The University is pleased to announce that our substantial collection of Western Penman and American Penman journals has been digitized and is now publicly available online as a part of the Library’s digital collections. The Western Penman can be accessed here and The American Penman here.
Contained within the Library’s extensive Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection, the journal is one among many penmanship periodicals published during what is known as the “Golden Age” of penmanship, extending several decades before and after the year 1900. Austin Norman Palmer began The Western Penman in 1884. A contemporary and competitor of Charles Paxton Zaner (who would begin publishing his own journal, The Business Educator, eleven years later), Palmer created a simplified method of manuscript writing designed for speed and relying on muscle memory and whole-arm movement. Palmer’s technique contrasted with the more ornate Spencerian script that was the standard of the time. The insistence on speed, evidenced even in Palmer’s habit of closing letters with “Rapidly yours,” aligned perfectly with the growing American obsession with the automobile and his ideas were soon taught in schools across the country. In 1900, Palmer began publishing separate student and professional editions of The Western Penman. In 1906, the publication was renamed The American Penman and ran until 1938, resulting in a total of fifty-five volumes of issues.
The Library’s collection encompasses the entire span of the Penman’s life cycle, although some volumes and issues are missing. While a substantial amount of the Library’s penmanship journals, consisting mostly of the Penman’s Art Journal and the Zaner-Bloser publications, were digitized in 2010 by the Internet Archive as a part of the Lyrasis Mass Digitization Collaborative, the Western Penman and American Penman journals remained available almost exclusively in their print editions. In 2017, twenty-two bound volumes were digitized by Backstage Library Works. Our digital collection now contains 519 issues, with a total of 17,119 page images. The master TIFF image files, which are stored in our digital preservation repository, add up to 652 GB.
We extend our warmest thanks to all of those involved in the process of making these journals digitally available! They are sure to offer great value, both historically and artistically, to our Library’s users.
Below are examples representing various elements of the journal: examples of penmanship completed by students at a business school in Michigan, a page of exercises written by penman R. H. Robbins, and an excerpt from a detailed lesson by Palmer concerning his Muscular Movement technique. Palmer wrote that he considered his readers to be an “immense writing class” led by his teachings.
The DNP program requires students to complete an evidence-based scholarly project. As described in the current DNP Student Handbook, “A Scholarly Project is the hallmark of the practice doctorate demonstrating an outcome of the student’s educational experience. The scholarly project embraces the synthesis of both coursework and practice application… Projects are related to advanced practice generally in each student’s nursing specialty, and the project must demonstrate significant potential to positively change health care delivery or improve outcomes for vulnerable groups, families, communities, or populations, rather than an individual patient.” Deliverables for the Scholarly Project include the final scholarly paper and a scholarly presentation, involving a professional poster and an oral presentation.
The remainder of the digital collection holds loose correspondence, ledger books, and other documents (dated 1840-1874) belonging to Joseph H. Scranton, Selden T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton. Transcriptions for most of these handwritten documents have been completed by Weinberg Memorial Library staff; additional transcriptions will be added into the collection as they are completed.
We thank all of our partners and volunteers for their time, effort, and moral support in this project, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration in the future!
Scranton, Pennsylvania was at one time a thriving center for live performance – particularly theatre – and was a frequent stop for plays, musicals and vaudeville acts on their way to New York City. A number of beautiful and often lavish theatres were built throughout the city and housed historic performances by many popular and up-and-coming talents of the day. Some of these people and events were captured artistically in drawings by P. W. Costello (1866-1935), a talented and highly skilled master penman from the Minooka section of Scranton (shown at left in 1906). Digitized images of these theatre-related drawings are a highlight of the P. W. Costello and Family Art Collection, recently acquired by Weinberg Memorial Library through the generosity of Thomas W. Costello, great-grandson of the artist.
In the late 1890s, P. W. Costello was gaining a reputation for the high-quality engrossings, portraits, and ornamental penmanship he produced from his downtown studio. At the same time, he was a local restauranteur, serving as joint proprietor (with James Fleming) of the Arbor Café on Wyoming Avenue. Costello used the Café walls as a gallery, displaying his sketches of local and national figures that lined the walls of this restaurant. A number of these drawings depicted actors and actresses who had performed close to the restaurant at such theatres and venues as the Lyceum, the Poli, the Majestic, and the Academy of Music. Performers captured by Costello who made Scranton appearances included Maude Adams (well-known for her lead role in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, pictured in Costello’s drawing at right), Junius Brutus Booth (father of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth), Maclyn Arbuckle (who, although originally a stage actor, went on to start his own silent film company), Alice Brady (actress and daughter of New York producer William A. Brady) and Robert Edeson (veteran stage and silent film actor who appeared in at least four Scranton stage productions). Most of these drawings are black and white pen and ink, although there are a few where Costello employed gray or colored shading.
Costello usually based his drawings on photographs, engravings, cabinet cards, or other promotional materials, and these were often paired with an autographed card or letter, which he purchased from a dealer or obtained from another source. A few autographs are originals, likely acquired by the artist firsthand. Each drawing manages to expertly convey the unique personality of the particular performer or the character they are portraying. Costello later went on to create a similar display in the 1920s as co-owner of another Scranton restaurant which featured his work, this time on Adams Avenue, the Oak Café.
In addition to drawing portraits of actors and actresses, Costello also lettered and illustrated theatre advertisements. One delightful example (shown at left) in the Costello Collection advertises a week-long 1904 production of Cupid and Company, a musical with a book by Scranton newspaperman Tracy Sweet and music by prolific Broadway composer A. Baldwin Sloane. In addition to Costello’s skillful lettering, the intricate design features Cupid, a jester, a marotte, and other comic elements from the musical, as well as ribbons and acanthus leaves.
One of the interesting and important elements to note about these works by Costello is how they manage to preserve a portion of Scranton’s cultural history that – with few exceptions – has been largely undocumented. Many of the actors and actresses captured in his drawings (as well as the splendid buildings in which they performed), while well-known in their own time, have largely been forgotten today. And yet, all these individuals contributed much to Scranton’s arts scene during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Scranton in turn likely made a significant impact on their careers. The fact that many of these performers – such as May Irwin (Canadian vaudeville singer and actress), Elsie Janis (American musical comedy soprano) and Ada Rehan (Irish Shakespearean actress) – returned repeatedly to play Scranton, seems to indicate what an important stop the city was on both the national and international touring circuit.
The Weinberg Memorial Library is fortunate to present these digitized images – as well as many other digital reproductions of Costello’s artwork – in our digital collections, and we are pleased to share with the public a rare glimpse of Scranton’s early theatrical history through the eyes of a remarkable artist who lived through it – P. W. Costello.
Launched in 2013, DPLA is a digital platform and network that brings together descriptive information for rare and unique digital materials from more than 1,900 libraries, archives, and museums across the country. It’s a portal to the treasures of American cultural heritage, from digitized photographs, films, documents, and objects to born digital ebooks, video, and images. All of these materials are freely available on the web for use by researchers, students, teachers, genealogists, and the general public.
We’ve been building digital collections at the University of Scranton since 2008, and nearly all of our materials are already publicly available on our website at www.scranton.edu/library/digitalcollections (some items are restricted due to copyright, privacy, or donor request). So why participate in DPLA?
DPLA doesn’t host digital materials – they’re all stored and made accessible by contributing institutions like us, so it’s still our job to keep digitizing, describing, preserving, and publishing digital items. What DPLA does is make these materials discoverable and usable in entirely new and exciting ways. Metadata records (descriptive information) that we send to DPLA are aggregated into a stream of open data that can be used by software developers and others to create new tools or visualizations. Two of our favorites are the DPLA Visual Search Prototype and Culture Collage, which offer more visual interfaces for browsing and sorting through search results.
Perhaps most importantly, DPLA allows for unified access, which is important both for 1) users who don’t necessarily know what institution will have the records they’re looking for and 2) collections that have been physically fragmented across different institutions.
Our participation in DPLA has been in the works for almost two years. DPLA is unable to accept metadata records directly from individual libraries – there are just too many potential contributors! – so almost all of its data passes through nodes called Service Hubs. Most service hubs are established at a state or regional level, and Pennsylvania didn’t have one when DPLA first launched. Beginning in August 2014, a group of Pennsylvania cultural heritage institutions got together to discuss how best to collaborate on digital collections in the state. After a year of planning, coordination, and tons of work, the PA Digital Partnership was approved as a DPLA Service Hub in August 2015. On April 13, 2016, data from the PA Digital Partnership went live in DPLA, with 131, 651 records from 19 contributing Pennsylvania institutions.We’re incredibly proud to be part of DPLA and the PA Digital Partnership, and we’re thrilled to see our digital collections be more accessible and discoverable than ever. Congratulations to all our PA Digital colleagues, and happy searching to all!
The pages in the book were created using images from the Library’s digital collections, which were digitized from original artwork, publications, and albums.
Please note: We’ve edited the images to increase their “colorability.” In many cases, this process obscured some of the incredible detail and shading in the original work. We encourage you to explore the master scans (and the many, many other items in our collections!) at www.scranton.edu/library/zanerbloser.
We hope you enjoy our book, and we can’t wait to see what colors you bring to our collections!
All of the pages in the book were created using images from the Library’s digital collections, most of which were digitized from original drawings, photographs, and publications from our University Archives.
We hope you enjoy our book, and we can’t wait to see what colors you bring to our collections!
The Lackawanna Historical Society’s Scranton Family Papers collection includes 19 bound volumes of over 9,000 letters written by George W. Scranton, Joseph Hand Scranton, and William Walker Scranton, dating from 1850 to 1917. The Scranton Family collection is quite large; the full set has over 11,000 pages. Our goal for this Scanathon was to completely digitize the first two volumes of the collection: the George W. Scranton Papers (approximately 414 letters, 625 pages), which cover the time period June 1850 through June 1854.
The Historical Society also loaned us a box of loose correspondence from the Scranton Family, with letters to and from Joseph H. Scranton, Seldon T. Scranton, George W. Scranton, and William W. Scranton, dating from 1841 through 1874.
We knew we’d need a lot of help, and the History Department stepped up. Faculty member Dr. Adam Pratt came and brought students from his HIST140: Craft of the Historian course. The Royals Historical Society also volunteered in force. In total, more than 30 students came to the Library to work three-hour shifts. Staff members from the Lackawanna Historical Society and Scranton Public Library joined in, working side by side with our students.
Bound volumes are always difficult to scan. Luckily, we got some extra help from the State Library of Pennsylvania, which loaned us their brand new table top Scribe Station for the weekend. The Scribe Station is part of a new initiative to support the digitization of important cultural heritage materials in the state of Pennsylvania, and we were the first to sign up! We also used the Library’s flatbed scanners to digitize the loose correspondence.
The result? Success! Not only did we completely digitize both George W. Scranton volumes, we also made a serious dent in the loose letters. Over the course of the weekend, volunteers created 1,608 digitized images (over 20 GB).
Why digitize? The most important reason is access. Up until now, the George W. Scranton volumes have only been accessible to researchers visiting the Lackawanna Historical Society in person. Digitization and online publication will make the letters much more accessible (and full-text searchable!) to historians, students, genealogists, the citizens of Scranton, and any other interested members of the public. Digitization also helps to protect and preserve the papers, which are in rather fragile condition – most researchers will be able to use the digital versions, reducing the wear and tear and decreasing the risk of damage to the original physical volumes.
Description and Transcription
The Scanathon wasn’t just about scanning, though. In order for digitized images to be discoverable and useful, they need to be described. In between shifts on the scanners, our volunteers captured descriptive information (called metadata) about the letters and prepared a spreadsheet that we can use to prepare the digitized images for online publication. Lackawanna Historical Society volunteers had previously prepared transcriptions of the George W. Scranton volumes (thank you!!), which our volunteers copied into our metadata spreadsheets. We also got a start on transcribing the loose correspondence — our students really stepped up to the challenge of reading scrawling, 19th-century cursive.
The Scanathon may be over, but our work isn’t done quite yet. In the next few weeks, Scranton Public Library and University of Scranton Library faculty and staff will match up the digitized letters with the descriptions and transcriptions and publish them online in the Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives. (To get a sense of how they will look, take a look at this letter that we digitized a few years ago as part of a collaborative Civil War digital history project.)
Update: Full volumes (sans transcriptions) are live on Internet Archive!! (Volume 1 – Volume 2)
Early next year, the letters will also be discoverable in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) via the brand new Pennsylvania Digital Collections Project service hub. The University of Scranton and the Scranton Public Library are both founding members and active participants in this statewide initiative, so we’re thrilled to be able to give this new digital collection the exposure it deserves.
This was our first Scanathon, and it was certainly a learning experience. Perhaps the most important lesson learned was how wonderful it is to have help and support from so many people. Our deepest thanks go out to: Weinberg Memorial Library faculty and staff (especially Sam Davis, Sheli McHugh, Mary Kovalcin, Sharon Finnerty, Kym Fetsko, Kevin Kocur, Ian O’Hara, and work study Kate Reilly), History Department faculty and students (especially Dr. Adam Pratt and RHS president Julia Frakes), Lackawanna Historical Society staff and volunteers (especially Sarah Piccini and the Martin Family), Scranton Public Library staff (especially Scott Thomas, Martina Soden, Sylvia Orner, and Elizabeth Davis), and the State Library of Pennsylvania (especially Alice Lubrecht and Bill Fee). We’ll scan with you any day!