, known in the Belknap family as "The Little Grandmother" because it shows Catherine Cornelia Prather as a little girl, is now owned by her grandson Thomas M. Humphrey and was loaned in the 1970s to an exhibition of Kentucky artists at Transylvania University. A photograph of the "The Little Grandmother" contracted by the Humphrey collection was requested by art historian William Barrow Floyd for his 1980 book published by the Transylvania Printing Company in Lexington, Kentucky, Matthew Harris Jouett: Portraitist of the Ante-Bellum South. The Jouett portrait is documented in the listing of the Smithsonian Institution's American Portraits and was also listed in a book of Kentucky history listing portraits by Matthew Jouett.
Eleanor requested a portrait of her young son Edward Cornelius Humphrey and his little sister Alice from the Standiford Studio in Louisville, Kentucky. This portrait, now in a private Humphrey collection, is a rare example of an antique photography process called autochrome which used a reflected mirror view inside a viewer called a diascope. The Autochrome Lumière process is described in Wikipedia's History of photography and Lumiere Brothers. The photographer of the autochrome of the Humphrey children was Ethel Standiford-Mehlingan, an experimental photographer and artist who later moved her Louisville enterprise Standiford Studios to Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1916, two years after the death of her civic-minded father, the hardware president William Richardson Belknap, residents of the Belknap neighborhood in Louisville opened the William R. Belknap School on Sils Avenue in his honor. No longer used as a school, the architecturally important building is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The Belknap neighborhood association and its logo also derived from the name of this landmark school.
In hopes of building a new University of Louisville Campus, Eleanor Belknap, along with her younger brother William Burke Belknap, donated land inherited from their father to the University of Louisville, and, in 1917, land east of the William R. Belknap School was developed as the University Park subdivision, named with the expectation that it would adjoin a new University of Louisville campus. However, in 1920, taxpayers rejected underwriting the construction of the new campus, and the land which the Belknaps had donated was sold to William F. Randolph for ninety-five thousand dollars. Randolph then developed the Aberdeen and Tecomah sections of the Belknap neighborhood. When the new administration building on the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus was built, it was named in honor of the Belknap heirs' tribute to their father. Today the university's main campus is called the Belknap Campus, and the central quad is located there.
Eleanor was the wife and widow of Louisville Herald Post editor Lewis Craig Humphrey (1875–1927), and her father-in-law was Edward William Cornelius Humphrey (1844–1917). She married Lewis Craig Humphrey on December 19, 1904, the week before Christmas in her parent's home Lincliff, in Jefferson County, Kentucky, when she was 28 years old.
She and her husband together commissioned in 1914 a colonial revival architectural design by Gray and Wischmeyer for their home in The Highlands (Louisville area). The house, known as the Humphrey-McMeekin House,
was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Her husband Lewis Craig Humphrey died on February 3, 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 51. They had been married 22 years. The couple had two sons, Dr. Edward Cornelius Humphrey and William Humphrey, and one daughter, Alice Humphrey Morgan.
In her genealogical research, Eleanor Belknap traced the Belknap line back to her 6th-great-grandfather Abraham Belknap. He appears on her fan-format family tree drawn in ink by her sometime prior to 1964. Abraham was born March 1589 or 1590. He was married to Mary Stallion. Abraham Belknap emigrated from England and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1637. In this paternal line through her father William Richardson Belknap, her grandfather was W. B. Belknap, also known as William Burke Belknap, the elder (1811-1889) from Brimfield, Massachusetts, the founder of the family company that became Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company and son of the pioneer Massachusetts iron industrialist Morris Burke Belknap (great-grandfather of Eleanor]]. Her great-uncle was Colonel Morris Burke Belknap (1856-1910). her great-great-grandfather was William Belknap, the first of her direct paternal American lineage with that given name. This William Belknap's father was Joseph Belknap, and his grandfather was Ebenezer Belknap.
Eleanor Belknap Humphrey was the wife of newspaper editor Lewis Craig Humphrey, and she was the great-great-great granddaughter in her maternal ancestry of Benjamin Silliman, the first American scientist to distill petroleum and founder of the school of science at Yale known as the Yale Scientific School and eventually renamed the Sheffield Scientific School. The school of science at Yale retained the name Sheffield from 1847 to 1956. Eleanor Belknap Humphrey was the great-great granddaughter of his son Benjamin Silliman, Jr., also a Yale professor and scientist. In addition to the Silliman and Belknap surnames in her family tree, she traced her ancestry through the marriage of her great-great-great-grandfather Gold Selleck Silliman and great-great-great-grandmother Mary Fish Noyes Silliman directly back to the Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and their daughter Elizabeth Pabodie, of whom it is said that she was the first white woman born in America.
The Belknap family tree researched and drawn by Eleanor Belknap Humphrey is now archived in the collections of the The Library of Virginia. The "Eleanor Belknap Humphrey Pedigree Chart" was presented to the Library of Virginia archives on October 2015 and is cataloged there for the use of other genealogists. A copy of the "Eleanor Belknap Humphrey Pedigree Chart" is also in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society and the Filson Historical Society.
She died on June 24, 1964 in Coconut Grove at the age of 88 and was buried in the Humphrey family plot in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery, the cemetery for which her husband Lewis Craig Humphrey's grandfather Reverend Doctor Edward Porter Humphrey was one of the founders and where he gave the dedicatory address on July 25, 1848.
Her will was disputed in court by three adopted grandchildren. Jefferson County, Kentucky Circuit Court was asked to determine whether the adopted children of her son William would share in the estate.