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.

In the Vale of the Wyoming

Since the eighteenth century, the Wyoming Valley of northeastern Pennsyl­vania – roughly encompassing the region from Nanticoke in the southwest to Pittston in the northeast – has been extensively cited and depicted as an area of extraordinary, if not awe-inspiring, natural beauty.

The last glacial age formed the picturesque bluffs and narrows that now mark the Wyoming Valley. Ironically, the great ice masses were also responsible for shearing off the towering mountain heights, which, during the mid-nineteenth century, would make anthracite more accessible to early coal opera­tors and their miners. During the course of the nineteenth century, burgeoning indus­try – fueled by limitless supplies of hard coal – irrevo­cably changed the primeval paradise to reflect the modern, technological forces which took advantage of its rich natural resources.

Artists and writers were not the only individuals inspired by the grandeur of Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley. Journals of traveling soldiers, scientists and states­men tellingly reveal their keen reactions, often emotional, to the precipitous mountains and broad plains. In the 1790s, Isaac Weld, Jr., characterized the valley as “At every bend the prospect varies … [with] scarcely a spot … where the painter would not find a subject worthy of his pencil.”

Jacob Cist, inventor, scien­tist, as well as artist, rendered views of the falls of Solomon’s Creek which were reproduced in The Port Folio in 1809 and which attest to the pristine, unspoiled beauty of the area. An astute entrepreneur, he and two partners leased the Lehigh Coal Mine tract near Mauch Chunk, Carbon County, as early as 1813, and were responsible for the first river shipment of anthracite. While he recorded the pre­-industrial splendor of north­eastern Pennsylvania in his drawings, Cist’s scientific researches demonstrated the variety of uses for anthracite leading to the powerful indus­try which inevitably altered the area’s topography.

By 1823, artist Baldwin Brower’s view of the bridge at Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, portrayed the charm of the bustling community; his depiction of the bridge, a horse-drawn carriage and workmen indicated the prosperity of the Wyoming Valley. Contrasted with the looming mountain ridges in the background, individuals in the watercolor’s foreground lent an air of gentility and civilization.

Jasper Francis Cropsey visited the region in 1865 and completed studies for his mural-sized view, Valley of Wyoming, which reflected the bucolic appearance of the area. Cropsey showed a coal breaker, the canal and other symbols of industrialization, but included an idyllic farm and the dramatic cliffs of Campbell’s Ledge. Inscribed on the gilded frame arc verses from a poem, “Gertrude of Wyoming,” emphasizing the pastoral beauty and goodness of the area.

By the twentieth century, the industrial changes and progress of the previous century irreversibly hallmarked the landscape of the Wyoming Valley. No longer were its residents able to maintain the precarious balance between natural paradise and industrial center. Because artists’ renderings illustrate this development more clearly – and certainly more graphically – than written accounts or records, a ma1or exhibition entitled “Vale of the Wyoming: Nineteenth Century Images from Campbell’s Ledge to Nanti­coke,” exploring the region’s topographical changes, will open Sunday, December 8 [1985], at the Sordoni Art Gallery of Wilkes College in Wilkes­-Barre.

Continuing through January 26, 1986, “Vale of the Wyoming” features works of art by William H. Bartlett, E.L. Dana, C. Minton, Augustin­-Francois Lemaitre, J.C. McRae, Frederick Juengling, E.A. Christie, Edmund Darch Lewis, Gustavus Grunewald and Jasper F. Crospey. The show includes paintings, sketches, drawings and prints.

The Sordoni Art Gallery is located in downtown Wilkes­-Barre between South River and Northampton streets. For visiting hours and related information, write: Sordoni Art Gallery, Wilkes College, 150 South River St., Wilkes­Barre, PA 18766; or telephone (717) 824-4651. There is no admission charge.

 

American Furniture on View

The rate of survival of American furniture exceeds by far that of most other domestic arts and crafts. Although countless pieces have been lost or destroyed over the years, furniture was the least expendable of decorative art objects – every household required it. In most instances, it was movable, sturdy and much more durable than other art forms; when of quality construction, it appreciated in value during the years. Furni­ture was passed on from generation to generation because it satisfied both utili­tarian and aesthetic needs.

To share its significant pieces of early American furni­ture that have survived, the Historical Society of Pennsyl­vania in Philadelphia has mounted a major exhibition of rare and historically important furniture and objects spanning the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. “Furni­ture From the Society’s Collec­tion: Late Seventeenth to Early Nineteenth Century” features George Washington’s desk, a household chest once owned by William Penn, the Pembroke table on which the Declaration of Independence was drafted and Benjamin Franklin’s four-sided music stand. Pieces belonging to American forefathers John Dickinson, a president of Pennsylvania, and Charles Carroll, a signer of the Decla­ration of Independence, are also displayed.

Fine examples of paintings by prominent early American artists such as Benjamin West, Gustavus Hesselius, Thomas Birch and Charles Peale Polk compliment the furniture. Some of the featured works include a portrait of Jane Galloway (1759) by Benjamin West and an 1808 oil on canvas by Thomas Birch, Falls of the Schuylkill and Chain Bridge.

Styles of furniture are explored in the exhibition, including the Jacobean, William and Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal periods. In addition to the historical value and signifi­cance of the furniture and objects, each piece also demonstrates expert craftsmanship in design and execution. Despite the vast wilderness and remoteness of some of the cities in which craftsmen labored, the cabinetmakers and artists, nevertheless, produced sophisticated furnishings and decorations. “Furniture From the Society’s Collection” traces the development of styles from the Jacobean period, 1690-1720, through the Chippendale period, 1790-1820. The exhibition also addresses the dramatic shift of furniture-­making from craft to industry.

“Furniture From the Society’s Collection” wiU continue through fall of 1986. Admission is free.

For additional information, write: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; or telephone (215) 732-6200.

 

A Graeme Park Christmas

A display of holiday decorations in the eighteenth century manner will open to the public on St. Nicholas Day, December 6 [1985], at the historic Keith Mansion, Graeme Park, in Horsham. The Montgomery County mansion, built by Sir William Keith, provincial governor in 1721-1722, remains an outstanding example of early eighteenth century architecture.

The holiday decorations have been painstakingly researched and planned to authentically interpret the types of decorations that would have graced the residence between 1722 and 1790. Houses of this period were decorated for the season with greens, natural materials and special foods (see “A Colonial Christmas” in the winter 1986 issue).

The display will be highlighted by ornamental lemon, apple, cranberry and sweetmeat pyramids. The confectionary treats and desserts will include spiced nuts, Naples biscuits, cobble­stones, fruit jumbles, jellies and a Twelfth Night cake. While the kitchen – always the scene of great activity but even more so during the holidays – ­will interpret the preparations involved in creating the tempting treats, the bed chamber, used by eighteenth century ladies for entertain­ing, will be set for a holiday tea.

The decorations will remain on view through December 29 [1985].

On Saturday evening, December 14 [1985], the mansion will be lighted by candles and visitors will be able to sample the wide variety of desserts which would have been served in the homes of the affluent during holiday celebrations of the eighteenth century. Advance reservations are requested.

Additional information regarding the exhibit and the December 14 [1985] event is available by writing: Marian Ann J. Matwiejczyk, Historic Site Manager, Graeme Park, 859 County Line Rd., Horsham, PA 19044; or by telephoning (215) 343-0965 or 343-2223.

 

American Watercolors in Philadelphia

A selection of sixty-five significant nineteenth and twentieth century watercolors, entitled “Contemplating the American Watercolor,” is on view at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia through January 5, 1986. The superb works, part of a collection formed by Transco Energy Company of Houston, Texas, provide a survey of two centuries of watercolors by masters of the medium.

Many of the artists whose works are on display have either worked or lived in Pennsylvania, including Thomas Sully, Edwin Austin Abbey, Theodore Robinson, Thomas Moran, Thomas Anshutz, Joseph Pennell, Edmund Darch Lewis, George Luks, John Marin, Charles Demuth and Andrew Wyeth. Several of the painters have studied or taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Transco Energy Company, a diversified energy company, began forming this watercolor collection three years ago and is one of the first United States corporations to collect histori­cally important American watercolors.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is located in center-city Philadelphia, two blocks north of City Hall. It is convenient to public transpor­tation and parking. For additional information regard­ing visiting hours and admis­sion, write: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Broad and Cherry Sts., Phila­delphia, PA 19102; or telephone (215) 972-7600.

 

Early Industries Grants Available

Annual grants provided by the Early American Industries Association are available to individuals and institutions engaged in research and publication projects relating to the study and better under­standing of early American industries in homes, shops, farms, or on the sea. Grants provide up to one thousand dollars per allocation.

The purpose of the Early American Industries Associa­tion’s grants-in-aid program is to assist individuals, graduate students, scholars and museum professionals involved in serious research or publication activity. Among awards made since 1982, grants have funded a comprehensive study of toolmaking and toolmakers in New Hampshire, an intensive investigation of craft practices of housewrights prior to 1900, and research devoted to the investigation of cider-making equipment practices and technology. A recent award to a Pennsylvanian is currently sponsoring research of the identification of log buildings employing vertical corner posts into which horizontal wall logs are tenoned (see
“Mailbox” in the fall 1985 issue of this magazine).

The grants are non-renew­able and may be used to supplement existing financial aid, scholarships, fellowships or other awards. Individuals may be sponsored by an insti­tution or engaged in self­-directed research.

Applications for awards granted in 1986 will be accepted until March 15, 1986. For additional information and application forms, write: Charles F. Hummel, Chair­man, Grants-in-Aid Commit­tee, Early American Industries Association, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, DE 19735.

 

The Holidays at Hope Lodge

Two centuries of Christmas decorations will be displayed in the elegant rooms of stately Hope Lodge, a well-preserved eighteenth century mansion in Fort Washington, Montgom­ery County, from Saturday, December 7, through Sunday, December 22 [1985]. Hope Lodge, built 1743-1748 by prosperous gristmill operator Samuel Morris, is one of the most architecturally significant structures in the United States; it has been called one of the finest and most beautiful early Georgian mansions in the country.

The origin and evolution of the customary Christmas tree are the focal points for the fifth annual holiday exhibit entitled “Christmas at Hope Lodge, 1750-1950.” The handsome period room settings will allow visitors to compare the stark simplicity of mid-eighteenth century Christmas celebrations with the splendor of the Federal period. A large tree gracing the main hall will be decorated in the lavish Victo­rian era manner. A tree repre­sentative of the 1920s period will suggest the style familiar to today’s ornamented tree.

Candlelight tours of Hope Lodge will be offered Friday and Saturday, December 13-14, for visitors wishing to experience what Christmas may have been like in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Additional information regarding visiting hours and directions is available by writing: Hope Lodge, 553 Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington, PA 19034; or by telephoning (215) 646-1595.

Hope Lodge is one of twenty-eight historic sites and museums throughout the Commonwealth administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

 

1985 Carnegie International

Desiring to bring contem­porary art to Pittsburgh, as well as to bring his city to the attention of the art world, steel magnate Andrew Carne­gie established in 1896 the Carnegie International, a series of exhibitions represent­ing outstanding artists from throughout the world. The oldest continuing exhibition of international art in America, the Carnegie International is one of four great exhibitions of contemporary art, joining the biennials in Venice, Italy, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Documenta in Kassel, West Germany. Past exhibitions have included works by such twentieth century masters as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and Jasper Johns.

The 1985 Carnegie Interna­tional, on view at the Carnegie Institute’s Museum of Art through January 5, 1986, features the works of forty­-two artists, twenty-three of whom are Americans. Ameri­can artists include John Ahearn, Jonathan Borofsky, Robert Longo, Richard Serra and Frank Stella. During the selection process, considera­tion was given to senior contemporary masters who continue to address the key issues of the day, artists at mid-career who are at a very high level of creative accom­plishment and emerging artists of special promise. About a third of the artists showing in the 1985 Carnegie International produced either site-specific pieces or works created especially for the exhibition.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, 1 to 5 P.M. Admission is by volun­tary contribution.

Further information may be obtained by writing: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213; or by telephoning (412) 622-3328.

 

Franklin Institute’s New Exhibit

Suns, moons, stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies, solar flares and sun spots are all part of the new, permanent astronomy exhibit recently opened at the Franklin Insti­tute in Philadelphia. From a celestial globe made of forged and hammered copper in 1699 to fiber optic stars depicting the constellation Orion, the astronomy exhibit explores the tools used by astronomers to obtain information and data. The exhibit has been designed and interpreted to help visitors gain a better apprecia­tion of telescopes, celestial mechanics (the motion of heavenly bodies), the sun, time and the atmosphere.

The exhibit offers a darkened room in which visitors are treated to a “God’s-eye view” of the moon while a periscope shows the familiar view of the moon as it appears from earth. Another special room offers time-lapse sequences of solar flares, sun spots, prominences and other solar phenomena via the museum’s first interactive videodisc. The exhibit also features telescopes, a huge lay-out of the planets and computer games.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum, located at Twentieth Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is open Monday through Satur­day, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday, Noon to 5 P.M. Admission is charged.

More information is avail­able by writing: Franklin Insti­tute, Twentieth St. and the Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103; or by telephoning (215) 448-1150.

 

The Sounds of Christmas

“The Sounds of Christmas” is the featured theme of this year’s lush holiday display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. The month­long spectacle opens Thurs­day, December 5, and contin­ues daily, including Christmas and New Year’s Day, through Sunday, January 5, 1986, at the celebrated horticultural showplace Located in the historic Brandywine Valley. Longwood Gardens, formerly the estate of Pierre S. du Pont, is recognized as one of the truly great gardens of the world.

To carry out this season’s theme, Longwood’s heated conservatories will be filled with more than two thousand poinsettias and hundreds of early spring-flowering bulbs enveloping emerald green lawns. The centerpiece will be a towering fir tree decorated as the “Maestro’s Tree” with drums, horns, bells, music scrolls and notes and assorted music-related symbols. Other offerings will include two dozen music boxes on loan from the Musser Museum in Valley Forge and WorldFare, an international mini-exhibit of crafts and musical accesso­ries. A topiary carousel will be decorated for the holidays.

More than two hundred concerts will be presented during the course of “The Sounds of Christmas.” For a complete schedule of all special events and musical programs conducted in conjunction with the holiday exhibit, write: Longwood Gardens, P.O. Box 501, Kennett Square, PA 19349-0501; or telephone (215) 388-6741. Special rates for group tours will be available.

 

Lehigh University Mounts Chemistry Display

Traveling science shows and demonstrations which spread the wonders of chemis­try, static electricity and hard­-rock geology throughout the nation during the post-Civil War period were but one manifestation of the public’s emerging interest in the sciences. Another was the installation of science museums at colleges and universities, frequently as components of chemistry departments, which displayed chemicals, botanical extracts, dyes, mineral specimens and scientific equipment for a curious public.

At Lehigh University in Bethlehem, William H. Chandler, long-time chairman of the chemistry department from 1871 to 1906, personally designed and supervised the erection in 1886 of a Hall of Chemistry which included extensive museum holdings and exhibition areas. From European sources Chandler purchased colorful chemicals, unusual solvents and formulas and laboratory apparatus which he displayed with accompanying text in early efforts to educate both students and the public about the uses and importance of chemistry. His museum continued until the 1920s when pressing academic demands for space called for its disassembly.

To celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Chandler’s brainchild, Lehigh University has staged an exhibit entitled “The Old Chandler Laboratory and Museum of Chemistry: Photo­graphs and instruments from 1886.” The display showcases early photographs, reassem­bled exhibits from the museum, original architectural plans and memorabilia relat­ing to the life and career of William H. Chandler.

“The Old Chandler Labora­tory and Museum of Chemis­try,” on exhibit in the DuBois Gallery of Maginnes Hall on the university’s campus, continues through December 18 [1985]. Visiting hours are Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. to 10 P.M.; Saturday, 9 A.M. to Noon. For more information, write: Lehigh University Art Galleries, Chandler-Ullmann Hall, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015; or telephone (215) 861-3615. There is no admission fee.

 

Send Us a Lady Physician!

A five-city touring exhibi­tion that highlights the early struggle of women in the American medical profession is open to the public at the Historical Society of Pennsyl­vania, Philadelphia. “Send Us A Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920,” will be on view until January 4, 1986, before moving to New York City, Lexington (Massachusetts), Chicago and St. Louis.

The exhibit is the first to re­create the medical world of Victorian America to the Jazz Age from the perspective of women. It employs bold photographs, graphics, artifacts and audio presenta­tions to trace the individuals, communities and institutions that first encouraged women to breech the male bastion of medicine, as well as to demonstrate how women juggled their work, family and community responsibilities.

“Send Us A Lady Physi­cian” follows the careers of five women from their entry into the medical field in the nineteenth century; highlights the class of 1879 of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now the Medical College of Pennsyl­vania in Philadelphia; and invites viewers to join histori­ans in determining why the status of women physicians declined in the early twentieth century.

Philadelphia was selected for the initial public showing of “Send Us A Lady Physi­cian” because the city was the site of the nation’s first medical college for women, the first hospital and the publications of many of the earliest medical texts in the United States. The exhibition’s title is taken from the remarks of a nineteenth century commencement speaker at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania who told of the numerous requests the institu­tion received daily from near and far to “Please send us a lady physician!”

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania was chosen as the Philadelphia location for the exhibition because of the society’s holdings of historical medical books, pamphlets, journals, treatises, annual reports and the records of thirty-two Philadelphia hospi­tals, medical societies, medical schools and related organiza­tions.

For more information, write: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; or telephone (215) 732-6200. The exhibit is open to the public without an admission charge.

 

Bicen­tennial of the Constitution

Both as the site of the Convention which in 1787 drafted the United States Constitution and as the second state to ratify that draft, Pennsylvania claims a decidedly special interest in the forthcoming celebration of the landmark document’s bicen­tennial. As the Common­wealth’s official history agency, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) will sponsor numerous programs to commemorate the historic occasion. Attention will be given to the events of 1787 and the difficulties which were overcome in winning public approval for the proposed new government. Particular focus, however, will be placed on the ways in which the Constitution and the great decisions hallmarking its evolution have affected gener­ations of Pennsylvanians.

The evolution and impact of the Constitution will be addressed in an exhibition entitled “The Constitution, Our Living Legacy,” which will be on view from June 1987 through mid-January 1988. The principal portion of “Our Living Legacy” will be mounted in the rotunda of the State Capitol and a smaller display will be on view al The State Museum of Pennsyl­vania. Both exhibits will employ appropriate artifacts and illustrations portraying each of the elements of the Preamble of the Constitution and trace the development of their influence from 1788 to today. An catalogue will accompany the exhibitions.

The PHMC is currently preparing a booklet, Pennsyl­vania and the Changing United States Constitution, a popularly­-styled narrative detailing landmark court cases involv­ing Pennsylvania which helped shape the document’s interpretation and develop­ment. The publication will be available in fall 1986.

Beginning in 1986 and continuing through the next year, a series of major articles in this magazines will be devoted to dealing with various aspects of the Consti­tution. Workshops will be presented for social studies teachers which recount the history and significance of constitutional development in stimulating and challenging ways. A revised edition of the PHMC’s Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution will also be released in 1986.

In addition to the publica­tions and museum exhibits, the Mobile Museum will be outfitted with a Constitution­-related display and a quarterly calendar of events will be made available to the public.

For additional information regarding the PHMC’s various programs and projects commemorating the bicenten­nial of the U.S. Constitution, write: John B. B. Trussell,
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 783-9867.