Pendleton Prints

I have long been fascinated with printing in all its forms, and became acquainted with the work of the Pendleton Brothers of Boston when I was researching a long-lost Derby house here in Salem.  The daughter of the house, Mary Jane Derby, entrusted her beautiful painting of it to William and John Pendleton, and they produced an equally beautiful lithograph with their cutting-edge process. This print led me to other prints, and explorations in the vast collections of the Boston Public Library and Boston Athenaeum.  There is something about the Pendleton’s work, particularly their images of buildings, that I find really captivating:  it’s almost photographic, but not quite; it is both realistic and romantic at the same time.  Here is the Derby House, now the site of the Masonic building on busy Washington Street, along with several other lost Salem houses, preserved forever by the Pendletons.

These prints of famous Salem houses, all from the collection of the Boston Athenaeum and all gone, were produced by the Pendleton shop in the 1830s, early days in the history of lithography.  The Derby house was taken down around 1915, after its Washington Street neighborhood had transitioned from residential to commercial. In the center, the Benjamin Pickman house was built around 1748 and taken down at the beginning of World War II, when it was in a dilapidated state.  The  “Lafayette Coffee House”, built after 1796 as a residence for the famous Salem merchant William “Billy” Gray, lasted until the 1970s, though it was unrecognizable at the end. The perennially-unsuccessful East India Mall/Museum Place/parking garage was built on its site.  This post isn’t really about these houses or their unfortunate destruction, but I can’t resist showing images of their later incarnations, strong contrasts to the Pendletons’ pristine structures.

Two Frank Cousins photographs of the Derby and Gray (Lafayette Coffee House & later the Essex House, a hotel) houses, Duke University Library, and in the  center, a HABS photograph from 1940 of the rear of the Pickman House, Library of Congress.

The Pendleton Studio in Boston was not in operation for very long (1825-1836) but nevertheless it seems to have been quite influential, both in terms of technology and the fostering of a community of artists, most prominently Fitz Hugh Lane.  Their images of Boston–individual buildings, wharves, streetscapes–demand a dedicated post, but I’ve got to sneak this lithograph of the Jonathan Morse house in Boston in here, because it is so charming, beautiful, Bulfinch, and sadly, long gone.

Jonathan Mason House:  Mt. Vernon and Walnut Streets, Boston. House built 1802, razed 1827.  C. Bulfinch, arch. Boston Public Library.

The Pendleton brothers were businessmen, and they didn’t just produce single-commission images of the region’s notable houses. Their oeuvre includes advertisements, song sheets, portraits of the well-known and the well-heeled, and curiosities, for lack of a better word. But they were not job printers, by any means. Two more humanistic examples of their work (well, in a way), and images that they themselves submitted to the Library of Congress are a phrenological chart based on the popular theories of Dr. Johann Spurzheim, founder of the phrenology craze that spread across America in the nineteenth century, and a print of Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington.

Pendleton’s Lithography prints from the Library of Congress, 1832 and 1827.


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