June 12, 2013

"The Most Striking Feature at Philadelphia Was the Throng of Visitors"

This statement is taken from editorial remarks about the close of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition printed in Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, Vol. XCIII, No. 558, December, 1876.  Over the course of the Exhibition, which ran from May 10th through November 10th at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, 9,789,392 people attended exhibits provided by 60,000 exhibitors from 37 countries and the United States.  It would be interesting to know how many, among the "throng of visitors", were members of the Religious Society of Friends.

Admission ticket to enter the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.  The ticket
price in 1876 was 50 cents; a significant sum given that the average daily wage of the day
was $1.21.  Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The Centennial Exhibition and its celebration of American independence through force of arms became, at the time, topics of considerable controversy within the Quaker community.  Several issues related to the event provided heated discussion and disagreement among both the Orthodox and the Hicksite factions of the faith.
The overreaching concern for both factions was the fact that the Centennial would celebrate an event that occurred as the result of military action and considerable bloodshed.  Gideon Frost, a Hicksite from Long Island, wrote in the Friends Intelligencer that the War of Independence had left the country "saddled" with the institution of slavery, which in turn led to a bloody Civil War, and that the Centennial Exhibition would celebrate these events with flag-waving and patriotic music while exhibiting "weapons of carnage" to satisfy the curiosity of attendees.  (Bacon, 42.)
These weapons were, in fact, proudly displayed among the United States exhibits in the Centennial Government Building and included naval ordinance, cannon, Gatling guns, small arms, projectiles, and torpedoes.  Not only were implements of war exhibited at the exhibition, manufacturers who produced commemorative fabrics celebrating the Centennial included weapons of war among their printed motifs.
Reproduction of one of the fabrics the Cocheco Falls Millworks of New Hampshire
 produced in celebration of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

Other Centennial fabrics displayed patriotic symbols and scenes commemorative of the War of Independence as well.
Three reproduction examples of fabrics manufactured for the
Centennial bearing patriotic symbols and motifs.
Many of these fabrics, as well as souvenir bandanas, handkerchiefs, scarfs, and flags purchased at the Exhibition made their way into quilts sewn by women who had attended the event or wished to preserve its memory.
Reproduction 1876 Centennial quilt pieced and appliqued by Lynda Salter Chenoweth
and machine-quilted by Maureen Burns, Sonoma, California, 2011.  This reproduction is
similar to the quilts women made from Exhibition souvenirs and commemorative fabrics of the time.
Close up of Memorial Hall featured on the center panel of the quilt shown above.

A second issue of concern to the Quaker community was the variety and abundance of alcohol available for consumption in bars and restaurants on the Centennial grounds and among the exhibits of manufacture within exhibition halls.  Concerns were also raised about the effect the fashions on display at the event would have on those attending, and the "self-congratulatory" tone implied by exhibits of objects made by the hand of man.
A major controversy also arose over whether or not to close the exhibition grounds on Sundays as was demanded and achieved by some Christian denominations.  This decision effectively denied exhibition attendance to working class families whose only "work free" day was Sunday.  The Orthodox faction of the Religious Society of Friends found no difficulty with this decision and generally approved.  Elias Hicks, founder of the Hicksite faction, had characterized Sabbath observance as "Jewish superstition" and Hicksite writers on this topic reinforced this idea.  A battle of words was waged within the Quaker community on both sides of the issue, appearing in letters, journals, newspapers, and other venues.  Surprisingly, neither this issue nor any of the others found voice in any Quaker business meetings.
Main Exhibition Building, 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA.
From Ingram, p. 99.
In the end, many Quakers attended and thoroughly enjoyed the Centennial Exhibition.  Those living in Philadelphia wrote enthusiastically about escorting visiting friends and relatives through the exhibits and the grounds.  Lucretia Mott, for one, was a vocal supporter of the event and saw it as a means to promote peace throughout the world.  Mary Jane Hoge Hatcher, a Quaker from Iowa, wanted to attend the event but her husband disapproved because he considered such attendance an act of "excessive frivolity".  "One day when her husband was away from home, Mary Jane sold a sufficient number of his prized pure-bred cattle to finance the expedition, and with the proceeds departed hastily for Philadelphia.  If controversy greeted her upon her return home, word of it never reached her descendants."  (Bacon, 48, citing Sparr.)  Mary Jane was reported to have been an extremely enthusiastic visitor to the Centennial Exhibition.
Bacon, Margaret H.  "Friends and the 1876 Centennial, Dilemmas, Controversies and Opportunities" in Quaker History, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Spring 1977), 41-50.
Ingram, J.S.  The Centennial Exposition, Described and Illustrated, Being a Concise and Graphic Description of the Grand Enterprise Commemorative of the First Centennary of American Independence.  Philadelphia: Hubbard Bros., 1876.
Letter of Virginia Sparr to Eleanor Price Mather, 11-17-76.  (Cited by Bacon as source of the quote about Mary Jane Hoge Hatcher.)
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2013.


June 1, 2013

The Shadow is Nature's Own Picture

This was the belief of early Quakers who refused to have their images drawn or painted and preferred to be remembered by their deeds alone.  Over time testimonies against portraiture relaxed within the Religious Society of Friends and simple profile depictions of individuals, especially "shadow pictures"--silhouettes cut from black paper--gained in popularity, filling family albums and decorating the walls of mainly urban Quaker homes in England and America.

Silhouette depiction of Sylvanus Fox of Wellington, Somerset, England
(1791-1851) by Samuel Metford of Glastonbury.  (c) Religious Society
of Friends in Britain.  Courtesy of the Friend's House Library.  Learn
more about the Library at http://www.quaker.org.uk/library.
Cutting silhouettes (called "paper art") was a popular hobby among English Quakers by 1800 and was practiced at home on an amateur basis.  One amateur who became a prolific silhouette producer in England was the physician Thomas Pole who learned the craft in Philadelphia before he moved to England to practice medicine.  Samuel Metford of Glastonbury was the first English Quaker to become a professional silhouette artist.  He, too, learned the craft in America while there on business, and traveled throughout England from the 1830s through the 1860s visiting Quaker Meeting houses whose members formed a large number of his clientele.
Silhouette of Quaker John Fothergill in a wig, a noted Quaker physician and
founder in 1779 of the Ackworth School near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England. (c) Religious
Society of Friends in Britain.  Courtesy of the Friend's House Library.
Silhouettes depicting the Sturge family. (c) Religious Society of Friends in Britain. 
 Courtesy of the Friend's House Library.
The Quaker fondness of silhouettes was also found in the New World in the late 18th century where their production was viewed as an amateur household past time in keeping with Quaker ideas of thrift and plainness. Joseph Samson ((1757-1826) of Philadelphia became a prominent, amateur silhouette artist employed by many Quakers to produce images of their family members.  Quaker William Henry Brown (1808-1882) of Charleston, South Carolina, became a professional silhouette artist who portrayed many celebrities of the eastern seaboard but whose clientele seems not to have included Friends.  But, the French master silhouette artist, Augustin Edouart, recorded the profiles of American Quakers of the 1840s in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington and kept duplicates of these images in a Quaker folio.  These images have been reproduced and now rest in private hands and in museums in Britain, Canada, and America. A folio of these images is held at the Friend's Historical Library of Swarthmore College.
Silhouette of Susan Talbott Walker (1793-1872) by an unknown American artist.
Collection of Mary Holton Robare.  (You can see a later photograph of Susan and a
linen attributed to her in our post of September 9, 2012.)

Silhouettes depicting profile images have remained popular in America.  We remember drawing silhouette profiles as children in grade school classes and seeing framed silhouettes hanging on the walls of our homes and those of friends and relatives as we grew up. Silhouette profiles have often been used as motifs for quilting projects as well.  We featured a quilt from the Third Haven Friends Meeting on May 17, 2012 that included a silhouette block.  More recently, we discovered a quilt made by Victoria Findlay Wolfe and others to raise funds for her daughter's Quaker school.  The quilt, shown below, features the profile images of students at the Friends Seminary in New York.

Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Bumble Bears Inc. NY, NY, "Friends Seminary Class
of 2018" Quilt, made 2007.
Professional silhouette artists continue to practice their special skill in countries around the world.  While Lynda and her husband were in Rome in 1996, they saw a flyer for an exhibit of silhouette art at Bibli in the Trastevere and decided to attend it late on a rainy afternoon.  The exhibit was extensive and the opportunity to see a professional "paper artist" cutting silhouettes on-the-spot with small scissors in hand without the use of tracings or other drawings was indeed remarkable.
Flyer advertising the silhouette exhibit at the Bibli in the Trastevere, Rome.  Collection of
Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Silhouette of Lynda Salter Chenoweth bundled up on a rainy afternoon with
umbrella in hand.  Collection of Lynda Salter Chenoweth. 
Our thanks to the Religious Society of Friends in Britain for permission to use the silhouettes from the Friend's House Library.
Clark, Joanna. "Quaker Silhouettes" in the Friend, The Quaker Magazine, 28/7/2011 at http://www.thefriend.org.article/quaker-silhouettes.
Email correspondence with Victoria Findlay Wolfe.
Laughon, Helen and Nel.  August Edouart, A Quaker Album, American and English Duplicate Silhouettes 1827-1845.  Richmond, VA: Cheswick Press, 1987.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2013.