Monday, November 28, 2011

Traipsing Through the Woods of Tacony

Page from Howell Bickley’s diary, February 4, 1854.  From the personal collection of Joseph Jones.
Researcher Joseph Jones recently approached us looking for images of several estates once located in the present-day Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia.  We were able to locate an image of the Lardner family farmhouse, shedding light on an 1854 entry in a diary owned by Jones and written by eleven-year-old Howell Bickley, who grew up on a neighboring farm.  In the entry, reproduced above, Bickley describes going for a nine-mile walk in the woods in the vicinity of Mr. Lardner’s estate.  Upon further research, Jones was able to determine that the Lardner property mentioned was in fact the estate of John Lardner, also known as “Tacony Farm.”  
The photograph of John Lardner’s estate below is from the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph collection, consisting of nearly 1,500 negatives and a smaller number of photographic prints.  Morris extensively photographed family members as well as geographic locations in and around Philadelphia to which his family had ties. The title of the photograph suggests that Mary P. Lardner was the cousin of Marriott C. Morris. 
Co[u]s[in] Mary P. Lardner’s old house & place at Tacony.  From river--on boat. May 2, 1885.  From the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph collection.

The unearthing of this image “…is a major discovery in bringing this diary to life,” in the words of Jones, who hopes someday to publish a children’s book related to the diary. 
In the course of his research, Jones has found that there are currently efforts to redevelop the area where the Lardner estate once stood as Lardner’s Point Park.  A modern-day view of the location can be seen in this article about the project:
The Morris family papers found at the Independence National Historic Park include the personal papers of Marriott C. Morris.  The archivists currently processing the collection have created a blog documenting highlights of their findings, as well as a link to the finding aid, which can be seen by clicking here:

Nicole Joniec
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Large Pages into Small Spaces

Sampler Book
The three conservators in the McLean Conservation Department (Jennifer Rosner, Andrea Krupp, and Alice Austin) are all active members of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers.  On November 5 and 6, 2011, they hosted a workshop at the Library Company on map-folding called “Large Pages into Small Spaces: Folding Paper to Fit into a Binding Structure.” It was taught by Pam Spitzmueller, the James W. Needham Chief Conservator for Special Collections at Harvard University. Older atlases offer many examples of how this challenge was solved in the past, so Pam started by giving a presentation on some of the atlases that she has encountered over the years. Then the twelve people attending the workshop learned different ways to fold maps into book structures, and each person made a “sampler binding” to try some of them out. The workshop was both fun and interesting, and as you can see in the photos, the room was filled with cut up and folded AAA maps and out-of-date modern atlases!

Chinese map folds
One way to fold a map
Jennifer Rosner
Chief of Conservation

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Bond by Any Other Name….

“What a striking street scene!” was my first thought on seeing the Philadelphia Traction Company bond sent to me on approval from the New England ephemera dealer George LeBarre Galleries.

Given my interests as a print curator, I hardly considered the name of the 1935 purchaser—in this case, the cumbersome "Pennsylvania Company for Insurances on Lives and Granting Annuities, trustee under the will of Frederick James, deceased, in trust for J. Monroe Shellenberger and George Shellenberger"—in my decision to acquire the bond. I was more focused on estimating the date that the piece was printed, often different from the issue date. Feeling fairly confident in my estimation of a printing date at the turn of the twentieth century, I put the bond aside for future cataloging.

Whenever I catalog I search genealogical websites such as GenealogyBank and, in addition to Google.  Not expecting much for J. Monroe and George Shellenberger, I was quite pleased to hit a veritable historical gossip jackpot. Through a series of newspaper articles I discovered that J. Monroe Shellenberger, Sr., was an infamous Doylestown lawyer convicted of forgery and sentenced to Eastern State Penitentiary in 1890.  His children were made wards of his brother-in-law John O. James, brother of "Frederick James, deceased." Suddenly the names seemed even more fascinating than the eye-catching trolley scene on the print.

I should not have been surprised, then, while cataloging another bond purchased at LeBarre, that its provenance overshadowed its visual content as well. Issued to "Girard Trust Company of Philada'a committee of the State in Pennsylvania, of Lillian Augusta Stuart Moore de Bildt, a lunatic," who could resist trying to figure out the identity of a person declared insane.  It turns out de Bildt was daughter of Philadelphia philanthropist and author Clara Jessup Moore and businessman Bloomfield H. Moore. Not only that, she was sister to respected archeologist Clarence Bloomfield Moore, whose house still stands across the street from the Library Company. Married to diplomat Baron Carl Nils Daniel de Bildt in 1874, Lillian was shortly thereafter declared insane. The couple divorced in 1890—ironically, the same year Mr. Shellenberger headed to jail. Who says cataloging is boring?

Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

“Ireland, America, and the Worlds of Mathew Carey”

A conference sponsored by 
The McNeil Center for Early American Studies,
The Library Company of Philadelphia,
the Program in Early American Economy and Society,
and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries

The first half of the Mathew Carey conference kicked off last week, bringing scholars from Ireland and the United States together to discuss the many facets of Carey’s life. Reversing the arc of Carey’s own life, the conference will move from Philadelphia to Trinity College Dublin next week. Carey made the reverse journey at the age of 24 to escape British officials after his seditious Volunteer’s Journal caught their attention. In his Autobiography, Carey reports he made the journey disguised “in female dress,” in which he “must have cut a very gawkey [sic] figure.”

In his welcoming remarks, Jim Green, librarian at the Library Company and the foremost expert on Carey, asked the audience to consider whether Carey was a founder. Green pointed out that Carey certainly shared one quality with the founders: ever enigmatic, Carey is as hard to pin down as Jefferson, Franklin, etc. on the questions that faced the new nation. Borrowing from Roslyn Remer’s insight in Printers and Men of Capital, Green observed the tension that those who have worked on Carey have noted—a tension between cooperation and competition—reflects the paradox of the book trade itself in the period. Green concluded by describing Carey in the parlance of his time, as a man of incredible passion who had mixed success in regulating those passions.

The conference picked up the next morning at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies with Maurice Bric’s plenary address. Bric posed a question that remained on the table for the rest of the conference: What were Carey’s Irish influences?  How did Carey’s experience in Ireland shape his understanding of American politics and culture?  Bric asked this question in relation to Carey’s The Urgent Necessity of an Immediate Repeal of the Whole Penal Code (1781), which, as one panelist observed, became the urtext of the conference. Bric identified “oligarchy” as Carey’s primary concern in the pamphlet and looked at how Carey targeted oligarchy in the American context, specifically in his exchanges with William Cobbett. In the lengthy discussion that followed Bric’s presentation, the question of Carey’s stance on race was raised, and this question also percolated throughout the rest of the conference. Carey held contradictory positions on the status of African Americans in the new republic, and one wonders if his understanding of himself as a racialized subject in colonial Ireland influenced his perspectives and actions in Philadelphia.

The panels that followed were as varied as the career of a ceaseless scribbler of nearly 50 years. Topics such as politics, economics, religion, and print culture reflected the fact that Carey, to borrow a description from Samuel Blodget, was like “the proboscis of a noble elephant,” surveying the landscape all around him.

And there is so much more fun to come!  The Carey conference will pick up in Dublin next week. The Dublin conference is being organized by academics from the Centre for Irish-Scottish and Comparative Studies, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and the University of Aberdeen, and coordinated through the Trinity Long Room Hub in association with the National Library of Ireland.

Molly O’Hagan Hardy
Mellon Writing Fellow, Southwestern University
2010 LCP American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellow

Friday, November 4, 2011

Auction Success

     I just returned from bidding on a few lots at a sale at Freeman’s Auction, and my heart is still pounding. The adrenaline really gets going when there is bidding happening on the floor, on the phones, and on the internet and you don’t want to lose track of what’s happening. I succeeded in buying the one lot I most wanted—a ca. 1870s albumen photograph of the Wissahickon by Philadelphia photographer John C. Browne. This photograph was one that was missing in an album of Browne photographs given to us last year and it is great to be able to reunite it with companion pieces.

 Sarah Weatherwax
Curator of Prints & Photographs

Thursday, November 3, 2011

LCP Collections on Loan

We recently had a few items that were on loan to other institutions returned to us and it got me thinking about where else people can see Library Company collections outside of our building. If anyone is going to be in New York City, be sure to visit the Morgan Library & Museum to see their current exhibition Charles Dickens at 200 ( Described by the New York Times as an “immensely rich exhibition of manuscripts, photographs, letters, illustrations and artifacts,” the exhibition includes a daguerreotype portrait of Dickens from our collection. Closer to home, we have a print and pamphlet relating to Chang and Eng, 19th century co-joined twins, at the Mutter Museum’s Through the Weeping Glass exhibition, and Civil War ephemera including envelopes, political campaign cards and an anti-slavery token on view in an exhibition entitled Philadelphia 1861: The Coming Storm at the Union League’s new Heritage Center.

Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs