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.

New Heritage Center

Founded in 1904, the Lehigh County Historical Society, head­quartered in Allentown, has grown through the past century to administer several historic sites and museums representing the area’s industrial, cultural, agricultural, and political his­tory.

On Monday, April 11, the so­ciety will formally open the Lehigh Valley Heritage Center, an advanced, seven-million dol­lar, state-of-the-art facility that will enable the organization to mount long-term and changing exhibitions chronicling the his­tory of the Lehigh Valley. Objects, artifacts, and docu­ments that have been relegated to storage for many years will be placed on exhibit, and the new archives and library areas will give researchers and browsers greater access to the society’s vast holdings.

The three-story, thirty thou­sand-square foot facility has been erected in Allen Park in center-city Allentown, adjacent to Trout Hall, administered by the historical society as a historic house museum. Built in 1770 by James Allen, son of the city’s founder, Trout Hall served as a retreat during the American Revolution.

The center’s long-term exhibit will trace the region’s history from its Native American foundations and the largely agrarian settlement by German immigrants through the late-nineteenth century Industrial Revolution to its present-day primarily urban society. Through the society’s vast holdings of images, documents, ephemera, memorabilia, and artifacts – many of which have never before been seen by the public – visitors will discover how area residents raised their families, worshipped, built their businesses, and spent their leisure time. Museum­goers will also learn how countians responded to national events, such as wars, social customs, and political movements . The exhibit will pay particular attention to the many nationali­ties who settled in the vicinity and whose combined ethnic traditions and cultural influences have formed the valley’s dis­tinctive identity. Included in the exhibit will be Pennsylvania German Fraktur, equipment used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, World War II memorabilia, even an opulent chande­lier from Hess’s, a fashionable Allentown department store (see “Max Hess Jr. Puts Allentown on the Map” by Liz Armstrong Hall, Fall 2004).

The first temporary exhibit, “Heritage and Community: The Jewish Experience in the Lehigh Valley,” is part of a na­tional observance commemo­rating the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the first permanent Jewish settlement in America. Opening also on Monday, April 11, “Heritage and Community” will serve as the centerpiece of a yearlong community celebration.

The Lehigh County Histori­cal Society also administers the George Taylor House, Cata­sauqua, residence of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a former indentured servant who amassed a fortune as an ironmaster; Troxell­-Steckel Museum, Egypt, a mid-eighteenth century Penn­sylvania German farmstead; Claussville One-Room School­house, Claussville, built in 1896 and used until 1956; Frank Buchman House, Allentown, residence of the Lutheran pastor who founded Moral Re-Armament, a movement that espoused belief in being morally rather than physically armed; Haines Mill Museum, a water-driven gristmill erected before the Rev­olutionary War; Lock Ridge Furnace Museum, Alburtis, the 1868 headquarters of the Thomas Iron Company; and the Say­lor Cement Museum, the nation’s only historic site devoted to the people and the processes that produced “liquid rock.”

Information about the Lehigh Valley Heritage Center and the historic sites and museums operated by the society may be obtained by writing: Lehigh County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1548, Allentown, PA 18105-1548; by telephoning (610)435- 1074; or by visiting the Lehigh Valley Heritage Center website.

 

It’s in the Cards

Samuel Lorne Schmucker (1879-1921), born in Reading, Berks County, suffered a bout with polio during childhood which paralyzed his right arm, certainly not an auspicious be­ginning for a budding artist – especially one who would emerge as one of the leading commercial art designers of post­cards in the period between 1895 and 1915.

Schmucker’s disability forced him to hold his pencils and brushes in a claw-like grip between his index and second fingers, but it did not detract from his draftsmanship. By the age of fourteen, he and his work were well known in Read­ing. Eager to learn more and to refine his techniques, he moved to Philadelphia in 1896 where he first studied draw­ing and still life at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then transferred to the Howard Pyle Institute at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University), where he studied alongside Maxfield Parrish and Jessie Wilcox Smith. The Howard Pyle Institute concen­trated on practical illustration, and although he studied with Pyle for only one year, the noted illustrator’s influence can be readily seen in Schmucker’s paintings.

By 1905, at the age of twenty-six, Schmucker had established himself as a commercial artist. He created postcard images and supported himself by mak­ing pen and ink sketches for fashion plates appearing in the Philadelphia Daily Press. For nearly ten years, his work was published by two of the country’s largest postcard purveyors, the Detroit Publish­ing Company and John O. Winsch, of Stapleton, New York.

In 1995, a Bozeman, Montana, couple who collect, deal in, and reprint vintage postcards discovered eighty-eight origi­nal gouaches and watercolors by Schmucker owned by the estate of Isabel Haynes, a local businesswoman. The cache, which had been ignored for decades, also included works by other artists. The paintings had been acquired by Haynes’s husband, Jack Ellis Haynes (1884-1962), a concession operator at Yel­lowstone National Park, who purchased the inventory of the bankrupt Detroit Publishing Company in 1932. He wanted the failed company’s stock of postcards and prints for resale. Schmucker had submitted, in 1905 and 1906, nearly one hundred paintings to the Detroit Publishing Company, which had pub­lished nearly half as many postcards in eight different sets. The company published postcards by several leading artists of the day, among them Charles Dana Gibson, Harrison Fisher, James Montgomery Flagg, and Frederick Remington.

Schmucker’s postcards are highly prized for their fanciful im­ages and intense colors. His wife Katharine Rice Schmucker modeled for his distinctive, wide-eyed woman appearing in many designs. During his brief career, he combined the fluidity and elegance of the prevailing Art Nouveau style with the rich color palette of Pre-Raphaelite artists, bringing an unusual, artistic vision to a popular art form.

As the postcard craze ebbed, Schmucker found new ways to earn a livelihood, including decorating candy boxes, designing candy labels, working as an accountant, and opening an adver­tising agency. In 1921, at the age of forty-two, Schmucker died of a heart attack. To showcase the recent discovery of Schmucker’s original works of art, the Reading Public Museum and the Historical Society of Berks County are presenting a joint exhibition, “Samuel L. Schmucker: The Golden Age of Postcards,” through Monday, May 30. The museum is showing the newly-found treasures, while the historical society is exhibiting a range of works by the artist, including paintings and Reading High School yearbook covers. In addition, the exhibition features postcards of local scenes and comic postcards.

The museum and historical society have organized several family events and programs during the exhibition’s run, in­cluding a talk by Donald Brown, founder of the Institute of American Deltiology, Myerstown, Berks County, on Thursday, May 5, at the society’s headquarters. His presentation is being held in conjunction with the observance of National Postcard Week, May 1-7.

To obtain more information, write: Reading Public Museum, 500 Museum Rd., Reading, PA 19611; telephone (610) 371-5850; or visit the Reading Public Museum website.

 

Quack, Quack, Quack

Through Sunday, June 26, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is showing a lively exhibition tracing the history of the colorful purveyors of patent and quack medicines over the past four centuries. “Quack, Quack, Quack: The Sellers of Nostrums in Prints, Posters, Ephemera & Books” features seventy-five works ranging from humorous caricatures of itinerant quacks, flamboyant advertising posters, and promotional pamphlets for rival panaceas (each supported by extravagant claims of efficacy), to prints that document the earliest attempts by the government to curtail the more flagrant abuses.

The quack has long been a popular and profitable subject for artists in both Europe and the United States, and this exhi­bition probes the relationship between the bearers of this disparaging term and the artists who captured their theatrics and even helped advertise their wares. Although legislation has been enacted to eradicate the practice of quackery, the pro­liferation of Internet spam and advertisements with outrageous claims make “Quack, Quack, Quack” a timely exhibition.

The exhibition includes works by well known artists Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, Honore Daumier, Maxfield Parrish, and Jules Cheret, as well as highly spirited pieces created by less familiar figures. These range from a seventeenth-century Dutch engraving, Hyacurn et Lues Venern, showing a purported new cure for syphilis, to Medical Confessions of a Medical Murder (circa 1840), a twelve-scene wood engraving in which James Morison, a clever marketer of pills, even includes a testimonial from William Shakespeare. The Health Jolt­ing Chair (1885), a color lithograph of a seated woman, demonstrates the ability of electricity to enhance the “most highly prized Feminine Attrac­tions.” Nancy Linton, a hand-colored lithograph of the same era, illustrates the benefits of taking Swaim’s Panacea, and The Travelling Quack (1889), a political satire, assails British Prime Minister William Gladstone for promoting “Infallible Home Rule Ointment.”

“Quack, Quack, Quack: The Sell­ers of Nostrums in Prints, Posters, Ephemera & Books” is accompanied by a publication with the same title written by William H. Helfand, a noted specialist in the field of Ars Medica. Helfand organized the show with John Ittman, curator of prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For more information, write: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ben­jamin Franklin Pkwy. and 26th St., Philadelphia, PA 19130; telephone (215) 763-8100; or visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art website. Admission is charged.