David J. Kennedy watercolors collection
The David J. Kennedy watercolor collection contains aquarelles and pencil drawings which depict all aspects of Philadelphia from 1836 to 1898 and is, according to the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, "such a group of 19th century urban views as probably no other American city can clai... Full description
|Collection Information:||David J. Kennedy Watercolors Collection (#V61)|
|Main Author:||Kennedy, David Johnson 1816-1898.|
|Subjects and Genres:||
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Processing Information: The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project. Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
66.0 Linear feet 40 boxes (8 volumes)
The collection is open for research.
The David J. Kennedy watercolor collection contains aquarelles and pencil drawings which depict all aspects of Philadelphia from 1836 to 1898 and is, according to the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, "such a group of 19th century urban views as probably no other American city can claim" (PMHB, p. 67). Subjects include, but are not limited to, bridges, cemeteries, churches, circuses, clubs, coal yards, docks, gas works, historic buildings, jails, lumber yards, mills, museums, private residences, railroad stations, resorts, schools, ships, steam engines, stores, streets, taverns, theaters and tobacco shops. Researchers will find images of the International Exhibition in 1876, the Centennial celebration of the Constitution in 1887 and General Welch's Circus.
At the beginning of the collection are four boxes of ephemera from and associated with Kennedy. Some of his personal notebooks and sketchbooks are in Box 1. The sketchbooks contain his drawings and notes on homes, businesses, churches, and railroad station stops, located in and around Philadelphia. Also included are sketches of the New Jersey shoreline and the Centennial Exhibition buildings. These sketches later served as inspiration for Kennedy's watercolors. The notebooks include Kennedy's handwritten memoires, poems, and notes on the changing landscape of Philadelphia. Kennedy's own indexes of his watercolors are also included with the ephemera as Volumes 13 and 14. Boxes 2 and 3 contain numerous newspaper clippings (some in bundles but foldered) on the subjects of Philadelphia homes, shipping and railroad advertisements, poems, theater listings, and obituaries. Volume 12 is a scrapbook that contains even more clippings. Edgar P. Richardson's notes on Kennedy and this collection that he used for his publication Centennial City (1971) are in Box 4. Following the ephemera are 36 boxes in which are housed Kennedy's original watercolors, many of which contain his own titles and captions.
While the images largely provide glimpses of Philadelphia's architecture, this collection also depicts aspects of Philadelphia's industrial, economic, social, and cultural history, as well as the changing landscape and waterfront. In addition to the images of Philadelphia, there are images from Kennedy's life in Scotland, including the Parish School at Kircolm and Port Mullin. There are also scenes from nearby towns in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, especially New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Kennedy appears to have been interested in his adopted history's past, because there are paintings of scenes that did not exist during his lifetime. For example, image K:1-41, entitled "Dead House on the Schuylkill During the Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793," includes a caption stating, "It stood on what is now the west side of 22nd Street between Race and Vine Streets about 30 feet west of the curb stone on 22nd opposite what is now 'Winter.' Taken from an old pen and ink drawing by Birch. D.J. Kennedy." There are also images of trains and other vehicles, lighthouses, floor plans for buildings, keys and other items belonging to well-known Americans. Finally, researchers will find written descriptions of buildings as well as events.
This collection is arranged by call number. Researchers are encouraged to search for a specific topic, location or name in order to ensure that all related images are found. Following the ephemera are 36 boxes in which are housed Kennedy's original watercolors, many of which contain his own titles and captions. These watercolors have been individually digitized and are aviable in HSP's image database (DAMS), which can be accessed on our website (www.hsp.org).
"David J. Kennedy Collection." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Jan., 1936), pp. 67-71.
David J. Kennedy (1816-1898) was a passenger and freight agent for the Reading Railroad who painted as a hobby. Kennedy was born on the west coast of Scotland, in Port Mullin. The family immigrated to Canada in 1833, and three years later Kennedy travelled to Philadelphia to stay with his married sister. During his time there he painted various scenes of the city, including the homes of prominent residents of the city, as well as ordinary street views. Many of the buildings he illustrated no longer exist. He also painted several railroad scenes, during his tenure with the Reading Railroad. When Philadelphia hosted the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Kennedy captured many of the buildings in his watercolors. This collection of Kennedy's watercolors offer a multitude of views of Philadelphia as it appeared between 1840 and 1890. It consists of forty boxes, two folders of indices/inventories, eight volumes and one over-sized folio.