Thursday, March 27, 2014

Beautiful Bills

I found a file filled with bills from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and they are gorgeous! Many of them have beautiful engravings on them, which either depict the goods they are offering or the building where they’re located. Some of the buildings are still standing, but most were lost in the Baltimore Fire in 1904.

Here are a few of the ones that I like the most.

People with Flags!IMG_0070


Animals & BirdsIMG_0079IMG_0092IMG_0094xIMG_0345IMG_0346IMG_0348




Household goodsIMG_0098IMG_0099xIMG_0100xIMG_0087

Multi-Colored InksIMG_0078IMG_0084IMG_0325IMG_0341IMG_0101

Fancy Fonts & Great TypesettingIMG_0066IMG_0067IMG_0068IMG_0090IMG_0091IMG_0093IMG_0329IMG_0339IMG_0342

Don’t you wish the bills you received looked this great?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ashton Alexander (1772-1855)

When I started photographing the portraits, I was not at all methodical about it, rather, I’d have my camera with me, see someone I’d not photographed before and then take a picture. I knew that if I had a picture in color, it was a painting. Engravings and black and white images came from either our 1899 Annals of Maryland Medicine, or the 100th anniversary of our library book.

I was in one of the other buildings on our “campus” and saw a painting of Ashton Alexander, our first secretary, an early treasurer and our last surviving member. Of course, I took a picture of the painting. When I got back to my office, I realized that I already had a color image of Alexander. Hmmmm… how was that possible?

It turns out that we have an original painting, which is in our Physician Health Program building,  Alexanderand a copy of the painting, which is in our Founders Hall. image

I went back and checked the 2002 Sotheby’s appraisal, and sure enough, only one copy of the painting was listed. And it was by Philip Tilyard, a well-known painter in Baltimore in the early 1800’s. imagePhilip Tilyard studied with his father, an English painter who had immigrated to America. After his father died, Tilyard worked with another artisan for a year and then with his brother as a sign and ornament painter. In 1814, the Baltimore City Directory listed his occupation as “portraitist.” For a short time, Tilyard went into the dry goods business, but was unsuccessful and returned to making signs to support himself. Tilyard eventually built back his reputation as a portrait painter for wealthy Baltimore citizens. But this success did not last long, and he died poor from what his obituary described as a “lingering illness.”

Back to Ashton Alexander…

Ashton Alexander was born near Arlington, VA in 1772, where his family owned large tracts of land, and the town of Alexandria was named for them. He was privately educated and then studied medicine as a student of Dr. Philip Thomas, of Frederick, MD and then attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his degree in 1795. He first settled in North Carolina and then came to Baltimore in 1796.

He was a founder of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland and its first secretary (1799-1801); then he was treasurer (1801-1803) and the last surviving charter member.

Additionally, he was Commissioner of Health in Baltimore from 1804-05 and again in 1812; Attending Physician, Baltimore General Dispensary, 1801-03; Consulting Physician, Baltimore Hospital, 1812; President District Medical and Chirurgical Society, 1819-20; Provost, University of Maryland, 1837-50.

He was married, first to Catherine Thomas, a daughter of Dr. Philip Thomas, and fathered eight children, only three of whom survived to adulthood, and all of whom died before he did. In his later years, he was married to Miss Sarah Roger Merryman.

Dr. Alexander is described as being “a self-possessed and courteous man, neat in his dress which included knee and shoe buckles and gold-headed cane.” He died of pneumonia in Baltimore in February, 1855, in his eighty-third year.


In my opinion, the top painting is the one by Tilyard. It’s beautifully painting, with a luminosity to it. The second picture is muddied and not well-detailed.

Friday, March 14, 2014

ExLibris: The Bookplate Collection, Part II

In December, I posted the first of the bookplate collection and when I found another fascinating plate this week, I was reminded to write another bookplate post.

MedChi had a lending library for many years, and members could join for the princely sum of $1.00. However, there were some rules, which were spelled out in this bookplate.lending library rules

I love that this was unevenly cut out and glued in the front of one of our books. It’s the first one like this I’ve seen, and it must be between the 1850’s and the 1870’s according to the library history. This was a period when the library was at its low point, and members had borrowed, and not returned, so many books that the Board considered closing the library.

I found a similar plate in an old botany book, but it’s from the The Library Company of Baltimore. It’s printed on green paper similar to the MedChi plate, and the rules are a little less onerous. IMG_0009

The by-laws refer to some of the pamphlets in now-historic terms: duodecimo, octavo, quarto and folio. These were printing terms. Here’s a great explanation from Abe Books:

A book’s format refers to the shape and dimensions of the physical book.  When browsing bookseller catalogs and listings on the Internet, the terms and abbreviations used to describe book sizes (8vo, 12mo, folio, quarto, etc.) can seem confusing at first.

Essentially these terms are simply an explanation of the book’s evolution from single sheets of paper into a completed book with printed pages. Each term defines how many times the initial piece of paper was folded to become pages.  Using this terminology, the term ‘Folio’ would tell us that the original sheet of paper was folded once, resulting in two leaves.  Therefore a book described as ‘Quarto’ would have its original sheet folded twice and would have four leaves - each leaf being one-quarter or one fourth the original size.

To make life even simpler, remember ‘Folio’ is a large upright-shaped book and an ‘Octavo’ is a small upright-shaped book, while a ‘Quarto’ is in-between the two and mostly square-shaped. 

image image

The book where I found this bookplate is not something I’d spend any of my free time reading. IMG_0002

Most fortunately, this book was not illustrated.

Friday, March 7, 2014

1211 in 1909

In 1909, MedChi purpose-built a headquarters building, which we still use today. It was modeled on other medical society buildings from New York and Boston. It was designed by Ellicott & Emmart, IMGa Philadelphia firm who designed other well-known buildings in Baltimore, including this house in Guilford, imageand St. David’s Church in Roland Park.image

Upon the opening of the building, there was a large ceremony with many notables from Baltimore, including Cardinal Keogh. Several pictures were taken, which still survive. IMG_0001

Luckily, there’s a close-up of the people in front of the building. IMG_0003

So, I took the two and merged them, with the close-up overlaid on the other image. 1909 photo

I am pretty happy with the result!