Phase two of HSP’s Digital Center for Americana Project is well underway. This project has the same broad goals of processing and creating digital access to collections as the pilot phase did, but this time around the focus is on ethnic history collections rather than the Civil War. The collections in DCA2 all come from families and individuals who were immigrants to the Philadelphia area, or groups which documented the lives of those immigrant families and communities. These collections span over 300 years (from the late 1600’s to the early 2000’s) and represent people and families from Germany, Sweden, France, Japan, Korea, Greece, Italy, and various nations in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East. All of these collections are receiving some kind of digitization and will be available for you to access via HSP’s digital library in the future. Collections will either be entirely digitized or we will digitize a selection of images that best represent the content of the collection.
One of the first collections to be processed was also one of the most charming I’ve ever seen. Charles A. Quinn was a postal worker in Philadelphia in the early 20th century who kept himself busy in his off hours by photographing his growing family, developing the photographs himself, placing them in an album, writing captions for every photograph, and hand painting decorations for the album pages.
The album begins during the courtship and engagement of Charles and his wife, Ann Weber, and documents his family throughout the growth of their two daughters. By the end of the album, the youngest Quinn daughter is graduating from secondary school, quite the sophisticated young lady.
But it isn’t the breadth of the album that I find so appealing – it’s how much of Charles Quinn’s personality comes through in the photographs, decorations, and captions. This was a man who adored his wife and children, and demonstrated it by spending years carefully creating a representation of their happy life together. You can see his affection in captions like the one under a photograph of his betrothed, who coyly poses for him, hand under her chin: “Here we have the lady in a likely pose.” Or in shots of his infant daughter laughing for the camera: “Here I is -- Mother!” and “Is dinner ready, Muvver?” Or in a photo of his daughter with her schoolmates on their graduation from secondary school, "Surely no school worries here!"
This is corny, dad humor circa 1910, which I’m inclined to think (after processing this collection) is the best kind.