Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Joseph Boggs Beale was born in Philadelphia in 1841 to Dr. Stephen Thomas Beale, a dentist and founder of the Pennsylvania Association of Dental Surgeons (1814-1899) and Louise Boggs McCord (1815-1887). The oldest of eleven children, Beale attended the Locust Street Grammar School, Central High School, and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (PAFA). He returned to Central High in October 1862, having beaten out a young Thomas Eakins to become the school's professor of drawing and writing.
In June 1863, Beale enlisted in the army and served with the Company D, 2nd Regiment, Blue Reserves of Philadelphia or the 33rd United States Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia. This, however, did not force his career into hiatus. Just a few weeks after enlisting, Beale was appointed a regimental artist and supplied drawings from the field to various magazines for publication. During his tenure he sketched various scenes of camps, soldiers, and battlefields, including Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown, Maryland. Beale was mustered out of the army in early August 1863.
Beale resumed teaching in September 1863, but retired just a few years later. He went on to work as an illustrator for magazines such as Frank Leslie's Weekly, Harper's, and the Daily Graphic. In 1868, he married Mary Louise Taffart and the couple moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Beale worked as a book illustrator. Unfortunately, Beale lost the majority of his work during the Chicago fire of October 1871, after which Beale and his wife moved back to Philadelphia. He found commercial work with the Frank Harris Lithography Company and as a magic lantern slide illustrator for Caspar W. Briggs, one of Philadelphia's early glass slide dealers. These hand-tinted slides, which were placed inside machines known as "magic lanterns" that projected the images onto screens, were a popular form of Victorian-era entertainment that lasted into the early twentieth century. Beale created hundreds of such slides later in his career and illustrated everything from Bible stories and morality tales to children's stories and popular songs and poems.
Outside of his artwork, Beale was an avid rower and was a member of the Undine Barge Club, founded in 1856. He died at his home in Germantown in 1926, survived by only one of his ten siblings, brother Albert Barnes Beale. Beale and his wife did not have any children. Many of his magic lantern slide drawings were discovered after his death and were presumably dispersed into the hands of museums and private collectors.
In 1936, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York presented an exhibit of Beale's drawings. Arthur Colen of Philadelphia's Modern Galleries assisted with this exhibition by loaning some of Beale's works that he apparently owned. Colen also wrote the introduction for the exhibition catalogue, much of which appeared to be based on his expertise on Beale's work, knowledge of his background, and communications with Beale's family. Presumably, Colen culled this collection because of his interest in Beale's life and works.
Making up the bulk of these papers are Beale's written diaries dating from 1856 to 1865, but there are also a few folders of correspondence, genealogical notes, and images in one box. The collection dates mostly from the mid to late 1800s, but there are several items, particularly correspondence to Arthur Colen that date from the early 1900s. Overall, this collection, while it does not contain much about his family, presents a worthy glimpse into Beale's life during the 1800s.
The richest material in this collection comes from Beale's diaries, excerpts from which were published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography in October 1973. In them, Beale documented his daily whereabouts in regard to his art career and turn in the military. Scattered among many routine entries are several gems in which Beale discussed his art. "Today I painted 2 small pictures in oil on paste board," he wrote on 16 May 1862, "I made my first attempt on Wednesday 14th." He wrote about a new stereopticon exhibition that he attended in December 1860, which he described as "a magic lantern but much more powerfully lighted." He also recorded current events, such as President Lincoln's procession through Philadelphia in February 1861, during which Beale witnessed, "Mr. Lincoln kept his hat on his head & had a large bouquet in his left hand, & bowed to the people as they waved their handkerchiefs to him & saluted him with cheers & firing off pistols."
Particularly notable, however, are the diary entries from Beale's service with the army in the 33rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserves, also known as Company D, 2nd Regiment, Blue Reserves, from June and July 1863. After enlisting, on 19 June 1863 he traveled to "the Armory of Com[pany] D. 2nd Regt. Blue Reserves in Chestnut, above 5th opposite the State House, at 8 o'clock" in the morning where his hair was cut very short, "'sandpapered style'," he noted. The next day, his company started their trek toward Harrisburg. Over the course of several weeks, Beale and his company traveled to Carlisle; Pine Grove Furnace; Gettysburg; Hagerstown, Maryland; and Chambersburg; before traveling back through Harrisburg to Philadelphia. On 27 June 1863, Beale wrote that he "was appointed regimental artist," and he noted each time he had a few moments to draw. "Private Christie went with me to the skirmish [in Hagerstown] & I sketched it on two 1/2 sheets of fools cap given me by Lieutenant Naylor," he wrote on 17 July 1863. He vividly detailed everything from meetings and conflicts with Rebel soldiers to the types of food he ate (from "hard tack" to special treats like coffee and crackers). He further described the hardships they faced, such as supply shortages, and the various towns and landscapes they passed.
Aside from the diaries, there is also one box of inboundpapers. The first folder contains a few pieces of correspondence dated 1857 to 1882, with one letter dating from 1924. Most are cordial letters from Beale to members of his family. Additional items include two letters from Stephen Thomas Beale Jr. and a few letters to Beale concerning his artwork and the Undine Barge Club. In the second folder are genealogical notes on the Beale family, as well as a group of letters to Arthur Colen from members of the Beale family that contain further notes on the family's history. The third folder of miscellaneous items contains Beale's obituary from an unidentified newspaper, a copy of the Whitney Museum's 1936 exhibition catalog featuring Beale's work with an introduction written by Arthur Colen, and a reprint of Nicholas Wainwright's article (minus the diary transcriptions), Education of an Artist: The Diary of Joseph Boggs Beale, 1856-1865. In the final folder are various photographs and images mostly of Beale, his mother, most of his siblings, and his wife. There is also a photograph of Beale's house at 1113 Chestnut Street (when it became the home of the State Centennial Committee), an example of Beale's magic lantern slide drawings, a small crayon drawing done by Beale in 1856, and a photograph of a drawing of one of the rooms inside the Academy of Music.
Gift of Arthur Colen, 1973.
- Art and Artists--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--19th century
- United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 33rd (1861-1864)
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2010.
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from Thomas Moran.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
Box 1, folder 1: Correspondence (1857-1882, 1924)
Box 1, folder 2: Genealogical notes and letters to Arthur Colen (1935, 1936, undated)
Box 1, folder 3: Miscellaneous (1926, 1936, circa 1973)
Box 1, folder 4: Photographs and images (circa 1860, circa 1926, circa 1973)Physical Description
0.2 Linear feet ; 1 box