The Fad for the Orient: Early Twentieth-Century Trade Catalogues and U.S. Fiction

Desk and bookcase, mid-18th century. Zoe Oliver and Charles H. Sherman Fund, 2015. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

My residency at the Winterthur Museum, Library, and Garden last year coincided with the opening of the exhibition Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, which focused on how Asian art objects traveled to North and South America in the first wave of globalization (roughly estimated as 17th– 19th centuries) and featured cabinetry, textiles, and silverwork of truly impressive craftsmanship.

By chance, I was at Winterthur to learn about Asian goods in America but was studying a different cultural and historical moment— the rise in mass markets for Eastern products in the early 20th century. Therefore, I spent my time not in the museum surrounded by exquisite lacquerware or intricately woven tapestries but rather poring over trade catalogues in the library archives and learning about cheaply produced everyday objects that populated the homes of average U.S. citizens.

I went into the project knowing that a fad for Eastern objects existed—one that in fact dated much earlier than period I was interested in—but I had no idea just how prevalent it was. The diversity and amount of Eastern merchandise marketed to U.S. consumers in the early 20th century, whether authentic or (more commonly) faux, is staggering. In addition to popular items like divans, ottomans, or Turkish rugs, consumers could also purchase a wide variety of goods with, according to retailers, “Oriental” designs, such as rose jars, vases, bottles, teapots, cups and saucers, spice dishes, toothpick holders, egg cups, sardine boxes, sake cups, baking fish dishes, shirred egg dishes, spoon holders, candle snuffers, match boxes, inkstands, earthen figures, porcelain figures, bon-bon boxes, puff boxes, pomade boxes, tobacco jars, ash trays or receivers, Calcutta water coolers, umbrella stands, cuspidors, garden seats, paper cutters, napkin rings, masks, crumb trays and brushes, flasks, lanterns, gongs, and scent bottles.

The list goes on.

I generated this particular inventory from a single catalogue put out by A. A. Vantine & Co., a New York-based specialty store that advertised itself as “Importers from the Empires of Japan, China, India, Turkey, Persia and the East.”

Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, n.d.

Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, 1917.

 For Vantine’s and other traders in goods branded “Oriental,” the Orient or the East was defined in expansive terms; it referred at once to the Far East, the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. These stores collapsed together very different cultures considered “other” and exotic in order to turn a profit. In a sense, they created the Orient by tapping into Western fantasies about the East.

Specialty stores like Vantine’s were not alone in fostering and escalating the fad for Eastern merchandise. Ordinary department stores also got in the game, with, for example, Montgomery Ward & Co. retailing Eastern-inspired women’s fashions, such as kimonos and turbans, and Larkin & Co. selling “Oriental” perfume.

Advertisement for Woman’s Turban, Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue, Spring and Summer, 1927.

Advertisement for Chypre Perfume, Larkin Co. Catalogue, Spring and Summer, 1926.

Sears, Roebuck, & Co. and Marshall Field & Co. favored home furnishings like rugs.

Cover of Marshall Field & Co.’s Home Crest Floor Coverings Catalogue, 1922-1923.

 The trend even extended to foodstuffs. Vantine’s regularly advertised what it called “Oriental delicacies,” including tea and crystallized Chinese fruits, while companies like Hills Bros. billed their dromedary dates as food favored by “princesses of the Orient.”

Early 20th century U.S. consumers could purchase goods not only to put into every room of their home—kitchen, bedroom, living room, bathroom, or den—but also, more intimately, to put on their bodies or in their bodies in the form of foods to eat.

As a scholar of U.S. literature, I wanted to better understand how Eastern objects figure in U.S. narratives, particularly short stories and novels from the 1910s–1930s. These objects made their way into the pages of literary fiction from that period with a surprising frequency. What accounts for this phenomenon? Are authors merely reflecting cultural trends or is something else happening? In short, what narrative work do these Eastern objects perform?

Sometimes these objects appear for sensationalist effects, particularly in middlebrow magazine fiction. For example, one thriller by Richard Washburn Child, “The Screen” (1921, The Pictorial Review), generates most of its tension from the titular Japanese screen, a peculiarly animate object behind which a murderous man hides.

Close-Up of Illustration by Robert McQuinn for Richard Washburn Child’s “The Screen,” The Pictorial Review, Mar. 1921.

Similarly, in May Sinclair’s “The Token” (1922, The Pictorial Review), a small figurine of the Buddha seemingly holds magical powers, including the ability to bring back the dead. The authors use these objects to immediately conjure foreignness and, by extension, mystery and danger. We might think of this practice, which of course relies upon stereotypes about Eastern allure or peril, as form of shorthand.

My research focuses on another sort of shorthand role that Eastern goods play in literature from this period—they routinely signal characters’ social status. For instance, Sinclair Lewis and Edith Wharton used such objects to announce and satirize middle class or nouveau riche characters’ pretensions. In bestsellers like Lewis’s Main Street (1920) and Wharton’s The Glimpses of the Moon (1922), characters purchase and use Eastern objects in a misguided attempt to access what they perceive to be high culture.

For example, Main Street’s Carol Kennicott, a new resident in the small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, throws an “Oriental” housewarming party to show how urbane and creative she is. All of the paraphernalia for the party could have been bought at Vantine’s: guests wear “Oriental robes” and eat chow mein, chop suey, and lychee nuts while sitting amongst Japanese bric-a-brac. While Carol may be more adventurous than her new neighbors, she is not truly worldlier. Lewis pokes fun at her affectations, suggesting that the difference between Gopher Prairie and Carol’s hometown of St. Paul, which she perceives as a sophisticated metropolis, is in fact minimal.

Wharton does something similar with characters like Violet Melrose of Glimpses. Violet decorates her Versailles chalet with Eastern wares, including “leopard skins” and a “pillowy divan.” However, she doesn’t know the difference between China and India.

In lampooning Violet in this way, Wharton goes so far as to suggest that buying Eastern products might preclude genuine knowledge of the East. This type of armchair cosmopolitanism is precisely the sort of experience stores like Vantine offered. As one catalogue declared, “This Book Brings the Offerings of the Orient to Your Door. It enables you to rest comfortably at home in your easy chair, and, at your leisure, select by mail, with absolute confidence, from the largest collection of Oriental goods in America.”

Interior Cover of Vantine’s Catalogue, 1917

The image accompanying this pronouncement features a fantasy bazaar, an oddly mixed space conjuring regions as different as China, Japan, and North Africa. A white woman comfortably wanders down this uncanny street, seemingly not noticing its incongruities. This is the woman that Lewis and Wharton satirize in their 1920s novels. Like Carol Kennicutt and Violet Melrose, she doesn’t know or care about the differences among these cultures. Her goal is merely to buy something that will display to others her supposed refinement.

Post by Margaret A. Toth, associate professor of English and director of the Film Studies minor at Manhattan College. She has published essays in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, MELUS, and Legacy and is currently working on a manuscript titled “Edith Wharton and Post-War Cultures: Reflections on Art and Faith.” https://manhattan.edu/campus-directory/margaret.toth

Posted in Academic Programs, Eastern objects, Ephemera, Library, made in the americas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Blossoming Prints: The Dutch Flower Still Life Tradition at Winterthur

H. F. du Pont in the Azalea Woods at Winterthur, spring 1958.

Winterthur welcomes the first day of spring with printed flowers in bloom! Visitors to Winterthur know that Henry Francis du Pont’s love of flowers and gardens extended to his collecting and decorating practices. In addition to displaying fresh flowers in many rooms at Winterthur, Mr. du Pont exhibited paintings, prints, and drawings of floral bouquets throughout both the museum and his later home at Winterthur, the Cottage.

View of the Main Hall in the Cottage in 1994, showing a Dutch Baroque flower still life painting from the circle of Jacob de Wit (1695–1754), a follower of Jan van Huysum. Circle of Jacob de Wit, Putti supporting Baskets of Flowers with Birds and Fruit, on stone ledges. Oil on canvas, 52 x 46 ½ in. Sold, Christie’s, 1994.

Although he selected these works solely for their decorative appeal, there is a rich historical tradition of flower imagery that is present throughout the collection at Winterthur.

The floral still life genre dates to seventeenth- century Holland, a period known as the Dutch Golden Age. Dutch flower paintings functioned as decorative images, specimens for scientific investigation, and symbols of the passage of time. The works of Jan van Huysum (1682–1749), a leading Dutch flower painter, embody these functions. Van Huysum examined flowers closely so that he could paint them as naturalistically as possible. At the same time, his canvases were very imaginative, combining foreign and local flowers from different seasons in an artificially arranged bouquet.

Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, European artists emulated van Huysum’s bouquets in paintings and prints, and many examples can be found at Winterthur, such as an oil painting inspired by van Huysum and watercolors painted by his followers—all created in the eighteenth century. Van Huysum’s works reached a wider audience through prints however. Two mezzotints at Winterthur represent van Huysum’s lavish compositions in rich tones and delicate surfaces, created by Austrian printmaker Johann Peter Pichler (1765–1807).

Early nineteenth-century Austrian prints after paintings by Jan van Huysum. Johann Pichler after  Jan van Huysum, Still life with flowers and bird’s nest and Still life with flowers and fruit.       Mezzotints, 23 ½ x 17 ½ in., 1994.110.1-2

Pichler probably saw the original van Huysum painting Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest while working in Vienna as it hung there in the Czernin collection (today in the Scottish National Gallery). The printed bouquets seem to be growing wildly before our eyes, barely contained within the boundaries of the plate. The lush still lifes have meticulous botanical details, such as buds in all phases of bloom, gathered in vases decorated with classical nudes.

Extravagant bouquets featuring different varieties of flowers as well as various insects and fruits made the exotic attainable for print consumers near and far. For instance, a number of prints after paintings by Dutch still life artist Pieter Casteels (1648–1749) were published in Britain in the mid-eighteenth century and collected as far away as the American colonies. These prints commemorated the months of the year in flowers. Winterthur owns a full calendar set entitled Flora, published in 1745 by John Bowles to meet the high demand for fanciful flower pictures.

Two hand-colored etchings from a set representing calendar months published in 1745, after 12 paintings of the same subject done by Dutch still life artist Pieter Casteels from 1730–31.            Thomas Bowles and J. Clark after Pieter Casteels, MARCH and JUNE. Line etched with minimal burin work and hand colored, 14 x 10 in. 1966.1048.3 and 1966.1048.6

The set of thirteen etchings featured one bouquet per month plus a title page introducing the pleasures of the garden. All of the flowers were labelled and grouped according to the month in which they bloomed. Some months included flora from America, which was as foreign to the British as the Dutch tulips that stemmed from the Ottoman Empire. Bowles’s bouquets were prized for both botanical accuracy and aesthetic invention, depicting elegantly curved stems, heavy hanging blossoms, and delicate sprigs of leaves in balanced yet asymmetric compositions.

Most floral illustrations were printed in black and white, though they were sometimes hand painted after printing, such as in popular natural histories like William Bartram’s Travels from America. To show flowers in color not only recorded nature more accurately but also enhanced the aesthetic pleasure of looking at flowers in bloom. Printing in color would increase production and allow for potentially more vibrant colors. Two exciting, recent Winterthur acquisitions demonstrate a pioneering color printing technique applied to popular flower still life bouquets that were produced for public consumption.

Two rare, late seventeenth-century Dutch color prints by Johannes Teyler and workshop, after flower bouquet designs by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer. Johannes Teyler, A Bouquet in a Black Urn and A Bouquet in a Brown Urn. Etchings printed in colors à la poupée, 6 ½ x 4 ½ in., 2017.5.1-.2.

Attributed to Dutch engraver and inventor Johannes Teyler (1648–ca. 1709), A Bouquet in a Black Urn and A Bouquet in a Brown Urn are etchings and engravings made with the innovative method of printing à la poupée, where colored ink was selectively applied to the printing plate. This effectively created “printed paintings,” as each impression was unique. These and hundreds of other prints produced in Teyler’s workshop represent the first flourishing of true intaglio color printing in the West.

Like the printmakers who looked to paintings by van Huysum and Casteels, Teyler’s workshop of engravers and designers often took inspiration from existing European paintings. Winterthur’s prints were modelled after painted bouquets by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636–1699), a Flemish flower painter working in France whose compositions included alien and familiar flora. For example, the Black Urn contains a tropical pink mallow and a northern rose in shadow. Teyler’s exotic subjects, dazzling colors, and beautiful designs proved to have international appeal as his prints were collected during or shortly after his own lifetime by British statesmen.

Many of the fantastic flowers illustrated here were recently digitized thanks to a 2016 Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Please enjoy these plush prints in our online database or in person at Winterthur, where you can also appreciate our blooming March Bank in the garden!

For more floral-themed objects in the Winterthur collection, visit the Flowery Thoughts: Ceramic Vases & Floral Ornament exhibit on view in the Galleries at Winterthur.

Post by Liz Simmons, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the University of Delaware and Graduate Assistant in the Museum Collections Department at Winterthur

References

Fowble, E. McSherry. Two centuries of prints in America, 1680-1880: a selective catalogue of the Winterthur Museum collection. Charlottesville: Published for the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum by the University Press of Virginia, 1987, 224-227.

Taylor, Paul. Dutch flower painting, 1600-1720. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Turner, Simon. “Opus typo-chromaticum: The Colour Prints of Johannes Teyler.” In Printing in Colour 1400-1700: History, Techniques, Functions and Receptions. Eds. Ad Stijnman and Elizabeth Savage. Leiden: Brill, 2015, 196-206.

 

Posted in Academic Programs, art collections, Du Pont Family, House, museum collection, Paintings, Prints, Photos & Drawings, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment


The Julia Child of Needlework

The second blog post in our New Accessions series features the needlework of Erica Wilson (1928-2011) recently donated to Winterthur by her family. Quite modern compared to the majority of Winterthur’s decorative arts collection (most of which were made before 1860), Wilson’s works are an exciting new addition to the collection because they exemplify the continued importance and history of needlecraft in America into the twentieth century.

This photograph of Erica Wilson was posted by her husband, modern furniture designer, Vladimir Kagan, to his blog in 2012. He captioned it “Erica Wilson at home with flowers and wool – her favorite pallet for colors.” http://vladimirkagan.typepad.com/vladimir-kagans-blog/2012/02/

Known as “America’s First Lady of Stitchery” and the “Julia Child of Needlework,” Wilson was a key leader of the needlework revival that began in the 1960s. One of the most prominent and successful needlework entrepreneurs of the second half of the twentieth century, Wilson inspired a new generation to try their hand at traditional crafts that were long out of fashion.

Wilson was born in Tidworth, England, in 1928 and was raised in England, Scotland, and Bermuda. According to family tradition, it was Wilson’s mother who suggested she consider attending the Royal School of Needlework in London (RSN), a fateful decision that ultimately shaped Wilson’s life and career.

Founded in 1872, the RSN revived the art of hand embroidery that had almost disappeared with the rise of machines for textile production. The school quickly attracted students and staff. By the beginning of the 20th century, RSN employed about 150 women, who taught classes and worked special commissioned projects, such as the gold embroidery on Queen Elizabeth II’s Purple Coronation Robe of Estate. The project was worked during Erica Wilson’s time at the school (1948­-1954), and it took a total of 3,500 hours to complete.

Royal School of Needlework employees embroidering Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Robe of State in 1953. From http://www.thehousedirectory.com/blog/royal_school_of_needlework

Queen Elizabeth II with her coronation maids of honor, 1953. From http://orderofsplendor.blogspot.com/2012/02/flashback-friday-queens-coronation-gown.html

Several items now in the Winterthur collection highlight Wilson’s training in traditional needlework techniques, such as crewelwork, whitework, blackwork, and goldwork.

Crewelwork “Elizabethan Lady,” by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1973. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.5.2.

Whitework “Elizabethan Lady,” created by Erica Wilson at the Royal School of Needlework, London, circa 1948-1952. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.5.1.

Blackwork vest panel embroidery, by Erica Wilson, after 1954. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.7.

Goldwork embroidery, by Erica Wilson, after 1954, Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.6.

As a student, she proved her proficiency in these different techniques by creating samplers. Her long, narrow reference sampler shows her mastery of the seven basic stitches of needlework (stem, satin, chain, cross, back, weaving, and filing) and also her ability to work in a variety of materials, including silk, wool, and metallic thread.

Reference Sampler, created by Erica Wilson at the Royal School of Needlework, London, circa 1948-1952. Gift of the Family of Erica Wilson 2015.0047.001.

After graduating in 1952 with a Diploma in Embroidery and Design, Wilson stayed on at the Royal School an additional two years as an “Instructress.” In 1954, she was recruited by Margaret Parshall, an American visiting the RSN, to teach at a needlework school she was establishing in Millbrook, New York. Wilson’s reputation in the United States blossomed quickly and led to new opportunities: additional teaching invitations (including at the Cooper Hewitt School in New York City), the production of popular correspondence courses that taught the technique of crewelwork (or embroidery with wool thread), and in 1962, the publication of her first instructional book, Crewel Embroidery. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, the book was a hit, selling over a million copies. Its success subsequently led to the publication of over a dozen more books over the next several decades.

Erica Wilson’s first publication, Crewel Embroidery, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1962. http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/23/living/by-hand/the-embroidery-influence-of-erica-wilson-lingers-on/

Encouraged and supported throughout her career by her husband and business partner, famed modern furniture designer Vladimir Kagan, Wilson also pioneered several new methods for introducing novice audiences to needlecraft. When creating her custom designs, Wilson branched out beyond historic tradition. She designed whimsical patterns that appealed to modern crafters and drew inspiration from some of her favorite children’s books, including the stories of Beatrix Potter. Many of these designs were shared through “Erica Wilson’s Creative Needlework Society,” established in 1971 as a division of the Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc., that sent out needlework projects to tens of thousands of society members.

Hunca Munca from Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), around 1972. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.21.

Peter Rabbit, “Love is a shared umbrella,” by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1979. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.20

Jacobean-scalloped flower crewel correspondence course kit, instruction manual, and completed embroidery, distributed by Erica Wilson’s Creative Needlework Society, after 1971. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.70.1 and 2015.47.68.1

Her most visible public endeavor was her television program Erica, which Wilson hosted beginning in 1971 on Boston’s PBS affiliate WGBH and broadcast nationally. Episodes of the program focused on an individual technique such as cross-stitch and bargello or themes like sentiments in stitches.

Bargello spot sampler, by Erica Wilson (1928-2011), before 1973. Gift of the family of Erica Wilson 2015.47.2.

During the 15-minute show, Wilson gave a brief history of the subject, displayed several historic examples, and used her own works in progress to break down and teach her viewers basic techniques. Erica was filmed in the studio next door to where Julia Child’s The French Chef was filmed, and Wilson’s efforts to “demystify” the art of embroidery earned her the nickname “The Julia Child of Needlework.” (OpenVault by WGHS has recently digitized nearly 24 episodes of Erica, which can be viewed online).

Opening credits to the “Crewel Point” episode of Erica, first aired January 25, 1972. The television program ran on PBS stations nationally from 1971 to 1972, and 1975 to 1976. http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_41245820CE9940B9935D0285C8C7B7AA

Wilson’s legacy lives on through the over 80 examples of her work now in the Winterthur collection. Her works will aid future scholars studying American textile and business history, and as she always aimed to do, will continue to inspire new people to embrace the beauty and fun of embroidery.

Several of Erica Wilson’s needlework pieces will be on display in May 2017 in Collecting for the Future: Recent Additions to the Winterthur Collection.

Post by Nalleli Guillen, Sewell C. Biggs Curatorial Fellow, Museum Collections Department, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

References

Fox, Margalit. “Erica Wilson Dies at 83; Led a Rebirth of Needleworking,” The New York Times, December 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/nyregion/erica-wilson-dies-at-83-led-a-rebirth-of-needleworking.html

Hilker, Anne. Unpublished interviews with Vladimir Kagan on his late wife, Erica Wilson, May 9 and 10, 2014. (Special thanks to Anne, who presented her knowledge of Erica Wilson’s life and work during a work shop at Winterthur’s 2016 Needlework Conference and graciously shared selections of her Ph.D. dissertation research with us).

Reif, Rita. “Her Home is Also Her Studio—And She’s Very Happy About It,” The New York Times, December 20, 1971.

Sikarskie, Amanda Grace. “Erica Wilson: The Julia Child of Needlework.” http://openvault.wgbh.org/exhibits/needlework/article#footnote-2

Wilson, Erica. Crewel Embroidery. New York: Charles Scribern’s Sons. 1963.

Wilson, Erica. Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1973.

Posted in Decorative Arts, Exhibitions, galleries, museum collection, needlework, Textiles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Paper Dolls and the Cycling Craze

The 1890s was a momentous decade for women. Not only was the suffragette movement gaining worldwide momentum with New Zealand and South Australia enfranchising women, but sea changes in fashion also transformed the daily lives of women. Despite dress reform advocates warning women of the dangers of tight corsets and fighting for sensible, non-restrictive clothing for decades, it was an invention that made practical changes which years of rhetoric could not— the bicycle.

The bicycling craze swept the nation in the 1890s, with insatiable demand keeping nearly 2,000 manufacturers in business. Numerous manuals were published to instruct riders on road etiquette, proper breathing and riding technique, and accident prevention. Sometimes referred to as steel horses, bikes were a cheaper, faster, and more adaptable means of transportation that fostered both self-reliance and sociability. Earlier uncomfortable and unsafe models transformed into safety bicycles featuring cushion and pneumatic tires, coaster brakes, and most importantly a drop frame that was easier for women to mount and navigate.

1880s trade card advertising ordinary bicycles with the large front wheel and much smaller rear wheel. These models were impossible for women to ride with long skirts, with slower tricycles deemed more appropriate for their restrictive clothing. Col. 9, Downs Collection, Winterthur Library

The sport’s attractions elicited endorsements from such luminaries in the women’s movement as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Anthony stated “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”  Stanton also noted the connection between women’s health and the health of the nation, commenting that the bicycle will “make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.”

All this goodwill and interest in bicycling helped to propel the liberating direction that women’s clothing had been moving in. By 1890 the unnecessary bustle was finally eliminated, and the following decade witnessed shortened skirts (with extra fabric seemingly migrating to sleeves) and loosened corsets, enabling women to effortlessly cycle their way to good health and independence.

Paper doll bicycle costume from an 1895 issue of The Boston Sunday Herald showing a shorter skirt. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

The more radical bloomers, enjoying only a limited popularity since the 1840s, finally became widely accepted as the standard cycling costume for women.

Dolls from an 1898 Art Supplement to The Philadelphia Press cycling their way to freedom. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Paper dolls, helping to fuel the craze especially among young girls, easily and immediately sported the new fashions. With the print explosion in the second half of the 1800s, paper dolls were readily circulated in serial publications like newspapers and women’s magazines. In the mid-1890s, the periodicals Boston Sunday Herald and The Philadelphia Press offered the latest cycling fashions for all readers to enjoy and imitate.

Advertisers wisely created paper dolls as a tool in their marketing arsenals. The Pope Manufacturing Company, the largest bicycle maker in the world at the time, promoted its lightweight models to women and young girls through a series of dolls with detailed clothing descriptions. In a time when images of celebrities could be used without compensation, the stage actress Georgia Cayvan (1857-1906) may or may not have approved of her commercial appearance for Pope. At least her six outfits used in Pope’s promotion (a series mailed to anyone in exchange for five 2-cent stamps), were designed by leading couture houses like British high-end sportswear firm Redfern. Garbed in unlined, loose-fitting Zouave trousers, or bloomers, and a short jacket and face protected from harsh winds by chiffon, one Cayvan doll stands astride her Columbia bicycle ready for adventure.

Georgia Cayvan doll modeling her loose bloomers for ease in pedaling and maneuvering on her Pope bicycle. Reverse details her clothing. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Georgia Cayvan doll modeling her loose bloomers for ease in pedaling and maneuvering on her Pope bicycle. Reverse details her clothing. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Although it’s unknown whether Cayvan actually wore an outfit such as this one, it was undoubtedly much more comfortable and practical than the Libby Glass Company glass dress she had donned and exhibited at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Thankfully glass dresses never became a fad.

Cayvan in her glass dress at the World’s Columbian Exposition. T500 C53b F, Printed Book and Periodical Collection

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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Artists’ Handmade Paper Dolls

One day I decided to hunt our Waldron Collection for handmade paper dolls by known or professional women artists. My interest was piqued after using illustrator Frances Brundage’s paper dolls from the 1890s set “Children from Many Lands,” sold by Raphael Tuck & Sons, in a library exhibit, and I hoped to find dolls that artists may have created for their own amusement. “Little Women” fans know of the paper dolls played with by the Alcott sisters, presumably made by Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister May Alcott, later known for her still life paintings. After all, creating paper dolls is an entertaining way to practice rendering poses, facial expressions, and clothing.

Sarah Goodridge’s self-portrait, 1829. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, posted originally on Flickr as Miniature Painting, Sarah Goodridge: Self Portrait by freeparking

Our Waldron Collection database lists dolls made by Sarah Goodridge (1788–1853). What a find, for while not now a household name, miniature painter Goodridge (sometimes Goodrich) was a respected artist sought after by many famous people in the early 1800s. A humble beginning that began with first self-instruction and then evolved to training by an unidentified miniature painter, propelled her to open her own studio in Boston in 1820 and take lessons from Gilbert Stuart, the foremost American portraitist.  In several years, she was in regular demand by not only her former teacher Stuart but other notables such as China trader Russell Sturgis, newspaper publisher and author Isaiah Thomas, and Senator Daniel Webster.

Upon looking at the several dolls and various outfits attributed to Goodridge with our cataloger Laura Parrish, it was immediately apparent that at least two sets of hands, and maybe a few more, created them because while all the dolls are of a similar size between 2 and 3 inches, the clothing styles date from two different time periods. Mrs. Waldron, the collection’s donor, thankfully kept a 1940 letter by a Goodridge descendant’s husband stating one set was made by Sarah Goodridge, the other by her great niece Martha Harris Appleton Brown (1843–1919).

The first set contains one doll with four dresses in the high-waisted, slim silhouette style of the early 1810s, and therefore we can safely say made by Goodridge. The dresses have tags meant to be folded over the doll but don’t show much evidence of being played with as the creases aren’t deep. Goodridge was in her 20s at the time, early in her career, but obviously having advanced manual dexterity to execute them. Never having married, Goodridge lived with various siblings throughout most of her life and helped to support them with her artwork. In 1851 she moved in with her sister Beulah for her last two years.  Perhaps she instilled her love of paper dolls in Beulah’s granddaughter Martha and gave instructions on making them.

Doll with 4 dresses. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Doll in 1810s dress. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

The second set consists of several dolls, four girls, a boy, and a baby, with around 36 costumes. The fashions are from the early 1860s and support the statement that Brown made them. The back of one dress shows the paper was cut from an 1862 published report. Instead of sporting tags like the Goodridge clothing, these costumes were designed showing fronts and backs with slits at the neck to be placed over a doll’s head. Interestingly, most slits aren’t large enough to fit over the dolls’ heads—was this an error in craftsmanship or were these meant to be admired and not played with? While most dolls and clothing appear to be drawn by the same hand, a few don’t display the same level of skill and precision. The eldest of seven children, perhaps Martha used paper dolls as an activity with her younger siblings making most, but not all of the examples. While we can never say with utmost certainty who created these dolls, they were lovingly preserved for several generations of the family and now by us for all to admire.

Dolls with early 1860s outfits. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Dolls with early 1860s outfits. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Doll and dresses, with too-small slit in the green dress. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This is the second post in a series about paper dolls housed in the Winterthur Library’s Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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The History of Little Paper Dolls

It may seem incongruous that a renowned research library for the study of American decorative arts has an outstanding collection of paper dolls. This extensive and greatly used collection was donated in the 1970s and 1980s by Maxine Waldron, art teacher, amateur artist, and enthusiastic doll collector.  Miraculously surviving despite the medium’s fragility, these paper dolls offer much information to today’s researchers on fashion history and changing attitudes toward childhood. The collection spans several centuries and includes an assortment of dolls, such as handmade and printed dolls as well as ones from advertising, newspapers and magazines, and ones of well-known figures. The collection also includes dolls accompanied by boxes, books, cloth costumes, and greeting cards. Several sets from the late 1700s and early 1800s were fashion plates and not intended for children’s play.

The History of Little Fanny booklet. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Chapter 6 instructions on dressing Fanny. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

In 1810, printsellers and stationers Samuel Williams and Joseph Carr Fuller, located at the imaginatively named Temple of Fancy in Rathbone Place, London, published what is believed to be the first commercially printed paper doll intended for children’s use. Known as a toy book, The History of Little Fanny consists of a paper doll, several costume changes, and a small booklet housed in a slipcase. Fanny is not a full-length doll, only a head and bust. When the doll is slipped behind a costume, it measures only 4½ inches tall. Keeping with the early 19th-century notion of children’s toys imparting a much-needed morality tale, the story of Fanny is a lesson in obedience, with instructions on dressing her to symbolize her status in society.

At the beginning of this redemption story, told in couplets, Fanny, dressed in a white frock holding a doll, is a vain, idle child who is more concerned with her fine clothing and amusements than cultivating her mind with books. Rebelling against her mother’s edict forbidding her to unnecessarily wear her new fur-trimmed coat, muff, and bonnet, Fanny skips out of her house with her “wicked maid” only to befall tragedy when a beggar girl robs her of her finery, leaving Fanny in the thief’s tattered clothes. An unidentified woman hires Fanny as an errand girl and she then proceeds to work her way up the chain, first delivering fish, then milk and eggs. Fanny sports several, fairly decent outfits during her travails: a cloak with hat in hand to denote the beggar’s clothing and three dresses and accoutrements appropriate for delivering goods. Her luck changes one day when Fanny is tasked with bringing butter to her mother. Upon recognizing her house and afraid her mother will reject her, Fanny sits on the steps to cry. Her mother, seeing her grief-stricken daughter, folds her into a hug and all is forgiven. The last chapter concludes with a repentant Fanny attired in a modest frock holding a book in hand to reflect her new studious demeanor.

Fanny in an errand girl costume. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This 13-page toy book is targeted to a young audience, so adult readers shouldn’t focus on the gaps in the story (mainly the absence of a timeline that informs the length of Fanny’s suffering). Somewhat puzzling is Fanny’s ignorance of her address. However, most shocking are the lines “Had she but known her mother’s watchful eye/Follow’d her close, and was for ever nigh,” revealing her mother orchestrated or was at least aware of the punishment. This seems to go beyond a lesson in obedience.

Nevertheless, Little Fanny proved to be immensely popular, was reprinted numerous times, and even spawned other iterations. Advertised as the companion to Fanny, The History and Adventures of Little Henry also debuted in 1810 with Ellen, or the Naughty Girl Reclaimed close on its heels the following year. Ellen’s story resembles Fanny’s. It is of a disobedient girl who runs off to play in her nice clothing. The story takes a departure when Ellen falls into a muddy ditch ruining her clothes, thereby angering her father, who sends her to the school in the village kept by Ellen’s nurse. Ellen reacts very badly by throwing a book in the nurse’s face. Resisting her punishment, she runs away to the woods where a gypsy steals her cloak, which forces her into gathering sticks for work. Ellen falls ill, frightening the “cruel” gypsies, and a woman rescues her, nursing her back to health and giving her fruit to sell. Luckily, her mother catches sight of her, and Ellen’s return to grace is completed. This is a more convoluted story than Fanny’s, but at least her mother wasn’t a participant in the punishment.

Ellen in the woods after running away. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

Instead of following the same disobedient formula, Henry’s adventures show how cruel fate can alter the course of someone’s life. Born to wealthy parents, baby Henry is left unattended outdoors one day by a careless nursemaid and swooped up by a gypsy. Despite his parents searching for him, Henry is not found and is raised by gypsies until sold to a chimney sweeper. Henry, running away from this life of drudgery, becomes a drummer in a soldier band and then a sailor working his way up to midshipman, respected by all. Somehow his parents finally discover his whereabouts, and a happy reunion takes place.
What strikes me as fascinating in the latter two stories of Ellen and Henry is the appearance of gypsies as an evil force. England’s history of dealing with Gypsies, Romas, and Travellers has always been a contentious one, beginning as early as 1530 under King Henry VIII with laws forbidding them to enter the country or face deportation. Despite the repeal of some anti-Gypsy laws in 1780, the fear still existed with new vagrancy legislation enacted in the 1820s, some of which is still on the books today. These early children’s toy books reflect the anti-Gypsy sentiment of the times, giving readers today another lesson in history not intended by the original creators.

Henry as a midshipman. Col. 121, Waldron Collection, Winterthur Library

This is the first post in a series about paper dolls housed in the Winterthur Library’s Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.
Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

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Extra-Illustrated Books in the Winterthur Library

“Have you Grangerized?” might have been a question asked in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, mostly by people in the United Kingdom and United States. Rev. James Granger (1723–76), an English cleric and print collector, started a fad when in 1769 he published his Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution. The book is essentially a catalog of portrait prints of noteworthy English people, including royalty, scientists, politicians, and commoners, who had somehow achieved distinction. In Biographical History, Granger supplemented his text with illustrations, incorporating portraits originally published elsewhere, thus creating an extra-illustrated book and beginning an unintended craze that lasted for decades.

Grangerizing was not without its critics. Bibliophiles and their sympathizers decried the destruction of books— books that were dismantled to create extra-illustrated volumes and books that were cut up, so their prints could be harvested for extra-illustrated projects. Englishman of letters, art historian, and antiquarian Horace Walpole went so far as to suggest that Grangerizing was responsible for driving up the price of engravings since publishers produced them expressly for the increasingly popular Grangerizing market. As well, dealers occasionally produced extra-illustrated books with a view to selling them at enhanced prices. Other dealers and collectors clipped signatures from handwritten letters and documents, ruining the originals for all time.

Extra-illustrated books typically include prints, autographs, small pamphlets, maps, original art, and handwritten letters. Many of these items are not special, but occasionally important ones turn up. For example, while assembling an exhibition of extra-illustrated books at the Huntington Library, curators Stephen Tabor and Lori Anne Ferrell discovered a pre-Revolutionary letter George Washington had written to his brother Samuel. It was thought to have been lost. An autograph collector purchased it in 1886 and had it bound in an extra-illustrated book. Henry Huntington acquired the book in 1922.

Winterthur Library’s holdings of extra-illustrated books may be modest in size, but there are noteworthy examples. An edition of The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, has an envelope addressed to a relative of book illustrator Edna Cooke Shoemaker, identifying the owner of the volume. In Description of a Plan for the Improvement of the Central Park, a letter pasted in at the front, addressed to civil engineer Montgomery Meigs, identifies Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux as park planners. And, together with annotations and pencil corrections, Box Furniture: How to Make a Hundred Useful Articles for the Home, by Louise Brigham, has a tipped-in copy of a pamphlet of Brigham’s lectures.

The most impressive extra-illustrated volume in the library, however, is Book of the Artists… (New York: G. P. Putnam & Son, 1867), by Henry T. Tuckerman (1813–71), a Boston-born writer, critic, and essayist. His 639-page single-volume work, monumental enough in its own right, was taken by Alfred Stebbins, a librarian at the San Francisco Mercantile Library Association, and Grangerized into an extra-illustrated two-volume work that includes prints, autographs, and letters from many of the artists portrayed by Tuckerman.

Most of the artists are well known to us today: John Vanderlyn, Thomas Sully, S. F. B. Morse, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Cole, Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, Albert Bierstadt, Delawarean F. O. C. Darley, and the list goes on. To supplement Tuckerman’s words, Stebbins contacted the artists to ask for their autographs, engravings of their work, and portrait prints. Many of the artists seemed accustomed to responding to such a request. For example, Thomas Sully wrote: “I did not receive your first letter, which requested my autograph, or would readily have obeyed the request.” Morse went even further, stating that if he discovered autographs of other artists among his papers he would send them along. Daniel Huntington, president of the National Academy of Design, actually did, forwarding a note he had from John Kensett. It took portrait, miniature, and genre painter Louis Lang, who had mislaid Stebbins’s request, a year to respond, but he did.

Thomas Sully

Thomas Sully

Sully2

S. F. B. Morse

S. F. B. Morse

resized morseIllustrator Thomas Nast, known to us today for his iconic Christmas and political images, was perhaps the most generous of all, sending a handwritten reminiscence—unfortunately, now incomplete—about the beginning of his career. In it he wrote about his teenage experiences at Mr. Bryan’s gallery in New York, where he had gone to copy pictures that were on display and where, at 14 years of age, he was hired as doorkeeper. While employed he still copied: “There were seldom more than half a dozen visitors in a day, so that the taking of their money would cause but a very slight interruption to the labors of the young artist.” Two years later, Nast approached newspaper publisher Frank Leslie about a job as a draftsman. “What, my boy, said he [Leslie], so you think you can draw well enough for my paper, do you?” To which Nast responded: “I would like to try.” Leslie then asked Nast to go to the Hoboken, New Jersey, ferry terminal and “bring me a drawing of the scene just as the boat is coming into the dock.” Nast concluded his story by saying, “Mr. Leslie saw at a glance its merits and defects, and at once made a place for him in his establishment, at boy’s wages of five dollars a week.”

Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast

NastAlfred Stebbins’s Grangerized two volumes are part of another collection, that of art historian John Davis Hatch, who collected material documenting the development of American painting. Anyone interested in seeing Stebbins’s books or Hatch’s records should ask for Collection 331 in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

Post by E. Richard McKinstry, Library Director and Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian at Winterthur

Additional Reference Information:

James Granger: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Granger

Grangerized books: http://huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary_02.aspx?id=12996

Tuckerman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Theodore_Tuckerman

Book of the artists (not extra-illustrated): http://archive.org/stream/bookofartistsame00tuckerm#page/n7/mode/2up

Thomas Nast: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Nast

Hatch finding aid: http://findingaid.winterthur.org/html/HTML_Finding_Aids/COL0331.htm

Hatch obit: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/09/nyregion/john-davis-hatch-museum-director-89.html

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The Remarkable Life and Career of a Free African-American Cabinetmaker

Dressing Bureau attributed to Thomas Day, ca. 1840. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.0039.

Dressing Bureau attributed to Thomas Day, ca. 1840. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.0039.

This mid-19th-century mahogany veneer dressing bureau, one of Winterthur’s newest furniture acquisitions, is a visually striking object with an even more striking history. Although the dresser conforms to popular urban furniture designs of its era (with its distinctive carved bracket feet; whimsical,  pierced looking glass frame; and the open pierced scrolls that flank the front), its maker and his career were highly unusual. The piece was made by the Milton, North Carolina, shop of Thomas Day (1801–1861).

 Thomas Day Historic Marker in front of the Union Tavern in Milton, North Carolina, Thomas Day’s home and workshop. Erected in 1999 by the Division of Archives and History (Marker Number G-93). This particular image taken from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ncccha/biographies/thomasday.html

Thomas Day Historic Marker in front of the Union Tavern in Milton, North Carolina, Thomas Day’s home and workshop. Erected in 1999 by the Division of Archives and History (Marker Number G-93). This image taken from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ncccha/biographies/thomasday.html

Tracing this dresser back to Thomas Day tells us an important story about Day, his family, and his exceptional career in the context of the antebellum South. He was a free African-American cabinetmaker, who, at the height of his career in the 1850s, operated the most prosperous furniture business in North Carolina. He was one of very few free African-Americans who found success as a trained artisan, in a period when most free men worked as unskilled laborers or servants. In his workshop were both white and black and free and enslaved workers, and yet he was also a supporter of abolitionist activities. Remarkably, during his lifetime he also earned the patronage and respect of his white southern neighbors. He did this despite the overarching racial tensions of the age and the fear that some power-wielding white Americans felt regarding the growing ranks of free African-Americans in their communities.

Hand-colored lithograph titled “Practical Amalgamation (Musical Soirée),” ca. 1839, by Edward Williams Clay. In the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, 153050. (http://gigi.mwa.org/netpub/server.np?quickfind=153050&sorton=filename&catalog=catalog&site=public&template=results.np)

Hand-colored lithograph titled “Practical Amalgamation (Musical Soirée),” ca. 1839, by Edward Williams Clay. In the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, 153050. http://gigi.mwa.org/netpub/server.np?quickfind=153050&sorton=filename&catalog=catalog&site=public&template=results.np

Several generations of mixed-race unions, where the children born inherited their freedom from their white mothers, established the Day family as members of the South’s growing class of free people of color. Thomas’s father, John Day Sr., was the son of a free black man and a white indentured servant. As an adult, John was trained as a cabinetmaker, and he passed that skillset down to his two sons, John Jr. and Thomas.*

President James Madison’s 1816 membership certificate to the American Colonization Society. The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mjm.18_0589_0590/

President James Madison’s 1816 membership certificate to the American Colonization Society. The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mjm.18_0589_0590/

The choices made by John Jr. and Thomas exemplify some of the few options available to free men of color in the early 1800s. Although John Jr. did work for a time as a cabinetmaker, in 1821 he began training as a Baptist preacher, and in 1830, he embarked on a new mission. That year he moved his own young family to Africa, to the newly formed free black colony of Liberia. This controversial plan was the brainchild of the American Colonization Society, formed in 1816, founded on the credo that migration and colonization could be the solution to racial unrest in America.

Thomas Day business advertisement, published in the Milton Gazette & Roanoke Advertiser in March 1827. North Carolina Office of Archives and History (although I snagged the better quality digital image from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128849634)

Thomas Day business advertisement, published in the Milton Gazette & Roanoke Advertiser in March 1827. North Carolina Office of Archives and History  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128849634

In contrast, in the 1820s Thomas established himself permanently in the growing mercantile center of Milton, North Carolina, and actively cultivated his social and business ties with his white neighbors. He became a respected member of his community, admired for his work ethic and craftsmanship, and also purportedly light-skinned enough that he could be conceptualized as separate from the larger black community.

The Union Tavern in Milton, North Carolina. Photo by Tim Buchman

The Union Tavern in Milton, North Carolina. Photo by Tim Buchman

That respect ran deep enough that in 1830, Milton’s white community supported him in his legal battle to bring his free African-American bride, Virginia-born Aquilla Wilson, to live with him in North Carolina. An 1826 law banned free people of color from migrating into North Carolina, but a written petition of support signed by 61 white citizens of Milton and Caswell counties gained them an official exemption. Signed by many prominent white citizens, the petition argued that Thomas was a “cabinetmaker by trade, a first rate workman, steady and industrious man,” and above all else, “a highminded, good and valuable citizen.” Thomas Day continued to work in Milton, with his workshop in the Union Tavern building, which still stands on Milton’s main street, until just before his death in 1861.

: Minutes of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in the United States, 1835. Fully digitized by the University of Delaware’s “Colored Conventions: Bringing Nineteenth-Century Black Organizing to Digital Life,” http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/277.

: Minutes of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in the United States, 1835. Fully digitized by the University of Delaware’s “Colored Conventions: Bringing Nineteenth-Century Black Organizing to Digital Life,” http://coloredconventions.org/items/show/277.

Contrary to the fact that he himself owned slaves, new research has revealed his secret ties to northern abolitionists. In the spring of 1835, Thomas attended “the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color in the United States” in Philadelphia, where he most likely met with abolitionists.

It would have been noteworthy that an affluent southern man attended such an event. But for Thomas Day, a free man of color whose position depended upon his careful negotiation of the color line, it was radical. Evidence does suggest that Thomas kept his potential abolitionist sentiments concealed from his southern neighbors, his circumstances forcing him to live a kind of double life. Nevertheless, he did maintain ties to northern abolitionist friends throughout his life and sent his children to be educated at Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, a school run by a Methodist cleric, whom contemporaries described as a “flaming abolitionist.” Thomas Day’s life was complex and contradictory and this dressing bureau provides a fascinating portal through which to glimpse some of the struggles faced by America’s small minority of free people of color prior to the Civil War.

The bureau, along with other recent Winterthur acquisitions, will be on view in the Galleries in the spring 2017. Stay tuned in the coming months for more posts on new acquisitions!

*In the first posting of this blog, the author had reported the tale of Thomas Day’s father John being “born to a white woman and her coach driver.” However, new research by Thomas Day historians Patricia D. Rogers and Laurel C. Sneed has largely discredited this story, popularized in the correspondence of Thomas’s brother, John Day Jr. Their father was likely also of free black Virginia roots, like Thomas Day’s maternal grandparents, the Stewarts. The author kindly thanks Laurel Sneed for her comments and bringing this oversight to her attention.

Post by Nalleli Guillen, Sewell C. Biggs Curatorial Fellow, Museum Collections Department, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

 

References

Berlin, Ira. Slaves without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South. New York: Pantheon Books. 1974

Dunbar, Erica Armstrong. A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2008.

Marshall, Patricia Phillips and Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll. Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2010.

Nash, Gary B. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1988.

Prown, Jonathan. “The Furniture of Thomas Day: A Reevaluation.” Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 33, No. 4, Race and Ethnicity in American Material Life (Winter, 1998): 215-229.

Rogers, Patricia Dane and Laurel Crone Sneed. “The Missing Chapter in the Life of Thomas Day.” American Furniture (2013): 100-154.

http://thomasday.net

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Traces of Philadelphia in an Early Silkwork Picture

Needlework picture, probably depicting the meeting of Isaac and Rebecca. Attributed to Nancy Ann Carlisle, ca. 1690–1740. Mid-Atlantic region, possibly worked in Philadelphia. Embroidered silk on satin weave silk. Museum purchase with funds provided by Lammot du Pont Copeland (1953.0152.007A). Courtesy Winterthur Museum.

Needlework picture, probably depicting the meeting of Isaac and Rebecca. Attributed to
Nancy Ann Carlisle, ca. 1690–1740. Mid-Atlantic region, possibly worked in Philadelphia.
Embroidered silk on satin weave silk. Museum purchase with funds provided by Lammot
du Pont Copeland (1953.0152.007A). Courtesy Winterthur Museum.

Samplers and needlework pictures can provide a tantalizing sense of connection to early  American history, serving as rare links to the personal experiences of girls and young women of the era. Even more alluring for their mystery are those pieces passed down without signature or documentation, as is the case with a silkwork picture in Winterthur’s collections since the 1950s. Long said by family tradition to have been made in early eighteenth-century rural New Jersey, this elaborate piece is made still more complex by a reinvestigation of its origins.

Both its old-fashioned visual style and its biblical subject are suggestive of seventeenth-century English embroidery tradition (see footnote 1) . Points of comparison include the Stuart-style dress, the simply executed facial features, and motifs such as the rolling hills and distant tents, the abundant small animals and flowers, the anthropomorphized sun, and the prevalence of oak trees with snake-like trunks and lumpy leaves.

But what of the family stories that the piece was worked in colonial New Jersey by a girl named Ann Carlisle? Genealogical research reveals nothing to support the traditional creation place. Yet, there are possible connections between the previous owner and an early eighteenth-century Carlisle family, well-off settlers of Sussex County, Delaware (see footnote 2). Given the region’s proximity to Philadelphia, it’s possible that just such an affluent Delaware family may have sent their daughter to be educated in the city (see footnote 3). In further exploring the visual clues, we find additional encouragement for a Philadelphia connection.

The picture’s mount represents a powerful piece of evidence (see footnote 4). With the needlework laced to a cedar board through a series of small drilled holes, the mount strongly resembles those of the two Sarah Wistar pictures in Winterthur’s collection and, according to curator Linda Eaton, of other work from the Philadelphia school of Elizabeth Marsh and her daughter Ann (see footnote 5). Eaton has argued that mounts and original frames are crucial, and often overlooked, factors in discerning the origins of samplers and embroidered pictures. The piece under discussion may be another case in point, with the mount providing important support for a possible Philadelphia origin (see footnote 6).

Striking visual similarities to other Philadelphia needlework pictures strengthen the possible connection to this city, and to the Marsh school, in particular. In a 1738 sconce by Margaret Wistar, sister of Sarah Wistar and a likely student of Elizabeth Marsh (see footnote 7), we see multiple points of comparison (see footnote 2). The treatment of the sun, dog, sheep, and butterfly are all notably similar to these same elements in the present picture. The flying golden birds in particular share the same positioning of body, tail, and wings, the same tufted head, and the same groupings of feathers on the tail and wings. This correspondence carries over to other examples of the same subject, including a circa 1730 picture executed by Ann Marsh herself (see footnote 8).

Sconce, Margaret Wistar, Philadelphia, 1738. Silk on silk satin with linen border. Courtesy Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm, Philadelphia.

Sconce, Margaret Wistar, Philadelphia, 1738. Silk on silk
satin with linen border. Courtesy Wyck Historic House, Garden
and Farm, Philadelphia.

Detail of needlework picture by Ann Carlisle

Detail of needlework picture by Ann Carlisle

The five-pointed flower in the middle right section of the present picture is an additional motif that appears in the work of Ann Marsh and her students, and, as noted by Amanda Isaac, in Philadelphia silkwork in general (see footnote 9). Comparing details from the present picture and one of Sarah Wistar’s works at Winterthur, we find a particularly strong visual correspondence. In each of the buff-colored flowers shown, the center is executed in French knots, and the smooth, single-lobed leaves are skillfully shaded using multiple hues of silk, suggesting yet another similarity between the piece under discussion and the needlework of Philadelphia.

Despite a lack of genealogical or historical evidence to strengthen the proposed Philadelphia origin, these visual and technical points of comparison are compelling reasons to attribute the piece to the area. A connection to the Marsh school represents an even more tantalizing possibility: in the annals of American needlework history, Elizabeth Marsh is a major figure, credited with setting the course for the development of Philadelphia’s sophisticated style (see footnote 10). A confirmed connection to his teacher could strengthen our understanding of an important needlework school. Further, in this picture, we may have an unusual early survival of particularly elaborate work, challenging our assumptions about the level of accomplishment of women and girls of the era.

Needlework picture, detail, Sarah Wistar, 1752. Philadelphia. Museum purchase (1964.0120.002 A). Courtesy Winterthur Museum.

Needlework picture, detail, Sarah Wistar, 1752. Philadelphia.
Museum purchase (1964.0120.002 A). Courtesy Winterthur Museum.

A Winterthur Primer reprinted with permission from Antiques & Fine Art Magazine.

Post by Emelie Gevalt, a second-year Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture.

Footnotes:

  1. The resemblance to seventeenth-century needlework, coupled with the similarities to significantly later works, as discussed in this article, make it particularly challenging to date this piece. A wide date range of 1690–1740 is appropriate until further research can be done on needlework in the early colonial period.

  2. The piece descended in the family Harry M. Wilson of Cumberland County, New Jersey; Wilson’s great-grandfather was William Carlisle, who, according to a death record, was originally from Delaware. Although no definitive link has been established between William Carlisle and the Carlisles of Sussex County, Delaware, there are instances of both families using the surname Pemberton as a first name for their sons, suggesting a common ancestry. See the 1850 Maurice River, New Jersey, census record for William Carlisle, and Esther Littleford Woodworth-Barnes, “Captain Thomas Pemberton (ca. 1655–ca 1717) of Maryland and Delaware, “National Genealogical Society Quarterly: 265-269. Photocopied record, Family History Folders, “Pemberton.”Delaware Historical Society Research Library. For additional documentation of these findings and for further genealogical research, see Emelie Gevalt, “From England to Philadelphia: Distinguishing Influences from Origins in a Silkwork Picture,” Winterthur registrar files, 2016.

  3. I am indebted to Gloria Seaman Allen, Cynthia Steinhoff, and Amy Finkel for these suggestions, in email correspondence with the author, April 2016.

  4. Linda Eaton, in conversation with the author, March 2016.
  5.  Linda Eaton, “Needlework and their Frames: Multimedia Objects. Winterthur Primer,” Antiques and Fine Art Magazine (14thAnniversary, vol. XIII, no. 1): 268–270.

  6. Further research is needed to determine whether these types of mounts are indicative of a specifically Philadelphia origin or simply of a Mid-Atlantic one.

  7. Betty Ring, Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850 (New York: Knopf, 1993): 354

  8. See Ring, 355, for the Ann Marsh sconce; see Winterthur object number 1966.1391A for another example of this subject.
  9. Amanda Isaac, “Ann Flower’s Sketchbook: Drawing, Needlework, and Women’s Artistry in Colonial Philadelphia,” Winterthur Portfolio 41 (Summer/Autumn 2007): 152
  10. Ring, 332.
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A Woman Lithographer in Nineteenth-Century New York

Frances Flora Bond Palmer (1812–1876) is the most important woman lithographer of nineteenth-century America. She is best known for her association with Currier & Ives, where, after joining the firm in 1851, she produced more prints than any other artist. Before then, Palmer held an independent career both in England and in New York, where she settled with her family in 1844. She exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the American Institute, executed dozens of framing prints, and created lithographs for several illustrated books. Winterthur’s museum and library collections hold several examples of her early American work. Looking at these lithographic prints created before her long collaboration with Currier & Ives gives us insight into her position as an artist lithographer in nineteenth-century New York, and her contributions to the expanding field of American lithography.

One of the largest of Palmer’s early New York commissions consisted of the lithographs that reproduced William H. Ranlett’s architectural drawings of site view, elevations, and floor plans for Ranlett’s two-volume book The Architect, published in New York between 1847 and 1849. In this publication, Palmer used a two-stone lithographic technique that reflects her training with Louis Haghe (1806–1885), one of the founders of Day & Haghe, the leading lithographic firm of early Victorian London.

Haghe was a famous architectural draftsman, a watercolor artist, and the lithographer of David Roberts’s watercolor drawings for The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia (1842-1846), widely considered the culmination of Haghe’s tinted lithographic technique. Palmer was in Haghe’s workshop during the early stages of the preparation of Roberts’ watercolors. She, in turn, brought to Day & Haghe an excellent foundation in drawing, perspective, and watercolors learned at Mary Linwood’s academy for girls in Leicester. With Haghe, Palmer perfected her knowledge of drawing and drafting, and mastered the technique of tinted lithography. Combining a stone with crayon drawing with another stone of monochrome tint, a tinted lithograph could imitate the effect of the watercolor wash often used in the background of a drawing.

William H. Ranlett (1806–1865), The Architect; F. & S. Palmer, lithographers (New York: DeWitt & Davenport, 1847–1849). Printed Book and Periodical Collection, Winterthur Library.

William H. Ranlett (1806–1865), The Architect; F. & S. Palmer, lithographers (New York:
DeWitt & Davenport, 1847–1849). Printed Book and Periodical Collection, Winterthur Library.

Church of the Holy Trinity, another early New York print by Palmer, shows the artist’s mastery of multiple-stone lithographic technique. Here, Palmer prepared one tint stone with a broad expanse of solid blue tone for the sky, with small areas removed or “gummed out” to create the white clouds. Instead of limiting her use of secondary stones to tint—the lithographic imitation of watercolor washes—she created two crayon drawings on two separate stones. One was printed in black, to delineate the contours and architectural details of the church. The second one, printed in brown ink, highlighted the texture of the church’s stonework and enhanced the dramatic effect of the sunlight on the ornate facade of the Gothic Revival architecture.

Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights, F. & S. Palmer, lithographers; Frances B. Palmer, artist, New York, 1845. Three-stone lithograph printed in black, tan, and blue inks on wove paper. Winterthur Museum (1973.0567); Library Purchase.

Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights, F. & S. Palmer, lithographers;
Frances B. Palmer, artist, New York, 1845. Three-stone lithograph printed in black,
tan, and blue inks on wove paper. Winterthur Museum (1973.0567); Library Purchase.

A closer look at Palmer’s early work in New York calls attention to her role in the development of American lithography in the 1850s. More specifically, her fine use of multiple stones in the drawing of Church of the Holy Trinity suggests that she had a critical influence at Currier & Ives. Nathaniel Currier almost entirely limited his publications to black and white lithographs before hiring her. After 1851, the firm published several of their now iconic compositions, drawn by Palmer and printed with more than one stone. One of them, Wooding-Up on the Mississippi, reveals how her brilliant handling of tonal values created a nocturne landscape that barely needs the addition of hand coloring that we expect to see on a Currier & Ives print.

Palmer is one of the artists whose work is explored in Lasting Impressions: The Artists of Currier & Ives, at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, from September 17, 2016, until January 8, 2017.

“Wooding up” on the Mississippi, F. F. Palmer, artist; Currier & Ives, lithographers, New York, ca. 1863. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-pga-00976).

“Wooding up” on the Mississippi, F. F. Palmer, artist; Currier & Ives, lithographers,
New York, ca. 1863. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-pga-00976).

Post by Marie-Stephanie Delamaire, associate curator of fine arts at Winterthur. A Winterthur Primer reprinted with permission from Antiques & Fine Art Magazine

 

 

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