Currents

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.

The Larder Invaded

Butter, buckwheat cakes, cream cheese, the legendary Fish House Punch, lemon meringue pie, pepper hash, pigeon, scrapple (billed now as Philadelphia paté), seckel pears and terrapin are culinary delights made famous by Phil­adelphia. When Benjamin Franklin alighted in the bus­tling eighteenth century city, he landed at the chaotic wharf at Market Street, overflowing with fish, poultry, vegetables and fruits. First named High Street by William Penn and dubbed Market by the later inhabitants, the street’s width made it an ideal place for farmers to set up stalls brimming with fresh produce, game and poultry. For years,the Philadelphia market claimed a reputation for offer­ing the greatest bounty of fruits and vegetables in the world.

The availability of such fresh produce and meats soon ranked Philadelphia as the culinary capital of the colonies, a tradition that spanned dec­ades. Philadelphia’s cupboard held the ideal ingredients: an adventurous mercantile popu­lation; a lush countryside yielding abundant foods; a wealthy agricultural sector willing to experiment; and a diverse ethnic population which mixed in the market, as well as in the kitchen.

Cookery that began on the docks of the Delaware River in the 1680s had blossomed by the opening of the nineteenth century. Both women and men contributed their time and talents – hotels, clubs, caterers, mills, breweries and distill­eries, suppliers and grocers. A unique “Philadelphia style” – recognized by its glamor and abundance and called “the Golden Age of Cookery” – surfaced by the mid­-nineteenth century. Following the Civil War, the city, growing more industrialized each year, did not support the opulent lifestyles of the first half of the century and culinary stand­ards began to sink. Street foods – cheese steaks, oysters, catfish, hoagies and buck­wheat cakes – grew in popular­ity.

In an unprecedented exhibi­tion, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia are presenting a landmark collabo­rative exhibit, “The Larder Invaded: Three Centuries of Philadelphia Food” in their adjacent galleries. On display are nearly twelve hundred documents and artifacts, in­cluding cookbooks, posters, photographs, recipes, menus, kitchen tools and cooking equipment, which trace Phila­delphia’s role as the first center of American cookery.

The institutions also pub­lished Thirty-Five Receipts From “The Larder Invaded,” a selec­tion of recipes represented in the exhibition, from the carrot pudding recorded in a 1699 cookbook by Ann Toller, to the beef soup served in the city’s soup kitchens for the poor during the nineteenth century. An illustrated catalogue also accompanies “The Larder Invaded.” Both the cookbook and the catalogue are available at either institution.

On Saturday, April 25 [1987], an all-day symposium featuring lectures, workshops and panel discussions will be sponsored by the historical society and library. “The Larder Invaded” concludes with the major symposium.

Additional information may be obtained by writing: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19103 (telephone 215/546-3181); or Historical Society of Penn­sylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19103 (tele­phone 215/732-6201). Admis­sion is free.

 

Art at Allentown

“Modernist Idylls: Nature and the Avant-Garde,” an exhibition of sixty works, both paintings and sculpture, by artists associated with the avant-garde between 1905 and 1930, will be on display at the Allentown Art Museum, Al­lentown, through May 30 [1987].

Artists such as John Marin, Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur B. Davies, Charles Burchfield, Rockwell Kent, William Zorach, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Joseph Stella and Gaston La­chaise are represented.

Nature has always stood as the principal subject of American painting. While the theme of nature is usually associated with artists of the mid nine­teenth century, it continued to exert an irresistible attraction on the artists of later genera­tions. Art historians normally present the American avant­-garde as a strictly urban phe­nomenon, and pay closest attention to the artistic activity within New York. “Modernist Idylls” considers the crucial role played by nature in the development of the modernist style.

A catalogue prepared by Christopher B. Fulton, associ­ate curator of the Allentown Art Museum, accompanies the exhibition.

The Allentown Art Mu­seum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P.M. Admission is free. For more information, write: Allentown Art Museum, Fifth and Court Sts., P.O. Box 117, Allentown, PA 18105; or telephone (215) 432-4333.

 

Prophet with Honor

Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) was the first native American horticulturist and writer on architectural subjects to achieve an international reputation. The origins of landscape architecture as a profession may be traced di­rectly to him. In addition to being the first American archi­tectural critic to attract a wide audience for his writings, he is also considered the father of the public park movement in this country.

Downing’s early career in horticulture lead him to a deep interest in buildings as essen­tial components of the pictur­esque compositions he advocated. Together with his editorials in The Horticulturist, the journal he edited from 1846 until his death in 1852, Down­ing’s three books provided advice that profoundly altered the character of America’s countryside and, in the proc­ess, dramatically changed the nation’s concept of what should constitute an architec­tural treatise. During the last two years of his life, he estab­lished a successful architec­tural firm, the influence of which extended well beyond his lifetime through the work of such prominent Victorian era architects as Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers.

Aesthetic considerations were not Downing’s sole con­cern. By helping to standard­ize nomenclature, his Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, first published in 1842, was an important contribution to recognizing the United States as one of the major fruit­-bearing regions of the world.

The life and work of the architect will be explored dur­ing a two-part symposium, “Prophet With Honor: The Career of Andrew Jackson Downing,” co-sponsored by the Athenaeum of Philadel­phia and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. The Phila­delphia segment will be con­ducted on Saturday, May 2 [1987]; the Washington session, Satur­day, May 16 [1987]. Advance registra­tion is required.

For more information, write: Athenaeum of Philadel­phia, 219 South Sixth St., Philadelphia, PA 19106-3794; or telephone (215) 925-2688.

 

Western Pennsylvania Social Exhibit

Wealthy businessmen, their families and domestic workers populated Homewood, a dis­tinctive area of suburban es­tates in Pittsburgh during the last four decades of the nine­teenth century. Prominent industrialists and entrepreneurs – among them George Westinghouse, Andrew Carnegie and H. J. Heinz – were the first of find Homewood convenient to Pittsburgh’s center-city com­mercial district. With the open­ing of trolley lines in 1892-1893, middle class professionals, managers and small business­men were welcomed to less grand suburban tracts known as Homewood-Brushton. Two decades later, about 1915, Homewood-Brushton was a truly representative “melting pot” community, a diverse neighborhood of many nation­alities. Many of the newer residents were skilled workers who made their homes near their workplace, including hundreds employed at the nearby trolley barns.

Throughout the Great De­pression and New Deal years, a spirit of cooperation flourished among Homewood­-Brushton’s various groups. However, post-World War II civic tensions, economic tur­moil and government urban renewal policies wrenched the residents of Homewood. De­spite the problems, an affluent Black community has thrived in the Homewood-Brushton area.

An exhibit at the Historical Society of Western Pennsylva­nia, Pittsburgh, examining Homewood-Brushton – using photographs, maps and artifacts – depicts the rich variety of individuals who created distinct communities within the area’s boundaries. “Homewood-Brushton: A Century of Community Mak­ing in Pittsburgh” addresses various neighborhood institu­tions such as churches and ethnic, social, sporting and fraternal associations. The exhibit continues for one year, through spring 1988. There is an admission charge.

Visiting hours at the histori­cal society are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.

Additional information is available by writing: Historical Society of Western Pennsylva­nia, 4338 Bigelow Blvd., Pitts­burgh, PA 15213; or by telephoning (412) 681-5533.

 

Photography Show in Allentown

“Arnold R. Lewis: Camera Work 1891-1902,” an exhibition displaying more than one hundred prints by the Allen­town photographer, is on view at the Lehigh County Museum through June 7 [1987]. In later years a prominent businessman, Lewis was an amateur photog­rapher whose experimentation with the camera was indicative to those who rode the wave of the camera craze that boomed in the late nineteenth century. Through his view camera he captured friends and local personalities at outings and celebrations, recorded streets­capes and regional landscapes, and documented momentous occasions while on trips, such as Pres. William McKinley riding in an open air carriage during a New York City pa­rade. The majority of works are contact prints, including several platinum prints.

With the advent of the dry plate negative and the com­mercial availability of printing paper, photography became more accessible to the public in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, moving from the hands of the profes­sional and the wealthy into the mainstream of everyday life. During the years Lewis adopted new printing tech­niques and produced the gela­tin silver prints and gold- and platinum-toned collodion prints on display. He con­stantly improved his printing techniques and developed a sharper eye for composition, most evident in his landscape works – pristine images of lakes, foliage and country roads – much like works being produced by artists and pro­fessional photographers at that time. Lock Between Siegfrieds and Stemton, 1892, is a reflec­tive work that quintessentially blends Lewis’ artistry with his sensitivity. His experimenta­tion with timed exposure is illustrated in the show by a series of waterfall shots and the five phases of a total eclipse photographed at Vir­ginia Beach.

Yet, it was as an aficionado of the bizarre and the humor­ous that Lewis used photogra­phy. Prints of friends with their heads poked through newspapers, a dog seated at a desk reading a songbook, and frolicking members of a male social group, the Only Thurs­day Club, decked out in gypsy skirts, kerchiefs, and leggings, illustrate his desire to record the theatrical and carefree side of life. Many of Lewis’ photo­graphs provide nostalgic glimpses of Allentown society at the turn-of-the-century.

Born in Catasauqua in 1862, Lewis began working for the F. Hersh Hardware Com­pany upon graduation from Allentown High School in 1880. He stayed with the firm for fifty years and was its pres­ident at the time of his death in 1930. Also a director of Merchants-Citizens National Bank, he moved in business and social circles, and was active in church groups and religious affairs. An ardent lover of music, Lewis was an organizer of the Euterpean Club, a male singing group that merged with the Oratorio Society and boasted 250 members. In 1885, he married Clara M. Hersh, his beloved “Wig­gie,” who became the subject of many of his photographs.

More than twelve hundred images make up the society’s Arnold R. Lewis Collection. In addition to the prints on view, the photographer also made lantern slides of Allentown’s 1899 blizzard, its 1902 flood, as well as parades and special events.

For additional information regarding the Lewis photogra­phy exhibit, write: Lehigh County Historical Society, Old Court House, Hamilton and Fifth Sts., Allentown, PA 18101; or telephone (215) 435- 1074. There is no admission charge.

 

Heirloom Silver on View

From wedding gifts to polit­ical awards, generations of Chester Countians. have marked important personal, social and political events with gifts of silver. The county’s glittering past is recalled in a major exhibit, “Chester County Silver: Heirlooms Reflecting History,” on view through August 16 [1987] at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. The exhibit showcases rare spoons, sugar tongs, napkin rings, pitchers, buckles, hair orna­ments and tea pots, all made or owned by county or Dela­ware Valley residents.

Since colonial days, gifts of fine American silver have represented a real and visible index of one’s social and finan­cial standing. Only individuals of some affluence could afford to adorn themselves – and their homes – with the valu­able metal.

“Chester County Silver” showcases one of the major strengths of the historical society’s collection: the re­markably well-documented history accompanying its pieces. For example, the ini­tials DM, engraved on a tea pot by Joseph Richardson are those of Deborah Morris, a wealthy, if slightly eccentric, Quaker “distinguished for her piety, individuality and firm­ness of character.” Never mar­ried, she traveled to England with her aunt in 1772 and, on her death, left a detailed four­teen page will providing a fascinating insight into eight­eenth century life.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a handsome silver pitcher crafted by Philadelphia jewelers Baily and Kitchen. Presented to Wirt Robinson in honor of his work on the Phila­delphia, Reading and Potts­ville Railroad, it is embellished with a vignette of the train tunnel at Black Rock. Another pitcher on view, commissioned by the Bank of Chester County in 1847, was wrought by R. & W. Wilson, Philadelphia silver­smiths, as a retirement present for bank founder David Town­send. Signed examples of work by early Philadelphia and West Chester silversmiths completes the show.

The Chester County Histor­ical Society showcases one of the best regional crafts and decorative arts collections in the nation. The collections are featured in changing exhibits, as well as in the museum’s permanent galleries. Addi­tional information regarding visiting hours and upcoming exhibits is available by writing: Chester County Historical Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380; or by telephoning (215) 692-4800. A nominal admission fee is charged.

 

Conservation Surveys

Libraries, historical soci­eties, archives, museums and related records repositories are currently being invited to apply for subsidized conserva­tion surveys by the Conserva­tion Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, Philadel­phia. The center is in the sec­ond year of a three-year grant awarded by the National En­dowment for the Humanities (NEH) to continue its broad conservation survey program for selected repositories in the mid-Atlantic states. Surveys are being provided at a nomi­nal cost and travel expenses to institutional members of the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. Mem­bership is available to non­profit institutions.

A typical survey includes an on-site consultation, fol­lowed by the preparation of a comprehensive report, as well as necessary supplementary information. To meet the vari­ous needs of its diverse mem­bership, the center offers three types of surveys. The “over­view survey” involves a gen­eral review of an institution’s preservation needs, including environment (temperature, humidity, light, housekeeping, fire and security), storage, handling, disaster prepared­ness, exhibition and preserva­tion planning. A “specific collection survey” features a careful inspection of a facility’s collection, often through ran­dom sampling, to formulate detailed housing and/or treat­ment recommendations. The recommendations are de­signed to assist the institution is setting priorities and estab­lishing cost estimates. An “individual items survey” results in the preparation of condition reports, proposed treatments and estimates for valuable individual items or groups of items in a collection. More than one type of survey may be conducted during a single consultation, depending upon the time involved and the needs of the institution.

Institutions interested in applying for a subsidized conservation survey should submit a letter to the center describing the nature, size and preservation needs of the collection, past and present conservation efforts and the anticipated goals of such a survey, Preference will be given to institutions maintain­ing collections of unique material of significant research value to the humanities scholar or the local historian; willing to make a commitment to implementing a long-term preservation plan; and demon­strating financial need. Selec­tions will be made twice a year.

The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts is a nonprofit facility specializing in the conservation treatment of art on paper, photographs, maps, documents and library and archival material. Serving cultural, educational, research and historical institutions, it strives to transmit the visual and documented heritage of the past and present to future generations through conserva­tion treatment, educational programs and intensive re­search. The center offers an effective alternative or supple­ment to in-house conservation efforts, as well as a diverse educational resource for train­ing and collection manage­ment.

Letters of application should be sent, as soon as possible, to: Conservation Surveys, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, 264 South Twenty-Third St., Philadelphia, PA 19103; tele­phone (215) 545-0613.

 

Railroad Photographs Acquired

The Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, a titan of American industry for more than a century, manufactured more than seventy thousand locomotives, making it the largest manufacturer of rail­road engines in the world. Its founder, Mathias W. Baldwin, produced his first locomotive in 1831, inaugurating production of the engines which continued until 1954 when the company closed.

In addition to railroad loco­motives, the Baldwin Locomo­tive Works manufactured diverse heavy equipment, including railway guns for two World Wars and tanks for World War II. The plant was originally located on Broad Street in center-city Philadel­phia, but was relocated to a new site at Eddystone, south­west of the city, for much­-needed expansion.

Throughout the years, Baldwin employees photo­graphed the company’s prod­ucts, assembling an impressive archives of locomotive por­traits. When the Eddystone plant dosed thirty years ago, more than fourteen thousand original negatives and images were saved by employee Her­bert Broadbelt.

The massive Broadbelt Photographic Collection was recently acquired by the Rail­road Museum of Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, supported with funding by the Friends of the Railroad Museum and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The collection will be made availa­ble to researchers and histo­rians after it is examined, catalogued and stabilized.

Administered by the Penn­sylvania Historical and Mu­seum Commission, the Railroad Museum of Pennsyl­vania is located on route 741, east of Strasburg. The mu­seum collects, preserves and exhibits artifacts and objects significant to the history of railroading in Pennsylvania. In addition to its extensive histor­ical and archival holdings, the museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of locomotives and rolling stock.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, Noon to 5 P.M. There is an admission charge. For additional information, write: Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, P.O. Box 15, Strasburg, PA 17579; or tele­phone (717) 687-8628.

 

The Artist and His Legacy

Artist Howard Pyle (1853-1911) dedicated his entire life­ – through his prolific career and inspirational teaching – to enriching the artistic heritage of the Brandywine Valley, as well as the nation. His works, renowned for their historical accuracy, imagination and wit, offered sensitive portrayal of human character. As an illus­trator, Pyle was able to project himself into his work, aug­menting an author’s text and not merely visually describing the action.

Born in Wilmington, Ho­ward Pyle studied in Philadelphia and New York, where he moved in 1876 to be near book and magazine publishers. He returned to Wilmington three years later and embarked on a thirty-year career as a writer and illustrator. He became famous for his illustrated sto­ries and poems published in popular children’s magazines, St. Nicholas and Harper’s Young People. He retold old English tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur and his Round Table, which captured the imagina­tion of generations of readers. His illustrations appeared in books on American history by Henry Cabot Lodge and Woo­drow Wilson, as well as in works of fiction by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain.

Howard Pyle produced more than three thousand illustrations during his life­time. He published about twenty books and many artic­les covering a broad spectrum of topics, including history, medieval folk legends, pirate lore and supernatural tales. In 1894, he began teaching the art of illustration in Philadelphia and in 1900 opened an art school in Wilmington, to which he invited a few stu­dents to work under his tute­lage. His weekly lectures attracted other students and professional illustrators, some of whom moved to Wilmington to be part of the artists’ colony which devel­oped around Pyle.

Pyle’s encouragement and faith in his students’ abilities generated successful results. As students advanced, he confidently offered them op­portunities, unique among art schools, to work on commis­sions for publication. Pub­lishers respected Pyle’s recommendations and many eagerly assisted with class projects. The reputation of Pyle’s school eventually helped assure careers for many students. With Pyle’s guid­ance, several became ex­tremely notable illustrators: Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Frank E. Schoonover and Violet Oakley.

The Brandywine River Museum, from March 29 [1987] through May 17 [1987], will examine the artist’s tremendous influ­ence as a teacher by showcas­ing seventy-five works by thirty-seven of his students. In conjunction with the Brandy­wine River Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, will exhibit two hundred paintings and draw­ings by Pyle which span his career. The Delaware Art Mu­seum’s exhibit will open March 29 [1987] and conclude June 21 [1987]. “Ho­ward Pyle: The Artist and His Legacy” is a joint exhibition which will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

For more information, write: Brandywine River Mu­seum, P.O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or telephone (215) 388-7601.

 

A Capitol Celebration

On Tuesday, February 2, 1897, few could scarcely be­lieve what emerged through the smoke and morning mist atop the hill overlooking Har­risburg’s center-city. The hand­some State Capitol Building, no longer the stately edifice it had been for decades, stood grimly in ruins, nothing more than a gaunt, smoke-stained shell That cold winter day contrasted severely with the structure’s early days, a period of great vitality when it rose above the city in splendor as master-builder Stephen Hills and his small corps of crafts­men struggled to make the dream of Harrisburg as the seat of state government a reality.

The location of the Capitol in Harrisburg was a lengthy process, one stymied by seem­ingly insurmountable obsta­cles. But the final move of the legislature to central Pennsyl­vania in 1799 symbolized its commitment to western expan­sion and its desire for a cen­trally located hub of government. The early years in John Harris’ city were hallmarked by the cacophony of hammer and chisel as the building of the capitol pro­ceeded furiously. By the time he had been commissioned to build this structure, Stephen Hills had already imbued the area with his distinctive brand of architecture and building. On May 31, 1819, he ceremoni­ously laid the building’s cor­nerstone, joined by Gov. William Findlay and a cadre of stonecutters, carpenters, ma­sons and curious citizens.

That Stephen Hills’ new building proved influential in the design and construction of other state capitols is, indeed, significant in itself, but-even more importantly-the dreams of a vigorous and ambitious Commonwealth unfolded in those halls. The building wit­nessed the dynamic years of canal and railroad building, the Civil War, the exciting industrial expansion (as well as its frightening labor unrest), and the rumblings of the Spanish-American War – all events of incalculable conse­quence.

Although long gone, the Hills capitol served the Com­monwealth and its citizens well, and it will be feted in a major exhibition honoring Pennsylvania’s statehouses and their history, art and archi­tecture. The exhibition will open in fall 1987 at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, located directly north of the State Capitol, to recall the eventful years of each of these important structures.

Documents and artifacts relating to these structures have become widely scattered or lost throughout the years, but several have been recently identified and returned to the guardianship of the Pennsyl­vania Historical and Museum Commission. Through the generosity of the agency’s Friends, one of the original desks gracing the Hills capitol has been acquired for the collections of The State Mu­seum.

Simply by virtue of its style and period construction, the desk proclaimed itself as one of the original pieces of furni­ture in the first capitol. How­ever, the desk’s provenance was proven, without doubt, because legislators who used it between 1845 and 1873 in­scribed their names on its walnut surfaces. The history of the piece was handwritten on a card affixed to the underside of the writing top: This desk was one of the first placed in the Pennsylvania House of Represent­atives, Harrisburg, PA when the Capitol was newly rebuilt in 1820 (or about). Presented to R. A. Hazelton when desks were changed under the new constitu­tion in 1873.

Acquisition, or identifica­tion, of such pieces is exciting for both curators and scholars. The staff of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission is eager to record the location of all surviving Capitol-related items, regard­less of whether or not they will be available for inclusion in this year’s exhibition. Informa­tion should be directed as soon as possible to the exhibit coor­dinator: Gail M. Getz, Associ­ate Curator of Decorative Arts, The State Museum of Pennsyl­vania, P.O. Box 1026, Harris­burg, Pennsylvania 17108-1026; telephone (717) 783-2641.