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.

On a Grand Scale

For a century, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture has captivated both Pittsburghers and visitors as a portal to a magical, ancient world of architecture and as a muse for generations of aspiring artists, artisans, and architects. Today, the Hall of Architecture is recognized as a national treasure, as well as distinguished as the largest architectural cast collection in the country and rivaled internationally only by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Musee National des Monuments Francaise, Paris. The collection of nearly 150 plaster casts is unique for having remained essentially intact in the grand space designed especially for it by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as part of the institution’s expansion in 1907.

At the time the Hall of Architecture opened, collections of casts were numerous in both the United States and Europe. Guided by the view that a replica of a masterpiece was superior to a mediocre original, collectors from the time of Rome’s first emperor until the early twentieth century amassed great plaster-cast assemblages of recognized masterworks. As early as the fourth century BCE, the Greeks made plaster casts of famous statues. In Roman times, the passion for Greek sculpture resulted in the reproduction of works of art. Plaster casts were also popular during the Renaissance, when the “rebirth” of antiquity influenced artistic tastes. By the late eighteenth century, inspired by new archaeological finds, collections of plaster casts could be found in most European cities.

The demand for plaster casts skyrocketed during the nineteenth century. As centerpieces for the great international fairs, casts nourished nationalistic pride, while independent “cast galleries” served the Victorian era fervor for education by providing instruction to both the amateur and the art student. The dominance of historical styles in premodern architecture required that the architecture student study the outstanding buildings of the past, and so pilaster casts played an essential role in this pursuit.

Under the enthusiastic Carnegie’s leadership, the museum’s collection totaled 144 casts, 69 plaster reproductions of sculpture, and 360 replicas in bronze (on view at the rear of the Hall of Architecture). This collection was, overall, representative of the times. The beloved favorites of classical antiquity — the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus de Milo, the Nike of Samothrace, the famous discus thrower by Myron — are included in the collection, as are Gothic masterpieces such as the Florence Baptistry doors. To observe the centennial of the Hall of Architecture, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center is presenting “On a Grand Scale: The Hall of Architecture at 100.” The exhibit features architectural drawings, period photographs, and ephemera chronicling the history of Andrew Carnegie’s creation and the third largest cast collection in the world. It also addresses the production of casts in the nineteenth century and explains how the Carnegie’s casts came to Pittsburgh.

“On a Grand Scale: The Hall of Architecture at 100” continues through Sunday, January 13, 2008.

 

Made in Johnstown

Propelled by a workforce of European immigrants who began arriving in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century, an amazing array of products were once manufactured in the Cambria County community of Johnstown — items as diverse as beer and barbed wire, cast iron and cut glass, radiators and radios. The Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) recently unveiled an exhibition of locally manufactured goods at its Frank and Sylvia Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center.

“While Johnstown is best known for its steel industry, it was also an extremely important regional manufacturing center in the era before national distribution,” says Richard Burket, JAHA executive director. “A surprising range of products used in everyday life were once manufactured in Johnstown, and the stories of these companies are a fascinating part of the community’s – and the Commonwealth’s — history. We created ‘Made in Johnstown’ to showcase the types of products turned out by our factories.”

“Made in Johnstown” features objects, artifacts, and documents drawn from JAHA’s extensive collections. The selection is supplemented by historic photographs, reproductions of period advertisements, and information on specific companies and manufacturers.

Popular in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, brilliantly cut glass was a favorite gift for weddings and anniversaries. In 1905, William Allen, a master glasscutter, visited relatives in Johnstown and decided to stay and open a glass-cutting operation. He began with ten employees, but it wasn’t long before his pieces were being sold nationally. Allen patented a design named “Pond Lily” in 1913 — just before cut glass fell out of favor because of the economic impact of World War I and changing tastes in tableware and home decoration. Allen’s company closed in 1920.

W. DeFrehn and Sons manufactured chairs, porch swings, rockers, and park benches in Johnstown for more than a century. Founded in Schuylkill County in 1854, the company moved to Johnstown in 1898. By the opening of the twentieth century, W. DeFrehn and Sons employed fifty workers who manufactured nearly forty different styles of chairs, many impressed with decorations. The company made nearly sixty thousand chairs annually, which it marketed throughout the country. It remained in operation until the early 1970s. Signed examples of early twentieth-century porch swings, especially those in the Arts and Crafts style, are sought by collectors today.

In addition to distinctive cut glass table articles and seating, Johnstown’s factories manufactured stoves, radiators, steel, and pottery. The Century Stove and Manufacturing Company in the opening decades of the twentieth century made stoves, space heaters, and parts and accessories for heating equipment. During the Great Depression, the company was purchased by the National Radiator Company, a supplier of a large variety of radiators, as well as residential and commercial boilers and fittings for the plumbing and heating trade. The community is well known for its steel manufacturing which, in addition to beams and rails, also produced wire mesh, tacks, staples, barbed wire, nails, spikes, and runners for the popular Flexible Flyer sleds. Johnstown was also home to several potteries.

“Made in Johnstown” also discusses the community’s production of comestibles, most notably milk and beer. More than a dozen small dairies served the needs of residents in the early twentieth century, among them the Sanitary Dairy, founded in 1902, Galliker’s Dairy, opened in 1914, and Alwine’s Dairy, established in 1915. By 1910, Johnstown counted six breweries,all put out of business by Prohibition before the end of the decade.

Perhaps the most unusual firm in the greater Johnstown area, the Modernola Talking Machine Company, located in Ferndale, made early phonographs —or “talking machines” as they were first called. The company, which manufactured console and portable players, fell victim to the economic crisis caused by the Great Depression and closed in 1929.

“Made in Johnstown” continues through the end of the year.

For more information, write: Johnstown Area Heritage Association, P. O. Box 1889, Johnstown, PA 15907-1889; telephone (814) 539-1889.