NEWS: March 2008

Vol. 1, No. 2

In This Issue:

A Southwestern View of Washington Square , by Frank H. Taylor, c. 1910


Greetings from the Executive Director,

I have been pleased to see many of you in person at our very successful “meet & greet” sessions held in February.  Some have taken this opportunity to introduce prospective members to the Athenaeum, and I applaud your efforts to expand our Athenaeum community.  The last “meet & greet” of this series will be held at 5:30 PM on Wednesday, March  5th, but we have been so pleased by the member turnout for an insider’s tour that we plan to hold one more session later in the spring.  Watch your newsletter for further information.

Let me also remind you that we will have one more gallery talk for Palazzos of Power on Friday, March 7th, at 4:00 PM with Bruce Laverty.  Please reserve your place for that by calling or e-mailing  Susan Gallo at  Space is limited, so get your reservation in now!

My thanks to all of you who responded so warmly to the February e-newsletter.    We hope that you will begin to expect an Athenaeum presence in your e-mail as we turn to this vehicle to maintain active communication with our members.

Reminder: The Athenaeum will be closed March 21st for Good Friday

Banner Image: A Southwestern View of Washington Square, by Frank H. Taylor, c. 1910

Athenaeum Begins Architects Oral History Project

In the fall of 2007, Athenaeum board member, Hyman Myers, began a project to conduct oral history interviews with senior Philadelphia architects.  Assisted by Curator of Architecture, Bruce Laverty, Myers began with Henry Jonas Magaziner, who at age 96 is the oldest living architect in Philadelphia.  In his 90-minute interview, Mr. Magaziner recounts growing up the son of prolific Philadelphia architect, Louis Magaziner, his Beaux-Arts-style training at Penn’s school of architecture, and how his own independent career developed despite the obstacles of the Great Depression and World War II. Recording equipment, including audio, video and software, was provided by a generous grant from the Peggy & Ellis Wachs Family Foundation.  Other senior architects interviewed thus far include Vincent G. Kling (91) and H. Mather Lippincott (87).  Edited and transcribed interviews will be available on the biography page of the PAB website upon completion.  

Photo: Henry Magaziner, Dec. 2008. Hyman Myers, Photographer.

Victorian Yellowbacks

When thinking of the Athenaeum's 19th century holdings, one is liable to remember our architectural research materials or decorative bindings.  Less known is our small collection of Victorian yellowbacks.  Yellowbacks were the cheap popular editions of the day, distinguished by their eye-catching (some might say lurid) colorful covers of paper over boards. They were often sold in railway stalls and contained advertising to help keep costs low.  Books in the Athenaeum collection include ads for Pears' soap, macassar oil, corsets, wood wool diapers (!), and pills and potions to cure a variety of ailments.

We have so far identified 99 yellowbacks in our collection.  All are British publications dating between 1878 and 1890, a prime period for the genre.  With any luck we may identify a few more examples, giving us a window into the popular tastes of the period.

Above: Weird Stories by Mrs. J. H. Riddell (London: Chatto & Windus, 1885)


Member Event: Jennifer Lee Carrell Talks About Her Book Interred With Their Bones

Compared by Publishers Weekly to The DaVinci Code, this Shakespearean mystery focuses on the adventures of theater director Katharine Stanley, who is drawn into her quest by the murder of her friend, an eccentric Harvard Professor of Shakespeare. A lost Shakespeare play, the Globe Theatre, and a questionable gift propel the reader into a headlong trek to Utah, Arizona, Washington, DC, and back to London. Jennifer Lee Carrell holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University. A writer for Smithsonian magazine, she has taught in the history and literature programs at Harvard. Carrell’s last book The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox gained rave reviews from both Booklist and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008, 5:30 PM

Reservations required 215-925-2688.

Athenaeum Goes Green

As Building Supervisor, Lou Vassallo knows very well the amount of energy and light bulbs expended at the Athenaeum.  Recognizing the growing costs due to the hundreds of light fixtures throughout the building, Lou has initiated a plan to go green.  

He has begun to replace old incandescent bulbs with new energy efficient bulbs that not only use less power, but are expected to last several years longer.  In the long run, the Athenaeum will save money on lighting costs due to Lou's efforts, but the initial investment in energy efficient bulbs is significant.  If you would like to help the Athenaeum go green, contact Dr. Sandra Tatman.

Photo: Lou Vassallo with a new energy saving  light bulb. Jim Carroll, Photographer.

In The Next Issue: The Athenaeum's next exhibition, Architectural Shades & Shadows: The Continuing Tradition of the Beaux-Arts

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday.  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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