Rights and Reproductions, or “R&R” for those in the know

William Penn, chalk portrait by Francis Place

Since starting at HSP in July as the new Rights and Reproductions Associate, I’ve handled lots of orders for digital reproductions of HSP materials and permission to distribute these materials in books, exhibitions, and other media.  Processing R&R orders provides a great front row seat to HSP’s unique and diverse materials, not to mention the cool ways in which patrons are using our historical artifacts.  While some materials are perennial favorites with patrons (Francis Place’s chalk portrait of William Penn is especially popular among textbook publishers), here’s a snapshot of MY favorite (and sometimes less well-known) R&R materials from the past two months:    

Not long after I began working at HSP, I received a request from Christie’s New York for a copy of a watercolor of Harriton House by William L. Breton.  Built in 1704 by a Welsh Quaker, Harriton is located in Lower Merion and is best known as the home of Charles Thomson, “the Sam Adams of Philadelphia.”  A Philadelphia merchant, Thomson became the first and only Secretary to the Continental Congresses and, in April 1789, traveled to Mount Vernon to inform George Washington that he had been elected the first President of the United States.  Over 200 years later, a carved mahogany side chair belonging to Charles Thomson was featured in Christie’s September auction of American furniture, folk art, and decorative arts and the watercolor of Harriton House was used as an illustration in the auction catalog.

Charles Thomson's Residence Harriton in Lower Merion

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is perhaps best known for its colonial and early American history holdings, but we also have many collections of compelling twentieth-century materials.

WPA poster of William Penn House


One of my favorites is the Work Projects Administration posters collection, which includes over 900 examples of works by Federal Art Project artists from the 1940s. While the Work Projects Administration was a federal program, it spawned many state and local subsidiaries, among them the Pennsylvania Art Program.  Accordingly, while the subjects and styles of the artworks in the poster collection are diverse, many are also specific to Philadelphia and feature such local landmarks as the Philadelphia Zoo and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Defense Steel" by Horatio C. Forjohn

The color and style of these woodblock prints notably contrasts with the charcoal shades of more well-known WPA artworks like Horatio Forjohn’s “Defense Steel,” which will be published in a forthcoming volume on industrial art.


Sometimes the best history is personal history and two recent reproductions requests follow that mantra.  The first order was for a digital copy of Thomas C. Simpson’s personal cashbook; a nineteenth-century merchant, Mr. Simpson emigrated from Northern Ireland to Norristown and the cashbook has helped his modern-day descendants in England unravel a piece of family history.  “Family” was also the watchword for a young bride and groom, who ordered a copy of Samuel Carpenter and Hannah Hardiman’s 1684 marriage certificate from HSP’s Isaac Cooper Jones collection of marriage certificates.  Descendants of Samuel and Hannah, the couple plans to display the certificate at their wedding and have their relatives sign it, just as the Carpenter and Hardiman families did in 1684.  It is these connections between past and present that make working at HSP so rewarding and make R&R a great opportunity to share our collections with patrons far and wide.

Marriage certificate of Samuel Carpenter and Hannah Hardiman

Interested in purchasing high-quality digital scans of HSP materials? Contact us at rnr@hsp.org or visit http://www.hsp.org/node/2032 for more information on our Rights and Reproductions service.  You can also view already-digitized materials online in HSP’s Digital Library.

Labor Day images

While I know I’m a little late, I thought I’d gather some images of workers from our collections in celebration of labor day. The most obvious, I suppose, is the Work Projects Administration (WPA) posters collection. The WPA was created in 1935, as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, as a federal agency to provide work to unemployed people.

Next I found this image from our Society Photograph collection (#V59)  of workers from the Torresdale Filter Plant in Philadelphia. The photograph is estimated to have been taken around 1901.

From our Philadelphia War Photograph Committee collection (#V3) is this image of workers making Stetson hats.

And finally from one of our largest collection of images, the Philadelphia Record photograph morgue (#V7), this image of Latino workers from the 1940s. This collection consists of the photographs taken for the Philadelphia Record, a newspaper which published from 1879 to 1947, when it was absorbed by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Most of the photos in the collection date from the 1920s to 1940s.

Art as archives: HSP’s collection of WPA posters

As we’ve stated before here on this blog, there’s alot more to HSP’s archives than just old correspondence and records.  HSP’s conservation staff recently finished work on our Work Projects Administration (WPA) posters collection, which was adopted last year.  The collection contains works from the 1930s and 1940s from mostly Pennsylvania artists who were employed under the Pennsylvania Art Project (a subsidiary of the Federal Art Project, which itself was formed under the WPA.)  The subjects of the works are very diverse, ranging from advertisements for local attractions to work safety posters to fine art depicting laborers, industry, and landscapes.  Here is a mere sampling of the types of works will find in this great collection.

The collection is open to all researchers and its finding aid is now available online.

Untitled (undated)

"Miner" by Jack Ovchorov (undated)

Community Food Conservation, Inc. advertisement (undated)

"Wash Girl" by Samuel Brown (undated)

Advertisement for the Philadelphia Zoo (undated)

For more information on WPA art and artists, the Library of Congress has a wonderful site devoted to its collection of WPA works.

Down the hall, in Conservation…

The Conservation lab has been a hubbub of activity lately with a plethora of projects ranging from the never-ending supply of book repairs and document mending to specialized projects such as the cleaning and repairing of Daguerreotypes.

Monitoring the humidity of Daguerreotypes

Monitoring the humidity of Daguerreotypes

Taking apart a Daguerreotype for cleaning and repair

Taking apart a Daguerreotype for cleaning and repair

Cleaning the glass of Daguerreotypes

Cleaning the glass of Daguerreotypes

In addition to items from our general collections, the current collections being worked on are the Forrest Home Daguerreotypes, the WPA Posters (made possible by a generous donation through our Adopt a Collection program), and the various Civil War collections specified in the Digital Center for Americana Project.

Dry cleaning a WPA poster

Dry cleaning a WPA poster

Investigating maps from the A. A. Humpreys collection - DCA Project

Investigating maps from the A. A. Humpreys collection - DCA Project

We also thought our map rolling days were over, until a set of crumbling blueprints came into the lab last week.  One of the prints was photographed for an upcoming article in HSP’s publication, Legacies, which will focus on maps and mapmaking in Pennsylvania.

Our current staff includes the Director of Preservation and Conservation Services, Tara O’Brien, Project Conservation Technician, Leah Mackin, and Preservation Technician, Watsuki Harrington. We are pleased to have two interns this semester whose time will be split between assisting on the DCA Project, the WPA Posters and individual projects from the general collection. We look forward to sharing our conservation projects and discoveries with the readers of this blog!