NEWS: July 2011

Vol. 4, No. 7

In This Issue:

Banner Image: 6th and Walnut Sts. by Frank H. Taylor, 1914.




If you have visited the Athenaeum recently, you may have noticed that the building is warmer than usual. As I warned in last month’s newsletter, the air conditioning units dating from the 1975/76 restoration are being replaced with new, more efficient and energy-saving units. Fortunately neither the gallery nor the rare book vault is affected by this change since those spaces are serviced by much younger units. So far we have not closed due to the heat, but please do be aware that we might if the second floor simply becomes too warm. If it is a particularly hot day, please call before you come over, just in case we close early due to the heat. We hope to have air conditioning on both floors in place by the end of next week.

Reminder: The Athenaeum will be closed on July 4th for Independence Day.


Above: New air conditioning units on the Athenaeum roof. Photo by Bruce Laverty.

Banner Image: 6th and Walnut Sts. by Frank H. Taylor, 1914.


New Books for July

Athenaeum Bookshelf  07-2011

Peterson Fellow Returns to Athenaeum for Summer Research

Jhennifer A. Amundson has returned to the Athenaeum this summer with a Charles E. Peterson Fellowship. Dr. Amundson’s relationship with the Athenaeum began in 1997 with her first Peterson fellowship, which supported research for her dissertation on architect Thomas U. Walter (University of Delaware, 2001). In 2006, she edited the book Thomas Ustick Walter: The Lectures on Architecture, 1841-1853, published by the Athenaeum. Her current project, the first complete biography of Walter, sets his life and architecture within the great social and political events of the nineteenth century. “My project is a long-overdue study of one of the country’s most important architects; Walter’s life and work illustrates every important development in the design and practice of architecture during the formative years of the profession. Even though I have been able to continue my research and writing at the distance of my home outside of Chicago, there’s no substitute for handling Walter’s papers and drawings, not to mention being greeted by his portrait on the stair landing every day.”


Above: Jhennifer Amundson.  Photo by Bruce Laverty.


Mah Jong? Mah Jong?

Do any of you know how to play mah jong? Would you like to learn to play mah jong? The Athenaeum seeks a volunteer who is willing to teach the game in the fall so that it can launch a mah jong club. So far we have one game available to us -- but no teacher. If you are willing to teach or would like to join a club to play, please contact Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or


Member Critics

Noah Feldman.  Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Supreme Court Justices. New York and Boston: Twelve, 2010.


This book's jacket is graced by a large, friendly photo of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his prime.  The lower half carries much smaller pictures of the four appointees featured in the text.  This quartet of outstanding justices, representatives of FDR's stated intent to "pack" the Supreme Court with men who shared his own philosophy of legislation and judicial interpretation and who would vote "his way" in cases appearing before them, leading to a "liberal" or "progressive" verdict.  Through the years, a search for "originalism" by one group of justices and "legal realism" by others diminished the likelihood of compromise.  Decisions were commonly reached by a vote of five to four (even as today).  


In 1945 I was a second lieutenant in the Army's Medical Administrative Corps. learning more about rehabilitation (always a good idea).  One day at lunchtime the loudspeaker advised us of the death of our President and Commander-in-Chief.  My boss was Surgeon General of the Army; the military "brass" was politically conservative.  Most of us remember FDR's "packing the Court" but some of us (lower ranking) were more "understanding" of it than others.


Today's Conservatives will not have an easy time undoing (what may have become) "established law."  FDR was exceptionally charming: even though his detractors said he had a "second class intellect," many in the "first class" followed his bidding.


Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis.


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


Events we are planning for the early Fall. 

More information will be mailed in August:

October 1: Tunnel Book workshop with Maria Pisano.

October 4: Kieran Timberlake book launch.

October 29: Children's programs, 1-4pm: storytelling and book arts workshop.

November 9: Kenneth Lacovara and the Patagonian dinosaur.


The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00AM to 2:00PM (excluding the summer months). 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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