About Philadelphia on Stone
In 2007, the Library Company of Philadelphia embarked on Philadelphia on Stone, a three-year collaborative project that examines the first fifty years of commercial lithography in Philadelphia, 1828-1878. Lithography, a planographic (flat-surface) printing process in which large slabs of limestone were used as the printing surface, was the first new printing method to be introduced in more than three centuries when invented by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) about 1798. Lithography transformed the printed landscape, giving rise to a popular visual culture that continues to influence American society today. It was the first cost-effective method for printing in color, allowed long print runs and larger sizes, and facilitated design innovation because text and images could be easily combined. In the 19th century, lithography was the primary method used to print images, music, and day-to-day items of business -- forms, tickets, letterhead, circular letters, and most importantly advertising. For a demonstration by staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts of the basics of the process, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHw5_1Hopsc.
Funded by a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation, with additional support from the Independence Foundation, the project examines the impact of this new method of printmaking on the iconography of the city in a period of tremendous growth and change. Philadelphia on Stone documents the lives of lithographic artists and printers, and the work they produced, and illuminates Philadelphia’s transformation from a seaport into a leading manufacturing center, and the impact these changes had on the built environment. An era earlier analyzed by Historical Society of Pennsylvania Director Nicholas Wainwright in his book Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography (1958), Philadelphia on Stone reexamines and expands on the research of this revolutionary print process. The project documents the impact of Philadelphia as a center for the trade through:
A survey of eight institutional collections, including the Library Company, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Atwater Kent Museum, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution for lithographic views of Philadelphia in the first fifty years of commercial lithography, resulting in a digital catalog of over 1300 lithographs and related prints.
A web-published illustrated biographical dictionary documenting the careers of over 500 commercial lithographic artists and printers working in Philadelphia.
An exhibition (an Independent Project of Philagrafika 2010, Philadelphia’s international festival celebrating print in contemporary art) at the Library Company on 19th-century Philadelphia lithography, on view from March 18 - October 15, 2010.
Philadelphia on Stone: Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia 1828-1878 edited by Project director Erika Piola was published in October 2012 and is available for purchase through Penn State University Press.
Project director Erika Piola, Library Company of Philadelphia
Michael Twyman, Emeritus, University of Reading
Jennifer Ambrose, past Project director, Philadelphia on Stone
Don Cresswell, Philadelphia Print Shop
Sara Duke, Library of Congress
Chris Lane, Philadelphia Print Shop
Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles
Sarah Weatherwax, Library Company of Philadelphia
The Library Company invites members, scholars, artists, Philadelphia residents, descendents of local lithographers, and other interested parties to contact Project director Erika Piola with research queries or contributing information.
The Philadelphia on Stone director wishes to acknowledge Jennifer Ambrose, the original Project director, without whom Philadelphia on Stone would not exist; Linda Wisniewski, project assistant whose surveys and research grounded the exhibition; the curators and rights and reproduction staff of the collaborating institutions, including Lauren Hewes and Jaclyn Penny at the American Antiquarian Society, Jeffrey Ray and Susan Drinan at the Atwater Kent Museum, Bruce Laverty at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Karen Lightner at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Lee Arnold, Matt Lyons and Dana Lamparello at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Helena Zinkham and Sarah Duke at the Library of Congress, and Vanessa Broussard, Kaye Peterson, Jennifer Strobel, and Helena Wright at the Smithsonian Institution who kindly provided access to and loans from their collections without hesitation; David Doret, Jeremy Finkeldey, Thomas Whitehead at Temple University Special Collections and Violet Lutz at the German Society of Pennsylvania who also generously loaned materials for the exhibition; Caitlin Perkins of Philagrafika, John Caperton of the Philadelphia Print Center, and artists Kip Deeds, Roberta Delaney, Farrar Fitzgerald, Lauren Abshire, and Elizabeth Gross whose contributions demonstrate the continuing influence of lithography on 21st-century printmaking; Steve Tucker whose extraordinary design skills turned my stick figure visions into reality; Library Company Director John Van Horne and Curator Sarah Weatherwax, whose support for the project was unwavering; and my fellow staff, particularly, Nicole Joniec for her patience and organizational skills; Nicole Scalessa for her engaging website design; Connie King for her astute label edits; and Al Dallasta, Jennifer Rosner, Andrea Krupp, and Alice Austin for their expert installation.