In this issue:

Banner Image: 233-245 S. 6th St., Dec. 1959.

Membership    ·    New Books    ·    Donate    ·    Current Exhibition    ·    Event Calendar

Banner Image: 233-245 S. 6th St., Dec. 1959.

The Athenaeum will be open on April 7th from 11:00am-3:00pm for First Saturday.


Upcoming Exhibition

Elegant Things & Vile Uses: The Civil War and The United States Capitol Building

By the time the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in 1861, the United States Capitol building had been under construction for more than a decade. The new Senate and House wings remained unfinished and the great dome rose to less than half its final height.  The Great Civil War that would test whether the nation would survive was a trial also for the building itself, and its long-suffering Philadelphia architect, Thomas Ustick Walter.   Based on original drawings, photographs, prints and the architect’s own diaries and letters, this exhibition focuses on the architectural, engineering, political, artistic, military and family challenges Walter faced during the war years.

Exhibition Dates: April 9 - May 18, 2012

Special Events:

Gallery Talks by Curator Bruce Laverty

Wednesday, April 11, 3:00pm
Thursday, April 26, 5:30pm
Friday, May 4, 5:30pm

Each gallery talk will be limited to 30 attendees. Please RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or


Member  News

Do you wonder who created the original "fancy painting" in the nineteenth century in the Athenaeum's Reading Room?  From Athenaeum archives we know that the painter there was John Gibson.  Now you can learn even more about Gibson, his brothers, and their work in stained glass as well as "fancy painting."  Read Athenaeum member Jean M. Farnsworth's article "The Artistry of John and George Gibson and the Capitol's Spectacular Stained Glass Skylights," in a special edition of The Capitol Dome (Winter 2012).  Research for this article was supported by a fellowship from the United States Capitol Historical Society.  To read Jean's article online, go to

Above: Stained glass skylight, west House staircase, U. S. Capitol.  Courtesy Femenella & Associates.

Saturnalia Books Poetry Reading

Denise Duhamel is the author of numerous books including Ka-Ching! and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems. A winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she has been anthologized widely, including four volumes of The Best American Poetry. Duhamel teaches creative writing and literature at Florida International University, and she judged the 2011 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize.

Tanya Larkin, author My Scarlet Ways, winner of the 2011 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, was born in Montebelluna, Italy and raised in Pennsylvania. She attended Columbia University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant. She teaches at The New England Institute of Art. Her poems have appeared in Conduit, Quarterly West, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Of My Scarlet Ways, Denise Duhamel writes, “Her work is fierce and peculiarly profound, engaged and authentic; her syntax stretches like a tightrope upon which her surprising imagery dips and then balances most skillfully.”

Debora Kuan, author of Xing, is the recipient of a Fulbright media arts scholarship (Taiwan), University of Iowa Graduate Merit Fellowship, and a Santa Fe Art Institute writer’s residency. She has also written about contemporary art for Artforum, Art in America, and elsewhere. Of Xing, Yusef Komunyakaa writes, “This is a beautiful, necessary, veracious voice assaying the vagaries of contemporary life and culture illuminated by flashes of history.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 6:00PM

Reception and book signing.

Free to all.  RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or

Philadelphia: The Great Experiment

Don't miss the latest addition to Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.  Last year the Athenaeum hosted the first installment, with comments by Sam Katz.  Now you can see the latest section, which focuses on the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1893, broadcast on Channel 6ABC on April 4th at 7:30PM.  Click here to watch the 6abc promotional video with Jim Gardner.

Member Critics

Elaine Sciolino, La Seduction. New York: Times Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2011.

Charmingly designed and painlessly executed, Sciolino's book makes a plausible case for France’s survival by seduction.  Of course with a little good French wine (perhaps even without it), she might be able to sell me on almost anything. She uses well her years as French correspondent for The New York Times.  My slight dissatisfaction is that the only tension in her story concerns a magnificently prepared formal dinner with elite conversationalists that may not have been worth the trouble (Many Franks!).  From the overview of French culture, we Americans seem like a bunch of Puritans, which is hardly the case.  About forty years ago, I was checking out from our lodging at Lake Annwcy, speaking English.  A distinguished-looking Frenchman, whom we’d seen at dinner the previous evening said to me that my wife and me were a French couple.  That I felt flattered, indicates how well seduction works.

Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis.


Do you have a book that you loved (or hated), and would you be willing to share that opinion on the Athenaeum e-newsletter?  If so, please send your short essay to



Monday-Friday:  9:00am-5:00pm

First Saturdays:  11:00am-3:00pm (excluding the summer months)



219 S. 6th Street

Philadelphia, PA  19106 


The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  

Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. 


The Athenaeum does not share this mailing list.  

You can Subscribe or Unsubscribe at the Athenaeum website.

To read past issues, visit the Newsletter Archive.