Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Portrait of James Logan Conserved

Our portrait of James Logan by Thomas Sully is back on display after recently being restored. The story behind this painting is fascinating.

Thomas Sully. James Logan, 1831.  Oil on canvas. Commissioned by the Library Company, 1831.

Thomas Sully (1783-1872) was one of the most prolific early American painters. A popular portraitist, he painted notable people, such as Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Queen Victoria. The Library Company is fortunate to have eight of his works in the collection.

James Logan (1674-1751) served as William Penn's secretary and became an influential public figure in Pennsylvania. He amassed an extraordinary collection of books of over 2,600 volumes. He left this collection for the public through the creation of the Loganian Library. In 1792, the Loganian Library was transferred to the Library Company.

The Library Company commissioned Sully to paint this portrait of Logan to replace one which had just been ruined by fire. On January 6, 1831, a fire broke out in the Loganian Library section of the Library Company. The fire destroyed some books, a portrait of Logan, a bust of William Penn, a clock, a print of the Sortie of Gibraltar, and damaged some maps. The Directors wrote that "the destruction of an original portrait of James Logan...and a bust of the venerable Founder of Pennsylvania, is however, a subject of great regret to them."1

They ordered an investigation of the blaze and recruited John Evans, a carpenter, to investigate. The fire started with the installation of a coal grate to replace a Franklin stove. It ignited what they thought was a brick pillar but was actually a wooden beam encased in a veneer of masonry. Evans reported that, "it appeared that the wooden Column which supported the clock case had been for many years enclosed in Brick work, put up originally to accommodate an open or Franklin stove-- But a coal grate having been placed in lieu of the stove about three months since, in doing which it became necessary to cut away a part of the Brick-work adjoining the columns (which appeared to be solid masonry) and which must have covered the mortar in that part, say in each joint, the heat from the grate communicated to the column from time to time, until at length the Southern one became ignited, & the fire progressed & such an extent, that about one third of the Galleries, and the lining on the east side of the Room, with many valuable & scarce books were destroyed."2 After the column lit up, "the fire ran up the clock, and along the corridors."3 Ironically, the Directors had removed the Franklin stove for a coal grate, because they thought it would be safer. "The fire originated in the breastwork of the chimney, from a grate recently fixed in the Loganian Library, with a view to the greater security afforded by coal fire."4 Fortuitously, the fire occurred during a Directors' meeting at the Library. "The presence of the Directors, at one of their state meetings, in an upper room...fortunately prevented any delay in the introduction of water."5 The Library Company still has a set of six fire buckets, purchased in 1797, that may have been used.

Library Company Fire Bucket, 1797. Leather. Purchased by the Library Company, 1797.

Also credited was the "prompt and energetic exertions of the Fire and Hose Companies, particularly the Pennsylvania and Fame, whose location enabled them to bring their powerful apparatus into almost immediate action, the preservation of the Library is chiefly attributable."6 Both fire companies were housed in the lot adjacent to the Library Company on Fifth Street.7 These efforts stopped the progression of the fire and kept it contained, saving the Library Company and its collection.

Additionally, the Directors' meeting cleared Librarian John Jay Smith and enabled "them to exonerate their Librarian, and those employed by him, from any imputation of negligence." Smith was the great-grandson of James Logan. He had the task of sorting through the mess with former Librarian George Campbell's help.8 In total, 392 books were totally destroyed, 158 were repaired, and another 1,403 had to be rebound.9 These books had their binding removed and the damaged charred edges trimmed. Many had to be rebound horizontally. We have a number of examples of these titles.

Priestley, Joseph. Letters to the Members of the New Jerusalem Church. Birmingham: J. Thompson, 1791. Am 1791 Nic Log. 1878.O.1
Books in the Circulating Library at Leeds. Leeds: James Bowling, 1790. Am 1792 Win Log. 1849.O.1. This book has a number of pamphlets bound together. A large portion of the tops of the pamphlets have been burnt away.
Hexham, Henry. A Copious Englisg (sic) and Netherduytch Dictionarie. Rotterdam: Arnout Leers, 1660. Wing H 1650 (1)Log. 332.Q. The title page begins with the word And as the top of all the pages has been burnt off. Notice how all three books had to be bound horizontally.

The Library Company had another matter to deal with: its policy with the American Fire Insurance Company. A dispute over what items the policy covered needed to be resolved. The Library totaled its loss to $3,293.55. The insurance company objected to covering the following: "The Clock valued at $200, Damage to the Maps $25, Portrait of James Logan $100, Bust of William Penn $50, Print of Sortie of Gibraltar $20." After reexamining the policy, the Library Company's directors "were induced to give up the claim for the portrait of James Logan."10 Horace Binney, a Library Company shareholder and noted lawyer, was asked to decide about the other objects. The argument hinged on what was covered by the term "&c." Binney ultimately decided, "the Policy is on Books, Maps, &c; the latter Instrument being perfectly clear and a mere extension of orders...The words et caetera (&c) comprehend other things of the like kind with those before described, but not things similar. Manuscripts-which are not in the popular sense books -- plans of buildings towns & forts which are not in the popular sense maps, would be included within the et caetera and things also less similar than these. But I am of opinion that the words do not include a Clock, nor any furniture of the Library, still less a Bust... The American Fire Insurance Company ought to pay to the Library Company the amount of damage to maps $25 and the value of the large print and plan of the Siege of Gibraltar $20 but that they ought not to pay for the clock or the Bust of William Penn. Signed H. Binney Feby 26, 1831."11 In the end, the Library Company had to deal with a total cost of $3,540.64 of which the insurance covered $2,943.55. The Library had to absorb $350 for the loss of the bust, portrait, and clock and needed to pay another $247.09 for the labor in drying the books and paying appraisers.

Thanks to antiquarian John Fanning Watson, the original Logan portrait has been documented. In 1830, Watson asked to reproduce the portrait for his upcoming book, Annals of Philadelphia. The Library Company's minutes record that "John F. Watson of Germantown desired the use for a few days of the portrait of James Logan for the purpose of copying the same to insert in his forthcoming annals of Philadelphia. The request was granted provided the portrait be not taken out of the Library building."12 Watson noted in his book the origin of the illustration: "The engraved portrait is taken from a family piece now in the Loganian Library."13

Watson, John Fanning. Annals of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart; G. & C.H. Carvill, 1830, engraving opposite p. 506.
Likewise, Pierre Du Simitiere made a drawing in 1770 of the original bust of William Penn done by Sylvanus Bevan.  John Hall used the drawing to engrave this image of Penn in 1773.

Hall, John, engraver. William Penn. London: Richard Penn, 1773.

Unfortunately, there is no image of the clock, but an article in the Philadelphia Gazette the day after the fire describes it as being "made by a French artist, so constructed as to ring an alarum (sic) at the going down of the sun on every day of the year." It further says that the "clock was the only one of the kind in the world."14

Thomas Sully based his portrait on one by Gustavus Hesselius that James Logan's descendant Deborah Logan held at their ancestral home Stenton. Deborah granted permission to the Library Company to borrow the portrait in April 1831 for the copying.15 This painting is now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Collection at the Philadelphia History Museum. As payment for the painting, Sully received two shares in the Library Company. Sully have one share to Ashbel G. Ralston, one of his fellow directors at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the second share to George D. Wetherill, who was a dealer in paints.16 James S. Earle (1807-1879) made the frame for the portrait. The Library paid him $6.50 for the frame and cleaning the borrowed portrait from Deborah Logan.17 Earle, a restorer and frame maker, in partnership with Thomas Sully ran a commercial art gallery that sold paintings, prints, and mirrors, and operated from 1819 to at least 1846.18

The Library Company, through donations and purchases, replaced some of the other items destroyed in the fire. In 1833, John Jay Smith presented the Library with a bust of William Penn. The Library Company purchased a clock from John Child in 1835 for $125 that would chime at sundown, which was the Library's closing time. But the print of Gibraltar does not seem to have been replaced as there is none in the collection currently.

John Child. Tall Case Clock, 1835. Pine. Purchased by the Library Company from John Child in 1835.
The conserved painting has once more returned to the room named after him, the Logan Room. We hope that you have the opportunity to come and see it in person.

Linda August
Curator of Art & Artifacts

Register of Pennsylvania, vol. 7, no. 3 (Jan. 15, 1831), p. 47.
2 Library Company Directors' Minutes, vol. 5, April 7, 1831, p. 317-318.
3 Philadelphia Gazette and Daily Advertiser, vol. 54, no. 12,953 (Jan. 7, 1831).
4 Register of Pennsylvania, vol. 7, no. 3 (Jan. 15, 1831), p. 47.
5 Register of Pennsylvania, vol. 7, no. 3 (Jan. 15, 1831), p. 47.
6 Register of Pennsylvania, vol. 7, no. 3 (Jan. 15, 1831), p. 47.
7 Scharf, J. Thomas and Thompson Westcott. History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1884, p. 1901-1902. In 1808, the directors of the Library Company granted to the Pennsylvania Fire Company the right to use the northwestern portion of a lot adjoining the Library. The Fame Hose Company was founded in 1818 and soon also obtained permission from the Library Company to use the adjacent lot, building their house next to the Pennsylvania Fire Company.
8 Library Company Driectors' Minutes, vol. 5, January 7, 1831, p. 309.
Library Company Driectors' Minutes, vol. 5, March 3, 1831, p. 315.
10 Library Company Driectors' Minutes, vol. 5, March 3, 1831, p. 312-313.
11 Library Company Driectors' Minutes, vol. 5, March 3, 1831, p. 314-315.
12 Library Company Directors’ Minutes, vol. 5, Apr. 1, 1830, p. 278.
13 Watson, John Fanning. Annals of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart; G. & C.H. Carvill, 1830, p. 509.
14 Philadelphia Gazette and Daily Advertiser, vol. 54, no. 12,953 (Jan. 7, 1831).
15 Fisher, Sydney G. to George Abbot, July 1, 1899, letter bound in Library Company Directors’ Minutes, vol. 5, between p. 308-309.
16 Library Company Directors' Minutes, vol. 5, November 3, 10, 1831, p. 330-331.
17 Loganian Library Minutes, vol. 1, November 10, 1831, p. 202-203.
18 Worcester Art Museum,  Biography of Thomas Sully, . The Library Company has the auction catalog of the sale of items in Sully & Earle’s Gallery in 1848. M Thomas & Sons.  Catalogue of Valuable Paintings, Framed Engravings, Enamlled Stained Glass… Philadelphia: King & Baird, 1848. Am 1848 M Thomas 114805.O

Friday, November 4, 2016

Then and Now: Cataloguing Aero Service Negatives using Google Maps

What I love about cataloguing images is that it provides a chance to breathe life into seemingly static artifacts. Quality cataloguing information is essential to facilitating access to images like those found in the Aero Service Corporation Negative Collection. This includes most generally information such as titles, creators, dates and physical characteristics of an image. But my role as cataloguer is also to provide added value by identifying and adding information that enhances a photograph’s potential relevance within the wider context of LCP’s collections.

In order to include this kind of information in the catalogue, it is necessary, of course, for me as the cataloguer to understand exactly what I am looking at so that my descriptions orient the viewer spatially as well as historically. I might rely on any number of secondary sources to find information about the location depicted. But the most essential tool for understanding the Aero Service negatives is the ability to employ Google Maps to compare aerial views of what is pictured ca. 1920s-1930s versus what an area looks like currently. Aero Service images are often of something big and recognizable, such a bridge. But understanding these images also includes recognizing features such as the curve of a road or a bend in the river, to match those unchanging (or slower-changing) features of the land. It is this comparison of “then vs. now” that makes cataloging this collection interesting and relevant for any number of reasons.

Take a look at some of these then-and-now comparisons of Aero Service negatives showing construction of Philadelphia area bridges and try to identify what has changed in the past 90 years:

Tacony-Palmyra Bridge construction, Tacony, Philadelphia (P.8990.8496):  The “Y” formation of the roads in the image (above) was identified in the Google Maps view (below) in order to identify that the image is looking southeast towards New Jersey at the earliest stages of bridge construction.

Tacony-Palmyra Bridge construction, Tacony, Philadelphia, 1928. (P.8990.8496)
Google Maps view of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge captured October 11, 2016.

University Avenue Bridge under construction, connecting the Grays Ferry and West Philadelphia neighborhoods, Philadelphia. 1932. (P.8990.15778n): In the images below, the bend in the river becomes the geographic feature that allows for identification of the University Avenue Bridge in-the-making. Notice the development that has taken place on the "peninsula" that is labeled as "Forgotten Bottom" in the Google Maps view.

University Avenue Bridge under construction, connecting the Grays Ferry and West Philadelphia neighborhoods, Philadelphia. 1932. (P.8990.15778n)

Google Maps view of the University Avenue Bridge captured October 11, 2016.

Pennsylvania Railroad, Manayunk Bridge, Spanning Schuylkill River & Green Lane, Manayunk, Philadelphia. ca. 1928 (P.8990.8844): This view showing the Manayunk bridge construction almost at completion. The shapes created by both bridges make this area easy to identify on Google Maps. But what is perhaps more interesting are the somewhat ramshackle strip of row houses and other development in the lower right corner, all of which was likely lost during the creation of the Schuylkill Expressway, if not before.

Pennsylvania Railroad, Manayunk Bridge, Spanning Schuylkill River & Green Lane, Manayunk, Philadelphia. ca. 1928 (P.8990.8844)
Google Maps view of the Pennsylvania Railroad and Manayunk Bridges captured October 11, 2016.

Cheryl Klimaszewski
Library Company of Philadelphia Volunteer

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mellon Scholars Program: Preparing for Success

In a series of occasional blog posts, participants in our Mellon Scholars Internship and Workshop programs will introduce themselves, discuss their experiences at the Library Company, and share their goals for pursuing careers in the field of early African American history. This program is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

How do I create a competitive graduate school application? What are some ways for me to excel as a graduate student? How do I conduct research at a historical archive? These are some of the questions we set out to answer during the Mellon Scholars Program Workshop. This marks the program’s third year in operation. As in previous years, we had a talented group of students from an array of different academic and personal backgrounds. The common thread among all eight participants was a passion for African American history.
Lasting June 13-June 17, the workshop equips students with the tools required for careers in academia. Specifically, the program includes an intensive series of lectures, trips, and professional development exercises: all activities geared toward preparing students to pursue advanced degrees. I work alongside Program Director Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Library Company Curator Krystal Appiah to produce this unique experience for the Mellon participants.
Dr. Vanessa Holden
At colloquia scheduled throughout the week, students were introduced to the process of historical investigation. Speakers such as Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson and Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson shared their scholarly work and demonstrated how to effectively convey research findings. Dr. Vanessa Holden, who was also the keynote speaker at LCP’s Juneteenth event, held a special session for the workshop participants. At the meeting, Dr. Holden challenged students to interpret and analyze primary source materials relevant to her own work. In this manner, the Mellon Scholars were challenged to enter the mind of a historian at the nascent stage of a project. The culmination of these seeds of evidence was later revealed at the subsequent Juneteenth lecture, where Dr. Holden explained her research conclusions. This gave students an expansive look at a research project from start to finish.
Katherine Ponds
Students were also assigned independent research topics for the week. Katherine Ponds, for instance, chose to examine the ways in which studying and teaching the Classics reflected Octavius Catto’s black political agenda. Participants then used the collections of the Library Company to shed light on their individual topics. Throughout the week, the staff worked with students to help them navigate the archives and think critically about source materials. Participants were asked to contextualize, interrogate, and analyze primary and secondary sources to reveal the significance of their subjects. Their work culminated in presentations delivered on the final day of the workshop. The colloquium was run in formal academic fashion to familiarize students with communicating their conclusions, receiving feedback, and answering audience questions.
Serkaddis Alemayehu, Public History
Coordinator and Digital Archives Specialist
at the Blockson Collection
A sizable amount of the students’ time was spent outside the walls of LCP as well. We took the group on a number of trips throughout Philadelphia to acquaint participants with some of the other institutional resources the city has to offer. For instance, we visited Temple University’s Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Mellon Scholars also spent time at the historic Mother Bethel AME Church where they learned about the institution’s background and its role as a pillar of Philadelphia’s black community. Together the trips helped to enrich students’ understandings of African American history.
Lastly, much of the week was dedicated to demystifying the graduate school application process. Dr. Kimberly Saunders from the University of Delaware taught students how to craft strong applications, while LCP Librarian James Green explained how to effectively apply for fellowships. I also led a session on personal statement development and editing. Furthermore, we spent time speaking with students about the expectations of graduate study. For example, I led a meeting focused on navigating graduate school. During the session, I shared lessons I learned through my experiences as a graduate student, and I attempted to address the participants’ questions and concerns. Similarly, Dr. Dunbar led a graduate seminar class so participants could experience how a graduate course operates. Collectively the preparation sessions, research projects, enrichment trips, and speakers worked to empower students to achieve their aspirations. Historical investigation, archival exposure, and application formation: more than mere topics, these themes comprise skills integral to young students entering the world of academia. The Mellon Scholars Program was fortunate to furnish this already talented group of students with these pivotal skills. It was extremely rewarding to work with another cohort of gifted participants, and it was a pleasure to be part of the Mellon Scholars Program another year.
Michael Dickinson
2016 Mellon Scholars Graduate Research Advisor
Doctoral candidate in history, University of Delaware

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Curator's Favorite: A Tunnel Book by Any Other Name ...

A View of the Tunnel under the Thames, as it will Appear When Completed  (London: S. E. Gouyn, 1828)

Perspective view, peepshow, and tunnel book are all words that have been used to describe our recent acquisition A View of the Tunnel under the Thames, as it will Appear When Completed.      (London: S. E. Gouyn, 1828). The enchanting optical device purchased with funds from our Visual Culture Program represents the long and complicated history of the interrelationship of the study of optics with popular culture. 

Front view of extended tunnel book A View of the Tunnel under the Thames, as it will Appear When Completed (London: S. E. Gouyn, 1828).

Collector and scholar Richard Balzer dates peepshows’/tunnel books’ beginnings to around the 15th century in Europe when box-like devices with peepholes were created to learn about the mechanics of vision. The instruments, often used by Renaissance artists to recreate perspective, became primarily associated with the itinerant showman by the 18th century. Later in the century peepshows entered the parlors of the affluent as the perspective box in which a set of prints was arranged to create a three-dimensional view designed to entertain the eye and mind. By the 1820s peepshows more closely resembling the subject of this essay became items of more general consumption when professionally printed and assembled for introduction into the market as souvenirs.  A channel being constructed under the Thames River made the ideal subject for an optical device that created a “tunnel” perspective.  

The start of the construction in 1825 of the Thames Tunnel, the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” made international news.  On August 23, 1825, the Philadelphia newspaper the National Gazette wrote about the underground tunnel that would connect the opposite banks of the Thames River for commercial purposes as “the commencement of [a] novel undertaking, which will be read with interest.” Constructed after the revolutionary designs of Marc Brunel (1769-1849), the novel undertaking led not only to persons reading about it with interest but to the production of novelties. From the onset of construction and despite floods and collapses in the 1820s and 1830s, visitors flocked to see the tunnel. Merchandise vendors selling all manner of souvenirs, including peepshows, quickly followed. The engineering feat spurred publishers to issue over fifty different designs of Thames Tunnel peepshows between 1825 and the early 1860s. No other subject comprised as many of them. By probable consequence, the contemporary term “tunnel book” soon thereafter superseded “peepshow” in our lexicon for these devices.

Interior view of tunnel book A View of the Tunnel under the Thames, as it will Appear When Completed  (London: S. E. Gouyn, 1828).

The first Thames Tunnel peepshow issued in 1825 by London publisher T. Brown served as the model for the graphic design of the devices, including S. E. Gouyn’s, through the 1830s. Comprised of the imagined Eastern and Western archways, a look through the book’s peephole reveals pedestrian and vehicular traffic, including men on horseback, carriages, and horse-drawn wagons. A prime article for the transatlantic book trade, our newly-acquired peepshow may likely be the “perspective view of the tunnel under the Thames” advertised in the New York newspaper American in April 1828 by New York publishers and print sellers Behr & Kahl.  However, once the tunnel officially opened to only pedestrian traffic in 1843, the design evolved.  Vehicular traffic no longer appeared.

Handmade tunnel book showing an enclosed thoroughfare (United States?, ca. 1850).
 This change in design provides further clues to better understand a circa 1850 “homemade” tunnel book added to our collections in 2011. The similarities in the graphics depicting the interiors of the tunnels of Gouyn’s and our 2011 acquisition, particularly the style of a covered wagon, lends credence to our conjecture that the earlier acquired piece is modeled after a Thames Tunnel book, probably issued before 1843.

After 1843 and through the 1850s, “perspective view manufacturer” Bondy Azulay (b. 1813) became the primary manufacturer of these Thames Tunnel novelties.  His manufacturing of the devices proved a more crude construction than earlier ones. His books also often included two to three peepholes on the front board. The design provided views of the tunnel traffic, as well as the river. Although the Library does not hold a Thames Tunnel book published by Azulay, we do hold his complementary 1851 eighteen-foot long Grand Panorama of London and the River Thames.

Oblique view of extended tunnel book A View of the Tunnel under the Thames, as it will Appear When Completed  (London: S. E. Gouyn, 1828).
By the early 1860s Azulay ceased to manufacture Thames Tunnel books. In 1865 the East London Railway Company purchased the tunnel. Pedestrian traffic halted and the tunnel became a part of the railway. Nonetheless, the “novel undertaking” of the Thames Tunnel still endures as novel. The numerous tunnel books created in its image continue to serve as novelties rich for the study of Trans-Atlantic visual culture during the Victorian era.

Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs
Co-Director, VCP at LCP

American, April 3, 1828  

Richard Balzer, Peepshows: A Visual History (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998)

Ralph Hyde, Paper Peepshows: The Jaqueline and Jonathan Gestetner Collection (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2015)