NEWS: January 2009

Vol. 2, No. 1

In This Issue:

6th and Walnut Sts. by Frank H. Taylor, 1914


Holiday Closing Reminder

Please remember that the Athenaeum will be closed for Martin Luther King Day, Monday January 19th.

Banner Image: 6th and Walnut Sts. by Frank H. Taylor, 1914.

Athenaeum Member Goes Above and Beyond

Historic clock specialist Gordon Converse shares his expertise with a class of eighth-graders from St. Mary Interparochial School, concentrating on the Isaiah Lukens Clock in the Busch Room. When purchased on July 30th, 1859, at an auction of items from the old Philadelphia Bank at 4th and Chestnut streets, the Lukens clock cost the Athenaeum twenty-three dollars. Its case, constructed of pine grained to resemble mahogany, is decorated with carved scrolls, laurel leaves and berries. A portrait of Isaiah Lukens (1779 Ė 1846), attributed to Rembrandt Peale, hangs next to the clock. 

Above: Gordon Converse examining the Lukens clock. Photo by Bruce Laverty.

Bernie Cleff Collection Continues to Grow

This fall the Athenaeum has added substantially to its photograph collection through the generosity of retired Philadelphia photographer, and Athenaeum member, Bernie Cleff. In 1987, Cleff transferred more a thousand photographs and negatives of the Society Hill and Rittenhouse Square Historic Districts.  Since then, Cleff has added to the collection with a dozen new accessions, including the archival photos of his work for Philadelphia: Sculpture of City. This recent accession adds a set of images that depict the delivery and installation of Jacques Lipchitzís sculpture Government of the People on the plaza of the Municipal Services Building.  The latest materials also include images of Pennís Landing,  30th Street Station and Cape May. 

Last month, the Athenaeum acquired still more Cleff photos through the gift of Monika Burke, daughter of the late Bobbye Burke, co-author of Historic Rittenhouse: A Philadelphia Neighborhood. Ms. Burke donated her motherís research files which included dozens of Bernieís photos for the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood taken in the mid-1980s.

Above: Bernie Cleff in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.

Right: Installation of Government of the People by Jacques Lipchitz.  Photo by Bernie Cleff.


Regional Digital Imaging Center Scans Another Founding Document

In December, the Athenaeum's Regional Digital Imaging Center scanned a copy of the Declaration of Independence for Independence National Historical Park (INHP).  The copy was produced in Philadelphia in 1846 by John Jay Smith using the anastatic printing process.  During the anastatic process, diluted acid is applied to the original page.  The page is then pressed onto a zinc plate.  The acid in the spaces between the letters on the page corrodes the zinc, leaving raised letters, while the acid on the letters is diluted by the ink and has no effect on the plate.  The result is a plate with a raised image of the original document which can be used to make additional prints.  


According to Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator at INHP, this particular Declaration facsimile may be the one described in the July 7, 1846 Philadelphia Public Ledger as "an exceedingly appropriate ornament" for the newly refurbished Assembly Room on the first floor of Independence Hall where the original Declaration of Independence was signed. 


The Regional Digital Imaging Center has previously scanned New Jersey's copy of the Bill of Rights, the Union League's copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, and  George Washington and Robert Morris manuscripts from the Rosenbach Library & Museum.

Above: Museum Technician, Jonathan Miller (L), and Museum Curator, Bob Giannini (R), from Independence National Historical Park hold the 1846 copy of the Declaration. The Athenaeum's Cruse Scanner is in the background.  Photo by Jim Carroll.

Robert Roper Talks About His Book Now The Drum of War

The Friends of The American Philosophical Society Library and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia invite you to a lecture, reception, and book signing:
Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War by Robert Roper.

Now the Drum of War represents Robert Roperís exploration of the American Civil War through the eyes of Walt Whitman and his family. It presents new insights into the impact of the Civil War on Americaís great poet, but it also provides a detailed family biography of the Whitmans through Roperís investigations of their letters.
Robert Roper has won awards for his fiction and nonfiction alike. His most recent book, Fatal Mountaineer, a biography of the American climber/philosopher, Willi Unsoeld, won the 2002 Boardman-Tasker Prize given by Londonís Royal Geographical Society. His works of fiction include Royo County, On Spider Creek, Mexico Days, The Trespassers, and Cuervo Tales, which was a New York Times Notable Book.  His journalism appears in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Outside, Menís Journal, National Geographic, and others. He teaches at Johns Hopkins, and lives in Baltimore and California.


DATE: Friday, February 6, 2009
TIME: Reception: 5:30 PM, Program: 6:00 PM
PLACE: Benjamin Franklin Hall, 427 Chestnut Street

RSVP:, or call the APS Reception Desk 215-440-3400.


Save the Date:  

January 3: First Saturday (Athenaeum Open 10:00-2:00).

January 13: Socrates Cafe, 11:00AM

February 6: Robert Roper Lecture at Benjamin Franklin Hall, 5:30PM

See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and 10:00AM-2:00PM on the first Saturday of each month. The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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