Rae and Baxter, Panoramists

Very little has emerged to date about Julio H. Rae. He is absent from most Philadelphia city directories of the era, which may reflect an early relocation or death, and that he was relatively young when he embraked on the venture. In 1852 he was listed in a city directory as Julius H. Rae, publisher, 533 North 10th Street, and in 1853 he was obscured by the mispelling of his surname with a listing as Julius H. Rea, printer, 517 Poplar Street. Rae intimates in his preface that he was publisher but not delineator of the panorama plates: he refers to the work of "our artist," who remains unidentified.

According to Joseph Jackson's Encylopedia of Philadelphia, 4 vols. (Harrisburg, PA, 1931-33), 4:1032, Rae's example was imitated in a smaller way in Boston and New York City. [research: literature of this type of publication?]

(An odd possibility is that Rae reappears a quarter-century later as an author of an unusual volume, The Application of Electricity as a Therapeutic Agent, by J. H. Rae, published in New York in 1877 by the Philadelphia firm of Boericke & Tafel, proprietors of a widely known homeopathic pharmacy on Arch Street. The closest listing in directories of that time is for Julia H. Rae, identified at a Frankford address in 1878.)

DeWitt Clinton Baxter, on the other hand, achieved a measure of notoriety, but for his Civil War exploits more than for his panoramas. He died on 9 May 1881, and his military career was the focus of the front-page obituary that appeared the following day in the Philadelphia Public Ledger.
[research: more newspaper obits]

Early city directories identify Baxter as "engraver" (1850-60), "designer" (1861), and "artist" (1862). From 1857 on he lived at 454 North Eighth Street, a substantial townhouse (3 stories, 24-feet wide) near Buttonwood Street, and from 1855 into the War he had an office in Hart's Building at the northeast corner of Sixth and Chestnut. The 1857 copyright notice was reportedly in the firm name Baxter & Neff; one wonders if this could mean James P. W. Neff, identified in an 1855 directory as an engineer and architect. As reported in Sandra Tatman and Roger Moss's Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects (Boston, 1985), Neff was a partner of architect James C. Sidney in the early 1850s. In the late 1850s Baxter was in partnership with Joseph S. Harley, a wood engraver like himself, but this was apparently dissolved by the early 1860s.
Advertisements on the early panoramas touted the services of Baxter & Hartley, "designers and engravers in wood" and D. W. C. Baxter & Co. A print showing Trinity Church, Oxford, engraved by Baxter & Harley for an unidentified publication survives at HSP (Ba132, T8334). An 1859 panorama identifies T. Redman Alexander as another member of the firm, housed on the fourth story of Hart's Building.

The panorama venture coincided with another remarkable undertaking, Caspar Souder Jr.'s "History of Chestnut Street," serialized in Thompson Westcott's Sunday Dispatch between April 1858 and October 1859, something that issued from the social gatherings of "a little knot of earnest Philadelphians" who were noting the passing of an older Philadelphia just as Baxter was recording the one that was taking its place (prefatory note, January 1860, for the extra-illustrated volumes of Souder's "History"). In chapter 55 of the"History," Souder commented: "We entertain a sort of fellow-feeling with Mr. Baxter, as he is engaged (artistically) in the same task as ourselves. While we are employed in giving pen-and-ink sketches of Chestnut street, he is delineating it, square by square, with his pencil and graver." Indeed, Souder's extra-illustrated volumes are replete with Rae and Baxter views sliced into building-size pieces and pasted onto his manuscript pages amid other images and clippings.

Baxter's role in the Civil War received much greater attention than his business life. He had quickly entered the fray in April 1861 as Lieutenant Colonel, the second-in-command, of the 19th Pennsylvania Volunteers, but when that three-month enlistment expired, he organized and led the 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, "Baxter's Fire Zouaves." As Charles H. Banes relates in his History of the Philadelphia Brigade (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1876), they were drawn from the various fire companies of Philadelphia, and were known for their peculiar uniforms and precise bayonet drills. They "enjoyed a brief period of considerable popularity, so much so, that the citizens of Philadelphia crowded the Academy of Music to witness" their maneuvers on stage. But their bright uniforms and their elaborate exercises "proved subsequently of very little value in the woods of Virginia, or under the rapid fire of long range rifles" (Banes, p. 11). Baxter recorded his expertise in such exercises in an illustrated 1861 book, The Volunteer's Manual; containing full instructions for the recruit. . . , which was published by King & Baird, the same firm that published his early panaoramas.

There is photograph of Baxter in uniform at HSP (Souder's "History of Chestnut Street," extra-illustrated volume, p. 221). Baxter commanded his regiment through its three years of active service, until "severely wounded at the Wilderness" in May 1864, "shot through the lungs" (Banes, pp. 229, 290). He was ultimately promoted, in March 1865, to Brevet Brigadier General.

After the war, Baxter was occupied variously, as a naval officer at the Custom House (1869) and in the mid-seventies as a principal in the Keystone Portable Forge Company. Upon the revival of the panoramas in 1879, the publisher and proprietor is identified as A. C. Weaver & Co., of 916 Chestnut Street, although the publication still bears Baxter's name and Baxter is identified as a partner in that firm. The second set of plates are lithographed rather than engraved on wood, and lack the color of the previous set. Descriptions of the undertaking during this second phase suggest that the firm engaged artists to make the views rather than relying on Baxter to draw them himself. The very last plates, from April 1880, indicate an end to the connection with Albert C. Weaver, and identify Baxter as the sole propietor and publisher, the plates dropping the previously ubiquitous card of Weaver & Co. On one of these sheets Baxter announced that "a complete reissue of Chestnut Street will at once be commenced, preparatory to issuing the same in BOOK FORM." But this was not to pass.

At the time of his death in May 1881, his obituary reported, Baxter was holding "a position at the Custom house." He was buried at now-defunct Monument Cemetery in North Philadelphia [research: death records, will, age, cem recs on mfilm, tombstone?]. He was survived by his widow Susannah, who relocated to 1751 Woodstock Street. She died in 1890, at the end residing near 2600 Ridge Avenue. They had two daughters. [Sally's sources?] His drafts for the plates were given to HSP by collector Ferdinand J. Dreer in 1885.

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url: www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Cities/iconog/bios.html; last rev. 7 June 1997