Friday, February 27, 2015

Behind the Scenes

As a visitor to the Library Company, you might see any of the thousands of objects in our collection in a variety of ways.  You could view prints, pamphlets, and paintings as part of an exhibition in the gallery, study rare books in the reading room, or unfold a map from the 18th century in the print room.  What you probably won’t see is what these objects looked like before they were framed, organized and cataloged into the collection.  In fact, many items arrive at the Library Company like this: 

So how does a box like this become a collection ready for researchers or an exhibition?  For the answer we must step into what some would call the less than glamorous (this blogger disagrees!) world of processing. 

The Library Company received this box full of glass and film negatives, photographic prints, and journals from the Morris family to augment the Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection already at the Library Company.  In order to integrate these new works into the Print Department, a lot of work needs to be done.  First, each negative and photographic print must be housed in its own acid-free paper envelope for preservation.  Then the envelopes are ordered chronologically in specially made archival boxes.
In order to find information like date, location and subject of the photos we have a few resources at our disposal.  Negatives can be placed on a lightbox like this one which allow the photograph to come to life even when there is no print.  Certain small details may not be visible until the negative is digitized, but the lightbox allows us to get a general idea of the photo’s subject.  In  many cases, this part of the process needs to be completed rapidly.  Outside their original housing perhaps for the first time in years, some film negatives begin to curl and warp.  Similarly, if the emulsion on a glass negative is starting to flake sitting out on a lightbox could potentially speed up the damage. 

In the case of this collection, information such as the date and location of the photograph are often easy to find thanks to Marriott C. Morris’s meticulous notes and the Morris family’s dedication to preserving his work.  Morris kept journals and recorded the date, time, lighting, subject and camera used for many of his photographs.  He also  wrote basic information like location and date on the original envelopes and sometimes scratched a title into the border of the negative.  If a negative matches up with a journal entry, we have all the information we need.  If not, we garner what we can from the envelope and give the negative a title drawn from the subject of the photograph.  Once the negative is digitized, new details may emerge allowing us to title the photograph more specifically.  For example, Morris took many images of his family.  Recognizing a person in an unlabeled photograph would change the title from [Baby girl] to [Janet, 10 months].
Once all the negatives have been housed and organized, they will be given accession numbers and the next phase of the project can begin.  The negatives are scanned and placed into a database of high quality digital images on the Library Company’s server.  We create another database with all the information gleaned from the journals and the negatives themselves, as well as the digital filenames of the scans, so that the collection can easily be cataloged.  Catalog records and the digital images will be made available online to the public through the Library Company’s catalogs WolfPAC and ImPAC, which can be found on the homepage of our website.  With the collection finally organized, accessioned, rehoused, and labeled researchers can easily use these resources and Library Company staff can display the items in exhibitions both in the gallery and online. 

All of this important work for the Morris Collection could not be done without the generosity of the Morris family.  With their donation of their grandfather’s work, David Marriott Morris, Eleanor Rhoads Morris Cox, and William Perot Morris also donated the funds to process and preserve the collection.  Thanks to the Morris family, people across Philadelphia and the world will be able to enjoy and learn from Marriott C. Morris’s photographs both at the Library Company and online.

Alison Van Denend
Assistant Project Manager
The Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection

Monday, February 9, 2015

Love is in the Air

Perhaps as a distraction from yet another month of winter weather, turning the calendars to February focuses some of our thoughts on Valentine’s Day and romance. While we are all familiar with today’s ubiquitous visual records of weddings, I found myself wondering about love and marriage and photography in an earlier time period, and began looking through the Library Company’s collections with an eye to romance.
In the late 19th century marriage and courtship found their way into popular visual culture through comic stereographs like this one by Philadelphia photographer William Rau   The  large umbrella undoubtedly hid the young couple’s furtive kissing. 

 William Rau. Before Marriage, albumen print stereograph, 1897. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of Sandra Markham. 

The interruption of clandestine romantic activities between courting couples or within (and even outside) a marriage was a recurring theme of comic stereographs.  Rau, for example, also copyrighted a series of a dozen stereographs telling the story of Mr. and Mrs. Turtledove. When a new attractive French cook entered their household, romantic complications ensued. Mrs. Turtledove finds incriminating flour-covered handprints on Mr. Turtledove’s jacket and demands that he leave their home. The sheepish husband wins back his wife’s affections and replaces the good-looking young servant with a homely older woman. 

 William Rau. “She Must Leave This House At Once,” albumen print stereograph, 1902. The Library Company of Philadelphia. 

More respectful visual depictions of matrimony can also be found in the Library Company’s collections, including marriage certificates. A number contain photographs of the bride and groom, and in some cases, even the officiant presiding over the ceremony.  

Marriage Certificate for Thomas Rhahle and Mary Dasher, chromolithograph with albumen photographs. York PA: Crider & Brother, ca. 1885. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of David Doret. 

This chromolithographic marriage certificate celebrates the union between Thomas Rhahle and Mary Dasher that took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1885. Although the certificate incorporates the still somewhat new technology of photography, its owners have not yet acquired mastery of the visual language. The bride’s photograph is placed in the oval on the right side with the result that her back is to her groom. The photograph of the groom shows a man looking far more like a carefree bachelor with his cigarette dangling out of his mouth and his hat placed at a rakish angle on his head than a man about to enter into the solemn bonds of matrimony. 

Amateur Philadelphia photographer Marriott C. Morris has captured a more expected, and now traditional, view of a wedding couple in this photograph. 

 Marriott C. Morris, Wedding of Sarah W. Perot and Richard M. Lea, April 17, 1901, digital print from original glass negative. The Library Company of Philadelphia. 

Sarah Perot and Richard Lea, the bride and groom, are placed in the front and center of the group which includes a large number of groomsmen and bridesmaids. The older gentleman with the high collar in the background is most likely the minister who performed the ceremony on April 17, 1901. 

Library Company photographs document not only the beginning of wedded bliss, but also celebrate the longevity of love and marriage like this portrait of an older couple. Taken at a Philadelphia studio, the cabinet card’s mount has been customized to commemorate the unfortunately unidentified husband and wife’s fifty- year marriage.

Tyson & Son. Unidentified Couple’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, albumen print cabinet card, 1903. The Library Company of Philadelphia. 

Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs

Friday, January 30, 2015

Down the Shore with Marriott C. Morris

About seven miles north of Avocado, the Morris family shore house located in Sea Girt, New Jersey, is the small town of Ocean Grove.  Founded in 1869 by a group of devout Methodists as a permanent camp meeting location, Ocean Grove became a seaside community devoted to simple living and everyday holiness.   It does not seem as though Marriott C. Morris visited Ocean Grove frequently, however his photographs of Ocean Pathway leading toward the Auditorium and the camp meeting tents show evidence of at least one trip to the seaside town.   Morris’ photos, along with other items from the Library Company’s collection, give a picture of late 19th century life in this unique place on the Jersey shore.    
Marriott C. Morris, View of Tents at Ocean Grove from Tabernacle, 1884

View of the tents from Service by the Sea. Ninth Annual Report of the President of the Ocean Grove Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1878
Morris chose to highlight one of the most distinctive aspects of Ocean Grove in his photographs; its tents.  The tents originally provided temporary housing for the attendees of the Methodist revivals but stayed a part of the community even as permanent structures sprung up in Ocean Grove.   In the late 19th century, tents could be found throughout the town and about 100 still remain.  Tent life was extremely popular in Ocean Grove, allowing residents easy access to religious services and the opportunity to live simply.  In the Ninth Annual Report of the President of the Ocean Grove Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, President E.H. Stokes wrote that “tent life at this place instead of losing, increases in interest every year.” Each summer, both when Morris visited and today, tent owners pull sheets of canvas from the shed at the rear of each tent and stretch it over a wooden platform, creating their home for the next few months.

View of the tents from Achievements by the Sea. Twelfth Annual Report of the President of the Ocean Grove Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1881

In addition to the camp meetings, its beautiful shoreline contributed to Ocean Grove’s popularity as a summer destination.  A stereograph by Gustavus Pach from the Library Company’s collection shows a crowd enjoying Ocean Grove’s beach.  Bathing attire in the 19th century was significantly more modest than today’s, and this was even more important than usual in a religious town like Ocean Grove where the “improper, immodest and exposed condition” of bathers was discouraged outside of the bathing grounds.

Gustavus Pach, Views of Ocean Grove, New Jersey, ca. 1877

Not every visitor to Ocean Grove stayed in a tent.  Elegant hotels like The Arlington, seen in this image from the 1878 Annual Report, provided more opulent accommodation.  Another stereograph by Pach from about 1877 shows an aerial view of The Arlington with tents in the background.  Standing next to the hotel is W.F. Day & Bros. Ice Cream Garden offering a cool respite from the summer heat.  Undoubtedly, the line stretched around the block in the 1870s as it still does today at Day’s.

View of the Arlington from Service by the Sea. Ninth Annual Report of the President of the Ocean Grove Camp-Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1878

Gustavus Pach, Views of Ocean Grove, New Jersey, ca. 1877
Morris’ second photograph of Ocean Grove shows Ocean Pathway leading toward the Auditorium, where the main worship services for the camp meetings were held.  The Auditorium’s spire is visible beyond the trees, but the building that Morris photographed was not the first Auditorium in Ocean Grove.  As attendance at the camp meeting grew each year, the need for a larger building became more apparent.  The annual report from 1878 details renovations made to the existing auditorium, which included the suggestion of extending the roof to accommodate more seats.  In the Annual Report from 1880, the need for expansion was even more explicit and a new building was proposed on the plot of land north of Ocean Pathway.  This is where the Auditorium was located when Morris visited in 1884, serving as the center of the town, both visually and spiritually.

Marriott C. Morris, Ocean Pathway, Ocean Grove. Looking toward auditorium, 1884

Alison Van Denend
Assistant Project Manager
The Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection

Friday, January 23, 2015

A New View of an Old Graveyard

A wide variety of projects have resulted from readers using our historical collections. Occasionally we like to feature them in our blog ( In late 2014 I had the pleasure to meet Ronald Shaffer, who among his many activities serves as the president of the Old Pine Conservancy (, as well as a tour guide of the church’s graveyard.  Mr. Shaffer has been a frequent visitor to our main reading room immersing himself in Philadelphia’s past. One of the results of his labor is the Old Pine Conservancy graveyard self-guided tour guide reproduced below.

Suel-Gi Lee, a student at Moore College of Art and Design, created this map as part of an internship project.  To study the graveyard from different perspectives, Ms. Lee walked among the headstones at ground level and spent time on the roof deck of the adjacent Old Pine Community Center. Utilizing digital photography and knowledge about drawing spatial relationships gained from former art student Mr. Shaffer, Ms. Lee drew a map that depicts an overall view of the cemetery, while also highlighting specific markers. Old Pine Conservancy members chose the selected grave markers to emphasize the diversity of the nearly 5, 000 people buried in the graveyard. Additional maps are being planned by the Conservancy covering tour topics such as Yellow Fever, Sea Captains-Privateers, and Affairs of the Heart.
A desire to learn more about who was interred in the graveyard is what drew Mr. Shaffer to the Library Company. With the help of Chief of Reference Connie King, he researched the 275 Revolutionary War veterans buried at Old Pine. Using sources such as the multi-volume Pennsylvania Archives, Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia, and Scharf & Westcott’s History of Philadelphia, Shaffer and other volunteers created brief biographies for approximately half the Revolutionary War soldiers buried in the graveyard. With thousands of more names from the graveyard to investigate, we are sure to be seeing more of Mr. Shaffer in the months (and years!) to come.

Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Over There, Over Everywhere: The Aero Service Collection at the Library Company of Philadelphia

The following post is by guest blogger Carl H. Winnefeld, Jr. who is mining our Aero Service Collection looking for photographs of company personnel and aircraft.  A former Aero Service employee, Winnefeld and colleagues are compiling this information for a website and potential future publication. Winnefeld stumbled upon the above photograph inspiring him to write the blog post below. The blog post was originally written for the World War One blog, Home Before the Leaves Fall. The Home Before the Leaves Fall website is an initiative of multiple cultural institutions in the Delaware Valley to digitize and make available their holdings related to World War One.  The Library Company’s World War One collection can be found on ImPAC, the Library Company’s digital collections catalog, with the collection broken down into two sub-categories: World War One Posters and Photographs and Ephemera.  In addition, a selection of World War One posters appear on Flickr.

The Aero Service Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia contains material (primarily photographic images) acquired by the Aero Service Corporation and its president, Virgil Kauffman over a 40 year time frame. Aero Service was founded in Philadelphia in 1919 as Pennsylvania Aero Service and remained based in Philadelphia until 1973 when it relocated to Houston, Texas. The company operated on a worldwide basis.  Its primary business was aerial photography, photogrammetry (the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects), and remote sensing using an airborne magnetometer. In 1934 Aero Service worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority to map areas where the TVA was responsible for developing watershed resources. In 1947 Aero Service flew one of the first large airborne magnetometer surveys using Shoran navigation control over the Bahamas.
Jules Schick Photography, Virgil Kauffman, gelatin silver photograph, March 18, 1958. Library Company of Philadelphia

The Aero Service Corporation’s longtime president Virgil Kauffman (portrait above) was born in Yardley Pennsylvania in 1898. With the onset of World War I, Kauffman was assigned to the Corps of Engineers Photography School. The Army Air Corps utilized aerial photography for intelligence during the war and Kauffman was assigned to participate in the aerial reconnaissance missions, making this his introduction to aerial photography. After the war, he joined Aero Service in 1924 and directed the company from 1927 to 1961. His contributions to the scientific and technical world were wide ranging and significant. In 1966 he funded the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal to be awarded by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists for outstanding contribution in geophysical exploration.  Kauffman was associated with the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University from 1961 to 1985. Virgil Kauffman passed away in 1985.

The first image above shows the village of Blondefontaine, France in the winter of 1918 immediately after the war. Blondefontaine is located 285 kilometers. southeast of Paris. The village today looks very much as it did in 1918. The image below is a description of the scene written by Virgil Kauffman. The photograph provides a view of just how grim it must have been during the war years in France.
Verso of Street of Blondefontaine- Dec. 26-1918. Library Company of Philadelphia

Carl H. Winnefeld, Jr.
Guest Blogger for the Library Company of Philadelphia