Monday, December 12, 2016

Food Will Win the War!

                                                                                                                                     Eat local, meatless Mondays, go wheatless, more fruits and vegetables, less white sugar— many of the things we hear a lot about today Americans did during World War I.  The Library Company’s exhibition Together We Win: The Philadelphia Homefront During the First World War explores activities on the homefront, which included food conservation and the ways in which every American could “do their part” to help win the war through their food choices. On display in the exhibit are cookbooks, magazines, colorful posters, and photographs.

John Sheridan, Food is Ammunition (New York: United States Food Administration, 1918). Color lithograph. 

The war caused a severe food crisis in Europe, and the United States also had over four million servicemen to feed.  America needed to provide a large quantity of food. The United States Food Administration, created in 1917 and headed by Herbert Hoover, campaigned to convince Americans to voluntarily change their eating habits in order to have enough food. This included conserving wheat, meat, sugar, and fats so those items could be sent overseas. The Food Administration advocated using alternatives like honey or molasses for sugar and corn or barley for wheat.  They educated with memorable slogans, such as “when in doubt, eat potatoes” and “help us observe the Gospel of the clean plate” and invented “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays.” To free up transportation for war supplies, they encouraged buying locally produced food, or better still, growing liberty gardens. They campaigned with vibrant posters and published recipes and sample menus in pamphlets, newspapers, and magazines.

Apple Brown Betty recipe from: Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, War-Time: Cook and Health Book (Lynn, MA, 1917). Gift of William H. Helfand.

Linda August, Curator of Arts and Artifacts and co-curator of Together We Win, along with Digital Outreach Librarians, Concetta Barbera and Arielle Middleman, created the World War I Test Kitchen to gain better understanding of this topic. They selected four food conservation recipes and filmed the cooking of them. The first dish, Apple Brown Betty, may be the quintessential war time recipe. It uses fruit (locally grown is even better) and substitutes molasses for sugar, while also using leftover bread in the crumb topping. Additionally, they made a “wheatless” [i.e. gluten-free] sweet potato gingerbread and two savory, meatless meals, bean loaf with tomato sauce and cottage cheese sausage. Library Company staff served as the taste testers and surprisingly everything turned out to be delicious.  The first video is posted on our website here: Please check back to see the forthcoming episodes.

Linda August

Curator of Art and Artifacts and Reference Librarian
Co-Curator of Together We Win

Friday, December 9, 2016

285th Annual Dinner

2016 LCP Annual Dinner

On November 10, 2016, 150 Library Company shareholders and donors gathered for the opening of the WWI exhibition and our 285th Annual Dinner featuring  Lafayette Professor Donald L. Miller, the best-selling author, expert historian, and documentarian. Highlights from the evening included: performances by the Philadelphia Voices of Pride singing WWI music from the Library Company collection, a presentation by Councilman Mark Squilla recognizing the historical importance of the Library Company, and a special video greeting from internationally-renowned actor and producer Tom Hanks. Thanks to your support, it was a wonderful evening and an amazing opportunity to celebrate our Shareholders. Thank you to all of the sponsors who made the evening a financial success raising almost $30,000 for the Library Company.

Raechel Hammer

Chief Development Officer

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Building a Historical Shareholder Database

In 1731, Ben Franklin and a group of fifty of his fellow Junto members agreed to pay a yearly subscription fee to form the Library we all know and love.  These were our first shareholders.  Originally, only shareholders in the Library could take books out of collections, and their yearly subscriptions helped to buy the many texts that we still own today.  In the present, shareholding is still an honored tradition.  However, we do not issue new share numbers anymore; instead, our members own shares going back as far as our 1731 origins, with impressive provenance attached to the names that came before.

In an effort to make information about our shareholders available to all, we are in the process of creating an indexed, searchable database of all 9,717 shareholders to date!  During this project, we have had to overcome some major hurdles.  First, we had to combine information collected over many years in all different formats into one standardized document.  Including both paper and digital files, we found many biographies of past shareholders already written.  We also had to check, and often correct, every name and date of each shareholder in our register book with what we had in our spreadsheet.  This spreadsheet was made by digitizing our register book, and so some transcription issues were inevitable.  We have also had to do a lot of “de-duping;” sometime in the 1930’s, the Library Company reissued previous shares under new numbers, and then in the 1980’s put the original shares back into circulation.  This meant that two people could theoretically hold the same share!  In order to get rid of duplicates, we had to trace back each number to its original entry and make notes of what shares belonged where.

Thankfully, we have made significant progress. To date, we have 1,578 shareholders that have some biographical history attached to them. (16% of our total shareholders!) We have also added searchable subject terms to all of our shareholders to help us find shares for prospective shareholders.  For example, we now know that at least 22 of our shareholders were abolitionists, 87 served in the armed forces, 19 were Jewish, and 2,423 were women (almost a quarter of our total).  This sort of information helps us link new shareholders with our historic shareholders in meaningful ways; a doctor can own the share of other doctors, a Penn graduate can own the share of another Penn graduate, and so forth.  As this project progresses, we will be making this information accessible, and searchable, to everyone online.  We also hope to continue adding biographical information to our shareholders.  When buying a share today, our members can see exactly who owned this share in the past, and learn a little about those who came before them as well.  We are very excited to be bringing this information to the public.  Stay tuned in future E-News for samples from our database!

Emma Ricciardi

Project Cataloger 

LCP Digital Humanities News

The Library Company of Philadelphia is always looking for opportunities to promote the creation of compelling and ramifying digital content. A particular collection near and dear to my heart is the Library’s holdings of knitting and crochet books, trade cards, prints, and photographs. Many of these were featured in my 2001 exhibition “The Hook and the Book.” In an effort to make these collections and ones like them available to a wider audience I became a founding board member of the Center for Knit and Crochet .

The Center for Knit and Crochet, (“CKC”), was established in 2012 to “preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts.” To achieve these goals, CKC plans to establish an online museum, study center, and social networking environment enhanced by exhibitions, access to current scholarship, and educational programs. To reach these aspiring goals it became evident that an international collection survey of holdings is necessary for planning, outreach, partnerships, and data retrieval to drive the online database for the digital museum.

The CKC online museum will be an international clearing house of data and images aggregated from partner GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives Museums) institutions' online repositories identified in the collections survey. It will also provide the opportunity to standardize and expand collection data. Ultimately this resource will expand to allow for the CKC community to share personal collections and histories creating a complete view of our knitting and crochet cultural heritage.

This summer the Library Company and CKC joined forces to offer a digital humanities internship opportunity to begin the enormous task of building a comprehensive survey of knitting and crochet collections around the world. While CKC provided the internship stipend, the Library Company provided the office space and technology. This survey required particular focus on the availability or potential for digitized material and its corresponding metadata. The call for applicants resulted in nearly thirty interested students and recent graduates eager to contribute their time and expertise. We were thrilled to offer the position to Kelly Helm who had recently earned her MLS from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Manhattan NYU. She was very enthusiastic to begin and in her own words: ”My friends all know that I’m an avid knitter and crocheter, and so as soon as they saw this post, it was forwarded on to me with subject lines like, “Look! It’s Summer Camp for You!” and “Kelly’s Dream Job!”. I knew right away that this was the position for me, and I couldn’t wait to get started.”
Kelly was asked to survey collections using qualitative and quantitative measures to rank each collection’s research value as well as the state of the collection’s intellectual access, physical access, housing, and physical condition.
“Over the course of my internship, I looked at websites for over 3500 repositories worldwide, hoping to find knit or crochet materials in their collections. I e-mailed, filled out contact forms, searched databases, ran websites through Google Translate—and came up with a wide assortment of items. For me, the most interesting part was sending off emails to small town historical societies, then going and exploring the databases for some of the world’s most prestigious collections.  I found personal inspiration in the intricacies of Victorian lacework, the tiny stitches in stockings, and seeing woolen caps from the 16th century. I was able to immerse myself in the history of a craft I love, and at the same time be involved at the ground level with a project working to preserve the future of knitting and crochet. Having the opportunity to work with the CKC at LCP gave me the chance to grow my skills as a metadata librarian, and I am so grateful to have had this internship.” ~ Kelly Helm
We are thrilled that Kelly will continue to volunteer with CKC to continue this great work beyond her the short time at the Library Company.

Nicole H. Scalessa
IT Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator& CKC Vice President

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scholar's Corner: Abraham Lincoln and Done Gone

On Saturday, June 28, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln received an unusual delivery. Norman Wiard sent a painting entitled Done Gone to the White House “for the inspection of President Lincoln, and to afford him a laugh.” Wiard later recalled thinking “its grim humor might enliven his careworn spirit if it was presented at the appropriate time, and I had the satisfaction to notice that the great man took great interest in it. He saw speaking points in it not before discovered, and took new hope from it, saying it was prophetic.”[1]

Wiard had purchased the painting from artist William M. Davis, of Long Island, New York. Davis was primarily a painter of landscapes and maritime themes, but in 1862, he received national recognition for three paintings based on the Civil War. In the spring of 1862, Done Gone, the second of the trio, portrayed the “miseries of expiring secessionism,” according to the New York Times.[2]  Edward Anthony of New York City produced photographic copies of Davis’s paintings in carte de visite size, and they sold widely for 25 cents each.

“Done Gone.” ca. 1862. Albumen print carte de visite. 
Part of the Library Company's Prints and Photographs collection

In the spring of 1862, it was easy for northerners to predict the end of the Confederacy. Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers, within miles of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Many expected the war to be over in months; very few suspected the truth that it would last for three more years. Employing his trompe l’oeil style, Davis portrayed in Done Gone a series of objects to symbolize and illustrate the Confederacy’s demise. A frayed Confederate flag drapes a tombstone with the inscription “Hic Jacet Secesh” (Here lies Secesh). Around the tombstone are an empty demijohn labeled “Old Rye,” the “Act of Secession” puncturing a planter’s straw hat, a bare corn cob, a rusty Bowie knife, a bayonet as a candlestick with the wick fizzling out, a toe-less boot, a stump of a cigar, and a letter with the postscript, “Dear Alexander. Don’t forget to kill one Yankee for your affectionate Delilah.” On a couple of playing cards, the ace of spades (an oblique reference to African Americans) trumps King Cotton.

Norman Wiard was born in Canada and became an ordnance expert and inventor. In 1861, he provided the Union army with dozens of semi-steel cannon from a foundry in Pennsylvania. Wiard corresponded frequently with President Lincoln in the latter half of 1864 on political and military matters, but it is unclear whether he had met the President before taking Done Gone to the White House in June 1862. Lincoln’s sense of humor and appreciation for satire were well-known at the time, and Wiard clearly expected Davis’s painting to amuse the President. 

We have no letter from Lincoln reflecting on Done Gone, though one reminiscence reported that the President “could not conceive of its being a painting until he put his hand upon it.”[3] When Wiard donated the painting to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1869, he recalled a conversation with President Lincoln in 1864:  “the war had not ended, and the President seemed so much to enjoy [Done Gone], that I soon took occasion, in the presence of a mutual friend, to ask him to accept it as a present for the decoration of his private office, after he had ceased to be President. He said, ‘No;’ and added, ‘let me keep it here a while—it seems like a friend; and after the war is over, and secession is buried indeed, give it to some soldier who, in your opinion, has done most to put down the rebellion.’”[4]

As late as 1900, Davis’s original Done Gone painting seems to have been hanging at the Grand Army of the Republic’s departmental headquarters in Washington.[5] Unfortunately, whether it has survived and where it is remain a mystery. What has survived are a few of the photographic copies of the painting that held such hope in the spring and summer of 1862 for a speedy conclusion to the American Civil War.

Dr. Daniel W. Stowell
Director and Editor 
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

[1] Robert B. Heath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic (New York: Bryan, Taylor & Co., 1889), 104.
[2] “The Neglected Picture,” New-York Times, 26 April 1862, 8:4.
[3] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), 14 June 1896, 23.
[4] Beath, History of the Grand Army of the Republic, 104.
[5] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), 7 July 1900, 17.

Friday, July 29, 2016

PoliticalFest at LCP

PoliticalFest, the weeklong celebration of American political and presidential history, ended with great fanfare at the Library Company. On July 27, the last day of PoliticalFest, 442 people visited our main building on Locust Street. That is surely a single-day attendance record! Just as impressive, over 1500 people visited us during the six days of PoliticalFest. "This was a truly awesome event and I think it shows what the Library Company can do for the public," Facilities and Operations Manager Fran Dolan, who helped plan the event, observed.

PoliticalFest was in the works for several months. Planned in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention, it was the brainchild of former Governor Ed Rendell and his staff, who wanted to get convention delegates and their families out into the City of Brotherly Love during their Philadelphia stay. In 2000 for the Republican National Committee convention, Rendell said that a similar and very popular event took place at the Convention Center proper. But this time around, PoliticalFest pushed people into the city itself. PoliticalFest eventually centered on seven places—museums, libraries, and historic sites—where members of the public, as well as delegates, could see special installations on aspects of American political history. Besides the Library Company, other sites included the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the National Liberty Museum, the Philadelphia History Museum, Pennsylvania Convention Center, the National Constitution Center and the Union League. Each day, thousands of people made the rounds to these wonderful sites. The non-partisan event proved to be a rousing success.

At LCP, the Logan Room was turned into the main exhibit space. On one side of the room, a display case featured the life masks of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. "Cool!!" some young visitors exclaimed when they saw the casts of these famous men. In the middle of the room several display cases created a circle in the round which allowed visitors to see, on one side, documents relating to women's suffrage struggles in the 19th and early 20th centuries and, on the other side, classic founding documents from the 1780s and 90s (including John Dickinson's annotated copy of the U.S. Constitution and an original edition of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense"). Other display cases featured documents from the African Americana Collection and images from previous political conventions gathering in Philadelphia.

The Scheide Reading Room was temporarily converted into an open space allowing visitors to learn a bit more about the Library Company's status as an internationally-renowned research library (scholarly researchers were re-located to the Cassatt House seminar room). The reading room had one winning display: a glass case featuring the Library Company's "Articles of Association" from 1731. "Wow—it's like an IPO—an Initial Public Offering!" one woman said looking over our founding document. In many ways, she was right: this document, which has been posted online, told Philadelphia and the world that the Library Company was open for business as America's first subscription library (and, of course, a joint stock company).

The stories people told about visiting the Library Company were nearly as impressive as the number of overall visitors. "What a collection!" "I didn't know you had so many terrific things from the past." "I wish I had known about this place sooner so I could bring friends and family back." Over and over again, people told us that the Library Company was a special place. "I went to Penn, and so did my daughter," one woman said as she moved through the galleries, ending up at the Articles of Association. "But I never knew this was just on the other side of town. I really wish I had known about it. But I'm glad I know now." Clearly moved, she returned the next day for a second visit!

Tour guide, Noah Corbett, with guests and volunteers
For those concerned that the Library Company's collections might have been overwhelmed by the large numbers of people, there were no major problems. A throng of volunteers assigned by PoliticalFest monitored visitors in every room. A security guard was always on staff and we limited the number of people who could go through the exhibits at any one time. We also hired a professional educator, Noah Corbett, who took visitors through the exhibits in the Logan room, fielding questions and telling stories about the Library Company. A history teacher at Maritime Academy Charter School in Philadelphia, Noah previously worked as a tour guide at Eastern State Penitentiary. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about the Library Company. "I like the city and I like telling visitors about Philadelphia's history," he told us. Like others, he knew a little bit about Ben Franklin but not much about the Library Company. But, he continued, "it's a great place. We're only showing visitors a very small part of the collection but it's great to see so many people get excited about the Library Company's treasures. This is a great resource for the city." In fact, he thought it would be a great resource for his students too.

Our volunteers were equally impressed with the Library Company. Linda Cooper chose to work at the Library Company for perhaps an obvious reason: she lives in the neighborhood and has been to many of our events. Originally from Washington, D.C. area, she too is an educator (though she worked as an admissions administrator at a school in Maryland). "Of the seven places in PoliticalFest, I felt very comfortable coming to the Library Company," she said. "And I'm glad I did. The exhibits are great - they're very well done - and there's a nice variety of topics." She plans to return to the Library Company for lectures and other events in the future.

Heidi Schiavone, who also volunteered at the Library, said that Ben Franklin's historic connection to libraries in America drew her to the venerable institution at 1314 Locust Street As a librarian herself (in the South Lehigh School District), she was certainly interested in our role as the first subscription library in America. But she was so excited by the documents and exhibits that she even tweeted about how fun it was to volunteer at the Library Company. "I said that I learned a lot here, especially things about women's suffrage in the main display cases."

It is gratifying to know that so many people were inspired by Ben Franklin's humble library. But it is not surprising. We've been doing that for nearly 300 years!

Dr. Richard S.Newman

Cataloger’s Amusements: Pope Joan

Louis the Pious
In December 2002, William Hires, a long time shareholder and supporter of the Library Company, gave us Leaf CLXIX of the Latin edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. It was acknowledged in the Annual Report for that year and trotted out for the occasional class visit, but it somehow missed its full-out cataloging description for WolfPAC. It wound up on my desk in 2013.

The Nuremberg Chronicle, more properly Liber Chronicarum, was commissioned by two Nuremberg merchants, Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister. It’s a biblical paraphrase and history of the world written by Hartmann Schedel, who worked from his extensive personal library of manuscripts and printed books. The Latin edition appeared in July 1493, followed by a German translation at Christmas the same year. The woodcut illustrations  were designed and executed in the workshop of Michael Wolgemut, the same workshop where Albrecht Dürer apprenticed, and I find them particularly appealing to my 21st-century eye.

The front of the leaf recounts 9th-century European history and is illustrated by portraits of some important figures. At the top of the page, there’s Louis the Pious, King of Aquitaine, son of Charlemagne and Hildegard, also known as Louis the Debonaire. Notice his turned-out foot. In the lower left corner we find Rabannus, a Benedictine monk and Archbishop of Mainz, an important writer and teacher of the Carolingian era, looking properly clerical. In the lower right we have Walahfrid Strabo, “Walahfrid the Squinter,” theologian, writer, and tutor to the son of Louis the Pious.

Rabannus and Walahfrid Strabo
On the back we find the papal history accompanied by portraits of 9th-century popes: Sergius Secundus (Pope Sergius II, who ruled 844-847); Leo Quartus (St. Leo IV, 847-855); and Joannes Septimus? Never mind that Pope John VII (705-707) is from the previous century and we should be up to John VIII by then, or that Pope Benedict III (855-858) follows St. Leo IV in the modern papal lineage. Ignoring for the moment the papal tiara, “Joannes Septimus” sure looks like a Madonna cradling a child. Oh my goodness, we’ve got Pope Joan!

Pope Joan
Joan, a scholarly woman who disguised herself as a man, is said to have risen through the ranks of the church to be elected Pope and rule from 855 to 857. She could hide a lot of things under her voluminous robes including a pregnancy, but when her water broke during a papal procession she was found out. She died shortly after giving birth, either by natural causes or by the hand of man. So goes the story.

Sergius Secundus,
Leo Quartus, and
Joannes Septimus (Pope Joan)
The account of Pope Joan first arose in the 13th century and spread across Europe in oral and written form. It appears in at least two 13th-century chronicles, one by Jean de Mailly and another by Martin of Opava. Hartmann Schedel must have been aware of those works, and it’s important to remember that he was researching a scholarly history and not writing fiction.

The legend of the female pope was declared untrue in 1601 by Pope Clement VIII. In many copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle, Pope Joan’s image is crossed out or excised entirely, and the page is annotated denying the legend. And yet our leaf survived, separated from its original binding but otherwise mostly unharmed. Who rescued our Joan? We know where she’s been for the past dozen years or so, but where did she hide for the 400 years before that?

Rest easy, Joan, you’re safe with us.

Holly Phelps
Chief of Cataloging

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Scholar's Corner

As an early modernist, I sought to pull back my eighteenth-century topic as early as possible. I’m studying motherhood and wet-nursing in Philadelphia and London during the colonial and revolutionary periods. As I cast my research net, I tended to stop around 1800 whenever possible, fearful of being pulled kicking and screaming into the modern world. When I arrived at the Library Company, Connie King gave me many helpful suggestions and mentioned, as an aside, that William Buchan would be an obvious choice. I blushed, thinking, how could someone so obvious not even have been on my radar?

As it turns out, physician William Buchan was a major player in maternal medicine in the 18th century, but his major work on motherhood and infancy had not been published in Philadelphia until 1804. I read this volume obsessively, shocked to find themes I hadn’t noticed in earlier publications. I’d written blog posts about how authors of prescriptive literature in my period were exceedingly harsh toward poor women. Physicians recommended that mothers breastfeed their own children and cast malicious suspicion on women who did not, mounting challenges to their virtue and personal responsibility. It turned out that working-class mothers were often unable to nurse their own babies, their time being consumed almost entirely by a struggle for survival. But the privileged position of their audiences went unacknowledged by most maternal physicians... except William Buchan.

Buchan also recommends that mothers breastfeed their own children but qualifies his recommendation, “ gives me pain to think, that there are great numbers of poor women, who do not want so much to be taught as to be enabled to discharge their duty.”[1] He goes on to acknowledge the privileged position of a bourgeois mother who was able to breastfeed her own children, suggesting alternative solutions for poor and working-class mothers who were not so lucky. This might surprise very few of you who are familiar with antebellum America, its burgeoning class-consciousness, and its love affairs with democracy and social mobility. But for me, a historian of the genteel, bourgeois century of fashion, it was news to me. I hadn’t considered that my end date of 1800 had been masking a latent transformation in attitudes toward poor mothers.

This changes everything.

All the more because Buchan was a Scot living in London. The cornerstone of my dissertation is the argument that republican motherhood was not an American phenomenon tied to the American Revolution, but rather that it was part of a much larger transformation in motherhood around the Atlantic rim. Likewise, Buchan’s work suggests that men’s new sympathy for poor mothers cannot be explained only by the rise of Jacksonian politics in the U.S. but that it was part of a much larger transatlantic movement. It is unclear how this small discovery sits with the Victorian doctrine of separate spheres or whether it translated into any positive changes for poor mothers. But I so look forward to finding out.

Marissa Rhodes, PhD Candidate in History, State University of New York at Buffalo
Historical Society of Pennsylvania's 2016 Robert L. McNeil Jr. Fellow

[1] William Buchan, Advice to Mothers, on the Subject of Their Own Health And on the Means of Promoting the Health, Strength, and Beauty, of Their Offspring (Philadelphia: Printed and sold by John Bioren, 1804), 266.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Library Company at PAFA: African Methodist Episcopal Church Exhibition

The tragic events at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last June – when a racist gunman killed nine people gathered in this fabled institution -- had special resonance in Philadelphia. The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the City of Brotherly Love in May 1816 by Rev. Richard Allen and dozens of other black Methodists who believed firmly in both religious liberty and racial equality. Soon after, Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel (formally founded in 1794) welcomed a delegation of black Charlestonians, including Morris Brown (who would eventually flee South Carolina in the wake of Denmark Vesey’s slave rebellion and settle here, where he eventually became a Bishop in the AME Church).

Two centuries later, AME followers from across the country and around the world gathered in Philadelphia to celebrate Allen’s founding vision of true equality and justice for all. In February, the AME Bicentennial at Mother Bethel AME Church at Sixth and Lombard Streets paid homage not only to Allen but to generations of “Freedom’s Prophets” who struggled to overcome slavery and racial injustice. The echoes of the Charleston tragedy were loud and clear. On the exact same ground where Richard Allen took a bold stand for liberty in the 18th century, speaker after speaker called for a new civil rights movement in the 21st century to vanquish any lasting legacies of racism.

Playbill depicting the Rev. David S.
Cincore as Othello (1901)
Featured in PAFA's "An Extraordinary History"
The Library Company has had a long and interesting relationship with Allen, both the historical person and the revered icon. Though not a shareholder, Allen himself donated a copy of his Yellow Fever pamphlet, “A Narrative of the Black People During the Late Awful Calamity,” to us in 1794. Over time, LCP acquired many images of Allen, including two executed during his lifetime; we also recently acquired a set of books from Allen’s own library (Josephus’ writings on Christianity’s roots). And just this year, the Library Company played a key role in the production of the Richard Allen stamp issued by the United States Postal Service (which came from our copy of an 1876 engraving, “Bishops of the AME Church,” featuring Allen).

Now the Library Company will be a key player in a wonderful summer exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Entitled “An Extraordinary History, An Incredible Future: 200 Years of Service,” the exhibition runs from July 1 through July 17th. As one might expect, the show is a key part of the AME’s Bicentennial celebration. With 200 artifacts, documents, and digitized images from the Church’s illustrious history, the exhibition illuminates two centuries of accomplishment and struggle. Notably, 14 rare books, pamphlets, prints, and pieces of ephemera come from the Library Company’s African Americana Collection. Among the LCP treasures are images of AME bishops from the late 19th century, AME conference minutes from Ohio during the Civil War – including the church’s salute to Abraham Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation – and a playbill from a turn-of-the-century production of Othello featuring AME pastor David S. Cincore. Movingly, given recent events, there is also a copy of the 1889 South Carolina AME conference report on the struggles of black Methodists in the Deep South.

It’s quite a display. Florcy Morriset, a museum consultant with Mother Bethel Church who curated the exhibit, was thrilled to visit the Library Company and learn about our holdings in AME history. “The pamphlets and prints that I saw were truly a treasure,” she wrote us after her tour of the archives. After viewing the 1823 engraving of Raphaelle Peale’s magnificent painting of Allen, she noted that the image symbolized for her “the sheer beauty, legacy and historical significance of the AME Church.” It “left me proud and blown away.”

Though varied by time and topic, the Library Company’s materials illustrate the many ways the AME Church has struggled for freedom in the past two centuries. In a founding city like Philadelphia, that is an incredible story that must be told again and again. Indeed, it is reassuring to know that this story is deeply embedded not only in Mother Emanuel and Mother Bethel churches but also Ben Franklin’s Library Company.

 (Visit for Admission Fees and Hours)

Location: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 128 N. Broad St., Phila., PA

Dr. Richard Newman
Director, Library Company of Philadelphia 

A Scholar’s View From Inside LCP: The Woman in White

Who is the woman in white?  

It is the year 1800 and she is walking down High Street near the Presbyterian Church.  Alone, she is reading a sheet of paper.  More telling is the side-ward glance of another woman with a parasol.  Is there some scandal behind that woman’s look?  The woman in white appears again, hands gently placed in a muff as she enters Second Street just off Market Street.  We are left to wonder what the market women on the other side of the street are gossiping about.  The woman in white is not always a solitary figure.  There she is, walking in front of the unfinished mansion of Robert Morris.  This time she is with a male escort and another woman.  Just who is this woman in white?

Historians need an imagination.  We can read sources and study prints, but ultimately we must imagine the past.  Sometimes, after many bleary hours in the archives our imaginations stretch too far and we begin to make connections we cannot support with a footnote.  When we publish our books and articles we need to rein in our most extravagant imagining.  Still, there are times when we see something that is too good to be true.  The woman in white is one such moment. 
High Street, with the First Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia 1800
William Birch's "Views of Philadelphia"
The Woman in White can be seen in the lower right corner
This mysterious woman appears in the greatest collection of early Philadelphia prints by William Birch.  The Library Company has a special set of these prints and it is here where I discovered the woman in white (while working on a new history of the Election of 1800).  Most of Birch’s prints do not have many people in them – certainly they do not represent the crowded city streets of a compact city.  But Birch did include many well-dressed men, some African Americans, and women.  A few prints show workingmen.  Among these often scattered figures, I suddenly noticed a tall young female figure dressed in white.  She certainly was not a poor woman.  Who was she? 

As I pondered this question, she appeared again with her back turned from the artist and riding in an open carriage with a man beside her.  Her location is what set my head spinning.  The carriage was in front of the house of the richest and most powerful man in the early American republic – William Bingham.  And with their backs turned away from us, the couple seemed to be escaping from the scene.  The Binghams stood at the apex of Philadelphia society.  William was a senator and his parlor, hosted by his wife Anne Willing, was the inner sanctum of the American elite.  Their fifteen-year old daughter, Maria Matilda Bingham, eloped with an impoverished French aristocrat and the scandal became the talk of the town.  The Binghams “rescued” their daughter from her gold digger husband and in January 1800 William Bingham used his political clout to obtain an annulment by special legislation supported by both Federalists and Republicans.  

Knowing this background, and knowing the sensation created by Maria’s indiscretion –– the woman in white had to be (or so my imagination tells me)  the scandalous daughter of William and Anne Willing Bingham.
Paul A. Gilje

Paul Gilje is the George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the University of Oklahoma and a past president of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR). He is the author of several important books on early America, including Liberty on the Waterfront and To Swear Like a Sailor. He is currently at the Library Company to research his new book on the Election of 1800.   

Digital News:GLAM Café and Digital Paxton

The Library Company has ramped up its digital programming during the last two years. As a hub of Digital Humanities projects, LCP supports digital outreach through a variety of regional educational programs and events. One of the more popular events is the PhillyDH GLAM Café Meet-Up. GLAM Café, as it is known, provides networking opportunities to digital managers and digital support staff at Philadelphia area institutions. Our own DH manager Nicole Scalessa facilitated LCP’s partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, which allowed the Library Company to serve as one of four institutional hosts for this monthly meetup of digital humanists from Philadelphia area galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. This year LCP hosted GLAM Cafe in the Cassatt House on the second Tuesday of April, May, and June.

GLAM Café serves as an incubator of ideas and projects in the Digital Humanities (a fashionable term that refers to the merging of digital technologies and humanities research interests). In April, the Library Company kicked off the spring meetings with a guest speaker who introduced a new software platform with DH possibilities for museums and archives. Professor Will Fenton, who teaches at Fordham University (, discussed the Scalar platform he is using for the new Digital Paxton project, which flows from partnerships with both the Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Digital professionals gather for a PhillyDH GLAM Cafe Meet-up
You may be wondering: “What is the Digital Paxton?” According to Fenton, it is a new way to understand the meaning of Native-Colonial relations in Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. By compiling and digitizing original pamphlets, maps and historical essays, Digital Paxton will allow scholars, educators and students to re-examine a famous instance of borderlands violence in Pennsylvania (the so-called Paxton Boys Rebellion) through an interactive website. The Paxton Boys were a group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians who, angered by what they saw as Native incursions, attacked a group of Christianized Indians at Conestoga Manor in 1764. The violence and horror of the attack shocked Native as well as colonial figures. But the Paxton Uprising was no single event; in fact, it led to a series of battles, from a Lancaster jailhouse to the streets of Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin eventually helped negotiate a settlement with the Paxton leaders. Yet over the next year Paxton critics (including Native Americans) and apologists continued to wage an intense public debate over colonial authority, Native-white relations, and governance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

The deeper dimensions of the Paxton saga are illuminated in dozens of pamphlets, political cartoons, and broadsides housed at both LCP and HSP.  But many of these documents are not digitized, which means researchers and teachers unable to get to Philadelphia are missing out on a truly important set of resources on the struggle. The Paxton Massacre, as some scholars have labelled it, illuminates many broader matters, from colonial/Native identity and race relations to the meaning of masculinity and religious association in 18th century America. Thanks to Digital Paxton, anyone interested in these and other topics will have access to a terrific set of resources.

With so much ground to cover – digitizing documents, gathering historical information, getting things in accessible online formats – it was only fitting that we tapped into our competitive summer Digital Humanities internship program for assistance.  LCP hired DH Intern Hunter Johnson, who will be digitizing pamphlets, broadsides, and political cartoons in June. He will also be assisting with the collection and entry of metadata (descriptions of the resources used); transcription of some original documents; and providing research insights on various authors, printers, and pamphlets in the Digital Paxton archive. Supervised by Nicole Scalessa, Digital Humanities Coordinator, and Nicole Joniec, Digital Collections Librarian, Hunter has already proven to be an integral part of the project team.  Building out Will Fenton’s wonderful idea, LCP’s DH team will help bring Digital Paxton to life and make it a compelling and important website for anyone interested in this tragic frontier event.

To learn more about Hunter Johnson's experience at the Library Company this summer read his blog post here

Nicole Scalessa 
Information Technology Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator

Thursday, April 21, 2016

3rd Annual Library Company Lecture in Honor of John Van Horne

The 3rd Annual Library Company Lecture in Honor of John Van Horne will be held on May 5 at the American Philosophical Society. The annual series honors the man who served for over 29 years at the helm of the Library Company. This year’s speaker will be Dr. Charlotte Jacobs whose recent biography Jonas Salk: A Life chronicles the career of the scientist who created the first polio vaccine. The event is co-sponsored by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine and the American Philosophical Society. A special members-only reception honoring the Library Company's past presidentsB. Robert DeMento, Beatrice W.B. Garvan, William H. Helfand, Elizabeth McLean, Spence Tollwill precede the lecture.

Jacobs’ biography of Salk has been hailed as a model of science writing. Though Salk won widespread acclaim for the development of his polio vaccine, he was also the target of much resentment by fellow scientists and medical researchers. Jacobs’ book illuminates the toll these criticisms took on Salk’s life and career. Still, as Jacobs makes clear, Salk remains a heroic figure to people across the globe.

Though Salk is a 20th century figure, Jacobs’ lecture allows the Library Company to highlight the importance of medical history in its collections and programming. Over the past several decades, the Library Company has amassed one of the best and most important archives on popular medicine, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “I am really looking forward to speaking there,” Jacobs commented about her upcoming talk, which will include a special tour of documents donated by trustees William Helfand and Charles Rosenberg. As Jacobs indicated, she is always looking for new material on the history and evolution of medicine in American culture.

Please register online or call 215-546-3181 to attend the program. We hope to see you there!

Common Touch: The Art of the Senses in the History of the Blind

On April 5, the Library Company held a celebratory opening for its current exhibition Common Touch: The Art of the Senses in the History of the Blind. Organized by the library's Visual Culture Program (VCP at LCP) and curated by artist-in-residence Teresa Jaynes, the exhibition is inspired by the Library Company's Michael Zinman Collection of Printing for the Blind

Vision Council member Suzanne Erb (right) experiencing Common Touch 

Common Touch immerses visitors into a world of discovery in which history intersects with new forms of tactile expression. Complemented by 19th-century personal narratives, raised-print textbooks, and teaching tools of the visually impaired, Jaynes's original works challenge our cultural assumptions about the interrelationship between art, sight, and the history of disability. Exhibition visitors are invited to touch displays that range from a topographic map with porcelain geometric forms that represent the travels of a prominent 18th-century English blind surveyor to movable, sculptural letters after the handwriting of a blind woman corresponding with a benefactor in the late 19th century. Other installations submerge visitors into a cocoon of sound and scent conveying a micro-narrative of the life of Victorian blind musician Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins. A series of silkscreen printed patterns represents a visual transmutation of Wiggins's noted composition March Timpani (1880), an artist book of raised prints after embossed diagrams of snowflakes in the Perkins School for the Blind adaptation of the science text The Rudiments of Natural Philosophy (1845), and an 1838 edition from the first American raised-print periodical The Students' Magazine (1838-1845) are on display in the innovative exhibition.

VCP co-directors Rachel D'Agostino and Erika Piola (left and right) and artist Teresa Jaynes (center).

Common Touch is accompanied by several public programs, including a performance of Terry Galloway's comic, moving, and sometimes profane one-woman show You Are My Sunshine - A Kind of Love Story; a discussion with award-winning author Stephen Kuusisto on blind history and its place in art; and a jazz concert by New Orleans pianist and vocalist Henry Butler and Philadelphia's master percussionist Pablo Batista.

For more information about the exhibition and its accompanying programming, visit Common Touch has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Partners include Art-Reach, Demeter Fragrance Library, the Gershman Y, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philly Touch Tours, and Philly Jazz Project initiative. Media sponsorship has been generously provided by WHYY. The exhibition is on view  through October 21, 2016.

Collector Puts Papier-Mâché Bindings on Deposit

This past month, we received eleven friendship albums on-deposit from San Diego-area collector Graham Stubbs. They all have papier-mâché bindings (with mother-of-pearl decoration). Our plan is to catalog these extraordinary volumes, photograph them, and make them available to researchers. Jennifer Rosner, who has written extensively about this particular style of binding, will be adding them to the Library Company’s Flickr group:

One of the loveliest in the Stubbs deposit is an album that was owned by Charlotte Altemus, whose name is engraved on the clasps:

Charlotte’s album contains various inscriptions, many by Altemus family members, including one by her mother-in-law, Pamelia Taylor Altemus (1783-1863). Remarkably, Mrs. Altemus was the matron of the Philadelphia City Hospital. Every aspect of this special album suggests that it was a bespoke volume. Charlotte’s husband Samuel may have requested that the best workers put extra effort into producing it as a present for her, and she then used it to strengthen her ties with her extended family by getting people to inscribe pages in it.

In general, however, volumes with papier-mâché bindings, came out in editions. On seeing one of more modestly decorated albums in the Stubbs Collection – that is decorated with simple leaves in mother-of-pearl – Jennifer Rosner noted how remarkable it is that it still has the glaze that generally has worn off in the intervening 150+ years.

Mr. Stubbs himself has plans to publish the results of his own research on the owners and inscribers in the albums. He has uncovered complex networks of associations that these albums document. For example, he traced the story of one woman named Milla Corey (full name: Mary Permillia Corey), of Almond, New York. She signed Maria Barnard’s album. Unfortunately, Milla ended up in Willard State Hospital for the Insane, in Willard, New York. Now, we look forward to hearing the whole story, especially since Milla Corey was also an artist, and at least one of her paintings has been passed down in the family.

It seems there is no such thing as an “ordinary” volume with a papier-mâché binding. Every single one has something special and research-worthy about it. And this is only the start of our study of the
Stubbs Collection, which has so much potential for further discoveries related to a wide range of fields, including women’s history, binding history, and business history.


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