NEWS: November 2009

Vol. 2, No. 11

In This Issue:

Banner Image: Detail from federal mirror (c. 1815).  Photo by Jim Carroll.


Reminder: The Athenaeum will close at 1:00pm on November 25th, and will be closed on November 26th & 27th.


Banner Image: Detail from federal mirror (c. 1815).  Photo by Jim Carroll.

Athenaeum Exhibit to Feature Building Trades Collections

On November 30, Trading Up: Some Surprising Samples from the Athenaeum’s Building Trade Collections will open in the Haas Gallery. This exhibit will showcase many items from collections in our care that document buildings and their components but are not specifically architectural in nature. These materials range from trade catalogues to paint samples, lighting designs to renderings of stained glass. Prominently featured will be the Hydraulic Press Brick Company Collection which includes photographs, lantern slides, advertisements, brick molds and a wonderful set of employee productivity-improvement posters featuring the company’s mascot, Mr. Hy-tex. Collection donor, Allan Stock will kick-off the exhibit with a lecture on Monday November 30th at 5:30pm entitled “The Hydraulic Press Brick Company Collection: A Serendipitous Journey from a Machine Shop in St. Louis to the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.”


Above: The Trading Up poster includes a sample wall design from the Moeller Collection and the Hydraulic Pressed Brick Company's mascot, Mr. Hy-tex.


Thomas Ustick Walter Historical Marker Dedicated

On Thursday October 29, the newest of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s historical markers was unveiled. The plaque celebrates the life and career of architect Thomas Ustick Walter (1804-1887) whose archive is maintained by the Athenaeum. The nomination for the marker came from Celeste Morello of South Philadelphia and the cost of its fabrication and installation was underwritten by the Athenaeum, AIA Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. Located at 1218 Arch Street the marker stands directly in front of the Center for Architecture and AIA Philadelphia’s new offices. 

In 1835, Walter designed the Mathew Newkirk House at the southwest corner of 13th & Arch Streets and liked the view it presented so much that he bought the property directly across the street and designed and built his own home on it. Sadly, both are now gone. Since Walter served as a founder of the national AIA and was the first elected president of the Philadelphia Chapter, this location is doubly fitting. Speakers at the unveiling ceremony included Curator of Architecture, Bruce Laverty and Athenaeum members Janet S. Klein and Wayne Spilove. 

Above Left: The crowd gathers for the unveiling of the T. U. Walter marker.

Above Right: The Thomas Ustick Walter historical marker.


University of the Arts Students Help The Athenaeum 

This fall two graduate students from the University of the Arts Museum Communications program have accepted assistantships with the Athenaeum for their fall semester. The University of the Arts regularly extends their graduate assistantships into the museum community through Museum Match Night, held in September each year.

This year Katie Roberson and Dana L. Byrd are helping us place more of our decorative and fine arts collections in PastPerfect. Last year Christine McMonagle, also from UArts, began this process by entering most of the objects into the database, and this semester Katie and Dana will create online exhibitions using PastPerfect’s Virtual Exhibit software. Katie Roberson is a graduate of the University of Mississippi in Art History and Studio Art, and Dana Byrd graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Both bring their considerable knowledge of art history and their growing knowledge of museum practices to the Athenaeum. 

Above Left: Katie Roberson.

Above Right: Dana Byrd.

Photos by Jim Carroll.

Chess Playing Returns to The Athenaeum

According to the 1898 publication Chess in Philadelphia, compiled by Gustavus C. Reichhelm with the assistance of Walter Penn Shipley, when the Athenaeum moved to its current address on South 6th Street, a room and four chess tables were allotted to the game. The nineteenth-century Athenaeum players went on to win correspondence games with Boston on at least two occasions (1847 and 1855/56). In 1859 when a match by telegraph with New York was organized, the Athenaeum playing committee consisted of H. P. Montgomery, P. P. Randolph, W. G. Thomas, Lewis Elkin, and Dr. Samuel Lewis. 


Above: Darrell and Daniel Garrett, visitors from Galesburg, IL, play chess in the Athenaeum’s Chess Room where portraits of chess champions Lewis Elkin and Charles Vezin hang.


Member Critics

Gilder, Louisa. The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. [Members’ Collection QC174.12 .G528 2008]

This is a charming book. The author has skillfully and plausibly recreated conversations on quantum theory among the world’s leading physicists, illustrated with homemade sketches of the principal participants. But there is regrettably little agreement among them. Albert Einstein, for example, thinks that they have to express their findings in terms of classical physics. Yet, how does one describe the behavior of a hydrogen ion escaped from its nuclear orbit (or, how far must a child move away before a parent can feel it has left home?)
Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis. 

Do you have a book that you loved (or hated), and would you be willing to share that opinion on the Athenaeum e-newsletter?  If so, please send your short essay to


Save the Date:  

November 4: Michael G. Trachtman Lecture, The Supremes' Greatest Hits, Revised & Updated Edition: The 37 Supreme Court Cases that Most Directly Affect Your Life, 5:30pm

November 10: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am

November 14: Fall Book Workshops.

November 18: Joan Dejean Lecture, The Age of Comfort: When Paris Discovered Casual - and the Modern Home Began, 5:30pm.


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. 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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