NEWS: October 2009

Vol. 2, No. 10

In This Issue:

Curtis and Penn Mutual Buildings as seen from Washington Square.  AIA/T-Square Club Yearbook , 1916.


Reminder: First Saturday hours resume this month.  The Athenaeum will be open Oct. 3 from 10:00am-2:00pm.


Banner Image: Curtis and Penn Mutual Buildings as seen from Washington Square.  AIA/T-Square Club Yearbook , 1916.

Athenaeum Staff and Drawing are History News Cover Story

Several of the Athenaeum staff were featured on the cover of the Summer 2009 edition of History News, the magazine of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). The cover photo (by our own Jim Carroll) and an additional image on page 7 accompanied the article “Lost in the Museum: Hidden Treasures and the Stories They Tell.”  Written by Athenaeum member, Nancy Moses, the article featured architect Thomas Ustick Walter’s 1855 half section of the dome of the United States Capitol and recounted the century-long journey of Walter’s drawings from his drafting room in Washington--- to a bunk house on a ranch in Colorado--- to the Athenaeum’s vault.  


Above: Cover of the Summer 2009 issue of History News. Standing L-R: Lois Reibach, Susan Gallo, Denise Fox. Seated L-R: Jill Lee, Louis Vassallo, Eileen Magee.  On the right: Bruce Laverty and Nancy Moses.  Cover Photo by Jim Carroll.


Athenaeum Member, Alvin Holm, A.I.A., Receives National Award

Alvin Holm, A.I.A., will receive the first ever Clem Labine Award for his lifelong contributions to classical architecture. He will receive the award at this fall’s Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference in Baltimore Oct. 21-24.

An architect, educator and writer, Alvin is known as a pioneer in the classical movement for his work in Philadelphia and throughout the country. He converted from modernism when he realized classicism is “a fountain of continuous nourishment that transcends fashion.”

The Clem Labine Award is given to an individual whose consistent body of work fosters humane values in the built environment. The award will be conferred each fall as part of the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference.


Above: New 19th century galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Alvin Holm in association with Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates.


Rushlight Article Sheds Light on Athenaeum Collections

Director Emeritus Dr. Roger W. Moss continues to spread the word regarding important Athenaeum collections. In his new article “Lighting by the Book: Early Gas Lighting Resources at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,” published in the September 2009 issue of the Rushlight Club’s journal, Dr. Moss parades our holdings of catalogs representing early gas light fixtures, such as A Practical Treatise on Gas-Light (London, 1815). In future Rushlight articles Dr. Moss will discuss other research materials from the Athenaeum collections which document the early development of electricity as well as the use and variety of fixtures which combined both gas and electricity. 


Above: Early gas lighting fixtures illustrated by Frederich C. Accum in A Practical Treatise on Gas-Light  (London, 1815).


Member Critics

This is the first article in what we hope will be a series of reviews submitted by our members for books which they have selected from the collection. In this review Dr. Harold Rashkis bravely becomes our first member critic.

Hager, Thomas. The Alchemy of Air. New York: Harmony Books, 2008.

The subtitle of this book is A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fueled the Rise of Hitler. The book is also part of the story of nitrogen, both as fertilizer and as explosive. Accordingly, much of the story is technical (chemistry, physics, ecology, economics, military strategy), and it is hard to find much love – except for love of Germany. Nevertheless, much of the book reads like a good novel. (Athenaeum call number: QD21.H26 2008)

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:  

October 2: Andro Linklater Lecture, An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson, 5:30pm (at American Philosophical Society)

October 3: First Saturday, Athenaeum open 10:00am-2:00pm

October 3: Open House, 2:30-4:30pm

October 5: Coffee Day, 9:30-3:30

October 7: "Shakespeare the Poet" Seminar, 3:30pm

October 13: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am

October 21: Nancy Heinzen Lecture, The Perfect Square: A History of Rittenhouse Square, 5:30pm

October 28: John and Wyatt Gallery Lecture, Philadelphia Architecture, third edition, 6:00pm


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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