About This Conference

Ninth Annual Conference of the
Program in Early American Economy and Society
Co-Sponsored with the Visual Culture Program and
"Philadelphia on Stone”

Library Company of Philadelphia,
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA

This conference is a collaborative effort between the Library Company’s Program in Early American Economy and Society (PEAES) and the Visual Culture Program (VCP@LCP). PEAES is dedicated to promoting scholarship and public understanding of the early American economy, broadly conceived. In addition to annual conferences such as this one, PEAES awards research fellowships for both junior and senior scholars, collaborates on a monograph series with Johns Hopkins University Press, publishes conference scholarship in special issues of journals, presents seminars and colloquia, offers a regional survey of manuscript and printed resources in economic history, and organizes public programs. VCP@LCP promotes the study of historical images as primary source material and disseminates information about the collection, interpretation, and care of historic visual material. One of VCP@LCP’s current projects, “Philadelphia on Stone,” documents Philadelphia’s commercial lithography between 1828 and 1878, including the professional and personal lives of lithographic artists and printers, with the support of a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation and additional support from the Independence Foundation.

Most Americans living in the four decades after 1820 witnessed rapid and deep changes in their economic conditions. Some welcomed the variety of store-bought clothing, prints for their parlors, and the convenience of ready-made tools or household gadgets. Others gazed skeptically at the thickets of ship masts in harbors or rushed quickly past shops full of wares that tempted the weak-willed to spend beyond their means. Still others tried (though many failed) to transform themselves from small-time consumers and producers into owners of great shipping lines, manufacturing enterprises, and large printing establishments.

The great variety of changes wrought in America during this era was captured in print by an array of artists, draftsmen, printers, and distributors in the new profession of lithography. They created hundreds of graphic works, printed ephemera, and stunning hand-colored plates that conveyed the nature of economic changes. Lithography not only had an impact on the print culture of the era; it was also an industry that transformed working lives and directed the public’s “eye” toward commerce and shopping, fashion, agricultural fairs, architecture, manufacturing, belching smoke in the skyline, the rising height of storefronts, and the lurking dangers of new tenements and open-air markets.

This conference is free and open to everyone interested in the topic. Please let us know if you will be attending by registering electronically.