Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Currently the subject of much interest – no doubt piqued by several popular exhibitions mounted by museums in southeastern Pennsylvania – Bucks County’s Edward Hicks (1780-1849) is known throughout the country (if not the world) for his paintings depicting The Peaceable Kingdom and Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (see “Currents” in the fall 1999 issue)

Art historians contend that Edward Hicks’s versions of Penn’s Treaty with the Indians express the tolerant, cooperative vision of Pennsylvania founder William Penn (1644-1718), as well as his own Quaker beliefs. For Hicks, it was the Inner Light of Quakerism that led him to create his most extraordinary artwork.

Many know that Hicks was a pious Quaker preacher, but few realize he was a sign painter by trade. In 1825, the New­town Library Company commissioned him to paint a sign for its new building, housing the third oldest library in the Commonwealth, for which he received one dollar. He painted a pair of signs in 1834 depicting George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas 1776, which were placed on each end of a covered bridge linking Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He also painted coaches and carriages, as well as sign­boards for a number of local taverns, among them the Red Lion Inn in Ben­salem Township and the Robert Morris Tavern in Morrisville. One of Edward Hicks’s most distinctive works is the Holland Sabbath School Banner.

Historians believe Hicks painted the Holland Sabbath School Banner about 1821 for Christopher Vanartsdalen, who was responsible for founding the Holland Sabbath School of the Churchville Dutch Reformed Church in Churchville, Bucks County. Vanartsdalen’s great-granddaughter gave the ban­ner to the Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, in 1927. Lettered in gold-leaf paint on silk, it features a small building, probably the schoolhouse, which, in turn, is surrounded by trees. The banner includes three figures in the foreground, possibly a depiction of a teacher and two young pupils. Hicks lettered the banner in Caslon, a typeface created by William Caslon (1692-1766), which is characteristic of his works.

The Holland Sabbath School Banner is currently on view at the Mercer Museum, Doylestown, administered by the Bucks County Historical Society, in an exhibit entitled “Signs of the Times: The Trade Sign Tradition in Folk Art.” The exhibit continues through June 2000.

To learn more about this and related exhibitions, write: Mercer Museum, Bucks County Historical Society, 84 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901; or telephone (215) 345-0210.