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William Russell Birch Views of Philadelphia
Series of late 18th and early 19th-century views of principal sections of the city of Philadelphia including primary streets, government buildings, local landmarks, and financial, religious, educational, and benevolent institutions. The series, the first of its kind in the United States, was created to attract new citizens and to illustrate to an international audience the vitality of the nation's premiere city. The views focus on structures, but also contain lively depictions of daily street life in Philadelphia.

The William Russell Birch Collection [graphic].
Collection containing primarily engravings, watercolors, and drawings executed by English-born artist and engraver William Birch and his descendants between the 18th and later 19th century. Several of the graphic materials are by William Birch and represent engraved work he completed in Britain before 1794 and following his immigration to the United States that same year. His British work includes plates from his unpublished satiric volume “The Busy World, or London Dissected ...” (ca. 1792-ca. 1793) showing a charlatan at work, a fight between Richard Humphreys and Daniel Mendoza, a May Day procession, and rag dealers (P.2016.50.28-33); loose plates from his book of British landscapes “Les Delices de la Grande Bretagne” (1791) (P.2016.50.34, 36, 42); the rural and scenic “The Porcupine Inn Yard Rushmore Hill” (p.2016.50.38); the disaster print “The Great Fire of London in the Year 1666” (P.2016.50.55); and portraits of the poetical character Secander (P.2016.50.40) and his mentor “Sir Joshua Reynolds” (P.2016.50.22). His American work includes variant editions of plates from his “Views of Philadelphia” originally published as a series 1798-1800 (P.2016.62.21-37); variant editions of plates from his “Country Seats” originally published in 1808 (P.2016.62.38-45a); and the 1800 commemorative portrait “George Washington. Late President of the United States of America” (hand-colored and black and white [P.2016.50.59 & P.2016.62.55])., British and American work of Birch is also included in the collection in the form of watercolors, drawings, paintings, a sketchbook, and as photographic reproductions. These graphics depict portraits of family members (some photographed ca. 1910s by Charles W. Parker), including his children Priscilla, Thomas, George, and Albina while young as well as his purportedly his mother Anne (P.2016.50); ca. 1800s plan and views of his Bucks County country seat Springland (purchased in 1798) (P.2016.50.48-50); views of the Philadelphia country seat China Retreat, Gunpowder Falls near Hampton, MD, and the George Read estate in New Castle, DE (P.2016.50.43, 45-46); an annotated sketch of Westminster Bridge from the Adelphi Terrace (P.2016.50.51); a drawing of a group of boys (P.2016.62.2); and pencil sketches of male and female figures within an undated sketchbook (P.2016.62.59). Additionally, Birch’s work is represented by a preparatory sketch of an A. Sheffer portrait of Lafayette (P.2016.50.21); portrait drawings of unidentified sitters (P.2015.25 & 26); a ca. 1795 miniature enamel painting of his daughter Deborah (P.2016.50.67); a palette of his paint colors (P.2016.50.66); and an 1830s oil painting of an older Thomas Birch (1779-1851) attributed to William (P.2016.62.1)., Other original and reproduced material is attributed to William Birch or by Birch family members or by other artists and engravers. This includes a 1742 Thomas Worlidge pencil portrait of William’s father Thomas (P.2016.50.14), a Birch portrait of William King (father-in-law of son Thomas), and portraits and a "Museum" (i.e., Peale Museum) blind-stamped silhouette of Birch (P.2016.50.16); ca. 1785 Robert Freebairn watercolor of Hampstead Heath (Birch’s British county of residence); engravings by M. Marigot of “Mount Vernon ...” and “View of the City and Port of Philadelphia ...” from Janson's "Stranger in America" (London, 1807); Franklin Birch 1860s pencil sketches of a printing press and plows (P.2016.62.5-6)); Louise S. Birch's oil renderings of flowers (P.2016.62.12-13); sketches of a title page to the 1852 edition of Thomas Day’s “The History of Sanford and Merton” and of rural and landscape scenes and animal studies (Thomas Birch?; P.2016.62.3, 8-11); John McAllister, Jr. 1860 restrikes (some signed by Agnes McAllister) of Philadelphia views by Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Birch and William Strickland and the 1798 “Congressional Pugilists cartoon (P.2016.62.46-52; and engraved portraits of Major Genl. Brown (P.2016.62.53) and Edward Shippen (P.2016.62.54)., Collection also contains a unique ca. 1810 mockup by Birch for a revised and enlarged edition of his “Country Seats” (P.2016.62.59).The album includes plates from the first edition as well as a proof plate of the Devon view, three watercolors showing “Analostun, or Masons Island with one wing of the house at Georgetown and two of Mr. Custus’s in the distance”; “Point Breeze. The Residence of Joseph Bonapart – at Burdentown on the Delaware”;“The Mill & House of Mr. E. Esirel late sheriff of Phila., Near Christeen,” and a pencil sketch “Mr. Bells Buildings at Richmond.” Other unique items in the Birch Collection include his two variant volumes of manuscript copies of “The Life and Anecdotes of William Russell Birch ...”(bulk written after War of 1812 and into the 1820s), including accounts of his work and travels (P.2016.50.61 & 62); “Birch’s American Cottage. Volm. 2nd” of personal anecdotes, including discussion of Springland (P.2016.50.63); Birch’s “Book of Profitts” with entries dated 1813-1830 (P.2016.50.64); and probably his personal copy of “Les Delices de la Grande Bretagne” (P.2016.50.65). An imperfect copy of “Les Delices” formerly owned by original subscriber Francis Longe (and including his book plate) and a copy of “Transactions of the Society Instituted at London” (1785) referencing a Birch award (p.183) are also included with the materials (P.2016.50.65 & 60)., A small number of manuscripts written by William Birch comprise the collection as well. These materials include a ca. 1800-ca.1805 calligraphic and manuscript title page to "Views of and from The Country References of William Birch. Drawn by Himself wih a sett of Drawings of Springland"; a ca. 1818 letter to an unidentified granddaughter (P.2015.50.1); an undated letter addressed to the Duke of Grafton and Duke of Richmond about “forgetting their subscriptions” (possibly about subscription to Delices... [1791]) (P.2015.50.2); scraps with names of subscribers to “Busy World” (P.2015.50.3) as well as titles completed and to be completed (P.2015.50.4&5); ca. 1805 list of views of “Beautys of Springland not Pictured” (P.2015.50.6); and an 1811 receipt for 5 dollars issued to Ben Wilson for “Views.” (P.2015.50.7). Ephemera also forms the Birch Collection and includes Birch’s certificate of United States citizenship issued in 1808 (P.2016.50.52); a broadside advertising the 1789 titles to be issued by “J. Bell of the British Library” and addressed to Wm. Birch, Hampstead Heath (P.2016.50.53); the bookplate of historian and writer Thomas Birch (1705-1766) (P.2016.50.35 &P.2016.62.15); completed tags for William Birch miniatures on display at the 1911 The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and The Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters Tenth Annual Exhibition (P.2016.62.17-20); early twentieth-century receipts and labels for works by Thomas and William Birch (P.2016.62.62-66); and an unused enamel plate (P.2016.50.27)., Various artists, engravers, printers, and photographers including William Russell Birch, Thomas Birch, Franklin Birch, Louise Birch, J. N. Gimbrede, Jan Griffier, Augustus Kollner, M. Marigot, Charles W. Parker, Charles Willson Peale, P. Roberts, J. Rogers, Julius F. Sacshe, Ary Sheffer, Samuel Shelley, Thomas T. Stiles, Gilbert Stuart, Benedictus Antonio Van Assen, E. Wellmore, J. Wood, and Thomas Worlidge., Various publishers and distributors including J. Bell, William Birch, R. Campbell & Co., James Cundee, E. Jeffrey, Edward J. Parker, R. Pollard, C. Taylor, and T. Thornton., Research files, genealogical reference files, and modern photographic reproductions of the artists' work that accompanied the collection when acquired are available at the repository., See Emily T. Cooperman and Lea Carson Sherk, Picturing the American Scene (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011)., See Emily T. Cooperman, ed., The Country Seats of the United States. William Russell Birch (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009)., See S. Robert Teitelman, Birch's Views of Philadelphia. (Philadelphia: The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1982, rev. 2000)., See Martin P. Snyder, "William Birch: His Philadelphia Views," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 73 (July 1949), 271-315., See Martin Snyder, "Birch's Philadelphia Views: New Discoveries," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 88 (April 1964), 164-173., See Martin P. Snyder, "William Birch: his ’Country seats of the United States,’" Pennsylvania magazine of History and Biography 81 (1957), 225-254., P.2018.55 photographic reproduction of Mrs. Robinson engraved by William Birch after Sir Joshua Reynolds housed with collection., William Russell Birch (1755-1834), trained in England under Sir Joshua Reynolds, was a respected Philadelphia engraver, miniaturist, and enamel painter. Birch was also one of the most important landscape artists in America’s Federal period. He engraved and published the first viewbook of an American city, "The City of Philadelphia in the Year… 1800" and the respected "The Country Seats of the United States of North America" in 1804. His son Thomas Birch (1779-1851) assisted him in the drawing and engraving of his viewbooks. He became a respected artist in his own right and specialized in marine paintings.