Cover image for Philadelphia on Stone: Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia, 1828–1878 Edited by Erika Piola

Philadelphia on Stone

Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia, 1828–1878

Edited by Erika Piola

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Was: $51.95 Now: $25.98 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-05252-6

320 pages
9" × 10"
134 color illustrations
2012
Co-published with the Library Company of Philadelphia

Philadelphia on Stone

Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia, 1828–1878

Edited by Erika Piola

Philadelphia on Stone demonstrates very clearly the key role that Philadelphia played in the history of American lithography in the nineteenth century. The eight essays interweave to tell a complex and compelling story that encompasses many different aspects of the nineteenth-century lithographic printing trade: landscape prints and city views, portraits, prints that depict sensational news events, illustrations for books and periodicals, and a vast panoply of advertising work. The biographical essays on the artist James Queen and the lithographer and publisher Peter S. Duval bring to life two men of extraordinary talent who were responsible for Philadelphia’s unique contribution to the evolution of lithography. Much of what Erika Piola and her colleagues have to say about lithography in Philadelphia is equally true of lithography as it developed in other cities across the nation, and so this book, which sets out to recount what happened in a specific place, comes very close to being a comprehensive history of lithography in America as a whole. It is sure to become a classic.”

 

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Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press for the Bibliographical Society of America in association with the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia on Stone is the first work in over fifty years to examine the history of nineteenth-century commercial lithography in Philadelphia. The capstone to the Library Company of Philadelphia’s multifaceted Philadelphia on Stone project, this heavily illustrated volume of thematic essays provides an analysis of the social, economic, and technological changes in the local trade from 1828 to 1878; biographies of premier lithographers P. S. Duval and James Queen; and new insights about genres of lithographs pertaining to book illustration, advertising, sensational news, and landscape imagery.

Illustrated with more than 130 full-color images, the text will appeal to local historians, scholars of printing history, and those studying visual and popular culture, advertising, and economic history. The depicted advertisements, cityscape and bird’s-eye views, disaster prints, and zoological illustrations document Philadelphia while showcasing the skilled work of the city’s lithographers. Philadelphia on Stone highlights the finesse and allure of the lithographic process, which radically altered the visual landscape of Philadelphia and the country.

Philadelphia on Stone demonstrates very clearly the key role that Philadelphia played in the history of American lithography in the nineteenth century. The eight essays interweave to tell a complex and compelling story that encompasses many different aspects of the nineteenth-century lithographic printing trade: landscape prints and city views, portraits, prints that depict sensational news events, illustrations for books and periodicals, and a vast panoply of advertising work. The biographical essays on the artist James Queen and the lithographer and publisher Peter S. Duval bring to life two men of extraordinary talent who were responsible for Philadelphia’s unique contribution to the evolution of lithography. Much of what Erika Piola and her colleagues have to say about lithography in Philadelphia is equally true of lithography as it developed in other cities across the nation, and so this book, which sets out to recount what happened in a specific place, comes very close to being a comprehensive history of lithography in America as a whole. It is sure to become a classic.”
Philadelphia on Stone is a sumptuously illustrated book that brings new discoveries and fresh perspectives to the cultural history of Philadelphia. This broadly contextualized examination of printing expands our understanding of the production and consumption of visual culture in a major urban center.”
“The Philadelphia on Stone project and this accompanying volume move the topic of lithography in Philadelphia forward in important ways, connecting business history, labor history, and the consumption of prints to form a new basis for understanding the medium’s contributions to visual culture.”
“Thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated. . . . This handsomely produced volume is a tour de force of collaborative scholarship and a welcome addition to the history of visual culture.”
“As this handsome volume makes clear in beautifully-designed fashion, Philadelphia in the nineteenth century was the capital of American printmaking. . . . [Erika Piola] has assembled an impressive group of experts to write on a variety of topics focusing on [the city’s first fifty years of commercial lithography].”
“The reexamination of the romantic age of lithography in Philadelphia on Stone is a wonderful addition to the history of visual culture in nineteenth-century America. . . . This volume should have great appeal beyond nineteenth-century historians and printing scholars because it offers fresh insights into the social, cultural, and economic life of the period.”
“If you love historical prints, this will be a terrific addition to your reference library. . . . I was impressed, and entertained, and thoroughly delighted by this publication.”

Erika Piola is Associate Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface

Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

1 The First Fifty Years of Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia: An Overview of the Trade, 1828–1878

Erika Piola and Jennifer Ambrose

2 Putting Philadelphia on Stone: An Introduction to the Techniques Used

Michael Twyman

3 James Queen: Chronicler of Philadelphia

Sara W. Duke

4 Peter S. Duval, Philadelphia’s Leading Lithographer

Sarah J. Weatherwax

5 Lithographed Plates for Books and Periodicals: A Mainstay of Philadelphia Lithographers

Christopher W. Lane

6 Commercial Architecture in Philadelphia Lithographs

Dell Upton

7 Drawn on the Spot: Philadelphia Sensational News-Event Lithographs

Erika Piola

8 Philadelphia Lithography and American Landscape

Donald H. Cresswell

Bibliography

Notes on Contributors

Index

Preface

Over fifty years ago, Nicholas Wainwright wrote Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography, the most complete work of its time about the history of lithography in Philadelphia. The book, described by the author as “fancily” entitled, examined the trade from the inception of the first commercial press in the city, in 1828, until the Civil War, when, according to the author, the “flavor” of the earlier era was lost by modern technology such as the steam press and chromolithography. Wainwright provided an overview of the trade that focused on the major lithographic establishments active during those years, as well as a descriptive inventory of almost five hundred lithographs documenting the built environment of Philadelphia and held predominantly at Philadelphia repositories. A romantic, in the sense of simpler, element may have pervaded the techniques, motives, and structure of the shops of the early lithographers, but little did it pervade the majority of the imagery that dominated the Philadelphia market, or the daily lives of the artists, lithographers, and printers involved in the first fifty years of the trade. Building upon the groundbreaking work of Wainwright, Philadelphia on Stone reexamines this “romantic” period of Philadelphia lithography as part of a three-year collaborative survey project funded by the William Penn Foundation. By placing a greater focus on the role of the smaller artisans who sustained the industry, examining specific genres of prints, and extending the time period analyzed by Wainwright to 1878, this work seeks to document the evolution of the lithography trade in Philadelphia from a different perspective and with more comprehensive consideration of social, cultural, and economic influences.

The collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution that were surveyed for the creation of the Philadelphia on Stone Digital Catalog (www.librarycompany.org/pos/poscatalog.htm) provide the content and most of the images in this book. The catalog, derived from surveys conducted between May 2007 and May 2010, contains over 1,300 lithographs, related ephemera, and prints documenting Philadelphia commercial lithography between 1828 and 1878. Lithographs listed in Wainwright, separately issued lithographs not listed in Wainwright but portraying Philadelphia, and advertisements for and printed views of Philadelphia lithographic establishments form the core content of the records and images contained in this catalog.

As did Wainwright’s, our surveys for the project focused on lithographs documenting the built environment of the city, such as storefronts, churches, landmarks, celebratory and disaster scenes, and panoramas or views. We extended the scope of Wainwright’s survey to include lithographers of Philadelphia views who were not local and advertisements for Philadelphia lithographers, views of their printing shops, and portraits of the tradesmen. Although the bulk of the prints were issued from 1828 to 1878, in accordance with the parameters of the project, prints dated to about 1900 and of a more aesthetic nature have also been included in the catalog. These works serve as points of reference because of unique content, exceptional graphic design, or the lithographer. The prints frequently depict Philadelphia cityscapes but also broadly represent the visual culture of the city. Prints beyond our stated scope and not included in the surveys have also been discussed by the contributing authors in support of their arguments.

Although nongraphical primary sources are few for the Philadelphia lithographic trade, these materials also composed a part of the study. No known complete company archive survives, but a scattering of invoices, business correspondence, and credit reports remain to provide evidence of the financial practices of the lithographers. The diaries of Matthias Weaver (compiled 1840–43) and George D. Shubert (compiled 1866), the only known by Philadelphia lithographers, also help us to comprehend the daily existence of the journeyman lithographer. In addition, newspaper and periodical accounts and census and other government records present additional windows onto the industry for which so few primary documents remain other than the prints the firms produced.

Neither this book nor Wainwright’s would have been possible if not for two other important figures: the inventor of lithography, Alois Senefelder (1771–1834), and local collector Charles Augustus Poulson (1789–1866). Senefelder, a Bavarian playwright turned amateur printer, conceived the planographic process around 1798, when, according to folklore, he dropped a sheet of limestone marked with his specially devised ink into a bucket of greasy water and observed that it was not effaced. Lithography was the first new printing method to be introduced in more than three centuries. The revolutionary printing process transformed the printed landscape, giving rise to a popular visual culture that continues to influence American society today. It was the first cost-effective method for printing in color, allowed long print runs and larger sizes, and facilitated design innovation because text and images could easily be combined.

Charles Augustus Poulson (1798–1866) also proves a pivotal figure for Philadelphia on Stone. A local antiquarian and son of Library Company librarian Zachariah Poulson (1761–1844), Poulson amassed a large collection of antebellum Philadelphia iconography, including lithographic advertisements that he bequeathed to the Library Company. With this bequest, the Library Company became the public repository of the largest collection of lithographic images of Philadelphia, many inscribed with dates and notes in Poulson’s hand. Given the extent of the Poulson collection, and the scores of other lithographs acquired in subsequent years, the Library Company is well positioned to update Wainwright’s seminal work.

The succeeding chapters illuminate and augment this narrative and examine the history of the trade, the lives of two seminal lithographers, and specific genres of lithographs. Erika Piola and Jennifer Ambrose provide the introductory chapter, “The First Fifty Years of Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia: An Overview of the Trade, 1828–1878,” and discuss the social, cultural, and economic influences that affected the Philadelphia trade between 1828 and 1878, as lithographic establishments evolved from printing shops to plants in concert with improvements to the printing process. Piola and Ambrose use the prints reviewed during the survey as a base for their insights about the production and consumption of Philadelphia lithographs, in addition to providing an analysis of the demographics of the trade. Michael Twyman, in “Putting Philadelphia on Stone: An Introduction to the Techniques Used” (chapter 2), discusses the technical process, tools, and equipment used by the local trade, with reference to European influences. Through detailed observations of lettering styles and tinting methods used by Philadelphia lithographers and their European counterparts, as well as the technological innovations they pursued, Twyman draws parallels and differences between their drawing and printing techniques.

Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the careers of eminent Philadelphia lithographers James Queen (1820/21–1886) and Peter S. Duval (1804/5–1886), collaborators and innovators in the field. In “James Queen: Chronicler of Philadelphia” (chapter 3), Sara W. Duke profiles the life of James Queen, an artist active from the early era of commercial Philadelphia lithography to the era of the predominance of chromolithography, during the 1870s. Trained under the apprenticeship system, Queen undertook work of every description and, unlike many of his peers, worked primarily for one shop, that of Peter S. Duval, his whole career. In “Peter S. Duval, Philadelphia’s Leading Lithographer” (chapter 4), Sarah J. Weatherwax provides the most comprehensive biography to date of this printer, known as the premier Philadelphia lithographer of the nineteenth century. Duval can deservedly be called the father of Philadelphia lithography. During a career spanning more than thirty-five years, he produced lithographs of every genre, from book and periodical illustrations to maps to parlor prints, while cultivating many of the city’s premier lithographers, including Queen. He also pioneered American chromolithography, introduced steam printing presses to the country, and served as the city’s emissary to the trade.

Chapters 5 through 8 focus on specific genres of Philadelphia lithographs. In “Lithographed Plates for Books and Periodicals: A Mainstay of Philadelphia Lithographers” (chapter 5), Christopher W. Lane provides a detailed overview of the commercial importance of the production of lithographic plates for books, magazines, and government reports to the establishment of the lithographic trade in Philadelphia and later to the growth and stability of local firms. He provides an engaging account of the exceptional work produced by premier firms such as John T. Bowen for natural history publications, including McKenney & Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America, John James Audubon’s multivolume works on birds and quadrupeds, and other ornithological publications. In “Commercial Architecture in Philadelphia Lithographs” (chapter 6), Dell Upton explores the depiction of commercial architecture in antebellum advertising prints and how it reflected the city’s “transformations of . . . architecture and geography of commerce.” His study perceptively interweaves excerpts from contemporary written commentaries on the city’s architecture with deconstructions of the storefront imagery that dominated the large-format advertisements issued to promote the local business community. In “Drawn on the Spot: Philadelphia Sensational News-Event Lithographs” (chapter 7), Erika Piola provides insight into the niche market of sensational Philadelphia news prints, from inception to dissemination, with a particular focus on the interrelationships between the visual and textual accounts of the events. Piola argues that these lithographs have been unduly overshadowed by engraved periodical illustrations in the study of spectatorship and graphic journalism. Donald H. Creswell, in “Philadelphia Lithography and American Landscape” (chapter 8), examines the artistic evolution of Philadelphia landscape imagery in lithographs and by Philadelphia lithographers over the first fifty years of the trade. Cresswell uses a range of genres for his analysis, including portraiture, sheet-music covers, and commercial atlases, to show how landscape imagery not only documented the natural beauty of the region but served as political propaganda, promoted consumerism, and evoked the demographic changes of nineteenth-century America.

The survey work for the project did more than shape the content of these chapters. Mention must be made of two other facets of Philadelphia on Stone: an online biographical dictionary and an exhibition. In lieu of a biographical appendix to this volume, the illustrated Philadelphia on Stone Biographical Dictionary of Lithographers is accessible through the Library Company’s digital-collections catalog ImPAC (www.lcpdigital.org). The online dictionary contains the biographies of more than five hundred artists, lithographers, printers, and publishers who worked in commercial lithography in Philadelphia during the first fifty years of the trade. Historically prominent lithographers, such as Childs & Inman, P. S. Duval, Thomas Sinclair, and Wagner & McGuigan; lesser known figures, such as Alphonse Bigot, John F. Finkeldey, and Thomas Hunter; and journeyman who sustained the trade are included among the men and women described. The entries provide a demographic overview of the Philadelphia trade, illustrated by portraits of premier lithographers, views of their establishments, and advertisements for their businesses. The majority of the images represent materials held in the collections of the eight collaborating institutions. Based on the most comprehensive scholarship to date, the biographies are searchable by name and keyword and, unlike conventional printed dictionaries, can be readily revised with any further information provided by readers or discovered by staff.

In addition, a 2010 exhibition provided another venue to disseminate the scholarship resulting from the project. The exhibition included an overview of the history of lithography and the local trade in addition to sections documenting the lives of Philadelphia lithographers, their work, and their influence on the visual culture of nineteenth-century and modern-day society. The exhibition demonstrated how lithography allowed speedy production and a variety of imagery, as shown in the lithographs displayed, thus altering the conception, content, and consumption of prints produced for the commercial and domestic consumer in Philadelphia. Sections of the exhibition examined the change of the establishments from collaborative printing shops in the antebellum era to factories with specialized departments after the Civil War; the influence of the innovations of chromolithography (the process of printing lithographs in multiple colors) and steam printing on this transformation; and the later industry’s focus on advertising, particularly trade cards, to remain viable. The online exhibition can be accessed at www.librarycompany.org/pos/posexhibition.htm.

This book represents the capstone to this multifaceted collaborative project and hopes to show that although the romantic age of lithography in Philadelphia should be reevaluated, the romance of the research of this local trade should be infinite.