Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Revisiting the Past

Over the summer the Print Department hosted a half-day orientation for teachers attending a Library of Congress “Teaching with Primary Sources” seminar about the history of photography in relation to identity. In preparing for the presentation, I had the opportunity to revisit material I had researched and cataloged several years ago. One such item was a photograph album compiled 1892-1893 by Ida F. Drew, a student in her last year at the Ogontz School for Girls in Elkins Park, Pa. Having not had access to during my initial work with the album, I thought I would take advantage of it now to find out a little bit more about Miss Drew. What had become of the girl who had compiled a volume of formal class photographs and views of her school in the early 1890s, as well as numerous snapshots of her school chums and family friends during outings and vacations?

 It turns out that Miss Drew was still Miss Drew and living with her parents, prominent lawyer and general Charles W. Drew and Anna Fleetwood, in Chicago in 1900.  By the 1910 census, she was the wife of Chicago lawyer Bertrand Walker whom she wed on September 14, 1901. From the census data, it appears that she had no children, though servants were regularly listed as part of the household. She died on September 2, 1946, outlived by her husband, and was buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.  Much still remains a mystery about Ida Drew Walker—including which of the young ladies in the photographs is she! Nonetheless a little more about her life has come to light.

Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Portrait of Once-Thriving South Philadelphia Factory Building

Recent photograph of former Main Belting Company building by Adrienne Langer

The Print and Photograph Department was recently visited by artist Adrienne Langer, who was looking for information about the Main Belting Company factory located at 1217-37 Carpenter Street in South Philadelphia.  Langer has studio space in the building, which has been renovated to house offices and artists’ studios.  She was hoping to locate historical images of the structure to use as a reference when she creates a “house,” or in this case “factory,” portrait of the building’s exterior.  

Main Belting Company.  Philadelphia, Pa., The Book of its Bourse & Co-operating Public Bodies (Philadelphia, 1898). 

Langer located the above image in George Engelhardt’s Philadelphia, Pa., The Book of its Bourse & Co-operating Public Bodies, a valuable publication in the Reading Room’s reference collection that describes the city’s businesses and industries in 1898.  This image will help her to understand the building’s former appearance.

Jackson-Cross Company, Rear of 1217-41 Carpenter St. on Montrose St., ca. 1940.
In addition, I was able to locate the rear view of the building above, which intrigued Langer. This glimpse back in time reveals how the windows looked with their original glass panes intact, and that there was once a passageway where there is now a loading dock.  Below is a modern-day photograph from the same vantage point illustrating how much the space has changed, with the home on the left no longer present.
Rear photograph of former Main Belting Company building by Adrienne Langer
We are pleased Langer was able to find historical photographs in our collections that give her a better understanding of the architectural makeup of the existing structure, especially since many of the original elements have been altered over time.  Langer plans on sharing the final product with us so expect a follow-up blog post in the near future!

Nicole Joniec
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager