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

p. 4

Taylor as "Special Artist": During the mid-1870s, Taylor embarked on a role providing illustrations and text for articles for a succession of different newspapers and magzines over the course of his long life. This role was the principal subject of Nancy L. Gustke's well-researched 1995 book, The Special Artist in American Culture: A Biography of Frank Hamilton Taylor (1846-1927) -- and her 1991 University of New Hampshire dissertation on which it was based -- the best modern historiography on Taylor's life and work.

Gustke reports that Taylor had contributed an illustration to Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, a weekly, as early as September 1872, but especially important in this regard was Taylor's regular connection as a special artist with the New York Daily Graphic, touted as the first illustrated daily newspaper in this country. The Daily Graphic was established in 1872, and Taylor joined the enterprise two years later. Scrutiny of the run of the Daily Graphic [reportedly accessible digitally at Rutgers] would doubtlessly document his role much more fully, but a few articles (figs. 4.1-4.3) will demonstrate the kind of work this entailed. These illustrations were usually event-based, and most were captioned as being "from the Philadelphia Art Bureau of the Daily Graphic" and signed by Taylor, but some instances were not credited this way or were initialed by others. He may have illustrated some articles of his own authorship such as "The Freak of a Tramp," about broken plate glass windows on a Chestnut Street shop (fig. 4.3) in 1876. But the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia that year was a key, recurring topic.

Fig. 4.2. F. H. Taylor, "Burning of the Market Street Bridge, Philadelphia, Last Saturday Evening," New York Daily Graphic, 20 Nov. 1875 (Castner Collection 19: 44, Free Library of Philadelphia).

Gustke reports that The Daily Graphic failed in 1878, but Taylor found many other opportunities for placing his drawings in publications. He perhaps gained his greatest notoriety in accompanying former president U. S. Grant on trips to Florida, Cuba, and Mexico, about which he provided illustrated articles for Harper's Weekly in the early 1880s (one the subject of print no. 387, about 1924). He also wrote and illustrated a large number of publications, most of them short travel or guide books to places such as the Piedmont regions of Western North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia (1878), the Schuylkill Valley (1878), the Lehigh Valley (1878), Texas (1879), Vermont (c. 1880), Minnesota (1881), the St. Lawrence (1884), Pennsylvania's "Petroleum Region" (1884), the Shenandoah uplands (1885), the Adirondacks (1888, 1892), Mackinac Island (1889), Roanoke, VA (1890), New Jersey (1893), and The Thousand Islands (1893).


Fig. 4.1. Philadelphia Art Bureau of the Daily Graphic, "The Election in Pennsylvania, Scene in Front of the Philadelphia Union League Club-house last Tuesday Evening," New York Daily Graphic, [Nov. 1875], signed Taylor / Toland at lower left (Castner Collection 3: 31, Free Library of Philadelphia).

Fig. 4.3. F. H. Taylor, "Singular Occurence at Reeve L. Knight & Son's Carpet Store, No. 1122 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Last Saturday," illustrating article "The Freak of a Tramp," New York Daily Graphic, 23 March 1876 (Castner Collection 19: 113, Free Library of Philadelphia).


In addition to potential visitors as readers of these, many also served promotional purposes for railroads in these areas and other interested parties. His 1878 Valley of the Schuylkill and its attractions, for example, was a 55-page booket richly illustrated (figs. 4.4-4.5) with sketches by Taylor and others. It described itself as a chronicle of a short summer tour by Taylor and three friends -- "the historian, the operator, and the native" -- through the agricultural country, mountains, and coal fields along the line of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. A preafce by Taylor claimed that this was not concerned mainly with the "resources, operations, and prosperity" of the line, but rather was meant as a portrait of "the natural beauties of the region, coupled with such artificial features as may serve to give point to the various scenes depicted." That said, the economic "artifice" of mills and iron works, bridges and collieries were dominant among the illustrations.

Fig. 4.4. F. H. Taylor, "Kelly Run Colliery, Shenandoah," from The Valley of the Schuylkill and its Attractions (Philadelphia, 1878), p. 46.


Fig. 4.5. F. H. Taylor, cover page from The Valley of the Schuylkill and its Attractions (Philadelphia, 1878).

(This and some other period booklets were published by James W. Nagle of Philadelphia, who almost forty years later would issue one of the early lists of Taylor's prints and would sell them from his shop. Another Philadelphia firm, Geo. S. Harris & Sons, also published works of Taylor's in the 1890s, and its address, 718-24 Arch Street, included that given by Taylor as his business address, 718 Arch, around the turn of the century.)

Philadelphia Publications
: Such far-ranging work seems to have kept Taylor moving during the 1880s, but he settled into Philadelphia more fully and vocationally by the early 1890s, as he began to provide words and images for a range of local publications, including newspapers, pamphlets, and books.

These included such titles as:

  • The City of Philadelphia as it appears in the year 1893; a compilation of facts for the information of business men, travelers, and the world at large (218 pp., 1893), published for the Chamber of Commerce (and reissued with only minor changes in 1894 and 1900);
  • The Stranger in Town: places and institutions in the city of Philadelphia which may be visited by sojourners among us (16 pp., 1893), for the Trades League of Philadelphia;
  • The Visitors' Reference Book to Philadelphia: places in the city of interest to strangers (48 pp., 1895), also for the Trades League;
  • The Hand Book of the lower Delaware River: ports, tides, pilots, quarantine stations, light-house service, life-saving and maritime reporting stations (96 pp., 1895), published with the Philadelphia Maritime Exchange;
  • Cheltenham (12 folding pp., 1895), for the Cheltenham Military Academy;
  • Cyclers' and Drivers' Best Routes in and around Philadelphia (44 pp., 1896).

Taylor was not only an avid cycler, but also a recycler, specifically of his images. Several of the subjects he drew for one of these publications had or would soon appear in another. And in some cases, they would reappear two decades later as part of his "Old Philadelphia" series, revised slightly or redrawn from his old sketches. An example of the former is a reproduction of a pen-and-ink sketch of the Perot engine (fig. 4.6), signed and dated 1894, that appeared in the second edition of his City of Philadelphia (on p. 139) and that was seen much later only very slightly edited as print no. 74.

A similar history is traced by some sketches of toll-houses that he had made in 1895 (fig. 4.7). These appeared variously: in an article on the "First Turnpike in the United States in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 9 Feb. 1896 (p. 25), and the same year in Cyclers' and Drivers' Best Routes (fig. 4.8). Then about twenty years later, several were redrawn in ink wash (fig. 4.9), composited in vignettes, for "Old Philadelphia" print no. 144, now with some cyclists removed, an automobile introduced, and tone added to line. As the later title makes clear, in the 1918 print and its accompanying commentary, the focus had moved from cycling to the "troublesome old toll houses" then beginning to be removed. (fig. 4.10).

Fig. 4.8. Frank H. Taylor, "City Line Toll Gate, Lancaster Pike," in Cyclers' and Drivers' Best Routes (Philadelphia, 1896), p. 3.

Fig. 4.9. Frank H. Taylor, wash drawing preparatory to print no. 144, top two views, courtesy of Freeman's Auctions, Philadelphia.

Fig. 4.6. F. H. Taylor, "The Oldest Steam Engine in America, . . . in constant use at Perot's Malt House," fromThe City of Philadelphia as it appears in the year 1894 (2nd ed., 1894), p. 139 (cp. "Old Philadelphia print no.74).


Fig. 4.7. Frank H. Taylor, "Toll house on Montgomery Pike at Merionville, 1895," Castner Collection 12:87, Free Library of Philadelphia.

Fig. 4.10. Frank H. Taylor, Old Philadelphia print no. 144, "Those Troublesome old Toll Houses."

Taylor in Philadelphia Newspapers
: By the early 1890s, Taylor also began to involve himself more with Philadelphia newspapers, which were then hungering for far more illustrative matter, especially for their newly enhanced Sunday "magazine" features. These became a rich venue for somewhat longer articles, or at least more page-consuming ones. They often focused on small or thematic topographies, choosing locales with old surviving buildings and treating them historically, and Taylor was soon just the man for this sort of article.

Two boxes of Taylor's papers are held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania as manuscript collection no. 2180. These include manuscripts and typescripts, clippings, and notations that allude to presentations and articles in a range of local newspapers over several decades, including the Philadelphia Press, the Public Ledger (e.g., an article on ballooning, 1891) the Philadelphia Times (e.g., an article on Hog Island, Nov. 1892), and the North American. One senses a touch of "Grub Street" of old London here, of journalists living by their pen and wit, profferring their work to a range of publications, but in Taylor's case, this usually included his images as well as words. Nearly all the major Philadelphia newspapers were adding such articles, often unsigned, and often less than fully cited as to source in the scrapbook collections where one enounters many, sometimes regular, recurring features in specific newspapers. (n. 4.1)


n4.1. The richest collection of such articles appears to be that at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in which Henry G. Ashmead excised and assembled thousands of these articles in the set of nearly fifty scrapbooks called "Ashmead's Newspaper Cuttings about Pennsylvania History" (v 97). (A web project by a former Bryn Mawr College student, Dawni Freeman, makes accessible a sampling from the first ten volumes of this set.) Very few of these articles are signed, and Taylor's work may well lurk there amid that of several other authors and illustrators active in this realm before an after the turn of the century. Photolithography began to appear more regularly around the turn of the century, but in many cases this meant photographs of wash drawings in place of the line drawings common for such illsutartive maatter in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In 1893 Taylor was placed in charge of illustrated material for a leading newspaper, the Public Ledger, which seems to have lagged graphically relative to others, but this may have been a short-lived connection, for he would soon again be contributing articles to competing papers. His 1896 booklet on Cyclers' and drivers' best routes credits his own pen-and-ink drawing (fig. 4.7) as "loaned from The Times," another Philadelphia paper, and there are likely many more lurking amid the pages (and microfilm reels) of other newspapers.

The recent digitizing of one of these, the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers a rich sequence of articles in "Sunday Magazine" features from early 1896, articles both written and illustrated by Taylor (Table 4.1). This included the piece from 9 February on "First Turnpike in the United States" cited above, which gave a history of part of the Lancaster Turnpike leading out from West Philadelphia, with special reference to its exploration by "wheelmen" on bicycles. Its eleven paragraphs were illustrated by three sketches. A coeval article on the Old York Road was slightly longer but had twice as many sketches, several of which had already appear in Taylor's short 1895 publication on Cheltenham for the Cheltenham Military Academy.

One could almost certainly find many more such articles, but it will suffice here to point to a key one in the Inquirer that appeared on Sunday, 14 June 1896 (p. 33). Titled "Old and the New, Growth in the 27th Ward," it focused on southwest Philadelphia (fig. 4.11), and its eight paragraphs were enlivened by four sketches, all of "the old." One vignette, of the Cherry Tree Inn on Baltimore Avenue east of 47th Street, seems to have been simplified for its small, black-line format from a watercolor by Taylor dated 1896 (Castner Collection 27: 88) taken from much the same vantage point, if with far more detail . His watercolor of the Cherry Tree in turn was the likely basis for another, with differing foreground details and figures, that was reproduced in one of Taylor's earlier prints, number 28, published about 1915. The caption for that print reported that the Inn had since been "replaced by a modern tavern, which preserves the old name," but that Taylor had made this drawing from a sketch he had made "when its destruction impended about 15 years ago."

In this article, as in the previous one, Taylor referred to the area's appeal for recreational bicyclists, but he also cited the overgrown old mansions and "neglected qualities" to be found there that "make them attractive to the water-color sketcher." Therein may lie a hint to the genesis of this image and some surviving watercolors of the district: "The Saturday afternoon coterie of the Sketch Club," he wrote, "has long since located" many of the picturesque relics along these roads. It seems likely that several of Taylor's more vivid watercolors, including some unassociated with any later prints, were made alongside others by members of the Sketch Club, and may have been meant for exhibition with them. Several of these West Philadelphia and Delaware County watercolors were more loosely delineated, more atmospheric, and seemed intended less to serve as a record of an individual structure to be linked in prose to its particular history. And several of these became the later basis, via a redrawn wash drawing, of an "Old Philadelphia" print, typically dated in a way that referenced the earlier sketch.

Table 4.1
. A series of illustrated articles credited to Taylor in the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sunday Magazine section from early 1896:

  • 2 Feb. 1896, p. 33: "Red Cross Badges in the Civil War."
  • 9 Feb. 1896, p. 25: "First Turnpike in United States."
  • 16 Feb. 1896, p. 26: "To Darby and Chester by Wheel."
  • 23 Feb. 1896, p. 29: "Old York Road and Wheelmen."
  • 1 Mar. 1896, p. 29: "Frankford and Bristol Turnpike."
  • 8 Mar. 1896, p. 29: "Early Days of Montgomery County."
  • 15 Mar. 1896, p. 31: "The New Cycling Track."
  • 22 Mar. 1896, p. 25: "Some Old Houses."


Fig. 4.11. Frank H. Taylor, "Old and the New, Growth in the 27th Ward," Philadelphia Inquirer, 14 June 1896 (p. 33).

At and after the turn of the century Taylor wrote and illustrated several more local guidebooks and business-related or promotional publications, along with his best-known book, Philadelphia in the Civil War, 1861-1865 (1913), commissioned by the city. This included more than a dozen of his drawings, many of which would recur in a slightly different guise in his "Old Philadelphia" print series, published from 1915.

Most pertinent here, though, were some appearances of the "Old Philadelphia" images in the newspapers before the end of the teens. By then, the papers were fully incorporating photography on most news and all magazine pages, but photographs of Taylor's wash drawings stood out as a hand-wrought visitation from an earlier time. He accompanied the reduced versions of the prints with commentaries that sometimes offered a bit more space for text than had his caption slips.

Only a casual probing for has been performed, but occasional encounters with such images and articles offer some indication of a perhaps irregular series. A list of titles from features in the Sunday Magazine the Philadelphia Record from late 1918 gives a sense of these, demonstrating that many went beyond Philadelphia's historical topographies, relating to the critical topic of the moment, the end of World War I (Table 4.2). One from November, though, was a six-paragraph article about a neighborhood called Crescentville (fig. 4.9). Titled "Nearby Town like an English Hamlet," it included reproductions of all three of his sketches that were combined in print no. 135, dated 1918. Curiously, Taylor returned to the subject (and vantage points) of one sketches in these views in print 386, focused on the Griffith house there, but showing clear differences in the trees, carriages, and people. This and the wash drawing it reproduces were dated 1923 in the image, although Taylor's caption slip explains that "this sketch was drawn in 1919," referencing his earlier one. Here again, he seems to have redrawn freely from his own earlier sketches.

Figs. 4.12-13
F. H. Taylor, "Nearby Town like an English Hamlet," from Philadelphia Record, 3 Nov. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 2, clippings from Castner Collection (33: 24).

Table 4.2. Some Articles by Taylor in the Philadelphia Record, from Nov. 1918 to Feb. 1919:

  • 3 Nov. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 2, "Nearby Town like an English Hamlet" (about Crescentville in Philadelphia).
  • 17 Nov. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 2, "Where the Tide of Revolution has Flowed" (about wartime Berlin).
  • 24 Nov. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 3, "Philadelphia Proud of the Fighting Second" (about military unit).
  • 15 Dec. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 4, "New Officers club in Famous House" (unsigned, but illustrated by Taylor's print no. 14, "A Challenge to Old Mansions," published in Ever-Changing Philadelphia in 1915 ).
  • 22 Dec. 1918, Sunday Magazine p. 7, "Our Oldest Two Military Organizations."
  • And after an apparent hiatus:
    2 Feb. 1919, Sunday Magazine p. 4, "Fifty Years of Newspaper Illustration."

Other notes in Taylor's Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, including inscriptions such as "used in N.A. 1920" and "for N.A." suggest a continuing period relationship with another Philadelphia newspaper, the North American. This is confirmed by some other occasional instances there -- such as one from Sunday, 22 Jan. 1922 (p. 6), with a sketch and paragraph titled "In the Way of the Bridge Approach."

The Castner Collection scrapbooks offer two other unanchored glimpses that may or may not have related to the print series: one (fig. 4.14) was a repeated feature under an "Old Philadelphia" banner and Taylor by-line. It offered five paragraphs about bridges and bridge building, as yet still looking ahead to the construction the Delaware River (or Benjamin Franklin) Bridge in 1922-26. It does not explicitly reference an image. On the other hand, another unidentified newspaper (fig. 4.15) offers a photograph of a signed Taylor image of a horsecar on a city street, but if it relates to a Taylor print, it may be one not yet located. A more systematic survey would doubtlessly identify and fill out more of these newspaper series.



Fig. 4.14. F. H. Taylor, "Old Philadelphia" article about bridges and bridgebuilders, c. 1920? in unidentified newspaper, Castner Collection 10: 79.



Fig. 4.15. F. H. Taylor, "Horse car" on a city street, possibly the missing print no. 392, identified as "Rapid Transit, Centennial Period." From an unidentified clipping in Castner Collection, vol.10: 77. The inclined, cursive capitals for the caption as in fig. 4.12 above suggest that this too had appeared in the Philadelphia Record.


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