Old Philadelphia:
Prints and watercolors by Frank H. Taylor (1846-1927)
page 5:


Fig. 5.1. Frank H. Taylor, sketch on verso of watercolor for print no. 404. "Second and Chestnut Streets," offered at Freeman's in November 2008. Courtesy of Freeman's Auctioneers, Philadelphia. The subject has not yet been identified.

Notations and Networks: A few of Taylor's wash drawings have sketches on their backs (fig. 5.1), but many more bear inscriptions that offer some indication of their trajectories as objects as well as of the networks of contemporaries connected with them.

A note on the wash original of Old St Joseph's Catholic Church, no. 355 from 1924, reads "Mr Longstreth wants print." Another, on print no. 339 from 1923 -- the view of the Peltz house at 24th near Hunting Park Ave. in North Philadelphia, titled "A Survival of the Stone Age" -- reminds someone to "see Mr. H Reed Hatfield, 1725 Walnut Street, 721 Walnut St. rear; also show him Ritt Sq dwgs." An inscription on the verso of the drawing of Thomas Griffith's country house, no. 386 from 1923, notes: "Show to Mr Somers Smith, Contributionship." Similarly, a note on the wash drawing for no. 291, of Walnut Grove, instructs: "Show to Mr. Arthur L. Church, Baldwin Works." The wash original for no. 239, of the Lutheran Church at Trappe, PA, dated 1921, was penciled "Show this to Mr. Saml Castner Jr." and "Show to Chas F Jenkins, Farm Journal." That of Hagner's Drug Mill at Falls of Schuylkill, no. 234 from 1921, advises "See Dr. Chas K. Mills for particulars."


The latter seems more in the way of Taylor reminding himself to consult a local expert, and other evidence of such communications survives in notations or letters (n5.1), but at least some of the other inscriptions reference potential collectors. Taylor was part of a loose circle of contemporaries with similar interests who provided him with images as well as information. His printed labels and inscriptions by his signature often identity such sources, including John C. Trautwine, Jr. (as for prints 248, 306, 312, and 332) and Dr. John W. Eckfeldt (for prints 250 and 325). He also named artists and photographers active earlier, such as David J. Kennedy (for prints 044, 057, 067, and 254), Frederick Gutekunst (for prints 064, 070, and 072), John Moran (for prints 066 and 072), and Amos Bonsall (for prints 128 and 281), most of which he must have encountered in collections, either public or private. (n5.2)

Inscriptions on the backs of other originals also sometimes tell of provenance. Several of the drawings at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania indicate that they were presented by Dr. Thomas Lynch Montgomery in 1927, probably purchased by him at the executors' sale after Taylor's death.

Yet other verso notations appear to be printing or publication instructions: the wash versions at Freeman's of prints no. 167 and 170 are each penciled "full pg" on the verso. That on the verso of no. 163 read "Centenary of Apprentices Library falls in 1920. Rec 4 col. Use this in Feb. 1920 Centennial, Taylor." This was apparently about strategic timing as well as reproduction size. The backs of other prints also have pencilings regarding "cols," presumably newspaper column-widths, and at least one, the original at Penn's Architectural Archives for print no. 90, is stamped "RECORD" -- probably alluding, like "Rec" above, to the Philadelphia newspaper of that name.


n5.1.. A letter of December 5, 1920 from Dr. John W. Eckfeldt to Taylor (Castner Collection, 19: 44) offered information regarding the Wolfenden mansion near 69th and Vine streets. Other letters and notes found in the Castner collection [attached to 5th & Minor, ref'd in 3rd party letter] offer a further sense of such communicaions and access to personal collections. In an inquiry on old bridges sent to Samuel Castner on 22 Feb. 1922 (2/22/22! Could it have been a Twosday?), one F. H. Shelton opens: "My dear Sir;- My good friend Mr. Frank H. Taylor, has said to me that you have a great file of indexed newspaper clippings, etc; a[n]d he thinks that perhaps you may have in that, some matter or items realting to a couple of subjects that I am following up at present . . ." (Castner Collection, 7: 76). From Taylor himself came a third note, this a half page on his own letterhead (with an address probably in use about 1900-05) attached to a watercolor of an old tavern at 5th and Minor streets (Castner Collection, 29: 27). The recipient of the note is not identified, but it accompanied a watercolor that was never part of the print series, it seems, offering historical information about a site depicted in a drawing at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, an 1846 watercolor "only lately identified" (fig.3.9, above). Taylor act of copying another drawing in a public collection seems plausible as a service to a collector, perhaps Castner.

One social venue for members of the circle may have been the Site & Relic Society, in Germantown, which published historical papers as early as 1905 and a Guidebook to Historic Germantown written in 1902 by Charles F. Jenkins, a president of the Society from 1905, referenced above in a notation on a wash drawing and also in connection with a watercolor of Washington Square. Taylor's print no. 171 depicts the home of the Society in Vernon Park in Germantown.

n5.2. A list of other sources for images named just once or twice would include:

  • painting by F. Briscoe (print no. 129, 130)
  • copy of view provided John C. Browne (print no. 26)
  • photograph by Dr. M. H. Cryer (print no. 251)
  • 1910 photograph by W. G. Deschamps (print no. 226)
  • photograph loaned by E. E. Dungan (print no. 371)
  • ___ by Henry S. Haynes (print no. 096)
  • drawing by E. H. Klemroth (print no. 057)
  • painting by Edwin Lamasure (print no. 060)
  • photograph loaned by Dr. Henry Leffman (print no. 219)
  • sketch "by McAllister," 1808 (print no. 160)
  • photograph by James E. McClees (print no. 082)
  • photograph provided by Dr. Charles K. Mills (print no. 221)
  • photograph by Robert Newell (print no. 161)
  • sketch by C. A. Poulson (print no. 246)
  • 1918 photograph by Albert E. Sloan (print no. 143)

Taylor and Castner: Among these collectors and local historians, perhaps no relation was as sustained and intimate as that with Samuel Castner, Jr. (1843-1929). A successful coal operator a few years older than Taylor, Castner devoted himself to his interest in assembling graphic materials on Philadelphia's history. He collected prints, photographs, clippings, photographic copies of images, pamphlets, and even original drawings in large albums arranged by subject. Ultimately, Castner's Collection, amplified by others after his death, was acquired in 1947 by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Its 46 albums contain over two dozen original watercolors by Taylor and many more of his prints (trimmed to fit in these). His collection also includes a sampling of clippings from Taylor's articles, autograph notes from him, and photographs that seem a likely source for many of Taylor's drawings.

Their relationship began at least as early as 1915 -- although several of Taylor's watercolors in Castner's collection date to the 1890s, they may well have been acquired later. More explicit early evidence of their connection lies in a sheet with a Taylor view (fig. 4.2, above) depicting the "Burning of the Market Street Bridge" that was published in the Daily Graphic on Novermber 20, 1875 (Castner Collection vol. 19: 44). Taylor had added the inscription: "Presented to Mr. Castner by Frank H. Taylor on the 40th anniversary of the fire," presumably in 1915.

The label for one of Taylor's "Old Philadelphia" prints -- no. 156 "At Little Dock and Spruce Street" from about 1918 -- identified Castner as a source, with the words: "The sketch herewith has been made from a snapshot taken by Mr. Samuel Castner, Jr." But this appears to have been far from an isolated case, as Taylor could have found ready sources for many of his sketches in Castner's albums.

One likely example is Taylor's print no. 286, "The Tiger Inn, Fourth Street and Old York Road." A simple comparison with a period photograph in a Castner scrapbook (fig. 5.2) suggests by its similarites both use and departure. He would take cues for both the volumes and the silhouettes, buut would characteristically align the tailing horizontals, more bowed and independent in the photograph. He would supply shutters, extend an awining, and invent street life from an earlier time, but would be faithful in recording window number and location, and chimneys as they met neighboring party walls.


Fig. 5.2. Detail of "Old Philadelphia" print no. 286, "The Tiger Inn, Fourth Street and Old York Road" and photograph from FLP Castner Collection 36: 44.

Fig. 5.3. Frank H. Taylor, detail of print no. 207, "McAlpin Street Homes bought by the U. of P." and photograph from Castner Collection 36: 3.

Fig. 5.4. Frank H. Taylor, print no. 325, "Early Industries on Cobbs' Creek," and at right, photographs from Castner Collection 31: 98 and 25: 60.

These examples (figs. 5.3-4) and others, such as fig.1.4, above, it seems clear that Taylor had access to several of the photographs now in Castner's albums. And in other cases, one finds images that seem close, but where Taylor may have relied in the details but altered his vantage point, in some cases to an opposite corner.

West Philadelphia: Such resemblences were especially striking for West Philadelphia locations, a place of particular interest for both Castner and Taylor. Both lived there, Taylor moving to 4819 Springfield Ave. in the early 1890s and remainng there till his death. He was very conscious of change in this district: he included a photograph of his or a nearby block of "Springfield Avenue, West Philadelphia" as an example of "New Suburban Sections" in his The City of Philadelphia as it Appears in the Year 1893, while in sketches from the mid-1890s on he indulged an abiding interest in the surviving older farmhouses of the area.


Fig. 5.5
. Frank H. Taylor, print no. 231, ""The Star Hotel," above, and photograph from Castner Collection 11: 34.

As mentioned above, he wrote and illustrated a newspaper article in June 1896 on "Old and the New" in this ward, and several of these 1890s subjects would recur, redrawn, two decades later in his "Old Philadelphia" series. As mentioed above, West Philadelphia was an especially popular location among his "Old Philadelphia" views.


p320 & 31: 88 mamy Skt

pFHT185 and CC 31: 85 Twaddell --path angle, heght slightly different





The other Taylor: xx



In the twenties, Taylor's prints also appeared in some popular books, some continuing in serval editions. Among them were:

  • Travels in Philadelphia, by Christopher Morley (Philadelphia, 1920).
  • Little journeys around old Philadelphia, by George Barton (Philadelphia, 1925).
  • Byways and boulevards in and about historic Philadelphia, by Francis Burke Brandt and Henry Volkmar Gummere (Philadelphia, 1925).
  • The majestic Delaware, the nation's foremost historic river, by Francis Burke Brandt (Philadelphia, 1929).
  His manuscripts and period newspaper references indicate that Taylor was also very active as a public speaker, often presenting talks with lantern slides; a set of a few dozen of his slides is preserved by the Historical Society.
Sources: xx    
W Phila 1896 per article, wash, & print (gone by publ?)    

fht5.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]