Thursday, May 29, 2014

World War One Posters and a Philadelphia Connection

World War One poster by Jessie Willcox Smith P.2284.107
The Jessie Willcox Smith Photograph Collection in the Print and Photograph Department is not the only place to find the famed illustrator’s work at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Smith was one of the many talented artists recruited by the United States Committee of Public Information to create propaganda posters during World War I. In 1918, Smith designed “Have You a Red Cross Service Flag?” a poster which Pennsylvania poster dealer George Theofiles labeled as, “a very popular poster done by an equally popular children’s book illustrator of the period” (Theofiles, American Posters of World War I, 169).

An article in the 1918 Thanksgiving issue of The Red Cross Bulletin described this poster even more enthusiastically:

“In the Jessie Willcox Smith poster the Red Cross Christmas Roll-Call will present one of the finest studies of child life ever painted. It is a window scene which it is hoped will be reproduced in every home in the country. A little boy is fixing a Red Cross service flag in his window to indicate that his home is 100 per cent enrolled. A Christmas wreath is suspended above. Miss Smith set aside all her regular orders and work to produce this poster for the Red Cross.”
A Philadelphia native, Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935) studied at the Moore College of Art (then the School of Design for Women), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute. Smith lived with fellow artists Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley, who collectively became known as the Red Rose Girls. Smith not only grew into a nationally recognized children’s book illustrator, she also designed the cover of the magazine, Good Housekeeping, from 1918 to 1932.
Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.field
Smith frequently took portrait photographs to use as studies for her illustrations. Two photographs within the Library Company’s Jessie Willcox Smith Collection indicate that she may have been planning to design additional World War I posters (see above and below). These two character studies show a sailor seated either on a porch or in a field pointing towards the horizon. I have not been able to track down posters created from these photographs, but please let us know if you are aware of any related images.
Jessie Willcox Smith collection P.9446.porch
Becca Solnit
LCP Intern

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Canoeing the Pine Barrens

Deserted House at Atsion, N.J.  May 18, 1906. Thomas C. Potts second from right. From the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection.

Though a desolate landscape, Philadelphians have long been drawn to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for various reasons such as relaxation, trade, and industry.  The Marriott C. Morris collection of photographs includes views of amateur photographer Marriott C. Morris’s travels to the Pine Barrens for leisurely activities.

In the above photograph, Morris takes pictures of those on his canoeing trip along side the slab-sheathed house, believed to be one of the oldest structures still standing in Atsion, potentially dating back to the industrial town’s beginnings in the 18th century.  Today, what once served as a canal to power a nearby mill, this location is overgrown with foliage and is difficult to photograph, even on an early spring day (see below).  The house still stands but enhancements were once made to the back porch and accompanying outbuilding (the residence is now vacant).  Given the placement of the canoe in an area that most likely would not have been frequented by canoes, as it only served as a waterway to power the nearby mill, it appears this photograph was taken as a perfect photo opp where Morris could stand upon the nearby bluff while the canoeists posed in the calm waters.

 Modern photograph of Slab-Sheathed house taken on 4/6/2014 by the author
Photographed on what seems to be the same canoeing trip, since both photographs are dated May 18, 1906 and the Mullica River runs past the slab-sheathed house, the photograph below shows the canoeists porting their canoes over fallen timber amongst the sparse pine barren scenery.  Given the vantage point of the photographer, it appears Morris may have been standing in the river or perhaps we cannot see the riverbank or fallen log from which he shoots.

  Canoeing on the Mullica River.  May 18, 1906.  From the Library Company’s Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection.
These two Morris photographs show only a glimpse of views of the Pine Barrens represented by the Marriott C. Morris collection.  Interested researchers can also find images of Allaire, an historic mill town located in Monmouth County, as well as many photographs of the nearby New Jersey shoreline.  More information on the Morris collection can be found in a previous blog post I authored.  And stay tuned as we are excited to announce we will be embarking upon a mass digitization project to make the entire Morris collection available online in the coming years, thanks to a generous donation made by Marriott C. Morris’s grandchildren David Marriott Morris, Eleanor Rhoads Morris Cox and William Perot Morris in memory of Marriott Canby Morris.

Nicole Joniec
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager