Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Welcome Print Department Intern Lydia Bello

The Print Department is greatly benefiting from the help of college interns this winter and spring. Currently, the department is fortunate to host Lydia Bello, a Bryn Mawr College senior, who will spend approximately eight hours a week throughout her spring semester assisting us. Lydia will process digital files as we finish up work on a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund cataloging and digitizing of ephemera.  She is also helping to inventory and re-house a newly acquired collection of trade cards, and assisting with day-to-day departmental duties.

Lydia, a Growth and Structure of Cities major, plans to return to her Portland, Oregon, home after graduation to pursue library work. In a year or two she hopes to return East and attend graduate school. Lydia describes her time at the Library Company as both “educational and fun.” “As part of my internship I combine the practical work I’m doing at the Library Company with background readings,” writes Lydia, “so I know the history of the postcards I’m processing or the trade cards I’m rehousing. I especially enjoy the ‘surprise’ element of working with ephemera – I never know what I’m going to find!” Check the LCP blog as Lydia will periodically write about her experiences. 

In early January, between winter and spring semesters, Haverford College sophomore Jon William Sweitzer-Lamme volunteered his time in the department processing digital files, posting images on Flickr, and carrying out general curatorial tasks. He also wrote a blog entry about his experience. Jon accomplished far more than we had thought possible in such a short period of time.

We are glad to have fresh, enthusiastic new faces in the department!

An Influential African-American Painter Remembered

If you missed Curator of African-American History Phil Lapsansky’s op-ed piece in the Inquirer last month, you may not know the extent of the influence of Robert Douglass, Jr., whose painting of Washington crossing the Delaware hung from Independence Hall for the Washington centennial celebration in 1832. Although most of his work has been lost to history, in his lifetime Douglass was not only a prominent citizen but an internationally recognized artist whose work was exhibited at the National Gallery in London as well as at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Not only a painter and lithographer, Douglass became Philadelphia’s first African American photographer. His influence is likely to have extended both to Henry Ossawa Tanner—the prominent Philadelphia African-American artist whose work is currently on exhibition at the Academy—and Emanuel Luetze, painter of the much-loved image of Washington’s crossing. Read more about Robert Douglass.

A Rogue in the Sunlight: The Life and Death of James Fisk

Robert W. McAlpine. The Life and Times of Col. James Fisk, Jr. (New York, 1872).

We discovered James Fisk (1834-1872) in the course of developing our current exhibition “Capitalism by Gaslight.” Unlike most of the petty criminals, con artists, and other shady characters featured in the show, Jim Fisk swindled his way into legitimate finance and became a Wall Street tycoon. Fisk was shot and killed in the entrance to his residence—not by a victim of one of his many schemes, but by his former business partner Edward Stokes.

Stokes, a dandy from a wealthy family, had made an enemy of Fisk by becoming romantically involved with Fisk’s mistress. Knowing that Fisk had arranged to have him arrested, Stokes surprised Fisk at the entrance to his residential hotel and shot him on January 6, 1872.

Reportedly 100,000 New Yorkers watched Fisk’s funeral procession. Despite his cutthroat business practices, the public loved him because of his showmanship and good humor. Publishers rushed biographies into print; we now have four, all published in 1872. The following year, in his sensational Lights and Shadows of New York Life, James McCabe included an account of Fisk’s “remarkable life and tragic death.”

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