Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

“Rocking the Day Away”

Through September [1986], a small exhibit entitled “Rocking the Day Away,” at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, features a diverse offering of rocking chairs, cradles and a few other exam­ples of the many variations of rocking furniture.

Cradles, which probably began as sections of hollowed logs, were the first form of rocking furniture, and as­sumed their standard – and still familiar – form by the fifteenth century. During the nineteenth century, the baby’s entertainer was sometimes kept in motion by a person specifically hired by the household as a “rocker.” An early French traveler in Amer­ica remarked that “the cradles are built for rocking, and are moved with the foot and with such vigor that the child must be in a state of continuous dizziness.” Such excess pro­voked a reaction against the use of cradles in later concepts of child-rearing. Ironically, mothers did not reject the rocking horse, which had developed by the middle of the seventeenth century. In fact, many nineteenth century portraits depict children astride their inanimate mounts.

The rocking chair does not claim a European background or tradition. Although not an invention of Benjamin Frank­lin (as once suggested), it is an American form of furniture which appeared by the 1740s. And European travelers were struck by its ubiquitous pres­ence. English novelist and economist Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) could not imagine “how this lazy and ungraceful indulgence ever became gen­eral,” for the chairs, “vibrating in different directions and at various velocities,” gave her a serious headache. However, scathing criticism did not diminish the nation’s passion for the comfort and mild stim­ulation simultaneously af­forded by the rocking chair. Local chairmakers manufac­tured rocking chairs or simply added rockers to plain chairs. Rocking chairs soon became candidates for successful mass production. The especially successful “Boston” rocker was manufactured commer­cially by the 1820s and the Hitchcock chair factory began producing rockers during the 1830s. Inventors were seem­ingly obsessed with possibilities: more than three hundred patents were issued for varia­tions on the rocking chair during the nineteenth century. The variations included plat­form or spring rockers, first introduced in the 1840s and designed to “supersede the forked, horned and spiked affair which has occupied space and ruined wall, furni­ture and feet for the past cen­turies.”

In almost any form, the rocking chair has continued to capture Americans’ fascina­tion. Approximately twenty examples, both of standard and exotic form in a wide variety of materials and deco­ration, are featured in “Rock­ing the Day Away.”

The State Museum of Penn­sylvania is located at the cor­ner of Third and North streets, just north of the State Capitol. Visiting hours are: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, Noon to 5 P.M. Admission is free.

For additional information regarding the exhibit, write: Cathryn J. McElroy, Curator of Decorative Arts, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026.


“American Graphic Arts” in Philadelphia

Rarely seen treasures from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ rich collection of works of art on paper continue on exhibit through April 13 [1986] at the institution’s main galleries at Broad and Cherry Streets in downtown Philadelphia. The exhibition of three hundred and fifty prints and drawings, drawn from the more than seven thousand works of art on paper in the museum, presents the largest survey ever shown of the Academy’s graphic arts holdings. From Benjamin West and the Acad­emy’s founding generation to the most recent trends in contemporary prints and drawings, “American Graphic Arts: Watercolors, Drawings and Prints from the Collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts” covers two centuries of American art, with an emphasis on Philadel­phia artists and the Academy’s roles as teacher and collector. Watercolors, pastels, char­coals, pencil drawings and all types of prints – etchings, engravings, lithographs, woodcuts and monotypes­ – demonstrate the range of American art on paper.

“American Graphic Arts” culminates five years of cura­torial work, cataloging and conserving the pieces, reor­ganizing the “print room” storage, adapting gallery space, and preparing a com­prehensive checklist of the entire collection of prints and drawings for publication.

The richness and diversity of the exhibition offers familiar favorites, such as Mary Cas­satt’s Young Thomas and His Mother and Charles Demuth’s Gladiolas, as well as some surprises: three additional Demuth watercolors that have been rarely shown. Several pieces are recent acquisitions, including Still Life from a suite of contemporary lithographs by Jack Beal. In many cases, however, the unexpected comes from the century-old bequest of John S. Phillips, whose huge gift of prints and drawings in 1876 has only recently been fully invento­ried. More than a thousand items, “discovered” in the Academy’s vaults in 1980 and painstakingly catalogued by its staff, add a new historical dimension and perspective to the extensive collection.

Galleries containing “American Graphic Arts” are arranged chronologically, from the late eighteenth century to the present, with sections devoted to the artists, tech­niques and subjects most important to the Academy’s collection and its history.

The exhibition is accompa­nied by an illustrated brochure and checklist.

Visiting hours are: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Satur­day, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Wednesday, 10 A.M. to 7 P.M.; and Sunday, 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. Admission is charged, except on Tuesday, when contribu­tions are voluntary. For addi­tional information, write: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Broad and Cherry Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or telephone (215) 972-7600.


Benjamin West in Philadelphia

Benjamin West (1738-1820), a native Pennsylvanian who became the first American artist to win international acclaim, is the subject of a small retrospective exhibition continuing through April 13 [1986] at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Benjamin West in Penn­sylvania Collections” surveys the artist’s career from his early portrait commissions in Philadelphia to the dramatic later compositions which won him appointments as both official historical painter to the king of England and president of the Royal Academy of Arts. Although Benjamin West lived most of his life in London, he maintained close ties to Phila­delphia, which remains one of the largest repositories of his work in the world. The selec­tion of approximately forty paintings, supplemented by a group of drawings, was drawn from public and private collec­tions in Pennsylvania.

Benjamin West was born in Delaware County and had achieved considerable fame as a Philadelphia portraitist by his teenage years. Among the early works on view is a por­trait, Mrs. William Henry, the wife of one of West’s most enthusiastic early patrons. Henry, a Lancaster gunsmith, first urged the young painter to turn his talent to the histori­cal subjects popular in Eu­rope, “illustrating the moral effect of the art of painting.” For Henry, West painted The Death of Socrates, undoubtedly the most ambitious painting produced in the American colonies at that time.

West sailed for Europe at the age of twenty-two, intend­ing to return, but after a per­iod of study in Italy he settled permanently in London in 1763. At first he supported himself with portrait commis­sions, many of which came through his Pennsylvania associations. The full-length portrait of Gov. James Hamil­ton was commissioned during the governor’s sojourn in London in 1767. By the out­break of the Revolutionary War, he was no longer primar­ily a portraitist, having achieved a reputation as Eng­land’s leading historical painter.

Among the innovative historical paintings included in “Benjamin West in Pennsyl­vania Collections” are a sub­ject from antiquity, Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1770, and a scene of seminal importance in Pennsylvania’s history, William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, 1771-1772. The latter work, which has become his most famous painting, was based in part on childhood memories and stories of the great event. The artist ex­pressed his desire to com­memorate “the Friends and Indians – the characteristics of both have been known to me from my early life.” The dra­matic subjects of his later career include Benjamin Frank­lin Drawing Electricity from the Sky, 1816-1817, and allegorical and religious themes.

“Benjamin West in Pennsyl­vania Collections” celebrates the publication of the cata­logue raisonne, The Paintings of Benjamin West, written by Helmut von Effra and Allen Staley. Major lenders to the exhibit include the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, both located in center-city Philadelphia.

Visiting hours at the Phila­delphia Museum of Art are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Admission is charged. For more informa­tion, write: Philadelphia Mu­seum of Art, Twenty-Sixth St. and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Box 7646, Philadel­phia, PA 19101-7646; or tele­phone (215) 763-8100 or 787-5431.


Antique Ceramics at the Hershey Museum

Desiring “to awaken an interest in local history in the hearts of coming generations,” George Danner, a Manheim, Lancaster County, dry-goods merchant, earned the title “antiquarian” at a time when little thought was given to preserving the past. Born in 1834, the visionary Pennsylva­nian spent his youth as an apprentice in Lancaster and opened Danner’s Store in Manheim at the age of twenty­-eight. He operated the store until his death in 1917.

Two conflicting stories provide reasons why George Danner formed his diverse collection. One claims that he began his career as a collector when the bloodied battlefield at Gettysburg had barely cooled and he retrieved relics as souvenirs. However, a more credible version cites the inspi­ration of his mother. Accord­ing to this story, Mrs. Danner had filled a corner cupboard with various ceramic objects and her son, fascinated by this little cabinet of curiosities, commenced filling one cabinet after another with ceramics – ­until the accumulation crowded a room measuring one hundred and twenty-five feet long and nineteen feet wide!

George Danner did not collect haphazardly. He ac­tively traded ceramics with other collectors and dealers, among them the important early collector Edwin Atlee Barber, first curator of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Lancaster County mer­chant often received letters from individuals offering him additions to the collection and, whenever possible, he bargained for their prized possessions. It has often been told that Danner frequently convinced customers to trade their old dishes – items fifty to seventy-five years old – for his new queen’s ware, a popular line of the era.

A man of broad interests, George Danner also main­tained a small natural history collection consisting of stuffed animals and a generous selec­tion of stuffed birds. Although the local residents thought him odd and eccentric, they nevertheless flocked to his “relic rooms.” The Danner Museum, as it was called, was open free of charge, every Thursday. A small velvet­-covered box, with a placard welcoming donations, was strategically placed in his exhibition rooms.

George Danner’s relic rooms provided the first home for what was later to become the centerpiece of the Hershey Museum of American Life’s premier collection of English ceramics. Acquired by choco­late company founder Milton S. Hershey in 1935, the collec­tion numbered more than two thousand pieces, representing the English potter’s craft with examples of pearlware, cream­ware, lustreware, Staffordshire and both Gaudy Dutch and Gaudy Welsh.

During the month of May [1986], the Hershey Museum will showcase its outstanding English ceramics collection. Selections for this exhibition were based on three signifi­cant facts: the wide-ranging collection was assembled by a local collector; the pieces are typical of those which would have been found in the aver­age nineteenth-century home of central Pennsylvania; and the Staffordshire objects, created to appeal to particular markets, contain depictions of Pennsylvania scenes.

The Hershey Museum is located adjacent to Hershey­Park. For additional informa­tion and visiting hours, write: Hershey Museum of American Life, P.O. Box 170, Hershey, PA 17033; or telephone (717) 534-3439. There is an admission fee.


Easton Hosts Architectural Tour

If a city can claim an indi­vidual as an unofficial “society architect,” then Easton, in Northampton County, can name William Marsh Michler (1868-1948) as its most logical choice. He designed palatial mansions, impressive public buildings and the local country club.

The professional career of William Marsh Michler spans a half-century, and his talent made him one of the most sought after local architects from the turn of the century to the mid-twentieth century. He was a member of Lafayette College’s class of 1893 and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. His bachelor of science degree in architec­ture granted by the University of Pennsylvania in 1895 was followed by additional gradu­ate work at Lafayette College, located in his hometown.

Marsh’s distinctive building style will be celebrated as part of the early twentieth centu­ry’s Arts and Crafts movement with a tour of his historic structures on Saturday, May 17 [1986]. His works influenced the social structure, economic growth and livelihoods of local craftsmen and builders. His portfolio included luxurious townhouses, rambling sum­mer cottages, banks, man­sions, churches, restaurants, hotels, department stores, private clubs and country estates.

One of his earliest designs was the magnificent residence of Herman Simon, an affluent silk manufacturer. Now the headquarters of Easton’s Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the spacious 1902 landmark boasts intricately carved woodwork, stained-glass windows, fres­coed ceilings and murals. One of Michler’s trademarks was the use of tiles manufactured by Henry Chapman Mercer at his Doylestown, Bucks County, plant. Other features include hand-hewn stone, carved marble and stained glass designed by Nicolo D’Ascenzo and William Reith of Philadelphia.

The tour, entitled “William Marsh Michler: A Retrospec­tive,” will begin at the Grace United Church of Christ, a Michler design built in 1907, with a slide show of the archi­tect’s commissions.

For additional information, write: Historic Easton, Inc., P.O. Box 994, Easton, PA 18042.


Chester County’s Antique Dolls

The Beecher Babies sit quietly, side by side, while a blonde lovely, the most stylish coquette of 1877, models her fashionable French dress. A Civil War-era charmer gazes serenely around the room at the one hundred other dolls­ – eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century speci­mens comprising “Carved, Stuffed and Molded: Dolls from the Collection,” an excit­ing exhibit continuing through August 9 [1986] at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester.

As the exhibit’s title sug­gests, the dolls – many of them in original condition – have been grouped by the materials used in their crea­tion. The grouping serves to demonstrate the variety of techniques employed by dollmakers working in wax, wood, papier-mache, cloth, china, bisque, celluloid and plastic. The selected pieces, however, fascinate beyond technique; each is costumed in period fashions, providing a glimpse of the popular cloth­ing trends of the day.

Many unusual – if not unique – dolls make up “Carved, Stuffed and Molded.” On view is the work of Philadelphia’s Ludwig Greiner, who obtained the first United States patent for a doll in 1858. Also displayed are the white, and particularly the rare black, Beecher Babies (created by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister-in-law, Julia Beecher), Kathe Kruse dolls, Jumeau bebes, and china shoulder heads by European manufacturer K.P.M.

In conjunction with “Carved, Stuffed and Molded,” the Chester County Historical Society will host a highly competitive juried doll show in June [1986]. Information regarding submissions is avail­able directly from the society.

Additional information regarding the exhibit and the society’s ongoing programs is available by writing: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or by telephoning (215) 692-4800.


Delaware Valley Spice Boxes

Spice boxes, ornate wooden cabinets with interior drawers, were used during the eighteenth century to hold spices, jewelry and other small valuables or keepsakes. Sixty examples of this important miniature furniture form, most of which were made exclusively in the Chester County/Delaware Valley area, may be seen in an exhibit entitled “The Pennsylvania Spice Box: Paneled Doors and Secret Doors” at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. The show con­tinues through August 23 [1986].

Just as dressmakers’ dolls advertised new fashions, spice boxes demonstrated a cabinet­maker’s skill with the furniture styles of the day, particularly Queen Anne, Federal and Chippendale. Craftsmen often used several woods, such as cherry, maple and walnut, to add color and variety to their designs. The use of different woods gave the spice box the most highly developed inlay work of eighteenth-century American cabinetry.

“The Pennsylvania Spice Box: Paneled Doors and Secret Drawers” offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe the evolution of an unusual form in a specific locale. A fully illustrated catalogue, the result of original research, accompanies the exhibit. Many of the pieces featured in “The Pennsylvania Spice Box” were drawn from private col­lections and are on public display for the first time. The exhibit will travel to the Carne­gie Institute Museum of Art in Pittsburgh this fall. The museum of the Chester County Historical Society showcases one of the most extensive regional crafts and decorative arts collections in the country though changing exhibits and a permanent gallery featuring significant eighteenth and nineteenth­-century furniture. The socie­ty’s archives and library offer researchers more than three centuries of local, genealogi­cal, historical and governmen­tal records.

To obtain additional infor­mation, write: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or telephone (215) 692- 4800. Visiting hours are: Tues­day and Thursday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.; Wednesday, 1 to 8 P.M. Ad­mission is charged.


Women Artists to be Discussed

The Pennsylvania Art His­tory Symposium will be held Saturday, May 3 [1986], at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Third and North streets, Har­risburg. The title of this year’s symposium is “My Sister ls an Artist.”

The program concentrates on selected women artists of Pennsylvania whose contribu­tions to the art world are sig­nificant. Four noted speakers will present slide-talks on subjects from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as contemporary art.

Judy Stein, assistant cura­tor of art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, will offer the story of two talented female painters who were overshad­owed by the male artists of their families. Mary Smith, whose mother was a flower painter and whose father was a prominent landscape artist, was neglected by early critics, who praised her father and a brother well known for his marine paintings. Mary Smith specialized in paintings of small animals, particularly chicks. The second subject of Stein’s talk is Susan McDow ­ell, a student at the Pennsylvania Academy, who married her teacher, the internationally renowned Thomas Eakins.

Philadelphia art historian Patricia Likos will offer re­marks on the life and career of Violet Oakley. A board mem­ber of the Violet Oakley Foun­dation, Likos is preparing a monograph on Oakley – noted for her many large-scale mu­rals, especially those for the State Capitol Building – and will share her research on the great mural and portrait painter.

Judith O’Toole, director of Wilkes College’s Sordoni Gal­lery, Wilkes-Barre, and known for her work on the nineteenth-century still-life painter, Severin Roesen, will present a talk on Cecilia Beaux. A Philadelphian, Beaux Was the city’s premier society portrait painter of her day.

The fourth illustrated ses­sion will be given by Edna Andrade, who will discuss contemporary painting, as well as her own work. In addi­tion to teaching for many years, she has been an active painter and recipient of nu­merous awards, including Pennsylvania’s prestigious Hazlett Award for Excellence. Her optical abstract paintings have been featured in major exhibitions throughout the United States.

“My Sister Is an Artist” will be co-sponsored by the Friends of The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Registration information is available by writing: Donald A. Winer, Curator of Fine Arts, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or by telephoning (717) 783-9904 or 787-6590.


A.B. Frost and Joseph Pennell at Brandywine

The work of Arthur Burdett Frost, called “the most Ameri­can of American artists,” and Joseph Pennell, one of Ameri­ca’s leading illustrators, is shown in two concurrent art exhibitions at the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, through May 18 [1986].

A Philadelphian, Arthur Burdett Frost was largely self­-taught and worked as an ap­prentice wood engraver and lithographer. He took classes with Thomas Eakins and Wil­liam Merritt Chase. At the end of the nineteenth century, he pictorially narrated the com­mon life of the American East, while artists such as Charles Russell and Frederic Reming­ton illustrated the history of the western frontier.

Frost was once called “the most American of American artists” because of his subject matter, and many of his early humorous illustrations were published in books such as Stuff and Nonsense, The Bull Calf and other stories, and the Uncle Remus tales. More than fifty illustrations by Frost are included in this exhibition. They include the humorous drawings of Br’er Rabbit and his wily pranks and roguish style that serve as whimsical illustrations for Joel Chandler Harris’ animal fables.

Frost also created popular paintings and lithographs of hunting scenes. About 1895-1896, he created the Shooting Picture Portfolio, a series of lithographs depicting upland game and shore bird hunting of the day. The accurate and detailed works won Frost the distinction of being a first­-class sporting illustrator. They reveal Frost’s assimilation of country wildlife and are painted in subtle autumnal shades with an impressionistic brush stroke.

Through a half-century, Frost illustrated more than ninety books by distinguished authors, such as Lewis Car­roll, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and William Thackeray, in addition to Joel Chandler Harris. He contributed to many popular magazines, including Harper’s, Scribner’s, Collier’s, Puck and Life. Ac­claimed as the “dean of illus­trators,” Frost lives on in such memorable characters as Uncle Remus, Br’er Rabbit, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, all images which have become a part of the American past.

The second exhibition in­cludes more than fifty works by another leading American illustrator, Joseph Pennell. His pen and ink etchings and lithographs are remembered for their literal interpretation of architectural subjects and large-scale industrial activity. He was one of the first artists to give an aesthetic dimension to the urban industrial land­scape. He created numerous illustrations of street scenes, cathedrals, palaces and con­struction projects, for which he won considerable fame in both Europe and America. Pennell was born in Philadel­phia, and from the age of four, devoted a great deal of atten­tion to drawing. He studied drawing at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art and later at the Pennsylvania Acad­emy of the Fine Arts. After graduation, he began working for Scribner’s and Century mag­azines. His first Scribner’s commission consisting of eight drawings of shantytowns along the Delaware River, were published in 1881, and cast him into a successful career as an illustrator. His association with Century lasted for thirty-two years and led him to travel extensively throughout Europe on assign­ment. His wife Elizabeth Rob­ins joined him on his many travels and they collaborated on travel books during their thirty years abroad.

In addition to his work as an illustrator, Pennell took an interest in printmaking. One of his most important projects was a series of lithographs depicting the building of the Panama Canal.

The Brandywine River Museum is located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Dela­ware County. Visiting hours are daily, 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Group tours are available by reservation. For more infor­mation, write: Brandywine River Museum, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (215) 388-7601 or 459-1900.