Friday, May 26, 2017

The International Reach of Rights and Reproduction

Our hope as a free research library is that our collections reach far beyond our exhibitions, programming, reading rooms, and catalogs. One way we do this is by issuing rights to include reproductions of pieces from our collections in the published works, exhibitions, television productions, and online resources created by our patrons. We fulfill requests that bring the Library Company’s collections to audiences we may never reach alone. From short blog posts to textbooks distributed to students worldwide, there is seemingly no limit to the subjects the Library Company can inform or illustrate.

Many cultural institutions question how to truly measure their impact. At the Library Company, seeing our collections go out into the world and meet new audiences is one of many quiet reminders that the exceptional work of our Curators and Librarians is more valuable now than ever.

In the past decade, our Rights & Reproductions operation has shifted in ways that mirror our increased online presence and collections acquisitions. Fewer patrons order physical prints now that a high-resolution digital copy can be delivered at a lower cost. The materials requested over time paint a picture of broader trends in scholarship. More, if not most of our requested uses are born-digital (created with a computer).

Recently, we’ve provided pieces from our Aero Service Negatives to help identify long-demolished buildings. Library Company classics like “Liberty Displaying the Arts…” and the silhouette of Moses Williams accompanied exhibitions. Scholars in Europe and North America requested images to accompany their upcoming works on subjects like the Nullification Crisis, petroleum, and Octavius Catto.

Samuel Jennings, Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks,
1792, oil on canvas, 
 60 1/4 in. x 74 in., the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Rights and Reproductions not only provides vital service to communities and institutions worldwide, but also provides financial support to the Library Company. Many thanks to all of the donors, scholars, and life-long learners who make the work of the Library Company of Philadelphia possible. If you have any questions or wish to use our materials in your own works, please feel free to place an order using our online request form  or contact our Rights & Reproductions team at

Thank you for your interest in our collections.

Ann McShane 
Digital Collections Project Assistant

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anthony Trollope’s Orley Farm: Or, the Mysterious Journey of a Book.

I will admit to a passion for Trollope. During a recent trip to Ireland, I had the author’s complete works downloaded on my Kindle (along with Thackeray and Tolstoy – I seem to have gotten stuck in the “T’s”). Sipping afternoon tea by a peat fire and nibbling a scone, I indulged myself in yet another Trollope wonder, The Claverings, while the sun turned red, then lavender and then was gone. As the hotel library in Clifden, Connemara darkened, I began exploring the books stacked haphazardly on the shelves. Always curious about other travelers’ cast-off reading, I picked up one volume after another and soon found a friend: Orley Farm – Anthony Trollope. Vol 1. Inside was a surprise: a Library Company bookplate, and the words “Duplicate sold”. Spidery letters spelled F.L.P. indicating the Free Library of Pennsylvania had rebound the 1908 Dodd, Mead edition. August 14, 1959, was the novel’s due date when last borrowed. 

Cordelia Biddle
I turned the book over and over, imagining that some truth of its wanderings would seep through my fingers. How had the novel come to the Abbeyglen Hotel? In a suitcase full of books to be enjoyed on vacation? Was it carried here by a family on holiday, or a single person intent on fly-fishing during the day and reveling in Trollope at night? And what had happened to the other volumes? I searched each shelf. They weren’t to be found. As everyone knows, no sane person stops reading Orley Farm (or any Trollope) after Vol 1. The mystery deepened.

Of course, I carried my treasure back to the Library Company, thinking of Fanny Trollope and her American adventures, and of her son with his unhappy childhood and prodigious gifts of invention and language. Finally, my mind’s eye saw him settled in his official post in Clonmel, a spot where I’d vacationed as a child long before I’d been introduced to his extraordinary universe. The novel’s peregrinations remained elusive, however, even with the aid of Connie King and her able staff.

My electronic device may permit me to carry a steamer trunk full of books within a single tablet, but it can never replace the human heft of paper and ink and buckram. Nor can it replicate the magic of printed words winging through time and space, or the tactile marvel of faded gilt edges and a worn bookplate reminding a reader on Ireland’s far western peninsula that an American institution was founded in 1731.

Cordelia Frances Biddle is an author and a long-time shareholder of the Library Company. Her most recent book is Saint Katharine: the Life of Katharine Drexel. Currently, she’s writing a biography of Nicholas Biddle and haunting the Library Company’s reading room. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Welcome to the New Edwin Wolf 2nd Director

2017 Director's Reception

As the new Director of the Library Company, Dr. Michael Barsanti understands that “shareholders are the foundation of our great institution.” More than fifty shareholders came together on April 27, 2017, to welcome Dr. Barsanti as the next Edwin Wolf 2nd Director. He expressed his dedication and commitment to the mission, history, and future of our historic library created by Benjamin Franklin, an institution that was designed to ensure that everyone has access to knowledge and education through the acquisition of literature and books. More important than the acquisition of historic materials are the communal conversations and personal interactions that occur within the walls of our institution. These conversations harken back to the days of the Junto and the origins of our great library.  As an institution dedicated to the concept that “knowledge is power,” our scholars, curators, and shareholders continue to discover and discuss the important issues of the past as they relate to their impact on present and future generations. The Library Company’s future is steeped in our ability to continue to inspire our scholars to explore history, literature and the arts while also working with them to create new and innovative ways for interpretation and expression.  Dr. Barsanti expressed his gratitude and excitement to contribute to these important conversations that continue within the walls of Benjamin Franklin’s Library. 

Raechel Hammer
Chief Development Officer

Friday, April 28, 2017

William H. Helfand Popular Medicine Collection Showcased at Ephemera Society of America Conference

Pluto Water. America’s Greatest Physic 
(French Lick, Ind.?, ca. 1895). Gameboard.
In March, Co-Director of VCP at LCP and Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs Erika Piola presented about our William H. Helfand Popular Medicine Collection at the 37th Ephemera Society of America Conference. The Helfand Collection is comprised of over 13,000 items that represent a trade infamous for its fraudulence and promotion of all manner of “cures” from procreative elixirs to electrical corsets. Responding to the conference theme of innovation, Piola discussed the collection in terms of the innovative marketing techniques, particularly the visual rhetoric, employed by the patent medicine trade. The collection contains hundreds of pieces of advertising ephemera dating from the 18th through 20th centuries that fall under the aegis of our Visual Culture Program, including labels, trade cards, advertisements, letter and billheads, calendars, and novelties.

To provide a framework to her presentation, Piola focused her discussion on a few genres of promotional ephemera represented in the Helfand Collection. She began her talk by examining an antebellum-era label for a piles liniment adorned with an allegorical female vignette. She closed it with a review of a late 19th-century gameboard illustrated with the image of the devil to promote a laxative. Piola examined materials often taken for granted for historical research due to their nature as a medium in somewhat of a visual purgatory. Not fine art, and on the cusp of popular art, illustrated ephemera embodies the irony of a disposable that is meant to be memorable. Consequently, these graphic works are a rich vehicle to explore the social construction of our visual world and the role that innovation plays in a market in which it is understood “buyer beware.”

Laboratory of Minnie Mueller Tolke, Manufacturing Chemist 
(Cincinnati, ca. 1898). Letterhead.

One genre often taken for granted in this visual purgatory is illustrated letterhead. During her talk, Piola discussed this circa 1898 letterhead for the dermatological and pharmaceutical preparations from the “Laboratory of Minnie Mueller Tolke.” The influence of the Art Noveau movement during the later 19th century to “aestheticize” the environment is evident. The burgeoning American graphic design industry strove to create something unique and beautiful, even for a transient printed work. Striking typographical elements, like the shadow effect of Gaslight, and an engaging illustration made patent medicine dealers’ letters stand out and feel new and savvy in the 1890s. And the savvy consumer bought from the savvy business. The commercial stationery’s striking visuals smartly evoke conjointly strength, female industriousness, and sensual femininity through an intentionally gendered portrayal. The letterhead does not show the typical exterior image of the firm’s factory, which was quite possibly actually run by a man. Instead, pharmaceutical equipment, an allegorical figure reminiscent of the goddess of wisdom, and a female customer using Ms. Tolke’s products are depicted. 

Decades in the making by Trustee Emeritus William H. Helfand, the collection is a goldmine of the visual and marketing rhetoric of the patent medicine trade during the 19th century. Innovative in concept, design and targeted marketing, the ephemera produced by the advertising charlatans of the patent medicine trade continues to resonate. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Helfand, Piola had the fortune to talk about the breadth and depth of a collection that speaks to our 21st-century post-truth era. A collection that is also central to our mission to be a center for the research of American culture. 

Erika Piola
Co-Director VCP at LCP

Fellow Spotlight: The Fighting Quaker

During my fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia, I conducted research that spanned the scope of my dissertation, produced a dissertation chapter that I’m currently revising for publication, and collaborated with the Library Company's staff on several public history projects.

Will Fenton. Albert M. Greenfield Foundation
Dissertation Fellow
My dissertation examines how nineteenth-century American novelists use the character of the “fighting Quaker” to engage the violence that affected settlement, slavery, and nation-building. Though historians have produced a wealth of scholarship on the Society of Friends’ vexed relation to abolitionism and the American Revolution, few literary scholars have attended to representations of Quakers, and still fewer have examined the remarkable bellicosity of these depictions. Representations of fighting Quakers unify three major but disparately studied subfields of American literary studies: the formation of race during the antebellum period, religious conflict during the Great Awakening, and the constitutive role of violence in nineteenth-century frontier narratives. My study of the historical, political, and theological representations of the Society of Friends seeks to bridge the religious and transnational turns in early American literary studies.

During my time at the Library Company, I have drafted my third chapter with centralizes on Robert Montgomery Bird’s vexing frontier narrative, Nick of Woods (1837). I propose that Bird’s protagonist can be understood in the context of the medical condition associated with his transformation (epilepsy), the religious sect with which he associates (the Society of Friends), and the archetype from which he draws features (Daniel Boone). As a novelist, Bird was a rigorous historian, and I examined the sources from which he drew portraits of the early frontiersmen Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and Lewis Wetzel. My argument about Bird’s career arc required me to examine his notes for his “Tales of Kentucky” (at the nearby Robert Montgomery Bird Papers, University of Pennsylvania). I used the 1835 Library Company catalog to identify dozens of Kentucky histories that would have been available to Bird during his tenure at the Library Company, where he researched Nick of the Woods. This archival research has allowed me to offer a new perspective on how Bird’s career as a novelist, and his depiction of Quakers, was shaped by the specific source texts to which he had access. Since completion, I have been translating this chapter into an article that I intend to submit for consideration at American Literature.

Alongside my dissertation research, I was grateful for the opportunity to expand my digital humanities project with the support of Library Company staff and archival resources. Today, that project, Digital Paxton, hosts more than 1,600 open-source archival images, half a dozen scholarly essays, and numerous teaching materials related to the 1764 Paxton pamphlet war. Thanks to the tireless support of library James N. Green, I have crafted a material exhibition—which just opened outside the Reading Room—to complement my digital project. I was able to share both efforts at a McNeil Center for Early American Studies Seminar, hosted at the Library Company earlier this month.

Will Fenton
Albert M. Greenfield Foundation 
Dissertation Fellow

The Digital Paxton Project

Will Fenton, the 2016- 2017 Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Dissertation Fellow created Digital Paxton to support research for his first dissertation chapter and to expand awareness of and access to the Paxton Pamphlet War. In particular, he aspired to create an interdisciplinary meeting space where historians and literary scholars can share documents and methods that will enrich both scholarship and pedagogy. 

Historically, the Paxton corpus has proven difficult to define. Scholars have identified anywhere from twenty-eight to over sixty-three pamphlets, some of which have been digitized and some not, and with little rationale; in addition, inconsistent distinctions between pamphlets and political cartoons makes it difficult to locate resources. For researchers, ad hoc archiving and partial digitization make it difficult to discern derivation and to account for the contingency, exchange, and intertextuality of the pamphlets of Paxton critics and apologists. To that end, Fenton has collaborated with archivists across Pennsylvania to create a digital archive and critical edition of the pamphlet war. 

Political Cartoon form the Digital Paxton Archive 

Digital Paxton for the first time collects in one open-source repository all surviving pamphlets, broadsides, political cartoons, and correspondence related to the Paxton incident. In addition to digitization efforts by the American Philosophical Society, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, and Moravian Archives of Bethlehem, the project has benefited from the generosity of my founding partners, the Library Company and Historical Society of Philadelphia, both of which assigned summer interns to digitize and transcribe resources.

Today, Digital Paxton features more than 1,600 free, open-source, print-quality images, many of which were previously unavailable online. As a web-based critical edition, Digital Paxton also accommodates various forms of scholarly contributions: Fenton solicited and edited historical overviews from Kevin Kenny (Boston College) Darvin L. Martin, and Jack Brubaker; conceptual keyword essays from Nicole Eustace (New York University), Scott Paul Gordon (Lehigh University), James P. Myers, Jr. (Gettysburg College), Angel-Luke O’Donnell (King’s College, London), and Judith Ridner (Mississippi State University); and teaching materials from faculty at Lehigh University, Loyola University, Shepherd University, and HSP Education.

The exhibition at the Library Company, A New Looking-Glass for the 1764 Pamphlet War, seeks to showcase some of those wonderful resources and to reframe the Paxton pamphlet war as a crisis of representation that in many ways foreshadowed the American Revolution. To increase access, he has created a digital companion that both reproduces and extends that material exhibition (

Will Fenton
Albert M. Greenfield Foundation 
Dissertation Fellow

Friday, March 31, 2017

Letter from the New Director

Dear Shareholders of the Library Company of Philadelphia,

Having just finished my first month as the Edwin Wolf 2nd Director, it is a good time to introduce myself.

These first few weeks have been a whirlwind – meeting with staff, board, and members to learn as much as I can about how this amazing organization works from the inside.  As hectic as this time has been, my work has been animated by the pride and excitement that comes from crossing the threshold of 1314 Locust Street every day.  I feel extraordinarily fortunate to serve you as your Director, and to be entrusted with the care of this institution.

Dr. Michael J. Barsanti, Edwin Wolf 2nd Director

In 1976, I was eight years old, and I lived in a suburb of Boston.  I was exactly the right age, and in the right place, to be swept up in Bicentennial fever.  I had a tricorn hat that I got on a visit to the USS Constitution, a cap-firing musket, and the original cast recording of “1776.”  My fascination with the early years of our country has never left me – which just adds to the feeling of fulfillment that comes from being here.

With every day, I am also more aware that my experience and skills have found a place where they are all fully engaged. For me, this position is the culmination of a 25-year journey through the fields of academia, museum management, philanthropy, and fundraising, with occasional explorations into digital entrepreneurship, education, and literary programming.  There are few matters (but there will be a few!) that will cross my desk that I have not had some experience with before.

My vision for the Library Company is that we become a place known for innovation in history, particularly new ways of learning history that will engage the general public.  I believe the best way to do this is to retain our focus on our scholars, and to provide for them a platform to reach broader audiences  Thus we build on what we do best – serve the scholars who are writing the next draft of history.

You, as a member, will be critical to realizing this vision.  The Library Company is built on Membership, and the only reason the organization has survived so long and so well is because of the dedication of its members.  I want to reanimate the spirit of our original Shareholders who sought to learn not just from the library, but from each other.  To this end, we will look closely at our membership program and talk to as many of you as possible, to try to find new ways of serving your needs and connecting you to each other.

Again, I am deeply grateful and honored to hold this unique place, and I look forward to working with you to continue its success and make it a dynamic and relevant organization as it looks ahead to its 300th year.


Dr. Michael J. Barsanti
Edwin Wolf 2nd Director

PS: I hope I will get to meet you at the upcoming Annual Shareholder’s Meeting, which will be held here at the Library Company on May 9, 2017 at 5 pm.

Fellow Spotlight: Missionaries and Motherhood

Cassandra Berman, Library Company Fellow
In January, I had the good fortune to be in residence at the Library Company as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow. I spent my month in Philadelphia searching for misbehaving mothers – for those women who had, for a variety of reasons, broken laws or social norms and had attracted the fascination of the public for doing so.  To my delight, the Library Company was full of stories of women who had violated the boundaries of nineteenth-century motherhood.   

Not unlike today, women in the nineteenth century were inundated with advice on how to birth and raise their children.  In popular literature, idealized mothers were routinely depicted as white, Protestant, and middle-class, and motherhood was envisioned as an all-encompassing vocation.  Many women, however, were either unwilling or unable to live up to these ideals, and debate over their transgressions filled the pages of newspapers, religious tracts, health guides, and even novels.  I found one such group to be particularly well represented in the Library Company’s collections: missionary women.

Most missionary women in the early nineteenth century fit the ideals – at least on the surface – of white Protestant femininity.  Accompanying their husbands to such far-flung locations as India, Burma, and the Sandwich Islands, however, took them far from the confines of the American domestic sphere.  Furthermore, many became mothers for the first time while consumed with missionary work – translating the Bible, setting up schools, and navigating tense relationships with local people – and in trying physical conditions.  

Cecil B. Hartley. The Three Mrs. Judsons,
 the Celebrated Female Missionaries
 (Boston, 1860),
Often, the missionary lifestyle proved entirely incompatible with motherhood.  Ann Judson, for example, traveled to Burma in 1812 and immersed herself in acquiring language fluency and establishing a school for girls.  While abroad, she bore two children, both of whom died young, likely succumbing to local diseases.  In her posthumously published memoir, she discussed her missionary work in detail but made no mention of her son, Roger, until his death in 1816.

 Several years later, her husband, the Reverend Adoniram Judson, was captured during the Anglo-Burmese War.  Ann decided to follow the prisoners, who were held for nineteen months, and camp nearby in a poorly equipped hut.  This she did with her three-month-old daughter, Maria, in tow.  Both mother and daughter contracted smallpox; Ann died soon after Adoniram’s release, and the motherless Maria not long after.  Ann certainly mourned her son, Roger, and was no doubt concerned for Maria’s safety, yet her identity as missionary superseded that of mother. And while she became a popular symbol of female piety after her death in 1826, some also condemned Ann’s maternal transgressions and missionary zeal.  In the margins of the Library Company’s 1827 edition of Ann Judson’s published letters, one reader betrayed this disapproval.  Ann sought comfort in assurances that Roger was in heaven, but the anonymous reader noted that her own philosophy and inattention to her child guaranteed he was not: “The child was damned according to Mrs. Judson’s doctrine.  If millions of Burmese were to be damned because they were ignorant of what they never heard,” the note reads, “so was this child.” (Ann Hasseltine Judson, An Account of the American Baptist Mission to the Burman Empire, London: Joseph Butterworth and Son, 1827; 48-49)

Woods, Leonard. A Sermon Preached at Haverhill,
 (Boston, 1814), frontispiece.

Motherhood and mission may have been incompatible. Interestingly, however, many missionary women considered mothers and children central to their work.  Harriet Newell, whose popular memoir is also housed at the Library Company, was motivated in part to travel to India by rumors of widespread infanticide – she had read accounts of mothers sacrificing their children in the river Ganges, and by reports of widow burning – which she believed rendered many children motherless.  Like her friend Ann Judson, however, Harriet’s vocation likely imperiled her own offspring.  She spent the majority of her journey to India, and then on to the Isle of France, pregnant, eventually giving birth at sea.  Not long after, her ship was caught in a violent storm, and the infant became ill and died.  Weeks after reaching land, Harriet herself succumbed to consumption.  The library’s various editions of her letters and edited diary entries testify to the public’s enduring fascination, and perhaps discomfort, with Harriet Newell’s short life.

My immersion in these texts while at the Library Company has forced me to reconsider the parameters of motherhood in – and outside of – nineteenth-century America.  And while I hope I am not as judgmental, I am, like the anonymous scribbler in Ann Judson’s memoir, captivated by these women who defied the confines of motherhood. 

Cassandra Berman
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow

Never Caught: New Book By LCP Program Director

In February, Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar  (Library Company Program Director of the Program in African American History and the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware) published Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. Never Caught follows the journey of young woman and slave, Ona Judge, as she makes her daring escape to New England. Owned by Washington’s wife Martha, Judge made her exhilarating flight to freedom rather than be sent back south as a gift to Martha’s granddaughter. Liberation was not without its consequences, however; Judge was tirelessly pursued by the Washingtons until George’s death years later.

While researching her first book, Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City, Dunbar came across Judge in an escaped slave advertisement. Intrigued by the runaway slave’s circumstances, Dunbar elected to focus the research of her next book on Judge. Through this captivating window into history, Never Caught explores not only the famous founding father’s perception to slavery but highlights the idea of freedom and what it meant to those enslaved. 

To commemorate the Library Company’s 2017 Juneteenth Freedom Seminar (Thursday, June 15) Dr. Dunbar, will present a lecture focusing on Ona Judge and her story. For event details, please go to or contact Clarissa Lowry at 215-546-3181 or  

Clarissa Lowry
Events and Programs Coordinator

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Diaries of Sallie Sanders Venning

In January, former Curator of African American History Krystal Appiah attended the American Historical Association Annual Meeting, where she was on a panel entitled #magicalblackarchives: Reflections on Archival Silences Made Vocal in Narratives of Black Girls and Women. The panel was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work that the Library Company has accomplished in making its African Americana holdings more accessible. Part of Appiah's talk focused on the diaries of Sallie Sanders Venning (1872-1959), which are part of the  Stevens-Cogdell-Sanders-Venning Collection. Thanks to the diligent transcription work of the Library Company's 2016 Mellon Scholars interns—Kenneth Anderson, Ashley Dennis, and Chandra Dickey—the contents of the diaries will be available online later this year.

Portrait of Sallie Venning Holden, ca. 1900. Gelatin silver print mounted on board.

Born in Philadelphia, Sallie was a descendant of slaveholders and of free and enslaved people from South Carolina. From 1890 through 1892, Sallie cataloged her life in 3 pocket diaries, keeping track of the weather, her bedtime, her period, and her weekly household chores. The brief, mundane lists of her daily activities lack introspection but are typical of the era’s pocket diaries.

Particularly striking are her lists of social activities. She attended church, played cards, hosted club meetings, and visited with the primary movers and shakers of black Philadelphia: the Abeles, Adgers, Dorseys, and Mintons. She was often out at social events or entertaining guests at home until 11 p.m. or later and spent summers in Atlantic City. She frequently ended entries with the comment that she’d “a fine time” or a “nice time,” a reflection of the immense pleasure she found in this social life. Of the 889 daily entries spanning three years, there are only 10 days when she did not entertain friends or family at home or go out visiting or to social events. Such activities were not merely superficial but demonstrate how 19th-century middle-class black women created and sustained status through charitable and educational clubs, church activities, and social calling.

The Stevens-Cogdell-Sanders-Venning Collection was donated to the Library Company in 1991 by descendants Cordelia H. Brown, Lillie V. Dickerson, Mary Hinkson Jackson, and Georgine E. Willis in honor of Phil Lapsansky. Sallie Sanders Venning’s diaries are just one of the collection’s many promising avenues for research into 19th-century black life.

Krystal Appiah
Former Curator of African American History 

Visual Culture and Disability: The Continuing Influence of Common Touch

Queen & Co. Standard Eye Colors (Philadelphia: Queen & Co., 1891). Chromolithograph.
 The recent Visual Culture Program (VCP at LCP) exhibition Common TouchThe Art of the Senses in the History of the Blind explored the history of the education of the blind during the 19th century. A multi-sensory installation comprised primarily of contemporary artworks and Library Company raised- print texts, Common Touch also included a portrait photograph of Frederick N. Jacobson and his wife.

Levi T. Rice, F. N. and S. A. Jacobson, May 3d, 1890 (Auburn, Indiana: Rice, 1890).
 Albumen print on cabinet card mount.
Jacobson, a blind preacher, and his wife Susanna served as a visual and thematic focal point in the exhibition. He was a blind man who defied Victorian stereotypes of the visually impaired.  He was educated, had a career, and was  married. A recent acquisition, the 1890 cabinet card photograph showing Jacobson reading a Bible with his fingers became a part of our holdings a few months before the exhibition opened.   

As often happens in our exhibitions, Library Company materials on display embody long-realized collecting strengths or ones we have begun to foster. Our Michael Zinman Collection of Printing for the Blind has been at the core of our holdings related to disability studies for some years now, as well as represents a corollary to the mission of the Visual Culture Program — to challenge our conceptions of sight.

This interrelationship between visual culture and disability has affected recent acquisitions pursued by VCP, which seeks to bolster our graphic holdings that document the visual history of disability in America. Consequently, we have added materials to the collection that portray disability through a wide range of contexts, including this 1891 color advertisement for artificial eyes designed by Philadelphia opticians Queen & Co. Striking and surreal, the rows of brown and blue specimens showcased the artistry of the makers of the false eyes in addition to that of the lithographer of the print. The fine details used to render the irises and blood vessels indicate the care required to craft the prosthetics and their graphic depictions.

The Invalid Appliance Co. (Chicago, ca. 1898). 
Color relief print.

The circa 1898 illustrated letterhead of The Invalid Appliance Co., “manufacturers of modern mechanical appliances for the alleviation of the suffering” in Chicago also found a home at the Library Company. Adorned with vignettes of a number of the company’s designs, including “Reclining Chairs,” “Columbia Rolling Chairs,” and “Self-Propelling Chairs,” the piece of commercial ephemera sheds light on the evolution and ingenuity of mechanics in the lives of people with disabilities at all ages and stages of life.

[Man lying on a mechanical invalid bed]
(United States, ca. 1870). 
Albumen on stereograph mount.

Similarly, a recently obtained circa 1870 stereograph (able to be viewed three-dimensionally) of a man lying in a mechanical “invalid” bed chronicles the daily existence of the physically disabled during the Victorian era. Books and a basket of fruit rest by his bed, and within his reach. The provenance of the image is unknown. Was it meant to show the utility of the bed? Was it to raise funds for a Civil-War veteran injured during the war? Or was it a portrait photographed at the instigation of the sitter?

Unwavering to its mission, VCP will continue to strive to facilitate the research of these graphic materials that are rich in multiple ways to study the history of people with disabilities and visual culture.  

Erika Piola
Associate Curator of Prints and Photographs

Co-Director VCP at LCP    

Friday, January 27, 2017

Register Now: New Library Company Programs

The Library Company is pleased to announce new offerings for 2017. This year we will introduce two new programs:  Book Club and Collection Reviews and Tours.  We are excited to create new opportunities for all of the Library Company’s supporters.

2017 Book Club
The Library Company will host three book reviews or seminars based on our current exhibitions and strengths within our collections.  Our first Book Club will be held on February 22nd and will be facilitated by Together We Win curators, Linda August and Sarah Weatherwax.  They will lead a discussion and exploration of the book Regeneration by Pat Barker, a work of historical fiction exploring the psychological effects of World War I and medical and mental health treatments during the era. Members and guests are invited to bring their lunch and enjoy a stimulating conversation about this important topic.  Please click here to register for our first Library Company Book Club.

Future sessions will feature Simon Garfield’s book On the Map and Thom Nickels’ book Literary Philadelphia (with a conversation led by the author himself). Please check our events page for dates and times.

Collection Reviews and Tours
We’d love to give you a closer look at the Library Company! Starting in March we will offer a series of one-hour member tours throughout the year. Guests are welcome to attend for a nominal fee. So, register and bring a friend!  Each tour will include a curator-led tour of the current exhibition and showcase a different aspect of Library Company collections.  Some collection review highlights include Spiritualism, Presidential Collections, Medical History, and Women’s History. More information to come on this wonderful opportunity!

We look forward to seeing you at the Library Company.  For questions about these and additional programs please contact our Events and Programs Coordinator Clarissa Lowry at or 215-546-3181 x 130. Attendance is free for Library Company members and a fee of $10 for non-members. 

Rallying for Women’s History in December

Junto 2016

In accordance with tradition, the Junto met in mid-December to hear from one of the Library Company’s long-time shareholders and members in support of the Program for Women’s History.This year’s speaker was Lisa Unger Baskin, whose extraordinary collection on the history of women from the 1500s through the 1800s went to the Duke University Libraries in 2015. In her talk “Collecting against the Highspots,” she showed how building a knowledge base and having a personal vision are of paramount importance for a collector. Over many years, Lisa Baskin acquired lesser-known works by female scholars, printers, publishers, laborers, scientists, authors, artists, and political activists, and then brought their significance to light.

For example, on one occasion Lisa Baskin found a pamphlet about an 1834 murder trial. One of the people testifying was a woman named Isabella. Thanks to knowing that Isabella was the early name of the preacher Sojourner Truth, Lisa Baskin “scooped” the pamphlet. On another occasion, thanks to knowing that the inscriber “M. M.” was May Morris, the daughter of one of the key figures in the English Arts and Crafts Movement, she acquired an extraordinary copy of one of William Morris’s Kelmscott Press books.

It was truly inspiring to hear about Lisa Baskin’s zeal and commitment to women’s history. Forty-five people were in attendance, including Penn State professor Lori Ginzberg, who will be leading the NEH Summer Seminar on women’s history here at the Library Company next July.

In 2016, the Library Company raised $11,050 from fifty-three donors who contributed to our Annual Junto Campaign, a special annual appeal that supports new acquisitions. These proceeds will allow the Program in Women’s History to continue our own efforts of “recovering” women’s history here at the Library Company.

Cornelia King 
Chief of Reference and Curator of Women's History

Staff Announcement

Krystal Appiah
Krystal Appiah, the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Curator of African American History has accepted a position as an instructional librarian within Special Collections at the University of Virginia. In her new role, Krystal will bring primary sources into the classroom for undergraduates and graduate students, and work with the Rare Book School. Over the last five years, Krystal has helped to not only define the Library Company’s Program in African American History, in part through her work within the Mellon Scholars Program, but she has also contributed greatly to the stewardship of our strong legacy of the African Americana Collection. She accomplished this by sharing her own expertise and content knowledge with scholars and researchers, by securing acquisitions vital to our collections, and by promoting and planning excellent Black History Month and Juneteenth Programs. She has also curated exhibitions at the Library Company including The Genius of Freedom: Northern Black Activism and Uplift after the Civil War (2015),” and has presented at many conferences across the country. Serving hundreds of scholars each year through reference inquiries and on-site services, Krystal has been a vital part of the Library Company’s mission. We hope that you will join us on January 31st, 2016 as we wish Krystal well and good luck on her exciting new professional journey.

Raechel Hammer 
Chief Development Officer

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