Subscribe to the Rosenblog!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jewish History and Heritage Tours

What are you doing next Wednesday night at 6? Here at the Rosenbach we will be having a special docent-led thematic tour on "Jewish History & Heritage in the Rosenbach Home." In order to support this tour (which will also run December 12 and 19) we will be putting out some special Jewish materials in the library display case for the month of December. Here are a couple of the items, to pique your interest.

Pierre Martinez, Mafteah Leshon ha-kodesh, that is, The key of the holy tongue. Imprinted at Leyden: by Francis Raphelengius, 1593.Rosenbach Museum & Library. J 593
This 1593 volume is the first Hebrew grammar published in English. The Key of the Holy Tongue is a translation by the Puritan scholar John Udall of Pierre Martinez's earlier grammar written in Latin. As the title promises, it has been "Englished for the Benefit of Those that (being Ignorant in the Latin) are Desirous to Learn the Holy Tongue."

Isaac Leeser, ed. Sidur Sifte Tsadikim . The form of prayers according to the custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews.  2nd ed. Philadelphia: Stereotyped by Slote & Mooney, 5617 [i.e. 1857] Rosenbach Museum & Library.  Ro3  857
On a more personal Rosenbach level, here is a prayer book that belonged to Isabella Polock Rosenbach, the Rosenbach brothers' mother. It is from the 1857 printing of The Form of Prayers According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, edited by Isaac Leeser. One odd thing about the beautiful binding--her maiden name is typically spelled "Polock," but on all the volumes in this prayerbook set it appears as "Polok." I don't know if this was an acceptable variant or simply a misprint.
To see more, and to hear the wonderful stories associated with the Rosenbach's collection of Jewish material, you'll have to come to the museum. The tour is included with admission and is free for members, but RSVPs are recommended (215-732-1600, ext. 123 or e-mail --I believe the December 12 tour is already sold out, so don't delay.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 1862

Although the last Thursday of November wouldn't be set aside as a national holiday until 1863, the day was widely celebrated in the decade or so before, thanks in large part to the efforts of Godey's Ladies Book editor Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote scores of articles, petitions, and letters to officials promoting the idea of a second specifically American holiday (in addition to the 4th of July). In today's post we look back 150 years to an 1862 Thanksgiving celebration.

That year there had actually been an earlier national day of thanksgiving, proclaimed by President Lincoln in April in gratitude for Union military victories. Nonetheless, the November holiday was still celebrated. In this December 2, 1862 letter, Marianne Moore's great-grandparents Henry & Mary Warner describe their Thanksgiving, which they spent with their daughter Anne.

Moore VI-5-13 p1 Henry and Mary Warner to Children 12-2-62
Henry and Mary Warner, autograph letter signed to John Riddle Warner. Allegheny City [Pittsburgh], 2 December 1862. Moore VI:05:13

"On last thursday thanksgiving day Mother & I dined with Anne, we had a very nice young roast goose and a pair of chickens for dinner with all the et ceteras connected with such a meal, spent the afternoon there, took tea, and remained until bed time—kept worship at Annes request, during the afternoon and evening enjoyed ourselves much—after the old couple returned home, heated up the stove and returned to rest after we felt warm & comfortable—In the forenoon a student preached for us, he done his part well, the meetinghouse was comfortably heated, we hope the hearers acted their part as well as the preacher—the audience was not as large as it might, or ought to be, taking every thing into consideration—so ended thanksgiving day."

Happy Thanksgiving  from all of us at the Rosenbach.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, November 16, 2012

Exhibition Opening Recap: War Stories

Elyse Poinsett here, the official stand for the Special Events and Marketing hats at the Rosenbach. Most of you probably know me best as the voice behind our e-newsletter (sign up here!), facebook page, and Twitter feed. I think our latest exhibition is just terrific, so I stole the posting duties from Kathy for a week to tell you all about it.
Almost a week ago, we opened our latest exhibition, “War Stories.” Created in collaboration between staff at the Rosenbach and five student veterans living in the Philadelphia area, this exhibition places today’s stories alongside historic accounts to provide visitors with a soldier’s perspective on war. 

The exhibition features touch screens that you can use to tour virtual recreations of spaces soldiers occupied, like humvees, training rooms, and Civil-War era cabins. There's also audio clips of veterans telling stories about the people they met, the spaces they lived in, and how they communicated with people back home. The exhibition will be on view until May 26, 2013.

To mark the occasion of the opening, we invited trustees, members, veterans, their families, and the public to drink cider, eat delicious Federal Donuts, and check out the new exhibition. The event served double-duty as member appreciation day and a free day in honor of veterans. We had quite a crowd!

The veterans who contributed their time, stories, and photographs to the exhibition were on hand to answer questions and see their work for the first time. Pictured with four of them, below, is the Hirsig Family Director of Education Emilie Parker, who initially developed War Stories. A huge thanks to all the veterans involved!

We also had the Libby Prison Minstrels play a few sets of their Civil War-era repertoire. Here’s a video of just one of the terrific songs they played:

This exhibition is part of a larger project, also called "War Stories", a one-of-a-kind program that engages military communities and civilians by interweaving stories from today’s veterans with stories from the Rosenbach’s vast historic collections.

The first phase of War Stories, including the exhibition, opening program, and school partnerships that we will tell you about soon, were funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program. Thanks, Pew! So, come check it out!

Elyse Poinsett is the Marketing and Special Events Associate at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Campaign Ads: 19th-Century Style

This week's election prompted much conversation here at the Rosenbach, as I'm sure was the case at lunchrooms and water coolers around America. A topic that came up around our lunch table was relief at the end of the the advertising onslaught, which prompted some discussion of the historical use of campaign slogans and symbols.

One that came immediately to our minds was the 1840 bid of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (known as the “Log Cabin Campaign”). This was the campaign that coined the famous song and slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” In case you had any doubts about the historic roots of mudslinging, here are the song’s first verse and chorus (and a youtube video of the song):

What has caused this great commotion, motion, motion,
Our country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on

For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
And with them we'll beat little Van, Van, Van,
Van is a used up man.
And with them we'll beat little Van.

In our collection, we have a really neat William Henry Harrison campaign ribbon (although it doesn't include the famous phrase). The silk ribbon  features a portrait of  "Gen. Wm. H. Harrison" atop portraits of George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Underneath is a slightly tweaked version of Henry Lee's famous description of  Washington: "First in War--First in Peace--First in the Hearts of Their Countrymen." Not at all subtle.

Campaign ribbon. Silk. 1840. Rosenbach Museum & Library. 2006.7650

The picture at the bottom of the ribbon is also masterful--it incorporates a rustic cabin, a flag, and a military background, thereby managing to combine all the pro-Harrison messages into a single image. The log cabin is shorthand for the Whig Party's focus on Harrison as frontiersman. The rough-and-ready everyman image was as popular a strategy then as it is now, even if it required glossing the facts a little (Harrison came from a very prominent Virginia family and was born at Berkeley plantation before heading into the territories as an army man and politician). The flag and tents in the right background are, of course, a reference to Harrison's military career and the Whig attempt to frame him as a war hero. To top it all off, a long-rayed sun rises (I assume) behind the hill, highlighting both the industry of the early-morning ploughman and the dawning of a new political day. All of this neatly conveyed in a woodcut image about two inches across. Just imagine what these guys could have done with Facebook!

(By the way, 80% of the electorate turned out to vote in 1840 and Harrison squashed the incumbent Martin Van Buren 234 to 60 in the electoral college, although the popular vote was a much closer 53%-47%)

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Tempest

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin's cheek,
Dashes the fire out

For some reason, The Tempest seemed an appropriate choice for this week.  And for today, since the play was presented at court on November 1, 1611.

We have several copies of The Tempest, not counting those included in the Folios. Here's a 1725 copy "collated and corrected" by Alexander Pope.

William Shakespaeare, The tempest. A comedie. Collated and corrected by the former editions by Mr. Pope. Dublin: George Grierson, 1725.  Rosenbach Museum & Library. EL1 .S527te

The play famously opens "on a ship at sea" that is being tossed in a storm.

William Shakespaeare, The tempest. A comedie. Collated and corrected by the former editions by Mr. Pope. Dublin: George Grierson, 1725. Rosenbach Museum & Library. EL1 .S527te
Critics have identified many sources on storms which may have influenced Shakespeare. One of these is the 1609 wreck of the Sea Venture. The Sea Venture was heading for Virginia when it was blown off course by a hurricane and ran aground off the Bermudas. The ship's passengers and crew, who included Sir Thomas Gates, the new governor of the Virginia colony, and Sir George Somers, the admiral of  Virginia, remained on the island for three-quarters of a year while building new ships and finally reached Virginia in May of 1610. 

The story of the Sea Venture appeared in several printed accounts in the fall of 1610: Silvester Jourdain's first-hand account, A Discovery of the Barmudas; the Virginia Company's A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia; and the ballad Newes from Virginia by Richard Rich, "one of the voyage." Here's our copy of A True Declaration... and its description of the islands of the Bermudas as "accounted as an inchanted pile of rocks and a desert inhabitation for Devils" but actually haunted only by "flocks of birds" and "heards of swine."

A true declaration of the estate of the colonie in Virgina. London: Printed for William Barret, 1610. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 610t
A true declaration of the estate of the colonie in Virgina. London: Printed for William Barret, 1610. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 610t
We also have a copy of William Strachey's account A true reportory of the wrake, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, which many scholars suggest has the closest links with the shipwreck in Shakespeare's Tempest.  Strachey was a member of the wrecked voyage and after reaching Virginia, wrote a letter dated July 15, 1610 to an "Excellent Lady" describing the events. The letter wasn't published until 1625, when it appeared in Purchas his Pilgrimes, but scholars have suggested that it circulated in manuscript and noted that Shakespeare knew several men connected with the Virginia Company and may have known Strachey.

Scholarly debate over the relationship between Strachey and The Tempest has been complicated, with some arguing that specific passages from Strachey are echoed in Shakespeare, others claiming a more general connection, and still others (primarily, but not solely, anti-Stratfordians) dismissing it as a source. (See Alden Vaughan, “William Strachey’s ‘True Reportory’ and Shakespeare: A Closer Look At the Evidence.” Shakespeare Quarterly . Volume 59, Number 3, Fall 2008, among others, for a description of this debate)

Here is our copy of Strachey's letter, printed in Purchas his Pilgrimes. At the Folger Shakespeare Library's site Shakespeare in American Life you can read both Strachey's account and the Shakespearean play and take a look for yourself.

Samuel Purchas, Purchas his Pilgrimes. In five books. The Fourth Part. London: Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone, 1625. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A f. 625p

We at the Rosenbach hope our readers are not themselves too tempest-tossed and we extend our sympathies to those of you affected by the recent storm.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog