A Musical Finding Aid – The Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt Collection


As alluded to in a previous blog entry, we have been working on the creation of a musical finding aid for the Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt collection.  I am happy to announce that this finding aid is now complete and available for use!

In case you’re not familiar, a finding aid is a descriptive, but purposely non-interpretive, tool used by researchers to help identify and locate material within an archival collection.  Anyone who has done research in an archive has used a finding aid in order to give them a guiding point for their research with collection materials.  For many collections, the finding aid and organization of the collection is broken down into series; groups of materials that share a theme, format, or some other similarity.

Our goal with this project was to take a collection with a well developed finding aid, in this case the Greenewalt collection, and create an interpretive supplement through music that could serve as an emotional guide to materials within each series.  Five artists, Andrea Clearfield, Willhem Echevarria, Ted Houghtaling, Max Lawrence and Maurice Wright, participated in this project. Each pulled inspiration from materials in the different series and created music and video based on the experience.  Their pieces were then tied to a finding aid generated by Archivists’ Toolkit, resulting in the musical finding aid.

I hope that anyone interested in using the Greenewalt collection for research finds this supplement useful in their research.  This was the perfect collection for such a project considering Greenewalt’s background and interests in life. Greenewalt, a Lebanese woman born in the late 19th century, was a pioneer in the arts with her interests in music, light and color.  She developed a color organ for displaying colored light scored to music and a notation system for this art which she called nourathar.  In order to fulfill her musical pursuits, Greenewalt had to enter the engineering world and was awarded several patents, including one for an improved rheostat (you may know this best as the light dimmer switch).  In the 1930s she spent much of her time in court, suing others for patent infringement.

As this project and its product is an archival experiment, I encourage readers to please comment and discuss the project via the comments section of this post.  HSP will also be hosting a composers’ panel for this project starting at 6pm on the evening of April 5th, 2011 where we will bring the artists together, have a discussion about the project, listen to the music created and have the Greenewalt collection on display.  More details on this event will follow when they are available.

Below is the music and video created for this project, as well as notes about the pieces primarily by the artists.  The musical finding aid itself can be used by following this link.  I would also like to thank the Heritage Philadelphia Program, without which this project would not have been possible.


Series 1 – General Files
Music by Willhem Echevarria

Reviewing the papers of Mary Hallock Greenewalt, as well as the finding aid by HSP staff, I noticed several “characteristics” of Greenewalt’s personality and work that I thought could be translated well to a study of musical contrasts. I decided to focus on contrasts instead of colors since I find the concept of colors in music a very subjective way of “looking” at music. Greenewalt being a pianist herself , once I got involved with the project I wanted to write for the piano. I picked some of the “characteristics” that I found reflected in the papers-piano music, Impressionism, the waltz from Chopin’s perspective but also a little bit of Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, pulse-rhythm studies, her Middle-Eastern background-and started to combine different ideas in several different sequences in order to achieve the contrasts that I wanted. I want to offer my special gratitude to Jay Fluellen, pianist and a notable composer himself, for understanding my vision and translating it beautifully with his performance.

Willhem Echevarria was born in Puerto Rico, studied at University of the Arts under John Swana and Dennis Wasko, and worked for years as a trumpet player, arranger, and composer in a commercial studio setting. Always wanting to work in libraries in general, and music libraries in particular, he finished a Master in Library Sciences and worked at the University of Puerto Rico as a librarian before returning to Philadelphia in 2007. A professional librarian/archivist during the day, he still dedicates his evenings to music (performance, arranging, composing, and a little bit of ethno musicological research on the Caribbean).

Series 2 – The Color Organ
Music and Video by Maurice Wright

The above video, entitled “Light-Color Play,” utilizes a painted board by Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenwalt which can be found in Box 12, Folder 3 of this collection.

Maurice Wright was introduced to the craft and technology of film when he met Director Gene Searchinger in 1976 and contributed an electronic score for an unusual film about recycled aluminum, “Metallic Tales: The Social Life of a Non-Ferrous Metal,” which received a Golden Eagle Award. Over the next two decades Wright continued to work with Searchinger, most recently contributing music and special sound for the three-program series about linguistics, “The Human Language,” broadcast in the United States and Japan. You can learn more at www.mauricewright.org

Series 3 – Legal Materials
Music by Ted Houghtaling

0163_0019_004In the writings of Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt, great length is taken to explain that there is no direct correspondence between sound and color. According to her, they “speak in different ways” and are always subject to the interpretation of the artist and the experiences they bring to each piece. I’m not certain if Mrs. Greenewalt was a synesthetic. This piece, instead of relying on historical verisimilitude assumes she might have been. If not, I can only wonder what drives someone to spend the majority of their life exploring the bridge between the worlds of the seen and the heard. I thought it would be an interesting idea to put aside any pressure to provide a strict textual interpretation and instead attempt to explore the dream world of Mrs. Greenewalt. The very place where her thoughts, with all their meanings, resonances and impressions would have gestated and found themselves expressed in the light of day. She would later take these ideas and call her art, nourathar, derived from Arabic and literally translated as ‘essence of light’.

Ted Houghtaling is a sound designer working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can learn more about him and his music at tedhoughtaling.blogspot.com.

Series 4 – Writings
Music by Max Lawrence


Maximillian P. Lawrence earned his BFA in painting from The Rhode Island School of Design. He is a founding member of Space 1026, an artists’ collective that focuses in silk-screening, painting, audio/video production and graphic design. His work has been exhibited at the The Institute of Contemporary Art, Spector Gallery and Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Jasmine Pasquill, Jonathon Levine Gallery, and DUMBO Art Center, New York City; Lump Gallery, NC; The Butcher Shop, Chicago; Mina Gallery, San Francisco; Antisocial, Vancouver; and in Europe. His work is featured in publications 8 ½ by 11, 55DSL Book; and Rockpile Magazine. His work is in the collection of 55DSL Corporate.

Series 7 – Artifacts, Scrapbooks, Paintings, Drawings and Blueprints
Music by Andrea Clearfield


I was inspired by writings and graphs by Mary Hallock Greenewalt, as well as one of her paintings with a fragment of a score by Claude Debussy (Volume 25). Ms. Greenewalt indicates “music for the ‘sigh’” under the sketch. My work is built around excerpts from Debussy’s “Soupir” (Sigh), for soprano and piano, set to the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé in 1864. The title of my piece is taken from a line in Mallermé’s poem.

The music from “Soupir” is alluded to throughout the work as well as Debussy’s “And the Moon Descends on the Temple That Was.”  I also recorded myself at the piano, playing the musical excerpt that she transcribed, a series of descending dream-like chords. In her writings, she references music with a “moon” theme: “Et La Lune” by Debussy and the “Moonlight” Sonata by Beethoven. Layered in the music are fragments of these works and others, including Ms. Greenewalt’s own performances of Chopin and Beethoven. Also woven through the texture are various sounds of organ music.

I wanted to create a luminous soundscape, reminiscent of the “jeweled world” that Ms. Greenewalt describes in her vision of a new art form: Nourathar (essence of light). She imagines people “sitting within a huge living every-color jewel” while this “spoke the music of one’s soul”. She also speaks of the “shifting tones of light and color”, the “now brightening, now darkening, now a Jasper sea on the warm water”. Moon, soul, pulsing rhythm, color, light, dream, gems and water are recurring themes in her writings.

This piece is a creative response to her words, sketches and vision. In addition to the elements above, my own synesthesia (seeing colors to musical notes) helped inform the musical “color” of the work. There is a fluid progression from Debussy’s sigh-like chords to a high female voice singing “mon âme” (my soul) appearing and retreating into the distance like fleeting memories, an hommage to Mary Hallock Greenewalt and her extraordinary vision and creation.

Andrea Clearfield is an award winning composer of music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, dance and multi-media collaborations. Her works are performed widely in the U.S. and abroad. She has composed 8 cantatas for chorus and orchestra and is working on a new cantata for premiere at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts this spring. Recent premieres include Kawa Ma Gyur, a chamber work inspired by her 2010 trek documenting the Tibetan music in the restricted northern Himalayan region of Lo Monthang, Nepal, commissioned by Network for New Music. She was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome last fall, where she composed this work. She serves on the composition faculty at The University of the Arts and is the pianist in the new music ensemble, Relâche. She is also the founder and host of the Salon concert series featuring contemporary, classical, jazz, electronic, and world music, celebrating its 24th year and winner of the Best of Philadelphia Award, 2008. More information at www.andreaclearfield.com

Robert Proud: Quaker, Classicist, Historian, and Loyalist

I never thought that when working as an Archives Intern at HSP I would come across a collection that had some personal resonance.  But when handed the Robert Proud collection to process, I learned that history can connect to one’s life in bizarre ways.

Portrait of Robert Proud, print of phototype by Gutekunst (undated)

Robert Proud was born in Yorkshire, England in 1728.  He attended a Quaker boarding school, where he was formally trained in classical studies.  He tutored for prominent London families after his studies, and in 1759, decided to move to Philadelphia to see what prospects lay for him there.

While he attempted to start his own Latin school for boys, it closed after only two years.  He then began one of two teaching positions at The Friends School (also known as the “Friends Academy” and “The Public School”) in the 1760s.  After trying to learn more about Proud’s time at The Friends School, I learned that it is now Friends Select School (FSS), which I attended for my final two years of high school.  It is at FSS where I was inspired to study classical studies in undergraduate school, and I believe that Robert Proud tried to instill this in his students almost 250 years ago.

"The Public School, or 'Friends' Academy,' Fourth Street, Below Chestnut. Built A.D. 1697." newspaper clipping (undated)

His views on education can be found in one of his many memoranda/notebooks that are part of this collection, and it is clear that his views on Quakerism were a strong part of his teaching philosophy:

“To render the Minds of youth attentive to Instruction & to habituate them to a decent & agreeable Deportment, in improved Society, are great Points in Education; but too little attended to by many, with so much Propriety & Utility, as the human Mind’s capable even in juvenile years: –For, in the best & most proper Sense, the Education of youth ought to be considered, as it really is, a Religious Duty & Concern, as being introductory to the great Interests of Virtue & Happiness; while at the same Time, it also embraces the Qualifications for the necessary Employments & other active Concerns of human Life.”

Robert Proud, “Some short Notes & Memoranda by R.P. Philadelphia, Respecting the Scholastic Education of youth among Friends”, 1788 (emphasis original).

His teaching at The Friends School was short-lived and interrupted.  From 1775 to 1780, Robert Proud “retired” and went into seclusion.  His reasoning was very clear—as a Loyalist, he was in a severe minority in Philadelphia, and he was worried that Patriot committees in the city would arrest him.  He felt so persecuted as a Quaker that he petitioned the Pennsylvania Congress representatives, including John Dickinson and others, to ask for assistance in ending religious persecution, comparing the Patriotic “uprisings” and his worries of physical safety to that of Elijah, the ninth-century B.C.E. prophet in Israel (1775).

While in seclusion, he was a prolific writer and authored his only published work, The History of Pennsylvania in North America.  However, his extensive translations of Latin poetry, and his own poetry seemed to keep him occupied as well.  In one poem, he extols his beliefs on what “American Liberty” had become in the colonies during the Revolution:

“Behold!  O land of boasted Liberty,

The State to which thy Sons have hurried thee?

My Patriots banished, & thy Charters torn,

Thy Cities languish, & thy Sages mourn!

By thy own Hands, thy Misery is brought,

By they own Hands all thy Evils wrought!”

(“American Liberty explained, as it is now understood, in the Spring of the year 1776”)

While I certainly am a 21st-century American, and still strongly believe in Quaker practices, I can understand why Robert Proud felt that his Quaker beliefs were put into question during a time of war against what he considered his true homeland, England.  While it’s only speculation on my part, Robert Proud, during his long life (he died in 1813), probably questioned his decision to ever move to Philadelphia, to a place that underwent a dramatic change during the potential “height” of his academic career.

The finding aid for this collection is available online.

When “small” means anything but

Boxes 12-14 from the Society Small collection

One of our volunteers, Bryan Shinehouse,  recently completed an inventory of our Society Small collection (#22B).  Now, perhaps you’re thinking “Society Small”?  How is that even a collection title?  Well, at HSP it’s actually a very important title, and we have several others that are similar: Society photograph collection (#V59), Society Print collection (#V89), Society Miscellaneous collection (#425), to name just a few.  What these collections have in common is that they are HSP’s artificial collections—they are made up of a variety of donations of individual and small groups of items that were culled together by  HSP staff members over the years.   At some point in the distant past, staff began referring to these collections as the “Society” collections (maybe to distinguish them from HSP’s other large artificial collections from different creators?), and the name stuck.   Almost all of the “Society” collections are cataloged to the item level in our card catalog, but with the help of staff and volunteers, we’ve had chance to make a few basic inventories available online.  When the discussion arose as to what to call them in theses inventories, we decided to stick with the colloquial title because they are just so prevalent in-house.  So as a patron at HSP, you will find cards from and may hear talk of the “Society Print collection”, but not the “Historical Society of Pennsylvania print collection” (it’s full, official, DACS-compliant title.)

A few folders from Box 41 (Wha-Whi)

But back to the Society Small collection, the title of which has nothing to with size…sort of.  Rather than referring to the number of boxes or the actual linear footage of the collection, “small” refers to the materials within.

Boxes 30-34 from the Society Small collection

In sticking with the artificial collections-theme, this collection is generally made up of individual donations of small groups of materials, but some of the collections were removed from our large Society autograph collection (#22A).  The groups range from a few documents to several folders of papers, and are arranged alphabetically by individual, family, creator, or subject.   While the types of papers with each small collection vary, the collection contains correspondence, legal documents, drawings, news clippings, photographs and printed material, as well as Photostats, photocopies and typescripts of original manuscripts.  The documents below are from Box 41, which contains papers from various members of the Wharton family, as well as a few folders of papers from Bishop William White.

Petition from the family of Thomas Wharton, page 1 (September 1783)

Petition from the family of Thomas Wharton, page 2 (September 1783)

Newspaper obituary of Anne Hollingsworth Wharton (1924)

Reverend William White to Governor Wolfe (12 October 1832)

HSP no longer adds material to the Society Small collection.  And though, as a whole, the collection may seem to be little more than a miscellaneous assortment of stuff, many of the documents within are unique and can’t be found anywhere else in our collections.

The finding aid for the Society small collection is available both online and on paper in HSP’s library.

For your enjoyment: more collections that are now available

In terms of processing, the HSP archives department had a good 2009 and is off to a good start in 2010.  In this time, staff processed and improved access to almost 50 collections.  Following up on Cathleen’s previous post, here are just a few highlights.  Others can be found on our website.

HSP collection of Benjamin Franklin papers, 1628-1951 (Collection 215)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a printer, writer, politician, inventor, and one of the most well-known figures of early American history.  He played a significant role in the founding of several Philadelphia institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania, the American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital.  HSP’s collection of Franklin’s papers primarily highlight his later political life, particularly as a representative of Pennsylvania in England (1757-1775) and U. S. ambassador to France (1776-1785).  The collection includes a wide range of materials including correspondence, copies of Congressional orders and resolutions, French manuscripts and memoires, certificates, writings, notes, clippings, and ephemera.   This collection was supported by Mary Countess of Bessborough.

Benjamin Franklin to James Logan (circa 1747)

The outside of this same letter

Christopher Marshall papers, 1744-circa 1971 (Collection 395)

Christopher Marshall (1709-1797) was druggist and chemist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His papers consist of his original diaries from 1774 to 1781 and 1783 to 1785; six bound volumes of photocopies of the original diaries; handwritten transcripts of his diaries from 1782 to 1783, 1786 to 1791, and 1793 to 1795; and two sets of extra-illustrated volumes (seven total) containing pages from William Duane Jr.’s Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, 1774-1781, illustrations by David McNeely Stauffer, and a variety of original documents.  This collection was supported by Dr. Randall Miller.

Christopher Marshall wastebook of accounts with the Continental Congress, page 1 (1776)

Christopher Marshall wastebook of accounts with the Continental Congress, page 2 (1776)

Plastic Club records, 1888-2007 (Collection 3106)

The Plastic Club is the oldest club for women artists still in existence in the United States. It was founded in 1897 in Philadelphia and has included many illustrious members, such as Emily Sartain, Violet Oakley, Blanche Dillaye, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Cecila Beaux, and many others. It has sponsored exhibitions, lectures, and classes, and provided a place for women artists to meet and exchange ideas. The club has also played an active civic role over the years, for example conducting art classes for servicemen during World War II and donating art supplies to underprivileged children. Since 1991, the club has admitted men, who now form close to half the membership.  The historical records of the Plastic Club go back to its founding and richly document the club’s activities and members over most of the 20th century. The records include board minutes; annual reports; correspondence; exhibition programs, notices, and reviews; photos from events; directories of club members; files about early members’ artistic activities; scrapbooks of clippings; early sketchbooks and preparatory drawings for a set of stained glass windows; maintenance reports about the building; and a recent graduate thesis about the history of the club that focuses on the building.  This collection was supported by Dorothy Del Beuno.

A flyer from the club's Rabbit of 1944

Graphic often used the advertise the club's Rabbits during the 1950s and 1960s

John MacCarley collection of Willow Grove Park concert programs, 1904-1925 (Collection 3147)

Located just north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Willow Grove Park opened in 1896 and was a popular regional attraction and amusement park for several decades. This collection of several hundred concert programs dating from 1904 to 1925 highlights one of the park’s main features that brought popular band leaders such as John Phillips Sousa to the area.  This collection was supported by Carol. A. Ingald.

Program from "Nine days of Gala Music by Sousa and his band" (undated)

list of music to be performed from July 3-14 (undated)

Corporal Edward Psulkowski letters, 1942-1953 (Collection 3123)

Corporal Edward Psulkowski served during World War II as Assistant Crew Chief, 864th Bomb Squadron, 494th Bomb Group, Army Air Corps.  This collection consists primarily of a series of love letters between Edward Psulkowski and Gladys Kramer. The letters narrate the story of two pen pals who fall in love during World War II. The correspondence and greeting cards from relatives and friends reflect the married life of Gladys and Edward in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 1 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 2 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 3 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 4 (23 April 1945)

If you click on the links to the finding aids, you’ll notice some variation of formats (pdf, xml, html).  The MacCarley collection represents our most recent foray into Archivists’ Toolkit and EAD.  As you’ve seen in other posts, most collections being processed through HSP’s  Digital Center for Americana project are also being entered directly in AT.  The output looks pretty nice, no?

Papers from the Bartram family…really?

The Chew family?  Yep, pretty sure we have their records.

The Hopkinson family?  Yeah, we’ve got them too.

The Logan family?  Yes, them too, and related families.

The Cadwalader family?  We’ve got boxes and boxes…and more boxes!

The Bartram family?  Believe it or not, yes!

Bartram plant233

HSP is well known for its collections from various political, military, legal, and merchant families of the 1700s and 1800s.  But we also have numerous collections from folks from the same era who were involved in everything from medicine to cartography to science.

From the sciences, we have the Bartram family.  John Bartram (1699-1777) was a self-taught botanist who eventually became known as the “Father of American Botany.” His interest in plants led him to create a botanic garden in Philadelphia’s Kingsessing neighborhood.  He spent much of his life traveling throughout the Eastern United States collecting specimens for his garden.  In 1765, King George III dubbed Bartram a “Royal Botanist.”

Bartram had several sons, his most famous being William (1739-1823) who also pursued a career in botany.  William accompanied his father on many of his journeys.  From 1773 to 1776, William travelled on his own throughout the Southeastern United States where he came in contact not only with indigenous flora and fauna but also with Native American Indian tribes.  He documented his journey in the published work often referred to as Bartram’s Travels.

Bartram two plants235 Bartram moth234

The finding aid for this small but important collection is on our website, both as a pdf and in EAD.  In addition to these lovely engravings, the collection mostly consists of portions of John’s and William’s journals, correspondence, and other family papers and volumes.  John and William Bartram are credited with identifying over 200 native plants in the Philadelphia region.  You may be carrying on their legacies in your own garden.  You can also witness the modern day fruits of their labors at Philadelphia’s own Bartram’s Gardens.