Philadelphia in the early 19th century was known as the “Athens of America.” Prominent city residents had established scholarly societies, libraries, schools, theatres, and museums; built teaching hospitals; and designed and erected impressive buildings. While Philadelphia was a hub for manufacturing and shipping, it was also an important American center for the printing and publishing of books, magazines, and newspapers. Five monthly magazines aimed at the middle class—Godey’s, Graham’s, Peterson’s, Miss Leslie’s, and the Union—were published in Philadelphia in the 1840s, attracting writers and artists to the city.
One such writer attracted to Philadelphia was Edgar Allan Poe, who moved here in 1838 from New York City. He made a meager living as a writer and editor but achieved considerable fame in his lifetime. He lived in several rented houses in this city, the last of which was 530 North 7th Street. He left Philadelphia in 1844.
Artists such as John Caspar Wild and William Henry Bartlett created and published engraved and lithographed views of Philadelphia at this time. The views were popular among the growing middle class in the city and beyond. This exhibition shows a selection of these views, providing us with an understanding of what the city looked like at that time. Some of the structures no longer exist; others remain and some can be visited.
In conjunction with the Community College of Philadelphia’s BIG READ community-wide reading program on Poe this October, the Free Library is happy to exhibit a number of these historic prints from the Print and Picture Collection. The exhibition will be in the Art Hallway Gallery on the 2nd floor of Parkway Central Library through November 30, 2015.