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.

Famous Faces

John W. Mosley (1907-1969), characterized by an admirer as “our most magnificent and beloved photographer,” was Philadelphia’s leading black photographer, whose images appeared in nearly every African American newspaper on the East Coast (see “His Eye Was On The Positive” by Richard D. Beards in the winter 1990 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). Mosley’s photographs not only tell the story of Philadelphia’s African Americans during a span of three decades, from 1936 to 1967, but also chronicle their relationships with both the famous and the not-so-famous. His images documented a people, a place, and a time.

Born in Lumberton, North Carolina, Mosley became fascinated by photogra­phy in the 1920s, apparently enthralled by images he made with a simple box camera. He moved to Philadelphia in 1934 and was hired by the Barksdale Photography Studio, where he learned the techniques of the trade. During the forties and fifties, his connections with community institutions and organizations – especially the presti­gious Pyramid Club, for which he served as official photographer – facilitated his passion for taking pictures. He was also the “unofficial” resident photographer for the Christian Street YMCA, a century-old institution serving a predominantly black neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Despite the fact that he did not drive to on-site assignments (and relied on friends to chauffeur him to such shoots), Mosley’s remaining body of work is significant-if not staggering. A fire in 1953 at the Christian Street YMCA destroyed a number of prints and negatives, but the Mosley archive at Temple University’s Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection safeguards approximately three hundred thousand four-by-five inch negatives and about thirty thousand original prints-all made by the photographer himself because he never used an assistant or a processing laboratory. From his handwritten notations, historians have proved that the energetic John W. Mosley covered several different events in several sections of the city on a routine day!

What and who were Mosley’s subjects? He photographed a dance group at the YMCA; ceremonies observing Freedom Day at the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall; the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field; black bathers sunning themselves on Atlantic City’s “Chicken Bone Beach”; graduations, homecomings, and addresses at the area’s African American colleges, Lincoln University in Chester County (see “Some Questions for Examining Pennsylvania’s Black History” by Julian Bond, winter 1994) and Cheyney College in Delaware County; the Pearl Theater, called “the pre­miere colored theater” by many Philadelphians of the day; the Philadelphia Cotillion Society’s gala events; picnics; weddings; parades; sorority teas; fraternity parties; and celebrities from all walks of life.

Among the celebrities photographed by Mosley were Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972), organizer of the 1966 National Black Power Conference; Paul Robeson (1898-1976), actor, scholar, singer, and lawyer; physi­cist Albert E. Einstein (1879-1955); opera singer Marian Anderson (born 1902); poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967); Daisy Elizabeth Lampkin (1882-1965), political activist and civil rights reformer; actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990); John Roosevelt (“Jackie”) Robinson (1919-1972), first black major league baseball player; gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972); entertainer and dancer Josephine Baker (1906-1975); artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946); and internationally acclaimed pianist Natalie Hinderas (1927-1987). His portraits included those of five presidents of the United States – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard M. Nixon – during their visits to Philadelphia.

Although Mosley did make countless images of street scenes, buildings and structures, machinery, and animals, his favorite subject was people. “I found out by a trial and error method,” he told a writer for the Philadelphia Afro-American, “that you have to be sure that the right people are together – whether a certain combination of personalities is friendly or resentful of each other.” Editors of black newspapers were quick to realize that Mosley simply would not submit photographs that embarrassed his subjects. He approached his work as both photo­journalist and artist. His keen eye for composition and his sense of the interesting contributed to his many artful shots.

Opening at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, on Thursday, March 2, 1995, is an exhibition of sixty photographs of well known individuals entitled “Famous Paces: The Photography of John W. Mosley.” The images have been selected from the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection of Temple University, Philadelphia. “Famous Faces,” which continues through Sunday, May 14 [1995], will be accompanied by special activities and events, including an opening reception, a contemporary jazz performance, and a classic jazz concert on Sunday, March 5 [1995].

Visiting hours at The State Museum are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A. M. to 5 P. M., and Sunday, from Noon to 5 P. M. Admission is free.

For additional information, write: The State Museum of Pennsylvania, P. 0. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026; or telephone (717) 787-4979 (TDD 800 654-5984).


Another Opening, Another Show

When the doors recently reopened at the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), following nearly a half-year of extensive renovation, a new gallery of more than three hundred works of art selected from the permanent collection was unveiled. The opening also introduced an orientation video and electronically assisted self-guided tours offering visitors of all ages a variety of educational experiences.

PAFA’s new gallery installations, arranged chronologically and thematical­ly, highlight the institution’s local and national significance in the history of American art. The collection represents a broad range of regional and national styles from 1720 to the present, and documents taste in Philadelphia, a distinctive part of the development of American art history. Through this new interpretation, PAFA’s collection offers visitors a greater appreciation not only of American art, but of the nation’s historical, social, economic, and cultural development as well.

The reinstallation of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ collection features works of art from the period between 1800 and 1840, which is pre-emi­nent in America in scope. Included in this period are history paintings, landscapes, early genre paintings, still lifes, and miniatures. The period from 1840 to 1875 encompasses the Civil War. Artist William Sidney Mount’s Painter’s Triumph, a focal point of this era, is complemented by regional landscapes and seascapes. The famous nineteenth century landscape tradition, the Hudson River school, during this time a modest movement, is also represented.

Between 1875 and 1910-a period strong in American impressionism, European figu­rative work, and portraits-the Pennsylvania Academy was in the forefront in collecting and exhibiting American art and in educating artists (see “The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: An Ideal and a Symbol” by Jeanette M. Toohey in the spring 1988 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). The annual exhibitions were among the country’s most prestigious, drawing upon artists from throughout the entire country, as well as from Europe. Artists who participated in these exhibitions included Frank Duveneck, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakins, William Merritt Chase, Cecilia Beaux, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.

While the main focus of the American art scene shifted from Philadelphia to New York between 1910 and 1940, the Pennsylvania Academy began concentrating on the Ash Can school, the work of southwestern artists, regional impressionistic landscapes, figurative sculpture, and styles derived from prevailing French movements such as fauvism and cubism. The eclectic styles of the post-World War II era are represented by both local artists and painters and sculptors living in New York and California.

More than three hundred works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and col­lages, highlight PAFA’s institutional role as educator, collector, and promoter are highlighted in the comprehensive survey, entitled “The Collections of the Museum of American Art: A Living Tradition.” The exhibition will continue through Sunday, April 16, 1995.

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the country’s first art museum and art school. The Museum of American Art actively collects and exhibits the work of American artists. The school, which offers programs in painting, printmaking, and sculpture, counts among its notable alumni well known artists Mary Cassatt, Robert Henri, John Sloan, George Luks, and David Lynch.

For more information about museum visiting hours, write: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; or telephone (215) 972-7600. There is a charge for admission.


Why Not Wyeth?

Scion of the prodigious family of Brandywine River valley artists, Jamie Wyeth is well known for his depictions of wild and domestic animals. These animal portraits reveal his special feeling for – and fascination with – their lives and personalities. Wyeth’s keen and sensitive observations of animals are the basis for his elegant yet whimsical illustrations for a children’s book entitled The Stray.

Written for Jamie Wyeth by his mother Betsy James Wyeth, The Stray ingeniously reinvents incidents, people, pets, and places in Chadds Ford, Delaware County, important to the artist during his youth. The Stray‘s cast of delightful characters includes foxes, dogs, pigs, a seagull, and a buzzard – all of whom resemble, in some way, local residents.

Betsy James Wyeth’s tale revolves around three young friends: the narrator; McCraggan, a fox; and the stray, a coon dog named Lynch, who wanders into the seemingly sleepy little town of Ford. Together they test the limits of their strict village boundaries, only to discover an evil blackmail plot and a plan to take over Ford. Relying on wit, ingenuity, and a little help from an old pirate, Admiral Del, the main characters save Ford from a nasty, ill-tempered boar named Sour Kraut.

Many Chadds Ford landmarks and traditions appear in The Stray, including “Retread Fred’s,” a well known garage; tubing on the Brandywine River; and local town meetings held at the Grange, depicted in various works by Andrew Wyeth, the author’s husband. Admiral Del lives in a great three-masted pirate ship, the Roundelay, based on an eighteenth century house in Chadds Ford.

Jamie Wyeth’s illustrations for The Stray are on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford through Saturday, January 8, 1995. These fascinating works illustrate his extraordinary gift for characterization and deft­ness in pen and ink. The seventy­-eight ink drawings were exhibit­ed at the Brandywine River Museum in 1979, shortly after the book’s publication by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Additional information is available by writing: Brandywine River Museum, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; or by telephoning (610) 388-2700. There is an admission charge.


In the Beginning

During his career, Abraham S. W. Rosenbach (1876-1952), noted rare book collector and dealer, garnered count­less newspaper headlines and attracted both the rich and famous to Philadelphia with his offerings of the rare and the unique (see “The Man Who Bought Alice in Wonderland” by Linda Kowall in the winter 1988 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage). He was known to Parisians as “the Napoleon of Books” and to fellow bidders at major auction houses as “the Terror of the Auction Room.” To special clients he showed the original manuscript of the libretto for Wagner’s Die Meistersinger; handwritten manuscripts and letters by John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad, and James Joyce; and medieval illuminated texts of Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer on vellum.

Although Rosenbach’s reputation as a preeminent dealer in rare books and manuscripts is well known, what is, perhaps, less recognized is his significant role in the Jewish community as leader, scholar, activist, and philanthropist. He served as president of both the American Friends of Hebrew University and the American Jewish Historical Society.

Abraham S. W. Rosenbach was the first prominent bibliophile to introduce the idea that items related to the American Jewish experience should be collected. By the 1930s, he had accumulat­ed a vast personal library of American Judaica, and by the end of the decade, he had donated most of it to the American Jewish Historical Society. He also urged the historical society to acquire objects and documents of Judaic interest as they became available. Today, this collection is noted not only for its comprehensiveness but for the rarity of many of its pieces.

“In the Beginning: American Judaica from the Collection of Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach,” an exhibition on view at the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, features manuscripts, drawings, portraits, and books which were collected by the bibliophile. In addition to showcasing works owned by the Rosenbach Museum and Library, “In the Beginning” includes pieces lent by the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Antiquarian Society, and private collections.

“In the Beginning: American Judaica from the Collection of Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach” features fifty rare treasures, including works by early Jewish settlers Isaac Pinto, Aaron Levy, Moses Lopez, Isaac Leeser, and Gershom Mendes Seixas. Also on view are a number of manuscripts which specifically address the issue of tolerance for the Jewish people, including documents by Alexander Hamilton and Ezra Stiles. Of special interest is The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre (1640). Known simply as the Bay Psalm Book, this is the first book printed in what is now the United States, and the first in the western hemisphere to use Hebrew type. Universally acclaimed as one of the greatest rarities in printing history, the Bay Psalm Book is one of only eleven known to exist in the world.

The exhibition is supplemented with portraits of prominent Jewish figures Benjamin and Rebecca Gratz, Aaron Levy, and Aaron Lopez by leading American painters Thomas Sully and John Jarvis. A drawing by architect William Strickland for the second synagogue of Mikveh Israel, built in 1825, is also on view.

“In the Beginning” chronicles Jewish life in the United States, from the colonial period to the mid-nineteenth century, and addresses various aspects of immigration, such as economic difficulties, religious developments, educational aspirations, and the integration of a different culture into the country’s social fabric. While the Jewish experience is unique – stemming from a particular tradition – it nevertheless translates into the larger view of immigrant populations which make up the rich diversity of the United States’ population today.

“In the Beginning: American Judaica from the Collection of Dr. A S. W. Rosenbach” will remain on view through Saturday, April 2, 1995.

For information about visiting hours, group tours, and related programs, write: Rosenbach Museum and Library, 2010 DeLancey Pl., Philadelphia, PA 19103; or telephone (215) 732-1600. There is an admission fee.