Barbara and Lawrence Holdridge each had distinct and impressive careers before their “discovery” and research of the nineteenth century American portrait painter Ammi Phillips.
Barbara Holdridge, née Cohen, was born in New York in 1929 and attended Hunter College, where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating, she and a friend founded Caedmon Records, which was the pioneer company to record spoken-word albums, and many consider to have laid the foundation for modern audiobooks. After selling Caedmon in 1970, she founded Stemmer House Publishers in 1975, which was the first general book publisher in Maryland.
Lawrence Barrett Holdridge was born in New York in 1910. He was a self-taught engineer, who founded a hydraulic equipment company in Maryland called Holdridge Engineering in 1941. Holdridge was a descendant of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant.
When Lawrence Holdridge and Barbara Cohen married in 1959, the two became interested in restoring historical homes. Together, they restored and turned the Ashland Chapel in the restored colonial village of Dickeyville, Maryland, into a home. Afterwards, they lived in the historic Stemmer House, which is on the National Historic Register.
In 1958, after purchasing a portrait of George C. Sunderland, signed by Ammi Phillips, the couple began their extensive research into the artist’s life and work. Their research identified more than three hundred portraits done by Phillips and proved the theory that A. Phillips, the Border Limner, and the Kent Limner were all one artist, Ammi Phillips.
The Holdridges have two daughters, Eleanor and Diana.