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.

Xanthus Smith

It is Sunday, March 9, 1862. Smoke hangs thick in the air. The water is littered with debris. The air even tastes bitter. Cannon roar. Cries of men pierce the din. Ironclad titans, the vessels Monitor and the Merrimac, clash in one of the fiercest confrontations of the Civil War. This is the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Today, museum-goers are able to revis­it the Battle of Hampton Roads – and many other Civil War naval encounters­ – through the deft brush strokes and bold colors of one of Pennsylvania’s premier artists in “The Civil War Naval Scenes of Xanthus Smith,” now on view at the Inde­pendence Seaport Museum in Philadel­phia.

The exhibit features more than fifty paintings and drawings of naval scenes during the Civil War, ranging from Admi­ral David G. Farragut’s forces surround­ing New Orleans to the departure of the USS Kearsage from Boston Harbor. Among battles highlighted in the show are the capture of Port Royal and Read Admiral Francis DuPont’s attack on Charleston. In addition to works of art, several objects and artifacts relating to the Civil War are featured in “The Civil War Scenes of Xan­thus Smith,” including a battle plan for the attack on Mobile Bay, a telescope used by Admiral Farragut in the skirmish at Mobile Bay, and a model of the USS Hart­ford.

“The Civil War Naval Scenes of Xan­thus Smith” is the final part of a multi-site exhibition of the Smith family’s work. The painter’s parents, Russell and Mary Patri­cia Wilson Smith, and his sister Mary Rus­sell Smith were accomplished artists, who frequently exhibited their works in Philadelphia.

Lenders to the exhibit include the Union League of Philadelphia, the Atwa­ter Kent Museum, and Winterthur. In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will offer educational programs designed for families focusing on the Civil War and its relation to maritime history.

“The Civil War Naval Scenes of Xan­thus Smith” continues through Sunday, May 30, 1999.

Independence Seaport Museum, which opened in 1995 after more than thirty-five years as the Philadelphia Maritime Muse­um, is dedicated to exploring the mar­itime history of the Delaware Bay, River, and tributaries. The museum, located at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River, is open daily from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. There is a charge for admission.

For more information, write: Indepen­dence Seaport Museum, 211 South Colum­bus Blvd. and Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106-3199; or telephone (215) 925-5439.

 

Bonjour, Bonvin

Although not a household word, his name is known by many Pennsylvani­ans – and Americans for that matter-for his association with the country’s coke and steel industries. He was as powerful and influential as he was astute and savvy.

Born into a farming family in West Overton, Westmoreland County, Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) was named for a Whig statesman. He was a frail and sickly child, often unable to walk to school. Despite his illness, diagnosed as inflam­matory rheumatism, he was determined and ambitious, camouflaging his infirmi­ties with a facade of toughness, and never using his physical weakness as an excuse. In fact, he vowed to make a million dol­lars by the time he reached thirty.

In 1865, he began work as a clerk in a dry goods store in Pittsburgh and showed extraordinary skill in bookkeeping. Just six years later­ – at the age of twenty-two – he built his first coke oven and organized Frick and Company to operate coke ovens near Connellsville. Within two years he acquired extensive coal holdings and bought out coke competition dur­ing the Panic of 1873. When the financial crisis ended in 1879, he became a millionaire – at the age of thirty!

Crowned “The Coke King” because his operations netted twenty thousand dollars a day in profits, Frick was courted in 1881 by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to form a partnership because he needed a guaranteed supply of high-grade coke for his mills and furnaces. The new com­pany, H.C. Frick Coke Company, became the exclusive supplier of coke to Carnegie’s steel mills.

The following year, in April 1882, Frick purchased a two-story Italianate-style house in Pitts­burgh’s fashionable East End, where much of the city’s business elite lived. He christened the house Clay­ton (for himself) and, although he kept title to the land, gave the house to his wife of five months, Adelaide Childs Frick (1859-1931), as a belated wedding present. Frick engaged Pittsburgh archi­tect Andrew Peebles to renovate the building.

Together the Fricks sought out fur­nishings for Clayton. They scoured art galleries and combed carriage trade shops for decorations befitting their wealth and position. Conscious of their social status, they read books on taste and interior dec­orating, and traveled to New York to pur­chase furniture and china. Frick indulged himself by buying paintings by George Hetzel and A. Bryan Wall shortly before moving into Clayton in late January 1883. While living at Clayton, he acquired works by Charles Courtney Curran, G.W. Waters, Jules-Adolphe Breton, Ridgeway Knight, P.E. Theodore Rousseau, Joseph R. Woodwell, and George Romney. His passion for art grew from collecting to decorate his home and overtly display his wealth to maintaining – and perhaps even improving – his position among his peers. While living on New York’s fabled Fifth Avenue from 1905 until 1914, he acquired pieces by luminaries known worldwide, among them El Greco, Titian, Goya, Gainsborough, and Fragonard. His legacy in New York is the Frick Collection.

Although Frick spent the last years of his life in Manhattan, he kept Clayton and left it and its contents to his widow, Adelaide. Adelaide, in turn, bequeathed the house and its contents to their daugh­ter Helen Clay Frick, who had been called at her father’s death the “America’s Rich­est Bachelor Girl” by the New York Evening World. Clayton meant much to Helen Clay Frick who had defied her father’s wishes, holding her debutante party at the baronial mansion in 1908 rather than in New York. She resided at Clayton until her death in 1984 at the age of ninety-six.

From 1986 to 1990, Clayton was metic­ulously restored to its original nineteenth­-century splendor. Since opening to the public, guided tours of the mansion intro­duce visitors to the way of life for the quintessentially American rags-to-riches story. The baronial house will be the sub­ject of a segment of the popular Arts and Entertainment television program, Ameri­ca’s Castles in Spring 1999. (Television viewers should consult cable listings for “The Millionaire Miners.”)

Also located on the five and a half acre grounds is the Car and Carriage Museum, originally built by Helen Clay Frick in the 1950s to house carriages used by family members at their summer house, “Eagle Rock,” at Pride’s Crossing, Massachusetts. The museum displays more than thirty-five antique car­riages and vintage automobiles, most of which were manufactured in Pitts­burgh or owned by Pittsburghers between 1890 and 1940.

The Frick Art Museum, an inti­mately scaled and classically styled structure built in 1969, contains col­lections of fine and decorative art assembled by Helen Clay Frick. The permanent collection concentrates on Italian Renaissance and French eigh­teenth-century works, but includes fourteenth- and fifteenth-century masterpieces as well.

On Friday, February 12, 1999, the Frick Art Museum will open an exhi­bition entitled “Francois Bonvin: Realist Painter.” The exhibition, fea­turing sixty paintings and drawings, will introduce visitors to an impor­tant but generally overlooked nine­teenth-century French painter of still life and quiet, soulful genre scenes. An early mentor and friend of Gus­tave Courbet (1819-1877), Francois Bonvin (1817-1877) was recognized in his own day as an important representative of the realist movement, but overshadowed by the brutal, extroverted canvasses of his protégé. Today, Bovin’s work appears more strik­ing for its assimilation of the Old Master tradition into a new approach toward humble subjects of everyday life.

“Francois Bonvin: Realist Painter” will continue through Sunday, April 11, 1999.

For more information about these attractions, write: The Frick Art and His­torical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Pitts­burgh, PA 15208-2923; or telephone (412) 371-0600. There is an admission charge for touring Clayton.

 

Alice, Again

In 1928, Philadelphia rare book dealer and collector A.S.W. Rosenbach purchased the original manuscript of Alice’s Adven­tures in Wonderland, known as “Alice’s Adventures Underground,” by Lewis Car­roll (the nom de plume of Charles L. Dodgson) at auction in London. The sale, which shocked the British nation, earned Rosenbach widespread recognition (and some derision) as “the man who bought Alice” (see Linda Kowall’s “The Man Who Bought Alice in Wonderland,” Winter 1988). Although Rosenbach later gave the manuscript to the British Library as a gift, it was for a time the centerpiece of what is now one of the largest and most important collections of Carrolliana in the world. Today, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, located in center­-city Philadelphia, houses hun­dreds of autograph letters by Dodgson, presentation copies of his books, including his own copy of Alice, and original draw­ings by illustrator Sir John Tenniel.

With the publication of Alice’s Adven­tures in Wonderland in 1865, the author ushered in a new era of literature written especially for children. In observance of the centenary of Dodgson’s death, the Rosenbach Museum and Library is telling the story of his life and the creation of Alice through items drawn from its exten­sive collections. The exhibition, entitled “The Advent of Alice: A Celebration of the Carroll Centenary,” features objects and artifacts lent by both private and public collections, many of which have never before been publicly exhibited. Borrowed especially for “The Advent of Alice” are sketches by Tenniel, an entire volume of letters to one of Dodgson’s childhood friends, and the author’s pocket watch.

A series of programs for both children and adults is being offered in conjunction with the exhibition. Internationally renowned Carroll scholar Donald Rackin will discuss the author’s work and pre­sent original pieces from the Rosenbach Museum and Library on Thursdays, Janu­ary 21, January 28, February 4, and Febru­ary 11 [1999]. Greer Allen, book historian, will explore how one story by Lewis Carroll has been interpreted in numerous ways on Wednesday, February 10 [1999]. A contempo­rary artist, Tristin Lowe of Philadelphia, will discuss the influence of children’s sto­ries on his sculpture and site-specific installations on Wednesday, February 24 [1999]. On Saturday, February 27 [1999], acclaimed storyteller Linda Gross will entertain kids of all ages with tales of adventure and imagination drawn from diverse cultures, and musician Lynn Miller will lead participants in inventing new (and ridiculous!) songs in the tradi­tion of Carroll. An informal gallery tour will be given by the exhibition’s associate curator, Diane Waggoner, on Wednesday, March 10 [1999]. The museum will also screen films that interpret Carroll’s tales on Wednesdays, January 13 and January 27 [1999].

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring an essay on Lewis Carroll and the enduring legacy of Alice by Rackin.

“The Advent of Alice: A Celebration of the Carroll Centenary,” supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Histori­cal and Museum Commission, continues through Sunday, March 14, 1999.

Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (1876-1952) bought and sold some of the world’s most famous books and docu­ments, among them a copy of the Declara­tion of Independence, which he priced at $160,000 in 1916; the first edition of Dante’s Venus and Adonis, sold in the twenties for $350,000 to California collec­tor Henry E. Huntingdon; and the Melk Abbey’s Guttenberg Bible, for which he paid $106,000 in 1926. He regularly bested some of the richest and most prominent collectors in the world, both private and public. One of Rosenbach’ s greatest con­tributions, however, was nurturing collec­tors and helping them build unrivaled col­lections. He guided Lessing Rosenwald, Sears, Roebuck and Company executive, and Eldridge Johnson, president of the Victor Talking Machine Company, as they assembled their world-class libraries. He was magnanimous, too. To the Library of Congress he donated the only book believed to have survived the burning of the Congressional Library by the British in 1814. As much a scholar as a connoisseur, he opened his private library to academics and researchers.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library preserves and interprets collections of rare books, manuscripts, and works of art to foster knowledge and appreciation of lit­erature, history, and art. It is both a his­toric house-museum – the only one of its period in Philadelphia open to the pub­lic – and a research library. Highlights of guided tours include Rosenbach’s library, the Marianne Moore Room, James Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses, and temporary and changing exhibits.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM. to 4 P.M. There is an admission charge.

For more information, write: Rosen­bach Museum and Library, 2010 Delancey Pl., Philadelphia, PA 19103; tele­phone (215) 732-1600; or visit the Rosen­bach Museum and Library website.