UNITED STATES - EAST - INTERVIEW - JOSEPH GLANTZ - author of Philadelphia Orginals:
Inner Lights, Electric Kites - The sparks of Philadelphia's creativity
WRR: Joseph Glantz is the consulting editor for Wild River Review. He practiced law in Bucks County and worked in software development for AT&T. He writes the Interviews with the Famously Departed Column for the Wild River Review. His writings have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Lawyer, the Pennsylvania Lawyer and the Bucks County Writer.
His book Philadelphia Originals, which examines the unique styles and traditions of Philadelphia was published by Schiffer Books in August, 2009. It includes over 200 images, mostly paintings, by Philadelphia artists. A companion book, Philadelphia Before You Were Born, which examines the art and artists of the Philadelphia Press newspaper (during the last period when newspapers used artists, instead of photographers, for the paper's illustrations) will be discussed in a subsequent WRR post.
Philadelphia Originals is available directly through Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org (the preferred method) or through www.amazon.com. It is also available at many Philadelphia tourism sites and many of the big chain bookstores. For more information on Joe and more on Philadelphia Originals please view Joe's profile page.
Boathouse Reflections by Elaine Moynihan Lisle.
From Boathouse Row along the Schuykill River
WRR: In the introduction, you describe Philadelphia Originals as an “impressionist look at the city.” Most books on cities take a geographical or chronological approach. Why did the the impressionist style work for you?
My original intent was to do a sports book on how the play of the Big Five basketball schools mirrored the philosophy of the schools. That thought came from John McPhee’s wonderful book, Levels of the Game, in which McPhee wrote how the play of Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner mirrored their backgrounds. McPhee teaches at Princeton University.
In doing my research I took a look at E. Digby Baltzell’s book, Puritan Boston Quaker Philadelphia, because I was curious about why the Philadelphia 76ers were known for a creative individual style while the Boston Celtics were known for being a cerebral teamwork team. Baltzell’s book was a wonderful examination of how, historically, Boston was a more theoretical city while Philadelphia was more experimental. Baltzell explored these differences at some length across a few of the better known profession of the day – law and science.
Along the way, I realized that the Big Five approach, while interesting, had very little marketability. But Baltzells’ theory did have some play. My father, Sam, who grew up in South Philadelphia and practiced law mentioned the old saying – “When you’re in trouble get a ‘Philadelphia Lawyer.’” The reference is to William Penn’s lawyer’s, Andrew Hamilton’s, creative defense in the New York trial of publisher Peter Zenger in which Hamilton essentially argued for jury nullification. It was one of Penn’s trials in England, by the way, that established that judges should respect the decision of juries. My parents, Sam and Anne, took me to see Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra which was know for its famous string sounds, its ‘Philadelphia Sound’. I later learned the phrase also applies to the soulful sound of producers Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell. I’d also heard people like Sonny Hill mention the ‘Philadelphia Guard’ – a reference to an exciting but smart style of play.
So I started to examine where these sayings came from across a variety of professions and to look for other examples of a “Philadelphia style” by looking for patterns/common denominators/schools/movements/etc. The more I found patterns the more I thought that the approach of looking for these styles appealed - from a curiosity viewpoint and from a marketability viewpoint. There were plenty of patterns to be found – such as the opera tradition in Philadelphia music, a self-deprecating humor, great finger-foods, the influence of neighborhoods (the desire to keep one’s neighborhood but the right to access another’s) in Philadelphia film and more.
Logistically, it made sense to organize the book by the most notable professions. Once I had the patterns I decided to add in the people and places who were notable to give each of the professions some balance.
Independence Hall by Valerie Craig
Oyster Eaters by L. Boily Litho ca. 1825 courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Seafood - a long Philadelphia Tradition
WRR: Talk about your research and especially how art drove your research.
I wanted to use art and stories to illustrate the patterns and to show my theories had some credence. I started with many of the well known Philadelphia artists like Thomas Eakins and the Peales. The more I worked on the project I saw that there was just this tremendous wealth of art to illustrate the professions. Originally I didn’t focus on Philadelphia artists. But practicalities led me in that direction. For example, there’s a wonderful line drawing of four conductors of the Philadelphia Orchestra by the noted New York line artist, Al Hirschfeld. But using art requires permission and when I inquired about the costs the price was steep. So, as was often the case, when one door closed a window opened. I began to look for other artists who drew the Philadelphia Orchestra and I lit on Alfred Bendiner, an illustrator for the old Philadelphia Bulletin and an architect. Bendiner had done a series of illustrations of the Philadelphia Orchestra which were captured in a book. When I saw that book I found that Bendiner had written another book on famous Philadelphia scenes, some of which appear in the book like the crowded Schuykill expressway.
Much of the work in collecting the images took this non-linear path – search on the Internet, then go the libraries or places like the Rare Book and Manuscript Library to see the fuller body of work. I also visited all the major museums and many galleries and looked at the images of Philadelphia scenes. Other sources included the Urban Archives Collection at Temple University and the Print and Picture section of the Free Library of Philadelphia. One of the best sources and a wonderful find for me was the Library Company of Philadelphia, which Franklin helped to found through his work with the Junto, a voluntary association of tradesmen. Through their books and digital collections I found a lot of images. I also browsed the bookstores for interesting books and then contacted the publishers for some of the illustrations.
When I met with John Alviti, the senior curator of the Franklin Institute Science Museum, he mentioned than many people in my shoes would look at the Revolutionary period and the periods of their generation and their parents. Aware that a large chunk of time wouldn’t be covered (namely the 1800s and early 1900s) I focused on finding artists to cover those missing periods. That’s how I came across Wincie King who did a year long plus series of illustrations of Philadelphia notables in 1923 and 1924, including Penn’s John Heisman, for the Philadelphia Ledger; the artists of the Philadelphia Press (some of whom; John Sloan, William Gackens, Everett Shinn and George Luks went on to become members of the Ashcan movement) in the 1890s; and some additional cartoonists in the 1900s decade. Some of Wincie King’s work can be seen at the Philadelphia Franklin Club, the oldest writer’s club in the city. Other King drawings are held by Bryn Mawr University. I also used the online site, flickr, to get some of the photographs and tried to use some of the current artists doing a lot of Philadelphia scenes.
One image I didn’t use is Maxfield Parrish’s Tiffany Gardens, on display at the Curtis Center. I didn’t include it since the smaller size just wouldn’t do it justice. One image I did use, the Orchestra picture on the cover, is actually in color and held by the Philadelphia Orchestra. I’d love to see it some time.
Where I could I tried to add in stories or anecdotes. Alexander Calder has a mobile in the Philadelphia Museum of Art called the Ghost. His father did the statues in Logan Fountain. His grandfather did the William Penn statue atop City Hall. So sometimes the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to all three, is referred to as the Avenue of the Father, the Son and the Unholy Ghost.
Many of the older artists, like King and Bendiner, wrote their own commentary (more than a caption and less than a story) to complement their pictures. I tried to include that commentary.
Leopold Stokowski (line drawing) University of Pennsylvania Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Stokowski was the founder of the "Philadelphia Sound," defined by its sweet string section
Logistics was the toughest part. I wasn’t sure, at the start, which professions to include so I had to keep extra chapters. I would have liked to include Philadelphia writers but some of the better known ones like Owen Wister (who penned the first western – the Virginian), Walt Whitman (who was from Camden and didn’t really write about Philadelphia) and even Penn’s John Edgar Wideman (who wrote Philadelphia Fire but is from Pittsburgh) were more associated with other cities. There are some great female black writers like Lorene Cary and Dianne McKinney-Whetstone but not enough to do a whole chapter around. I did include writings where I could. There’s my all time oxymoron. One writer referred to the old Baker Bowl, one of the city’s old ballparks, as “beautifully decrepit – they don’t make ballparks like that anymore.
Politics seemed like a whole different book altogether. Plus, for the most part, I wanted to stay away from the negative mindset that many have of the city through lines like Lincoln Stephen’s “Philadelphia is corrupt but contented.”
Within each profession it took a while to see some of the patterns and some had some overlap – like television which could be business or tied in with film or it could be science which is where I ultimately placed it.
And getting permissions was time consuming since many images require multiple permissions. The images I would most have liked to use, but I couldn’t, were some of the 64 lithographs done by Joseph Pennell which readers can see in his book – “On Philadelphia.” Pennell’s wife Elizabeth wrote commentary for the book as well as for herself. One timely line Elizabeth wrote, that showcases Philadelphia’s rich botanical history, was “Can the spring be fairer in and around Philadelphia when wisteria blossoms on every wall and coating is white with dogwood.”
Philadelphia Museum of Art by Joe Barker
WRR: What new things do you learn about Philadelphia?
I was fascinated to learn how much influence Philadelphia has had on communication.
NEWSPAPERS. Most people, especially Penn people, know that Franklin put his imprint on newspapers and Almanacs (which stands for All Man’s Knack) by writing stories and using humor. I didn’t know how practical he was about it. He set up franchises that his relatives ran and he set up the Post Office, in part to distribute his publications.
CARTOONS. Franklin’s “Unite or Die” political cartoon left its imprint on Philadelphia’s caricaturists like Pennell, King, and Bendiner and some of the current ones I profile in the book. Illustrations, caricatures and political cartoons have been a Philadelphia staple. Signe Wilkinson told me of the time an old Governor decreed that cartoonists couldn’t portray political leaders as four legged animals when somebody portrayed the Governor as a horse’s ass. So the cartoonists drew him as bees and ducks and such until the next Governor changed the law.
MAGAZINES. Philadelphia was home to Curtis Publishing which captured the nation’s interest through the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies Home Journal and Holiday Magazine which was the liberal counterpart to the former magazines. All were known for their artwork as much as their stories – essentially that a thousand words was worth a picture.
COMPUTERS and TELEVISION. I knew that the general purpose computer, the ENIAC, was invented at Penn But I was surprised to learn the television and film had their genesis in Philadelphia too. Philo T. Farnsworth (from Utah, but working in Philadelphia for Philco) invented television and first displayed it at the Franklin Institute. There’s a photo of his first TV in the book.
FILM. Thomas Eakins brought Eadweard Muybridge to the Penn Veterinary School to perform a series of motion studies. Those studies, including showing that when a horse gallops all four legs leave the air, are what gave rise to the production of film. Siegmund Lubin, a Philadelphia optometrist, was the country’s first movie mogul. He and Thomas Edison competed with and spied on each other until everyone figured out that the warm weather of Hollywood was the place to be. Many films are being made in Philadelphia. There’s a wonderful bus ride that the Greater Philadelphia Film Office provides where riders can see many of the locales where Philadelphia films were shot. Atwater Kent manufactured radios.
CABLE. Cable was invented in nearby Wilkes-Barre and improved by later to become Governor Milton Shapp (my commencement speaker). Comcast is now centered in Philadelphia. The building is designed (well some people think) to look like a large flash drive. Most of the other communication ventures left or expired - so it’s nice that cable has stayed local.
Communications has played a role in some of the other professions too. A lot of Philadelphia humor is based on the ability to tell a story, not just jokes. Something Bill Cosby specialized in. The Philadelphia legal profession is certainly noteworthy for having some good talkers too.
Beyond communications I learned a great amount as I covered each profession. There are some areas where I knew the basics but I didn’t know the details so it was fun to track those details down. There were various schools and movements that I’d still like to learn more about. There’s a Philadelphia School of Architecture (led by Louis Kahn) though the reference to school, best I can figure, is more that there are a lot of buildings with common components that came out of the same years - more than a point by point philosophy. There’s a Philadelphia School of Golf Architecture that’s fun to read about too. It’s really amazing how influential the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was on artists and some of the local movements like the Brandywine school and Pennsylvania Impressionism.
Eadweard Muybridge's Motion Study Sequence. Leap Frog. Plate 169 from his 1887 publication of animal locomotion. Phases of Animal Movement 1872-1885. Courtesy of the Historical and Interpretative Collections of the Franklin Institute, Inc. Philadelphia, PA. (photography by Charles Penniman)
Muybridges studies were the beggining of movies
WRR: Your premise is that William Penn and Benjamin Franklin set the stage for Philadelphia's unique styles. Some might argue that many other factors contribute to style. Can you explain your position?
HUMILITY. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography of 12 attributes one needed for a successful life. He then added a 13th – humility. Midway through my work on the book which is premised on the idea that place, Philadelphia, defines the character of its citizens - I went to a speaking engagement sponsored by Al Filreis of the Kelly Writer’s House at Penn. Al introduced his guest, Richard Ford, who said – if there’s anything you should know about Mr. Ford it’s that the fundamental theme of his writings is that place means nothing; that one lifts himself up and proceeds on his own merits. Basically the complete opposite of my approach. So I do not claim to be an historian nor that that my approach is the best approach. Rather that there enough examples where it fits to make it a theory worth exploring and at least fun to think about.
PENN and FRANKLIN. The underlying essence of the various patterns and styles that I found is that if you understand Penn and Franklin you understand those patterns and styles. John Lukacs has this wonderful quote in his book, Patricians and Philistines –“Franklin represented the City’s Mind. Penn its heart. Penn was the idealist. Franklin the pragmatist. Penn believed in the individual conscience as the ‘Inner Light,” while Franklin believed in voluntary associations to set the standard for behavior.” Essentially the core idea that explains Philadelphia’s style is that Penn believed ideas should marinate within each neighborhood (religious, geographical, etc.) while Franklin, through his Junto concept and his practicality, said that’s not enough – one has to test and share those ideas to see which works best. Both (Penn and Franklin), put a premium on experimenting, as Baltzell originally characterized Philadelphia.
EXPERIMENTS. Penn’s ideas were experimental. His idea that each religion should be free to practice without infringement was known as the “Holy Experiment.” His grand design for Philadelphia (laying out the city into grids, preparing laws for the city) was also experimental too – since many of the European cities were developed through centuries of non-planning. Franklin’s scientific experiments are well known. His idea (and the founders’) for a new democracy was also a grand democratic experiment.
At its core the country parallels Philadelphia in that the states are akin to Philadelphia’s neighborhoods where ideas are supposed to marinate and the Federal Government is akin to Franklin’s Junto – a voluntary association where ideas are traded and the cream rises to the top.
This experimental view is, I think, what defines the city’s character the most, from the communications experiments above to all the firsts (the first zoo in America, the first American flag, the first medical school in America) that the city is known for the saying. There’s a saying – New York is biggest, Boston is best and Philadelphia is first.
Many of the industrial businesses, like the Baldwin locomotive, came out of Philadelphia’s willingness to experiment. Philadelphia’s character has changed over the decades, due to its willingness to adapt – another Franklin trait. It was known as the “Workshop to the World,” in part because it made so many things people needed and in part because its location and the railroads let it ship those goods North, South and West. The best example of the industrial spirit was the Sesquicentennial World’s Fair in 1876 in Philadelphia where new technology was king.
OTHER MONIKERS. But Philadelphia has had different labels before and after the industrial revolution. It was known as the Cradle of Liberty since that’s where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were berthed. In the 1790s it was the political, cultural and economic leader of the country – its Athen’s Age. The early 1800s were the Biddle age of finance until President Andrew Jackson submerged Biddle and the banks. In the Dilworth/Clark era of the 1950s and 1960s it was know for its reforms. That’s the time when a lot of redevelopment took place including Society Hill.
And while the “workshop to the world” era had its day, sadly, many of the industries have left or other areas of the country have surpassed them. The Pennsylvania railroad is no longer. Senator Specter lost in his attempt to save the Navy Yard. Other industries have left too. Even the most lasting remnant of the industrial revolution in Philadelphia has vanished. The grit and grime on City Hall was, as I understand it, mostly from the industrial revolution period. With the white-washing of City Hall that remnant is gone.
What does remain are some of the contributions of some of the city’s leading industrial like the [Joseph] Pew Trusts and Penn’s own Wharton (Joseph) school. And there are still some industries remaining but not as much as I think the city needs.
The question, going forward seems to me to be how does Philadelphia re-invent itself, a notion Sam Katz, who is making a movie about Philadelphia, likes. I like to think that the Penn/Franklin model is still a good starting point – even if the definition of neighborhoods may have to change, for example to include the suburbs.
PSFS Building. Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives
The PSFS Building was considered an architectural marvel when it was built
WRR: Anything else you’d like to mention?
JOHN HEISMAN. The book has lots of stories. One I left out is about John Heisman. The great college football trophy is named after him. John Heisman, who never practiced law, used his Penn law degree to good/Ok questionable use when he forced Cumberland State to play his Georgia Tech football team. Georgia Tech (Heisman was the athletic director) had been embarrassed by Cumberland in baseball. Heisman thought Cumberland had used ringers. Heisman wanted revenge. But Cumberland had quit playing football that very year so Heisman had a problem. But Heisman noted there was a penalty clause in the contract that required Cumberland to play the schools on its schedule or suffer a hefty penalty if it refused to play. All the other schools relented when Cumberland dropped the sport. Not Heisman. He said either play Georgia Tech or suffer the penalty. So Cumberland gathered some players and lost 222-0 in a game that was called after the third quarter. Legend has it the neither team scored a first down.
DALLAS. Plus this bit of trivia is interesting. George Miflin Dallas, a Philadelphia lawyer and mayor and a Pennsylvania Senator was Philadelphia’s highest elected official – Vice President under James Polk? Several counties and arguably Dallas, Texas are named after him. At least Philadelphians like to think so.
Through some networking I was able to obtain the financing from the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation who paid for the artwork. Many Philadelphians were kind enough to volunteer their time to review portions of the content.
Joseph Glantz Photo by Dale Cotton
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