Curator’s Favorite: Albert Hatch Photograph Album

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Curator’s Favorite: Albert Hatch Photograph Album, ca. 1866-ca. 1888


The broader context in which scrapbooks and albums within special collections were created can be elusive when not provided by their creator or immediate descendents. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we have recently reevaluated this album of mid- to late-19th-century photographs of primarily Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania views compiled by Albert Hatch (1833-1910) to establish that context. Through this funding to catalog and digitize the Library Company’s 19th-century ephemera collections, under utilized albums like the one arranged by Hatch are undergoing thorough reexamination for inclusion in our digital library.

John Moran, "A Smith," ca. 1860s.

John Moran, “A Smith,” ca. 1860s.

Hatch, the son of a real estate broker, worked as a clerk at the U.S. Post Office in Philadelphia from the late 1880s into the early 20th century. He also practiced photography and in 1885 received a permission card to take “Photographic Views” in Fairmount Park that is in the album. The album contains photographs by premier Philadelphia photographer John Moran, whose work was far superior to Hatch’s. Consequently, previous Print Department staff without the benefit of the Internet overlooked a telling connection between Hatch and several photographs identified as residences and mills owned by the Schooley family.

Henry N. Schooley residence and mill, Luzerne, Pa., ca. 1888

Henry N. Schooley residence and mill, Luzerne, Pa., ca. 1888

Research in genealogical websites brought to light Hatch’s association with the Schooley family when the record of his marriage to Alice C. Schooley in 1886 was discovered. She descended from a family active in the milling and mining industry in and near Wyoming, Pa., including her brother Henry N. and her Aunt Joanna whose residences and mills appear in the album. The contents actually represent not only photographs by professionals that Hatch admired, like Moran, but most likely his own photographs of his extended family and their haunts and his photography excursions. Other album views depict Fairmount Park, the Wissahickon, Atlantic City, the White Mountains, and Hatch’s residence north of Center City.

Albert Hatch's Philadelphia residence at 577 North Twenty-Fifth Street, ca. 1885.

Albert Hatch’s Philadelphia residence at 577 North Twenty-Fifth Street, ca. 1885.

This previously poorly understood collection of photographs showing Philadelphia and rural Pennsylvania, including plates from the magazine Philadelphia Photographer, now have a context. Although it is not inconceivable that John Moran, a photographer of landscapes, would have created views of family residences and businesses, Hatch’s permission card and the family connections strongly suggest that the album was compiled by and at least partially created by amateur photographer Albert Hatch. The NEH grant has made possible more comprehensive access to an album that serves as a resource for economic history and early photography, and more clarity to a genealogical record of a prominent Pennsylvania family.

Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Print and Photograph Department

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