Dear Friends,

Week 7 of our pandemic lockdown finds us also at the end of National Poetry month, National Library Week, and, perhaps, this spate of April showers? With so much uncertainty still in the air, what are you wishing for the most this Spring? Your staff are all wishing we could see your friendly faces and look forward to the day when that will be possible. 

In the meantime, we continue to explore ways we can bring you opportunities for learning, reading, and enjoyment. We are thrilled that Bruce is still able to help researchers with architectural/building related queries thanks to all of the records we have digitally available. Mike and Jim remain in touch with the many organizations and artists who rely on our Regional Digital Imaging Center to provide the highest quality images and prints of their collections or works. Lois and Jill add to our ebook selection (see the Saturday entry for the latest additions, or go to to access them online). 

If you missed the link in last week’s Bulletin, you can still access our new collection of online periodicals and newspapers (my daughter particularly enjoys the horse-focused magazines, and I enjoy the travel magazines - something to dream about and plan for!).  Access will be through the following link:

You will require login credentials to access the materials.  Please email Librarian Jill LeMin Lee at to obtain them . Please be patient, as Jill will need to confirm your membership before sending you the login. We also covet your feedback so we know if it is a service that you would like for us to continue in the future.

We are working to bring to you webinars, podcasts, and other programming of the usual Athenaeum quality. More on that soon. In the meantime, if you are...

Missing talking about books? The Athenaeum will be hosting an Open Book Club through Zoom on Thursday, May 7 at 3 pm. We will be discussing what books we’re reading to get through this difficult time. Please register on Eventbrite so we can send you the link and follow up with a list of books discussed. The Zoom link will be sent to you by email the day before.
By Violet Oakley, 1943
Pastel on paper
Gift of G. Frederick Stork, Rosalie Regen (nee Stork) and Francis W. Stork
(To see this and other paintings in the Athenaeum’s collections, please visit )

Monday, April 27

As National Poetry Month comes to a close this week, we have one last bit of poetry for you. Collections Care Manager Denise Fox wrote a piece for us about one of the Athenaeum’s previous members of the board, Charles Wharton Stork.

Our celebration of National Poetry Month wouldn’t be complete without a large tip of the hat to Charles Wharton Stork. His name may sound familiar: the Charles Wharton Stork Memorial Lecture Series is held every spring at the Athenaeum. But who was the man for whom this lecture fund is named?
Dr. Charles Wharton Stork (1881-1971) was a Philadelphia-born poet, playwright, literary critic, editor, and educator. He attended Haverford College, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D., 1905). He went on to teach English for more than 40 years, first at the University of Pennsylvania, then at Harcum Junior College at Bryn Mawr.
During his long career, Dr. Stork edited the monthly magazine Contemporary Verse ; published seven volumes of poetry; wrote more than twenty plays; served as president of the Poetry Society of America; and developed expertise in Scandinavian translation, for which King Gustaf V of Sweden personally honored him. His literary friends included poets Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost.
In his “Sketches by an Athenian,” published in the Saturday Evening Post , he recounted his harrowing experience aboard the British passenger ship Athenia when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the Irish Sea on September 3, 1939. He spent nine hours on a lifeboat before being rescued.
While pursuing his many literary interests, Dr. Stork also served on the board of directors of the Athenaeum for an astonishing 49 years, from 1919 to 1968.
After Dr. Stork’s death in 1971, his children presented this portrait by celebrated artist Violet Oakley to the Athenaeum and endowed a lectureship in his memory. The portrait, which is permanently displayed in the Joseph N. DuBarry, IV Conference Room, and the lecture series serve as reminders of Dr. Stork’s devotion to the Athenaeum and to literary excellence. Many of Dr. Stork’s published works, as well as The Vineyard & the Sea , an anthology of his nautical poems, published by the Athenaeum in 1977, are housed in the Athenaeum’s Rare Books Collection.

And here is an example of some of Stork’s poetry, what do you think?

“Starlight Meditation”
Excerpt from Sea and Bay , 1916
By Charles Wharton Stork
Fair are the stars! you scattered silvery swarm
Caught in the wide untrembling web of night,
That through the pearly dimness faint and warm
Shed upon wave and shore their effluence bright.
Fair are the lights! whatever each may be:
Gay colored motes that back and forward roam,
Or dull ship-lanterns burning fixedly,
White street lights and the yellow lamps of home.
Nature and modern man have wrought the scene.
We think their ways discordant. Wherefore so?
Is the stars’ radiance, pallid and serene,
Marred by the mirrored lamplight’s bolder glow?
Nay, for they blend to form a perfect whole,
A unity of beauty in the soul.
Tuesday, April 28

This spring we had so many amazing programs lined up that had to be postponed. One of them was “Preserving Minerva” with Molly Lester. If you are still interested in this program, Molly will be speaking over Zoom for the Preservation Alliance Building Philadelphia Series.

Event Description:
Although her formal independent practice lasted just eight years and was concentrated in the Philadelphia area, Minerva Parker Nichols (1862-1949) built a career and clientele of national significance in the late nineteenth-century’s professionalizing field of architecture. Trained as an apprentice, Nichols designed over 60 commissions around the country, earning plaudits and extensive press coverage from her peers. Yet, she is rarely recognized today for her contributions to the field of architecture. This talk, presented by Molly Lester, is based on research, much of it conducted at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, that began 9 years ago for a Master’s thesis and continues today.
Wednesday, April 29

As parts of the country start to reopen, we at the Athenaeum are thinking of how we will function as a library, while still maintaining social distance, and following other safety protocols. One thing we can know for sure, is we will be wearing face masks for awhile, so why not get some Athenaeum ones? Our online store has added face masks as an option for printing our images. Buy yourself an Athenaeum face mask to show off around town, and hopefully around the Athenaeum soon!
Thursday, April 30

While the Athenaeum remains closed, so does our Regional Digital Imaging Center which would normally be scanning everything from early Philadelphia maps, to still wet oil paintings by local artists. One artist we normally see every week in the RDIC office is Charles Cushing. Scanning Technician Jim Carroll has chosen to highlight him as our artist of the week!
30 year Philadelphia resident and fine artist, Charles Cushing ( . Born in Cincinnati Ohio, Charles attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1988, and has compiled a large range of work over the decades with a focus on landscape and cityscape paintings. Everything from quite cobblestone streets off the beaten path to iconic Philadelphia locations like Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. An RDIC customer for nearly a decade, Charles has scanned hundreds of paintings and drawings that can be seen on his website or purchased in print form. His work also hangs in homes and businesses across the city and well beyond. I urge you to take a moment to check out his incredible artwork, and maybe support a local artist.
Friday, May 1

And just like’s May. Around the Athenaeum May usually means having lunch outside, enjoying the flowers in Washington Square Park, and propping open the Reading Room balcony doors to let in a fresh breeze. I hope you’re still able to enjoy spring one the (few) sunny days we have had. This week, curator Bruce Laverty wrote us a piece on the use of Brownstone for the Athenaeum building which can normally be admired during our lunch time walks...

Curator’s Pick-by Bruce Laverty
In Defense(?) of Brownstone

Architect John Notman was an early and ardent promoter of the use of brownstone as a building material, particularly for suburban villas and urban churches, such as St. Mark’s on Locust Street, which, like the Athenaeum, was completed in 1847. But the Athenaeum was the first use of the building material in a Philadelphia public building. As it neared completion it caught the attention of the Public Ledger. A 19 th century predecessor of Inga Saffron offered this somewhat back-hand compliment of the new building material:  

Though the general introduction of brown stone would give a somber appearance to our city, yet as the Athenaeum occupies a position in the center of a square, the buildings on which are entirely of brick and marble fronts, a pretty affect is accomplished by the contrast. Like a staid Quaker maiden amid a ground of gaily dressed damsels, the perfect taste and modesty of her mud colored attire, attracts more admiration than if the whole were clad in the same garb. --- Public Ledger , August 25, 1847
Saturday, May 2

You have asked for more books and we have listened. Here is a list of ebooks that we recently acquired for the Athenaeum. We encourage you to check them out; please email Lois Reibach if you need help getting a library card or downloading ebooks.

Julia Alvarez, Afterlife
Gotz Aly, Europe Against the Jews, 1880-1945
David Baldacci, Walk the Wire
Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson, A Strange Country
Sallie Bingham, The Silver Swan
Cara Black, Three Hours in Paris
Sharon Bolton, The Split
William Boyle, A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself
Lisa Brackmann & Matt Coyle, Crossing Borders
Bruce Robert Coffin, Within Plain Sight
Helen Dunmore, Birdcage Walk
Elisabeth Elo, Finding Katarina M.
Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele
Anne Glenconner, Lady in Waiting
Chris Goff, Crossing Borders
James Grady, Condor

Oliver Harris, A Shadow Intelligence
Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People
Paul Jankowski, All Against All
John Kelly, The Great Mortality
Kathleen Kuiper, ed., The History Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
Stanley Meisler, Shocking Paris
Cheryl Misak, Frank Ramsey
Richie Narvaez, Hipster Death Rattle
Sara Paretsky, Dead Land
Anne Perry, One Fatal Flaw

Matthew Quirk, Hour of the Assassin
Lissa Marie Redmond, The Secrets They Left Behind
Peter Robinson, Many Rivers to Cross
Nina Sankovitch, America Rebels
James Shapiro, Shakespeare in a Divided America
Zoe Sharp, Fox Hunter
Julia Spencer-Flemin, Hid from Our Eyes
Olen Steinhauer, The Last Tourist
Danielle Trussoni, The Ancestor
Anne Tyler, Redhead by the Side of the Road
Francesca Wade, Square Haunting
Tracey Enerson Wood, The Engineer’s Wife
In between work and parenting, I have managed to plant a few hellebores in my yard, finish reading Michael Chabon’s brilliant The Yiddish Policemen’s Union , and taken a virtual tour of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Since the Broad Street 10K has been postponed, I registered for the Preservation Pennsylvania's Get Outta Your Old House virtual fun run to support historic preservation efforts across the state. I invite you to join me with a walk or a run!

Until we can run into each other at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia or meandering across Washington Square, you remain in my thoughts.

With appreciation,

Beth Hessel
Executive Director