Old Philadelphia:
Prints and watercolors by Frank H. Taylor (1846-1927)
page 3:


Fig. 3.1
. Frank H. Taylor, watercolor for print no. 296. "The Philadelphia Arcade,"
offered at Freeman's in November 2008. Courtesy of Freeman's Auctioneers, Philadelphia.

Originals and Versions: For the prints, Taylor chose a photolithographic process that produced a sepia tone, softening effects of line and shade, and even offering a sense of age. Most of his surviving originals for these prints, however, were rendered just in ink and wash to offer black and white and shades of gray, as color in the original would not register very distinctly, if at all, in the reproduction process. Such wash drawings presumably constituted most of the 200 "original drawings" listed in the executors' sale of 1927, as distinguished from the 22 "drawings colored by Mr. Taylor."

More than 150 of his preparatory wash drawings survive in various collections. In addition to the seventy that were offered at Freeman's, there are substantial collections at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Atwater Kent Museum, and a local law firm, along with smaller numbers at the Independence Seaport Museum, the Philadelphia Print Shop, and in private hands. They are fairly large, with a longer dimension usually near twenty or twenty-five inches, so they were typically reduced in production, and many of the wash drawings bear a paste-on (fig. 3.1) or hand-written annotations connecting them specifically to a numbered print.


In addition to these, though, there are a number of surviving originals by Taylor that are rendered in color, some tinted only faintly in watercolor and some much more vividly. These appear to relate to a variety of circumstances, and most seem likely to have been produced apart from or as secondary products of the print series. Some were made for other publications, some for exhibition, some as personal exercises, and some were probably "special drawings" prepared individually for private or institutional collectors, as the late sales lists note.

One such instance was probably the large watercolor at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia with a view that ranges along the south edge of Washington Square, looking southwest and west. A comparison (fig. 3.2) with one of the earlier prints (no. 18, from Ever-Changing Philadelphia in 1915) gives precisely the same view, right down to the details of street traffic, open windows and doors, and trees -- even to the point of defining the same random shapes between branches and foliage. A couple of possibilities arise: either Taylor was incredibly faithful to and adept at copying his old drawings, perhaps using projected images such as he employed in his "lantern-slide" lectures, or more likely, this was his preparatory wash drawing, enlivened with color. The watercolor is now matted and framed, but the size of the revealed image, about 21 by 27-1/2 inches, was well within the norm for Taylor's preparatory wash drawings.

Provenance supports this. The watercolor was the gift in 1968 of A. Sidney Jenkins, whose father, Charles F. Jenkins (1864-1951), was editor of the magazine Farm Journal since the 1890s. About 1911 the Farm Journal's building replaced the Orange Street Friends Meeting House at the southwest corner of the Square, at the center of this view. In fact, his Jenkins's name appears on the verso of one of Taylor's other sketches, that for no. 239, of the Lutheran Church at Trappe, Pennsylvania, dated 1921. A notation there reads "Show to Chas F Jenkins, Farm Journal." The elder Jenkins was a prominent Quaker with strong historical interests, and his interest in a "special drawing" of that site in its prior state seems quite plausible.

Another item also seems a likely "special drawing," but an original one of a subject that was never the basis of a print. This was large and bright watercolor at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that gave a view of the front of the house of Thomas I. Wharton at 130 S. 6th St. A caption notes that the building, removed in 1909, had been the "birthplace" of the Historical Society, and this seems likely to have been commissioned as a comemmortaion of that building. (n. 3.1)


Fig. 3.2. Frank H. Taylor, print no. 18. ". "Southwest from Washington Square," above, and watercolor of the same scene. Courtesy, Athenaeum of Philadephia.

n3.1. It appeared as the only non-photographic image of the "Homes of the Society" opposite page 412 of Hampton L. Carson, History of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, 1940), which was initiated on the centenary of the Society's founding in 1924. The image is shown on a webpage about the history and mission of the Historical Society, visited in December 2008.

The Washington Square drawing seems to throw some light on Taylor's process, and other watercolors tend to confirm that he occasionally returned to his wash drawings and revised or tinted them well after they were photographed for the print series. Print no. 121, "Around the Head of old Dock street" (fig. 3.3), had no date next to the signature when it was photolithographed for publication, probably about 1921-22. A watercolor version of this that recently appeared in the Freeman's auction was precisely faithful in even incidental details -- it was almost certainly the preparatory drawing for the print. But it now bears the date 1926 inscribed beside Taylor's signature and it is tinted in watercolor, both indications of later changes to the sheet.


Fig. 3.3. Frank H. Taylor, watercolor of print no. 121. "Around the Head of old Dock Street," dated 1926 (probably redrawn or revised and tinted subsequent to photography for the print),
offered at Freeman's in November 2008. Courtesy of Freeman's Auctioneers, Philadelphia.
A third case seems to confirm this practice of later revision, in this case through a change in the illustration itself (fig. 3.4). Print no. 73, "In Lodge Street," shows horses and a driver of a two-stave-long wagon hauling a large round object, possibly an iron steam boiler, that takes the shape of a cylinder attached to a round-topped rectangular section with a small domical projection atop it. But in the surviving wash drawing that had ostensibly been photographed as the basis of this print, the tank appears as a simple cylinder, without that rear section, and the wagon now has three staves along its flank. Taylor must have reworked his earlier drawing, but shows his skill by leaving barely any trace on the tank or in the light-toned area of the road behind.  
Fig. 3.4. Frank H. Taylor, details of print no. 73. "In Lodge Street,"at left, and of watercolor of the same scene offered at Freeman's in November 2008. Courtesy of Freeman's Auctioneers, Philadelphia.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are several other Taylor watercolors of Philadelphia scenes in various collections, many of them of the same locations depicted in individual prints from the series, and often from identical or nearly identical vantage points -- but that were very clearly not the drawings photographed as the basis of the those prints. Most were rendered more brightly in watercolor and were on sheets distinctly smaller than the wash drawings; they were usually nearer 10 to 14 inches in their longer dimension, although some were about half that size.





Some clearly derive from Taylor's published books, pamphlets, and earlier illustrated newspaper articles, while others may derive from sketching trips, particularly group outings with the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and some may have related to club or public exhibitions of such watercolor sketches. But Taylor would often revisit the same subject, sometimes redrawing from his own earlier original, and this could leave as any as four or five different versions of a scene. A sketching trip might produce a small watercolor that would make its way, translated into a small line drawing, into a newspaper article. Other drawings might have started out as illustrations for a pamphlet or book, sometimes as a drawing in line or wash only, anticipating the medium of its publication, but Taylor recycled his earlier work for different publication opportunities, and in his "Old Philadelphia" series he often returned to the scene of his earlier drawings, or simply redrew from the older drawing itself. For the print series, this usually meant the preparation of a new wash drawing. But in some instances, he may have drawn a colorful new version for a collector, perhaps enhanced an older one, or even ventured a wholly new subject upon a commission, as was likely in the case of the Wharton mansion watercolor for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, mentioned above.

Fig. 3.5. Old Philadelphia print no. 172 and F. H. Taylor, "Ruin of Old Mill, Holmesburg. Built in 1697. From a sketch made in 1895 by Frank H. Taylor" (Castner Collection, vol. 33: 24).

Variants of the watercolors, therefore, abound, and one seems to encounter versions of all these possibilities in different collections. For an example (fig. 3.5), one might consider print no. 172 of "The Old Grist Mill, Holmesburg," probably published about 1918-19. The subject was also known as the "Old Swedes," bearing the strikingly early building date of 1697. In the label attached to the print's backing card, Taylor explained that made his print "from a photograph taken prior to its destruction by fire in 1885," and what is likely the basis for the print, a wash drawing measuring 14 by 19-1/2, is preserved by the Atwater Kent Museum. A smaller, brightly rendered watercolor measuring 10 x 12-1/4", is attached to a page in the Castner Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia (vol. 33: 24). This shows the mill subsequent to the fire, though from nearly the same angle. Its hand-written caption explains that Taylor made this "from a sketch made in 1895 by Frank H. Taylor," thus referencing a third Taylor original. The reason for his making this post-1895 redrawing is not certain, but its present location, among about two dozen others in the Castner Collection, suggests that it might have been made for this collector.

The treatment of another subject (fig. 3.6), "The Bingham House" in print no. 313, offers a different series of graphic iterations -- or more to the point, non-iterations. The "Old Philadelphia" print was published about 1923, Taylor's drawing for based on "a painting made in the civil war period," according to his caption. The view shows two structures, the older hotel at the near corner and at left the first city depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad. But Taylor had drawn this a decade earlier, for his 1913 book Philadelphia in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Opposite page 32 was a photoreproduction of another view by Taylor, and a third was a bright watercolor in the Fox Collection at Bryn Mawr College, with a caption similar to the first: "Penna R.R. Depot, S. E. Cor. 11th and Market Sts. in the civil war period." This is identical to the others in vantage point but distinctive in detail from both.

[repr of same in CW book, w/diffs]

Fig. 3.6. Frank H. Taylor, "Old Philadelphia" print no .313, "The Bingham House," at top, and watercolor, "Penna R.R. Depot, S. E. Cor. 11th and Market Sts. in the civil war period," Fox Collection, Bryn Mawr College.

Other views also are found in variant watercolor versions, but some appear to be singletons, unrelated to any print. A watercolor sketch of Grays Lane at 58th Street (fig. 3.7), in southwest Philadelphia, seems a loose rendering of colors and shapes, one not intended to be serve as a descriptive record that would illustrate an historical commentary. Two other apparent singletons, though, seem quite the contrary. One, of an old bookstore on North 9th Street (fig. 3.8), seems a very particluar record made for unknown reasons. The other (fig. 3.9) shows an early tavern on 5th Street, with an attached note giving some of its history and explaining that Taylor had copied this from a drawing "only lately identified, owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and made by G. Harrison in 1846." The letterhead on his note identified Taylor as "artist and publisher" with an address at 718-24 Arch Street; 718 Arch was an address he used in directory listings about 1900-05. The last two images are small watercolors today found in the Castner Collection, and they may well have been devised specifically for that collector.

Fig. 3.8. F. H. Taylor, "Archway Bookstore, 9th St. below Arch St.," 1905, Castner Collection, vol. 27: 84.


Fig. 3.7. F. H. Taylor, "Gray's Lane and 58th St. looking South
along Ameseka Creek," 1899, Castner Collection, vol. 27: 100.

Fig. 3.9. F. H. Taylor, [Early tavern at northwest corner of 5th and Minor streets, formerly Jefferson House, Indian Queen Tavern], Castner Collection, vol. 29: 27.

Others drawings, of course, related to Taylor's prolific career as a "special artist" for illustrated newspapers and magazines, for which, read on.

fht3.html; last rev.= 20 Jan. 09 jc; links to [print list w/ expl] [list of origs] [p.1, intro] [p. 2: Series and Lists], [p. 3: Originals and Versions] [p.4: Special Artist, Phila Publs, Newspapers], [p.5: Notations and networks, Castner, WPh] [return buttons: Places in Time]