Saturday, December 21, 2013

Howard Pyle Brokaw (1916-2013)

I just learned that Howard Pyle’s oldest surviving grandson, Howard Pyle Brokaw, passed away. I’ll collect my thoughts and write more about him soon, but for now here is a brief obituary.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Howard Pyle on Rome


Michelangelo’s Moses in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

“As for Rome, I hate it,” wrote an ailing Howard Pyle to Stanley Arthurs on December 16, 1910. “I was in my room all the time but twice, and when I went out then I saw the Roman ruins, and not St. Peter’s and the great pictures and statues. The Moses was the only thing I saw. As for the Roman ruins, they are without shape, weather-worn, and channelled by the rivulets of centuries of rain. They are black in some places and white in others, and are, I think, ugly and disagreeable. I saw nothing beautiful in them, but only the weather-worn remnants of a past and forgotten age.”


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Howard Pyle in Wisconsin

“I feel very much gratified indeed that my pictures should attract such favorable attention in Green Bay. They seem to have been a great deal cared for in the West and I do not think that they have anywhere met with a warmer reception then they have with you…”
—Howard Pyle to Deborah B. Martin, June 11, 1904

For those of you lucky enough to find yourselves in Wisconsin this winter, a major exhibit of Howard Pyle’s works will be on view from December 2, 2013, to February 7, 2014, at the Bush Art Center of St. Norbert College in De Pere, just outside of Green Bay.

On view will be some twenty-two original paintings that were acquired in the early 1900s by the Kellogg Public Library (later known as the Brown County Library), but which have since been purchased by the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society.

This is the largest collection of Pyle paintings west of the Mississippi - or the Susquehanna, for that matter. And the history of how it got there is interesting, if rocky, and involved lots of letter-writing, hand-wringing, and a lawsuit. But it ended well, since Pyle’s pictures illustrating Woodrow Wilson’s “Colonies and Nation” were kept almost all together as a set (a few from the series had been sold prior to their journey to Wisconsin in 1904) - as were those for his “Travels of the Soul.” (Pyle, by the way, made a special trip to Green Bay in 1905.)

So, go see the show! I only wish I could.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Howard Pyle Proto-Selfie


Howard Pyle’s 1906 Self-Portrait (Collection of the National Academy of Design)

Howard Pyle took lots and lots of photographs - at least according to his daughter Eleanor - but I don’t know if he ever took the equivalent of a “selfie.” That is, unless you count the ones he “took” in ink and paint.

Pyle’s earliest known self-portraits date from 1884 and decorated his verse “Serious Advice” in Harper’s Young People; the last known one came along over two decades later.

In May of 1905, Pyle was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design and was required to present a self-portrait to its permanent collection. Francis Davis Millet (who had notified Pyle of his election) assured him that “a portrait head is all that is needed & this isnt difficult for you, one of the pupils would be glad of the chance, I know.”

But Pyle didn’t get one of his pupils to do it - and he didn’t get around to doing it himself for almost a year. “I had thought ere this to have had the portrait in your hands,” wrote Pyle to the clerk of the Academy on April 16, 1906, “but many things have intervened to interfere with my purpose.”

At the time, Pyle was deep into his Art-Editorship of McClure’s Magazine and his large picture of “The Battle of Nashville” - but somehow he managed to deliver the painting on April 25th.

It’s funny, though, that - to my mind, at least - Pyle’s less “serious” self-portraits resemble him more than this one does. I assume he used a mirror in the making of it, so I flopped the painting and parked it in between photos taken in 1902 and 1906, and 1907 and 1910.


As you can see, the eyes and pince-nez are almost identical to the photo immediately to the right (which, I confess, I photoshopped to remove his hand), but Pyle doesn’t quite capture his slight underbite, nor the proportions of his mouth, nor the shape of his nose, and so on.

Then again, Pyle was a reluctant or resistant portrait painter - this despite the fact that he incorporated plenty of portraiture into his illustrations: just look at his depictions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or Oliver Wendell Holmes. The challenge of capturing the likeness and personality and spirit of someone seated directly in front of him (or reflected in a mirror) seems more than Pyle could handle. As he told his friend Cass Gilbert in a 1910 letter, shortly after sending what he considered to be a failed portrait of Mrs. Gilbert, “I do not like portrait painting; indeed, I hate it.”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Katharine Pyle’s 150th Birthday

Four days after Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - and about 100 miles east of there - Howard Pyle’s youngest sister Katharine was born.

The exact location of her birth hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it was either - and more likely - at 621 Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware (at the southwest corner of 7th and Market streets), or at “Evergreen” (or “Evergreens”), a farm on the Philadelphia Pike, about a mile north of town.

Like Howard, Katharine grew up to be an author and illustrator, and here and there they worked on a few projects together. The Wonder Clock, published in 1887, remains their most notable collaboration, but an even earlier joint effort can be found in the pages of The Continent. The July 4, 1883, issue of this short-lived magazine featured John Sartain’s article on “Wood-Engraving as an Occupation for Women” - which in turn featured an engraving by Katharine Pyle “from a drawing by Howard Pyle.”

At that time, nineteen-year-old Katharine was indeed studying wood-engraving at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in anticipation of turning it into a career. But, fortunately for her, she soon abandoned this handicraft (which was effectively killed off by halftone printing by the turn of the century) and, fortunately for us, she turned her attention again to writing and drawing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

“The Dancer” by Howard Pyle


“The Dancer” as it appeared in Harper’s Monthly for December 1899

There are certain Howard Pyle pictures which I’ve only ever seen in poor reproductions, but which I know must be great in the flesh. “The Dancer” is such a picture. Until I saw a photo of the original painting the other day, I had only ever seen it in a 114-year-old magazine, in the background of a photo of Pyle’s students, and in the pages of a 50-year-old catalog. And Pyle’s oil on canvas doesn’t disappoint.


“The Dancer” by Howard Pyle, 1899 (via Heritage Auctions)

“The Dancer” was reproduced for the first time - and as far as I know the only time during Pyle’s life - in his “extravaganza” called “A Puppet of Fate” in the December 1899 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. A while ago I talked about one of Pyle’s marginal illustrations for this story which features the same two characters as in “The Dancer” - namely, the Reverend Enoch Miller (who soon gets drunk on a mysterious “elixir”) and the Princess Zurlinda Koniatowski. Here’s the passage the painting illustrates:
Again the young lady shrieked with laughter, clapping her hands in immoderate applause; then snatching up the lute that lay beside her, and having struck a few chords of delicious melody, she began singing a foreign song in a voice of such exquisite sweetness as had never before greeted her hearer’s ears. But if this song pleased him so ineffably, how much more transcendent was his delight when the fascinating charmer, having ended her melody, and having struck up a livelier air, began a dance of such graceful and airy lightness as our young clergyman could not have conceived of in his wildest imaginings! The past and the present were alike obliterated from his mind.... The dancer’s hair, in the exquisite mazes of the measures, fell in an ebony cloud to her shoulders and about her face, and from it her beautiful eyes shone like twin stars. The bright and delicate fabric of her draperies floated about her graceful figure like mist about the moon, and her feet twinkled and winked with an incredible swiftness. When at last she flung herself upon the couch, our hero burst forth into such a paroxysm of applause as the wisest essay could not have evoked from him.
Pyle exhibited “The Dancer” in several places over the years: first at his exhibition of work made for the Christmas periodicals at the Drexel Institute and his own studio (and perhaps elsewhere) in 1900, probably at Yale in 1903, definitely at the Art Institute of Chicago later that year, then in 1904 at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Detroit Museum of Fine Art, the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and possibly at the Kellogg Library in Green Bay. It was priced at $200, then.

Although “The Dancer” may have shown up in subsequent exhibitions, by 1906 Pyle appears to have retired it from his roster. (Its later travels - if any - are muddied somewhat by his painting for the story “Lola” which was also called “The Dancer” or “The Spanish Dancer” - for which a young Estelle Taylor, later Mrs. Jack Dempsey, posed in 1908.) However, in a photograph taken in 1906 or later, we see the painting hanging on the wall of one of Pyle’s students’ studios at 1305 Franklin Street in Wilmington.

Pyle’s pupils in their studio, c.1906 (left to right are - I think - P. V. E. Ivory, Herbert Moore, George S. Du Buis? Edwin Roscoe Shrader? Help identifying these men would be greatly appreciated).

“The Dancer” was sold, eventually: the title plate on the frame says "Loaned by P. T. Dodge" - and although I don’t yet have further proof, this was possibly Philip Tell Dodge (1851-1931) sometime president of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. And then fifty or so years after Pyle’s death Helen L. “Teri” Card featured the painting - priced at $1200 - in her landmark Catalog 4 devoted to Pyle.

I don’t know where “The Dancer” lived since then, but now, at least, it’s out in public again, albeit briefly. It goes on the block at Heritage Auctions on Saturday, October 26th, and if you find yourself in New York later this month, you’ll be able to look at it up close for a couple of days. The estimate is $20,000-$30,000.

The painting measures 24 x 16 inches, by the way, and the frame, although old looking, is not the original one.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Song of Captain Kidd

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day here is something from Howard Pyle.

“The Song of Captain Kidd” is, in fact, one of Pyle’s earliest known pirate pictures, and it’s one of eleven illustrations he made at the tender age of twenty-six for Lizzie W. Champney’s “Sea-Drift from a New England Port” which was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine for December 1879.

Pyle hand-lettered the title, but the rest of the text was typeset. The song isn’t the work of Champney, but was an “oldie” even in 1879 - and lo and behold there’s at least one site devoted to its history and where you can hear the tune. Pyle himself later wrote of it:
Maybe two hundred years have passed since Captain Kidd took his leave of the world at Execution Dock in London, yet even at this day, I suppose, seven or eight out of every ten people who read, remember at least a part of the famous ballad that has drifted down to us from that far away past - “The Song of Captain Kidd.”...

It is such popular songs as this more than almost anything else, that makes the name of an adventurer popular upon the lips and to the ears of the great public. So it is now that after 200 years, the name of Captain Kidd is that above all others suggestive of sea-roving, of the Black Roger, with its white skull and crossbones, of buried treasure, of death and of terror.
Now talk like pirates amongst yourselves.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Glimpse Inside the Howard Pyle Studios

This link probably won’t be viable for ever, but it gives us a look inside the Howard Pyle Studios in Wilmington - particularly of the seldom seen upper floor. As the article says, the studios’ owner is having its first major outdoor fundraiser – 100 Artists Helping Artists – September 14-15 in Greenville, Delaware - to help with costs of upkeep and preservation of the buildings.

Friday, August 23, 2013

“Her native songs for him she sung”

Another seldom seen Howard Pyle illustration. This one was Pyle’s sole contribution to The Inca Princess by Mrs. M. B. M. Toland, published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1885. Pyle’s original hasn’t yet come to light, but most likely he painted it in black and white oil on board.

The reproduction above was engraved on wood by Frank H. Wellington, who, you may recall, also engraved Pyle’s equally Thomas Wilmer Dewing-esque “Thereupon the poor woman screamed aloud, and cried out that he was a Murderer” several years later. Wellington was particularly adept at capturing the softness or murkiness of Pyle’s atmospheres.

Note of June 8, 2014: Since writing the above, I’ve learned that the author herself owned Pyle’s painting - along with many of the other illustrations made for her poems - and following her death her collection of 119 originals was bequeathed to the San Francisco Art Association / Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in 1896. But then the 1906 earthquake happened and, according to Wikipedia, “Accounts differ regarding how much of the collection [the entire collection, not just the Toland bequest] was saved from the 1906 fire.” So whether the Pyle survived, or wound up in another institution, is an open question.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

“The young fellow lounged in a rattan chair”

A long lost, modern, summertime scene from Howard Pyle. “The young fellow lounged in a rattan chair” illustrated his own story, “A Modern Magian,” published in the August 1894 issue of The Cosmopolitan. The original of this has yet to turn up, but Pyle made it and its companions with ink wash on paper, probably in February 1894.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Howard Pyle on Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial


This past July 18th was the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. In 1883, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned to create a sculpture honoring the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry - commanded by Robert Gould Shaw - which suffered heavy losses in the battle.

Some fourteen years later, on May 31, 1897, the sculpture was unveiled on Boston Common. About four months after that, Howard Pyle, returning from a visit to Boston, sent a note to Saint-Gaudens in which he said:
Will it interest you to have one so much out of the world as I tell you how great is your Shaw Monument?

It impresses me now as the greatest and the most distinctly American achievement and I can forsee to reason to alter my opinion in the future.
(On Pyle‘s letter, by the way,which is now at Dartmouth College, Saint-Gaudens wrote, “I value this highly” - confirming yet again that Pyle’s opinion was indeed important to him.)

And in subsequent years, Pyle the teacher repeatedly referred to the sculpture to illustrate a point. During his September 5, 1904, composition lecture, for example, he said:
One can take an unpicturesque fact and, by emphasis, make a picturesque fact of it.

...for instance, take something I have often cited - the Shaw Memorial by St. Gaudens.

St. Gaudens had the problem before him of a row of marching soldiers with their guns all on a level.

Most artists would have broken the line of the guns by making some higher than others trying to get variety, but St. Gaudens, defying all rules - frankly put them straight across the composition. And so by insisting upon an apparently ugly fact he strengthened his work.
National Public Radio recently ran a story on the memorial in case you’d like to hear more.

“Malvern Hill” by Howard Pyle (1896)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Maxfield Parrish Turns 143

It’s Maxfield Parrish’s 143rd birthday today, so here are some Parrish-related posts, in case you’ve overlooked them.

Howard Pyle Photographs His Family at the Beach

Delaware Today posted a photograph taken by Howard Pyle of his wife and children at Rehoboth Beach. They date it 1890, but it was more likely taken in 1894 or 1895. If you take a look at the image, you’ll see, from left to right:

Howard Pyle, Jr., born August 1, 1891
Theodore Pyle, born August 19, 1889
Phoebe Churchman Pyle, born December 28, 1886
Eleanor Pyle, born February 10, 1894
Anne Poole Pyle, August 1, 1858

Friday, July 12, 2013

Andrew Wyeth and Howard Pyle

Andrew Wyeth - who was a huge fan of Howard Pyle’s work, who owned quite a few originals (including this amazing one) as well as Pyle’s oft-used boots, and who spurred Pyle's grandson Howard Brokaw to amass the largest Pyle collection in private hands (since presented to the Brandywine River Museum) - would have turned 96 today. Here are two (only two?) past posts which reference him. Here, too, is a video of Wyeth’s studio with glimpses of two Pyle-related items: a 1900 poster for To Have & To Hold (hanging low on the wall, about 26 seconds in) and a 1910 photo of Pyle taken by Paul Strayer.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Howard Pyle: My Heart Goes Pitter Pat

This great op-ed by Shelly Reuben recently appeared at HuntingtonNews.net - and also, apparently, in The Evening Sun of Norwich, New York.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

N. C. Wyeth’s “Big” Cover Design


On a Friday night 107 years ago this month, N. C. Wyeth wrote to his “Mama” back in Hingham, Massachusetts:
This week has gone past like lightning. - Really, I never experienced such a “fast” week in my life. I've bent every effort, poured every bit of my inner self into my work this week, endeavoring to reach a much higher plane in my work, and secondly to satisfy Mr. Pyle in his wish for a “big” cover design. I have, I am positive, reached a higher plane, according to those opinions about me, including Mr. Pyle’s. I would like so much to have you see the picture. It’s one of an Indian chief with his right hand up, palm forward showing friendship. He is on his mustang with his feathered lance across his saddle.

The week has been very individual. I know I shall always remember it because it has been one of intense seriousness of purpose and more or less of a victory for me.
I should note that in the invaluable book, The Wyeths: The Intimate Correspondence of N. C. Wyeth, 1901-1945, this letter is dated July 2, 1906 - which was a Monday, not a Friday, as Wyeth states outright and implies twice, so its more probable date is July 6, 1906 (though I suppose there’s also a chance it could be June 29, 1906).

At any rate, Wyeth was writing in the midst of turmoil both personal and professional: he was a new husband, had a new house, had his first child on the way, and his work was in dizzying demand. He also had a very demanding teacher: “Mr. Pyle expects so much of me,” Wyeth had written a few weeks earlier. For better or worse - probably worse - Howard Pyle had taken charge of the art department of McClure’s Magazine that February and ever since had been pressuring his prize pupil to illustrate more and more for it.

But Wyeth was remarkably resilient, full of energy and ideas, and the pressure resulted in the creation of some of his strongest pictures, at least in these pre-Scribner’s Illustrated Classics days. And he was only 23-years-old!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mother, Howard Pyle and Me

Howard Pyle, sometime poet - or, rather, writer of “jingling verses” as he called them - was also the unwitting subject of several poems. I already talked about an unpublished poem written by Joseph A. Richardson in 1883 and another written by Edwin Markham in 1900.

Now here’s one more, which I only discovered today. It’s by the Virginia-born author-illustrator-painter-stained glass artist (and “charming gadfly” according to Katharine Graham) Marietta Minnigerode Andrews (1869-1931) and it was published in the Washington, D.C. Evening Star on November 10, 1906. The credit line says it came from Andrews’ Echoes From a Washington Nursery, which I assume was a book, copyrighted that same year, but which I have, so far, found no trace. I also assume that a newspaper artist made the accompanying picture; Mrs. Andrews had been a student of Pyle’s old friend William Merritt Chase and the (very, very) little I’ve seen of her work is stronger than the crude illustration shown here.
MOTHER, HOWARD PYLE AND ME

I very much admire the style
Of tale that is told by Howard Pyle.
I think, somehow, it makes me good
To read about brave Robin Hood.

The fact is, I myself have see
That yeoman bold in “Lincoln green.”
I saw him when I went one day
With father to the matinee.

I thought the music very fine -
It made my eyes just dance and shine;
Yet by the fire I'd rather be -
Just mother, Howard Pyle and me!

Monday, June 24, 2013

They Fluttered and Twittered

“It tickled a certain sneaking vanity to see how the girls fluttered and twittered at his occasional attentions. They made a pretence of laughing behind his back with the young men of their kind, but before his face they fluttered and twittered.”
—from “A Transferred Romance” by Howard Pyle
I’ve looked high and low for uses of “twitter” (not to mention “tweet”) in the writings of Howard Pyle, but the above is the only thing I can find. At any rate, please follow me @ianschoenherr on Twitter, where I invariably tweet links to these blog posts. Thanks!


Howard Pyle’s Don Quixote

Many of Howard Pyle’s pictures are well-documented. Some, not so much. For example, correspondence concerning the creation of “The Fate of a Treasure Town” series of pirate paintings - among the most notable of Pyle’s later works - has yet to surface.

The same - or even less - can be said of Pyle’s sole known illustration of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In fact, the only documentation that I’ve seen are its entries in the two Pyle bibliographies and a note in the Pyle scrapbook at the Delaware Art Museum stating - rather vaguely - that the original painting was sold in Philadelphia. When or to whom it was sold is not indicated and the original has yet to turn up, so we don’t know its size, its palette, or anything else. One day, maybe.

Until then, here is Howard Pyle’s “Don Quixote’s Encounter with the Windmill” as it appeared in the November 1901 issue of The Century Magazine, part of a special feature titled “Three Pictures of Don Quixote” (the other two were by Arthur I. Keller and André Castaigne). Engraver Frank H. Wellington sweetened the 7.6 x 5.0" duotone plate, which, unfortunately, was printed out of register.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pyle on Saint-Gaudens’s Sherman Monument


On May 30, 1903, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Sherman Monument was unveiled at the southeast corner of Central Park in New York City. Although there’s no known evidence that Howard Pyle was present at the ceremony, we do know that he saw it in place within the next few days. Pyle, who delivered an address at Yale University’s School of Fine Arts in New Haven, Connecticut, on June 1, and passed through Manhattan on the way there and back, wrote to Saint-Gaudens on June 4:
I have just returned from New York and I feel that I want to tell you how beautiful I think your Sherman Memorial Statue to be.

It impresses me, as your work always does, as being not only beautiful but great, and I am sure that it is not prejudice upon my part but a matter of calm judgment that leads me to feel that you are easily the leading sculptor in the world today -

I could say more - but will not do so.
Saint-Gaudens’s reply is lost, but Pyle’s letter seems to have reminded him to send a copy of his bronze Robert Louis Stevenson medallion, which he’d promised to give Pyle a year earlier - after Pyle had sent Saint-Gaudens his pen-and-ink drawing “The Song of Peace”. Pyle received it on July 15, 1903, and apparently it’s still owned by his descendants.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Howard Pyle at Valley Forge, 1909

I just saw this interesting article by Hannah Boettcher on "Fieldwork in Valley Forge". Among other things, it shows that Howard Pyle visited Valley Forge on September 18, 1909, and signed the Washington Memorial Chapel guestbook, along with his wife and son Godfrey, as well as two Wilmington friends, John Warner (1884-1911) and his mother, Mary Cowgill Corbit Warner (1848-1923), who probably accompanied the Pyles on their trip.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Howard Pyle Meets Walter Crane

An illustration from Yankee Doodle by Howard Pyle (1881)

121 years ago today Howard Pyle met the celebrated British artist-illustrator-designer-decorator-author Walter Crane in Philadelphia.

Although Pyle’s known correspondence and writings are (so far) void of any Crane letters or mentions, Crane was clearly a big influence on Pyle - particularly on his work from the early 1880s, like Yankee Doodle, The Lady of Shalott and Pepper & Salt. And if Pyle didn’t necessarily acknowledge this, some critics did:
In the completeness and appropriateness of the cuts the book [Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood] reminds us of the best work of Mr. Walter Crane, and it can best be compared perhaps with Mr. Crane’s charming edition of the Grimm Fairy Tales... But as Mr. Crane’s art is thoroughly English Mr. Pyle’s is quite American. (The Literary World, September 22, 1883)
In 1891-92, Crane and a collection of his “Water-colours, Designs and Decorations” went on an extensive tour of the United States. In May they were in Philadelphia and Crane recalled in An Artist’s Reminiscences (1907):
My collection was shown at the Arts Club,...a dinner was given there in my honour and to inaugurate the opening. Among the guests I was interested to meet Mr. Howard Pyle, the distinguished artist, whose work I had so often admired in the American magazines. 
The champagne flowed very freely on this occasion as well as speeches, and nothing could exceed the hospitality of the Club. 
Altogether, we had a very good time at Philadelphia, and carried away many pleasant memories of the Quaker city.
Sounds like fun. But if only we knew what Pyle thought of the encounter, because a few months after it, a curious paragraph by Edward W. Bok (editor of the Ladies Home Journal) appeared in the Brooklyn Standard Union of December 24, 1892:
One thing is certain: no man has come over to us recently who created such an unfavorable impression with every one whom he met as did Walter Crane; and I say this with all due respect to Mr. Crane’s undoubted skill as an artist. But his personality struck every one as exceedingly disagreeable, and at no time have I heard of a single instance where he took the slightest pains to make himself agreeable. At two dinners at which Mr. Crane happened to, given, too, in his honor [sic], it seemed to me as if he threw a perfect damper upon both occasions. I recall one instance where Mr. Crane and Howard Pyle were thrown together, or, rather, seated next to each other at the table. Now, it is hard to imagine any one who could be unsusceptible to the deliciously frank and unrestrained charm of Howard Pyle’s conversation. But Mr. Crane was simply unmoved, the most unresponsive man in a delightful conversation I ever saw. I watched him closely upon this occasion and I actually believed that the man was bored more than he was interested. I have actually yet to hear of one kind thing said of Walter Crane in a social way during his American sojourn.
Maybe Pyle’s side of the story will turn up, one of these days.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

George Washington’s First Inauguration

“The Inauguration” by Howard Pyle, engraved by F. S. King

Today marks the 224th anniversary of George Washington’s first inauguration as president of the United States. The ceremony was held April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in the city of New York - then the new nation’s capitol.

Howard Pyle pictured this great event at least twice. He painted his first version - seen above - very early in 1889, or, more likely, in 1888, around the same time that he was working on - or not long after finishing - his children’s book Otto of the Silver Hand. The black and white oil painting (about 23.5 x 16") was then engraved on wood by Francis Scott King (1850-1913) and appeared in John Bach McMaster’s article “Washington’s Inauguration” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine for April 1889.

At the same time the magazine was on the newsstands, Pyle’s painting was exhibited at the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, from April 17 to May 8, 1889. Eventually, it wound up in the hands of collector William F. Gable, then was auctioned by Freeman’s in Philadelphia in 1932, and ultimately wound up at The Mint Museum, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


“The Inauguration” by Howard Pyle, via The Mint Museum

About a dozen years later, Pyle revisited the scene, ostensibly for Woodrow Wilson’s “Colonies and Nations”, then being serialized - and accompanied by 21 Pyle pictures - in Harper’s Monthly Magazine. In a March 28, 1901, letter to Wilson, Pyle suggested it as an illustration and explained: “I have already made an illustration for it for McMaster’s article, but I think I could represent the street in front of the old State House, a crowd of people and Washington on the balcony.”

Wilson approved of the idea and Pyle likely painted it sometime in April or May. For some unknown reason, however, it wasn’t reproduced in the magazine; rather, it appeared in the expanded, book version of Wilson’s articles, titled A History of the American People, published by Harper and Brothers in October 1902. Pyle’s 23.5 x 15.5" black and white oil now belongs to the Delaware Art Museum.

“Inauguration of Washington at New York” by Howard Pyle

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lorelei

Howard Pyle nudes are few and far between. This one come from the Library of Congress and a super-high-resolution version (43.1 MB) is available for download and microscopic inspection.

The story behind this pen and ink drawing is a mystery: it almost looks like something made for publication, but perhaps the publisher - or Pyle himself - found it too racy for Victorian or Edwardian eyes (or whatever the American equivalent would be). Or maybe it’s something Pyle whipped up at a stag evening of sketching with friends or students.

Tthe drawing depicts the lyre-playing Lorelei, whose legend is explained in an article that appeared in The Advance for November 9, 1905:
Perhaps, some of you have heard of the beautiful maiden who sat on a rock in the Rhine and sang such beautiful songs that the fishers who rowed past left their oars and gazed only at the lovely river nymph, until their boats were dashed to pieces on the rock. The Lorelei, for that was her name, is never heard now, but very few people Know what has become of her.

At first the Lorelei was a care-free river maid. Her greatest pleasure was to float on the rippling Rhine, or to sing joyous songs to the moon and stars. She knew nothing, and cared less, about the wide world. She loved her own beauty and liked to prove her power by enticing men to death in the depths of the Rhine. What did she care for mankind? They were nothing to her. At last a young knight appeared in a boat on the river. She saw him and loved nim, and without thinking of her fatal influence she began to sing. He turned his head, saw her, and leaped into the river to swim to the rock. She would have saved him, but it was too late. He was dragged down by the current and she saw his dying eyes still turned toward her. She dashed her lyre on the rocks and plunged into her cave.

When she again came forth into the upper air. her character was changed. How could she scatter death and destruction any longer? It was true, she had nothing to lose, for the only one she had ever loved was dead, but her love and her sorrow had made her feel for the rest of mankind, and she thought: “What if some mother or maiden waits in a far-off cottage for her loved one, and wails in vain, because I have enticed him into the whirlpool.” So she left her rock in the river, anj, as it is written in the Btory, was never seen again. She laid aside her magic beauty and wanders, a simple maiden, through the world. In sorrow for the woe she has caused she does her best to comfort all the Borrowing. Never again in the daytime did she appear on the enchanted rock. Only sometimes, at night, when the moon and stars are hidden under stonnclouds and no boats can be seen on the Rhine, she returns to her old home, and seated ion the rock, sings sad songs of love and parting. But she always departs before morning, to return to the busy, working, sorrowing world.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Howard Pyle Lecture in Reading, PA - Tonight!

I only just saw this, so apologies for the short notice!

The Delaware Art Museum's Curator of American Art, Heather Campbell Coyle - who knows Howard Pyle inside and out - is giving a talk tonight at the Reading Public Museum.

For more information, call 610-371-5850 x223. Reservations are required and the cost is $20 per member, $30 per non-member.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blueskin Stands Up


“He lay silent and still, with his face half buried in the sand” (1890)

Howard Pyle painted “He lay silent and still, with his face half buried in the sand” for his story “Blueskin the Pirate” in 1890, and it was first published in that year’s Christmas issue of The Northwestern Miller.

About a decade later, when, it seems, Pyle was thinking of compiling his own proto-Book of Pirates (or at least some kind of collection of his stories), he asked for a copy of the magazine from its editor, William Cromwell Edgar. Edgar soon complied and on March 13, 1900, Pyle wrote to thank him:
It is always a matter of some dread to renew my acquaintance with my one-time-made illustrations, but this, although made more than ten years ago, seems to me to stand up remarkably well alongside my present work, and I am very glad that you should have so good an example.
The original - and much more luminous - black and white oil painting (23.25 x 15.25 inches) is now partly owned by the Brandywine River Museum.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pyle used to do that to his paintings now and then

I spent Friday in the Delaware Art Museum’s library and among the many things I looked at (again) were three enormous, leather-bound scrapbooks of Howard Pyle’s published work.

Pyle and his secretary Gertrude Brincklé seem to have started compiling them in 1910. The first leaves of Volume I feature Pyle’s own handwritten comments about some of his earliest printed things. But then he either lost interest, got distracted or too busy, or left for Italy, so Miss Brincklé must have done the bulk of the finding, trimming, gluing, and annotating. Most of her notes - besides basic bibliographical ones - concern the known owners of particular pictures and if she had posed for any of them. However (as I mentioned in my last post) she also wrote beneath at least a half dozen reproductions the disturbing words, “Destroyed by H.P.” or “Destroyed by Mr. Pyle”.

Now, in the course of my Pyle research I’ve been putting together the skeleton of a very rudimentary catalogue raisonnée (well, a checklist) of his pictures, so it’s always good to know where things have wound up. But it’s never pleasant to learn that certain things have been lost for good. I suppose that if Pyle considered his actions “justifiable picturacide” then we should accept the fate of what he deemed unworthy. Plenty of artists have done what he did, after all... But would if I could go back in time and rescue these from the trash or the furnace or wherever he disposed of them - despite their faults and Pyle’s low opinion.

Anyway, here’s a little memorial gallery for these six gone-but-not-fogotten paintings.


“He climbed the stairs slowly, for he was growing feeble”

From “The Story of Adhelmar” by James Branch Cabell
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, April 1904

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“Catherine de Vaucelles, in her garden”

From “In Necessity’s Mortar” by James Branch Cabell
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, October 1904

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“I know thy heart, that thou dost love me well”

From “The King’s Jewel” by James Edmund Dunning
Harper’s Weekly, December 10, 1904

Note: next to Miss Brincklé’s “Destroyed by Mr. Pyle" someone wrote a question mark, so maybe this one escaped the axe, after all?

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“A man lay prone there, half turned upon his face” also known as “After the Battle”

From “Melicent” by Warwick Deeping
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, January 1905

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“Sir John shook his spear at the ladies who sneered”

From “Melicent” by Warwick Deeping
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, January 1905

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“With a cry, Shallum flung up his arms and jumped” also known as “A Leap from the Cliff”

From “An Amazing Belief” by Mrs. Henry Dudeney
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, April 1905

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Ave atque vale!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Late Catherine de Vaucelles


“Catherine de Vaucelles, in her garden” by Howard Pyle (1904)

What do you think of this Howard Pyle painting? It’s not so bad, right? It’s hard to see in this off-register plate, but it’s got its strengths: the dress and the blossoms are handled nicely, the composition and color are interesting... Aren’t they?

I’ve shown this one before. In The New York Times Saturday Review of Books for October 22, 1904, it was singled out for some stinging criticism:
Here we have the picture of a Japanese doll, and - was ever such a thing heard of? - the doll has goitre. Not as yet a fully developed case; but it’s there, and is quite pronounced. The face is a blank wall; but there - dolls’ faces generally are devoid of expression. Some of the material left over from constructing the gown has been utilised in building a mouth. Was the moon an afterthought? It would seem so, for it is not night. Apple blossoms don't look like that by moonlight; neither does a red dress. At any rate, putting the moon there was a lucky hit - we might almost say an inspiration - for it draws the eye away from the doll-faced woman.
In fairness to Pyle, the above comments reflect more on the relatively primitive reproduction than on the painting itself. So it would help to see the original oil on canvas.

If only. It turns out that Pyle wasn’t very pleased with it, either. Yesterday, looking in one of Pyle’s scrapbooks at the Delaware Art Museum’s library I found “Catherine de Vaucelles, in her garden” and underneath the plate, his secretary Gertrude Brincklé had written: “Destroyed by H.P.”

I found five others - all published in 1904 and 1905 - with the same, sad note. I’ll memorialize them another time.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

“It looks very much posed”


The above photograph, showing Howard Pyle with “The Evacuation of Charlestown” on his easel in his Wilmington studio, has now and then been dated 1897 and 1898.

But 1897 is incorrect because Pyle only started the painting in mid-1898: Frank Schoonover remembered that Pyle (his teacher at the time) was working on it during the Drexel Institute’s first Summer School of Illustration - which officially opened on June 23, 1898:
I recall that Mr. Pyle set up a very poor three-legged easel on the lawn in front of the house at Chadds Ford, and put his canvas on the easel. Miss Ellen Bernard Thompson...was painting something on the lower side of the road, and just beyond her was the Indian painter, Angel DeCora. There were some chairs and books of engravings of Colonial ships of the line out on the porch, and there were also the Pyle children playing around in the yard. The sky was very blue that day, with many floating clouds. Mr. Pyle asked me to fasten the canvas so that it would not shake, so I went back into the house and got the things needed.

Mr. Pyle then sat down on a kitchen chair and started to work under an apple tree, but he had no mahl stick. Then he said, “Frank, I see a fine straight sucker up there - climb up and cut it off.” I did so...

It was amazing to see him do this painting with so many distractions such as the children’s running around and so forth.... The painting has a shadow across the water like the shadow of the lawn, and the sky is as it was that day at Chadds Ford with the drifting clouds making shadows on the uneven lawn, which was much the color of the water in the picture. This was a lesson to all the students to interpret the things around them when painting.
“The Evacuation of Charlestown” was later packed up and hurried off to be photographed and made into a half-tone plate, just in time to appear in Scribner’s Magazine for September 1898. The Delaware Art Museum now owns the original painting (oil on canvas 23.25 x 35.25" - if you’re keeping score).



But back to the above photo: 1898 is probably the wrong date, too. Years ago, looking in a box at the Delaware Art Museum’s library, I saw - I think - two glass-plate negatives made by Cyrus Peter Miller Rumford. There, too, I saw Rumford’s scribbled notes stating that these were “Portraits of Howard Pyle for Home Journal ’99” and (provided I’m reading my own scribbles correctly) it seems that Rumford arrived with his camera at Pyle’s Wilmington studio at 3.00 p.m. one January day in 1899 and took a total of four photos.


Rumford, who had turned 26 that month, was a recent Harvard graduate (Class of 1897) and already a prize-winning photographer. And, apparently, either from his own or Pyle’s initiative he made the photos for an article in the April 1899 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal, titled “The Journal’s Artists in Their Studios” - but for some reason the magazine chose not to print them.

Pyle’s own opinion of the photos sounds mixed: on February 11, 1899, he dictated the following letter:
Wilmington, Del.

My dear Mr Rumford:

I am very much obliged to you for the photograph of myself in my studio. It looks very much posed, but that is the fault of the subject and not of the photographer. It was very kind of you to remember me.

Once more thanking you,

I am

Very truly yours

Howard Pyle

February eleventh.
I don’t know why Pyle says “the photograph” and not “the photographs” - maybe Rumford only sent a print of what he considered the best. But “very much posed” is about right: these two known photos show a seated Pyle - who usually stood at his easel - stiffly “at work” on the already-finished “Evacuation of Charlestown”.


I should note, too, that Pyle’s letter to Rumford was handwritten by Pyle’s secretary, Anna W. Hoopes, and although it appears to be signed by Pyle, the signature is, in fact, the work of Miss Hoopes as well. In a 1935 talk she explained:
When rushed at the end of the day with correspondence, [Mr. Pyle] often asked me to sign his letters; and I became so proficient at imitating his signature, that he once made me promise not to copy his handwriting, jokingly remarking that sometime I might want to sign his checks.

When Howard Pyle “Struck Pan”


“The little pink finger and the huge black index came to a full stop under this commandment”

“Work is beginning to roll in upon me at last, and at last I think I have ‘struck pan,’” wrote Howard Pyle to his mother on February 28, 1878 - 135 years ago today. “My work is beginning to pay better too and I think before long I shall be able to pay off my debts to father in toto.”

Although I haven’t yet been able to find another use of Pyle’s idiom “struck pan” - it’s clearly a hybrid gold-mining term, somewhere between “struck pay dirt” and “pan out”.

Anyway, after over a year of living in New York, the 24-year-old Pyle had finally found himself making real headway as an illustrator. He credited his “A Wreck in the Offing!” as having “really launched me” - The Book Buyer for October 1888 said of it, “This drawing was published as a double-page engraving in Harper’s Weekly, and brought Mr. Pyle at once into prominence.”

But let’s let Pyle himself explain some of the work that he had been doing soon after his “first success” - and apologies in advance for his unfortunate racial slur:
I have just finished a picture for Harper’s Monthly of an old darky giving a lecture to a naughty little girl. It was quite a success and they are going to put it into the hands of the best engraver in New York City, Mr. Smithwick. They gave me two pictures to do for them in illustration to a most excellent story of modern Spanish life. They are beyond all comparison the best things I have ever done. I don’t think I am as a general rule inclined to be “cock almighty” about my work but for these two designs I can say that they are so far beyond anything I have ever done before that I can hardly realize their being my own work. They are not finished yet, but so far every touch I have put on them has improved them.

“She went by without looking at him”
The first one represents a Spanish caballero standing against the side of a bridge looking after his Dulcinea whom he has mortally offended by a lampoon written in a fit of jealousy. She is “soaring” past him with a scornful expression on her face and he is looking after her in a beseeching way. The scene is early morning and I think I have gotten a real feeling of early sunlight in the picture. I borrowed a Spanish cloak from an artist friend of mine that almost entirely covers the modern European dress and which with the addition of a sombrero gives him quite a picturesque look. I hired a Spanish woman’s costume in which I posed my female model Jenny Watts, a very pretty ladylike girl, and I tell you, she cut quite a shine!

Fermina opens the casket
The story goes on to say that after having thus mortally offended his sweetheart and being for some time unable to regain her love the cavalier finally succeeds by sending her a casket. In the casket was the pen with which he had written, broken; under the pen, a sheet of paper where was written in his blood “Retribution,” and under the paper his right hand. This, of course, “dropped” the girl. A very effective dénouement, I think. The scene I took for illustration was when she is just opening the box, or rather, had just opened it, the horror not yet fully dawned upon her mind. This was Mr. Alden’s suggestion. And I have made an illustration that some of my artist friends say shows not only talent but genius - I only hope it is so. Mr. Abbey says it is one of the best things that have been done in New York illustrating.
By the way, “The little pink finger and the huge black index came to a full stop under this commandment” was engraved, in the end, by Frederick Juengling, not John G. Smithwick, and published in Harper’s Monthly for July 1878. It illustrated “Daddy Will: A Glimpse of Ancient Dixie” by Charles D. Deshler. Pyle’s original black and white gouache painting showed up on the market in 2006, I think. And “She went by without looking at him” and “Fermina opens the casket” illustrated “Manuel Menendez” by Charles Carroll in Harper’s Monthly for August 1878.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Howard Pyle: From Idea to Illustration

On Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 11.30 a.m., I’ll be giving a talk entitled “Howard Pyle: From Idea to Illustration” at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington. You can register in advance for it here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gamboling in the Great Game of Human Redemption

Crisis Magazine recently featured an interesting review of - or, rather, an essay on - Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood as a kind of Christian parable. The devout Pyle probably would have approved of this interpretation.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Howard Pyle and the Groundhog

“According to the tradition of the ‘ground-hog’ the weather should have broken by now, but this time the ‘ground-hog’ was a prophet neither in his own country nor out of it. We read that you also on the other side of the ocean are suffering a like bitter winter and, indeed, the whole earth seems to be girdled by a belt of ice. I suppose that we should take comfort that one is not worse off than ones neighbours but I do not know that that fact makes the thermometer any higher.”
Howard Pyle to Thomas Francis Bayard (in London), February 10, 1895.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Poor Richard

Howard Pyle drew “Poor Richard” for the programme/menu of the Franklin Inn Club’s celebration of Benjamin Franklin’s 200th birthday held on January 6, 1906, in Philadelphia.

Pyle was a member of the club, but did he attend the party? Maybe not: instead, he might have opted to go to the Century Association’s Twelfth Night at Eagleroost festivities in New York.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pyle, Taft, and the Panama Canal

On January 5, 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Pyle attended the Cabinet Dinner at the White House, where they dined on Harlequin Sandwiches, Potage Clear Green Turtle, Curled Celery, Terrapin à la Baltimore, Supreme of Chicken Villeroi with fresh mushrooms, Egyptian Quails à l'Estouffade - among other delicacies - and later stayed over night as guests of President Roosevelt.

Also at the dinner was Secretary of War William Howard Taft. After Taft was elected in 1908, Pyle wrote to congratulate him and said:
...I remember sitting at a small table in the White House with you and Mr. Cadwalader after the Cabinet dinner, and hearing you tell Mr. Cadwalader of your intentions concerning the Panama Canal. What you said to Mr. Cadwalader was said so simply and so unaffectedly that I carried away with me the impression that you were one of the strongest men in the world.
Pyle told others of his encounter with Taft that night - Edward Noble Vallandigham, for one, recalled of his friend Pyle:
He became some years ago an enthusiastic admirer of Mr. Roosevelt, and was several times entertained at the White House. Upon one of these occasions he met Mr. Taft, then of the cabinet, heard him talk of the Panama Canal, and came away deeply impressed with his easy mastery of a great subject. “He seemed,” said Pyle, “as familiar with that vast undertaking as I should be with the laying of a drain in my back yard.”
Pyle’s enthusiasm for Taft - which seems to have been kindled 108 years ago tonight - eventually led him to provide some last minute, but apparently invaluable assistance to Taft’s 1908 campaign.

But more on that another time. Now it’s off to bed for the Pyles, where they can digest the above-mentioned items - as well as their Smithfield Ham Glace (Hot) with Madeira sauce and spinach, their Peaches Melba and their Blue Point Oysters - and brace themselves for breakfast with Theodore Roosevelt.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Frank E. Schoonover - A Long Life in Art

Yes, yet another Pyle-related video to watch. Here, the story of Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972), one of Howard Pyle’s longest-lived and most devoted students, is told by his three grandchildren, who were interviewed in the Wilmington studio their grandfather used from 1906 on (after Pyle had pushed several “graduates” from his own nest of studios a few blocks away). Home movies and audio recordings of an elderly Schoonover are a nice addition to this documentary - it’s always great to see these folks move around and speak. So take a look. And while you’re there, also poke around the Frank E. Schoonover Fund and the Schoonover Studios sites.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Film About Allen Tupper True

Allen Tupper True

Denver-born artist Allen Tupper True (1881-1955) joined Howard Pyle’s class in May 1902 and his abundant letters home are a rich source of information on Pyle and his students and their lives in and around Chadd’s Ford and Wilmington (they’re also a great complement to True’s classmate and studiomate N. C. Wyeth’s letters to his family).

Now (and for some time past, perhaps) an hour-long documentary called “Allen True’s West” is available on Colorado Public Television’s website. The quality isn't great, but a DVD can also be had.

The film showcases True’s later career as a muralist and touches only slightly on the “Pyle years” (and it’s not without its errors: enrollment to the Howard Pyle School of Art - not the “Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art” - wasn’t limited “to only twelve students” - and Pyle resigned from McClure’s Magazine before the plan to have True join him as an assistant could be realized. Also, it’s implied that Pyle took a cut of the fees his students received for published work, which is incorrect.) Even so, it’s well worth watching and learning more about True’s life and art, which have gotten relatively little attention.

George Harding, Gordon McCouch, Thonton Oakley, N. C. Wyeth, Allen True, and (seated) Howard Pyle, circa 1903

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In Praise of Cass Gilbert

Cass Gilbert, circa 1907 (via the Minnesota Historical Society)


“Your own life has been a life of success gratifying to all your friends, and the gratification they feel is enhanced a hundred-fold by the consciousness that that success has been well earned by a man who deserves to possess it. For such large hearts and generous spirits as that which you possess not only make the world a brighter and a happier place in which to dwell, but also leave their marks behind them in works of beauty and of grace.”
Howard Pyle to Cass Gilbert, January 2, 1907

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Raising the First National Flag, January 1, 1776

“Raising the First American Flag, January 1, 1776” by C. O. DeLand

No, this isn’t a long-lost Howard Pyle: it’s by Clyde Osmer DeLand, who painted it under Pyle’s supervision at the Drexel Institute in the fall of 1897. As Pyle explained in a January 1898 description of his School of Illustration:
...I hold a “Composition Class” every week, some of the compositions submitted being of an excellence sufficient to admit their being used in pictorial form - page and double-page cuts - by the more important illustrated periodicals....

To cultivate independence, the compositions made by the pupils are from time to time submitted to some leading illustrated periodical or newspaper, and if accepted are worked up into a picture with only verbal criticism upon my part.
Such was the case with one of DeLand’s drawings which, after meeting with Pyle’s approval, was submitted to and approved by Harper’s Weekly. DeLand then got an official order for the picture and started painting.

Although it’s not a very well-known aspect of his mentoring, Pyle encouraged his students to write as well as illustrate, just as he had done with great success. Some, but not many, followed his advice, including DeLand who supplied his own text for “Raising the First American Flag, January 1, 1776” in the January 1, 1898, issue of Harper’s Weekly. In fact, it’s possible that DeLand (who turned 25 when the magazine was on the newsstands) was the first Pyle student to have his own illustrated text published. Here’s what he wrote:

THE FIRST NATIONAL FLAG
by Clyde O. Deland

Prospect Hill (known also as Mount Pisgah) was the strongest fortification of the American army during the siege of Boston, and it was here that the Union flag was unfurled for the first time January 1, 1776, the day on which the new Continental army was organized.

Upon that day copies of the King’s speech at the opening of Parliament had been sent from Boston by General Howe to Washington. The speech was one better fitted to arouse opposition than submission to the English throne. It stated that the British nation was too spirited and powerful to give up those colonies which had been protected for so many years with “much expense of blood and treasure”; that both its army and navy had been strengthened, and that negotiations for foreign aid were already entered into. The English authorities entertained great hopes of the salutary effects of this message from the throne to the rebellious Americans. Accordingly the hoisting of the Union flag and the discharge of thirteen guns that saluted it were hailed with great delight by the British officers, who supposed it to be a token of submission to the crown.

Referring to these circumstances, Washington, in a letter to Joseph Reed, dated January 4, 1776, said: “The speech I send you. A volume of them were sent out by the Boston gentry, and, farcical enough, we gave great joy to them without knowing or intending it. For on that day - the day which gave being to our new army, but before the proclamation came to hand - we had hoisted the Union flag, in compliment to the united colonies. But, behold! it was received in Boston as a token of the deep impression the speech made upon us, and as a signal of submission. So we hear by a person out of Boston last night. By this time, I presume, they begin to think it strange that we have not made a formal surrender of our lines.”

The Annual Register of 1776 gives a more detailed description of the flag. It says, “So great was the rage and indignation [of the Americans] that they burned the speech and changed their colors from a plain red ground, which they had hitherto used, to a flag with thirteen stripes, as a symbol of the number and the union of the colonies.”

Previous to this, so-called “Union flags” were sometimes displayed, but were merely British standards with the legend “Liberty and Property,” or “Liberty and Union,” set upon the field as emblems of colonial rights and principles.

In 1855 the historian Benson J. Lossing discovered a contemporary colored drawing that for the first time rendered an authentic presentment of the flag. It was a sketch of the Royal Savage (Arnold’s flag vessel on Lake Champlain in the battle of October, 1776). An ensign was depicted flying at the mast-head. This flag displayed the British union - the combined crosses of St. George and St. Andrew - in the usual upper corner, but the field had been changed from the solid red into alternate stripes of red and white. It was doubtless the union jack in the corner of the flag hoisted at Cambridge that caused the English to misinterpret it - to suppose that the Americans intended to submit once more to the rule of George the Third.

The colonial Union flag of thirteen stripes was also displayed in Pennsylvania during the year. A letter describing the departure of the American fleet under Admiral Hopkins from Philadelphia, in February, says it sailed “amidst the acclamations of thousands assembled on the joyful occasion, under display of a Union flag, with thirteen stripes in the field, emblematical of the thirteen united colonies.”

After allegiance to the British crown had been thrown off, the jack bearing the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew became inappropriate, and on the 14th of June, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the following resolution:

Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white, on a blue field, representing a new constellation.

The illustration represents the ceremony of raising the new colonial flag. The scene depicts the interior of the fortifications on Prospect Hill, looking southeast across the Charles River toward Bartons Point in Boston.

The colonial troops, while much better organized than ever before, were still without a regular uniform, the occasional buckskin hunting dress of the Southern riflemen or of the frontiersmen being in picturesque contrast to the bucolic homespun of the New England minute-men.

Washington’s uniform is described in a letter written July 20, 1775, thus: “His dress is a blue coat with buff-colored facings, a rich epaulette on each shoulder, buff underdress, and an elegant small sword; a black cockade in his hat.”

Three of the cannon used at this time are now planted upon Cambridge’s common. They date from the reign of George the Second.

The profile of Boston, it may be said, has been rendered as carefully as possible from contemporary drawings and prints of the period. Edes & Gills North American for 1770 contains an engraving by Paul Revere, entitled “Landing of the Troops in Boston, 1768,” which gives an approximate view of that city, with its beacon, towers, and spires. Besides this, Lieutenant Williams of the Royal Welsh Fusileers, while stationed in Boston under General Gage, made a panoramic view in colors of the country surrounding the city. A copy of this drawing is in the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The vessel in the middle distance represents one of the British war-ships guarding the approaches to the city.

Note: for some reason, when I first posted this I titled DeLand’s picture “Raising the First National Flag, January 1, 1776” but the correct title should be “Raising the First American Flag, January 1, 1776”.