NEWS: January 2010

Vol. 3, No. 1

In This Issue:

Banner Image: Detail of a portrait of Daniel Webster by Chester Harding, c.1850-1852. This portrait hangs in the Busch Reading Room.



Banner Image: Detail of a portrait of Daniel Webster by Chester Harding, c.1850-1852. This portrait hangs in the Busch Reading Room.

Jax Peters Lowell Wins Leeway Foundation Transformation Award

Athenaeum Member Jax Peters Lowell has been awarded the Leeway Foundation's Transformation Award for Fiction and Poetry.  Among her works are several books including Against the Grain, The Gluten-Free Bible; an illustrated children’s book, No More Cupcakes & Tummy Aches; a novel Mothers; and the memoir An Early Winter.  


The Transformation Award provides unrestricted annual awards to women and transgender artists living in the Delaware Valley region who create art for social change and have done so for the past five years or more, demonstrating a long-term commitment to social change work.


Above: Jax Peters Lowell.


Focus on Shakespeare in Cinema

Those of you who have attended the Athenaeum's Shakespeare seminars with Dr. Ejner Jensen may be interested in Focus on Shakespeare in Cinema presented by the Philadelphia Film Society and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival.

Tickets are on sale online at, and will also be available for purchase in the lobby of the Prince Theater beginning at 6:30pm (one hour before each screening).
$10 General Public; $8 Senior/Student (with proper ID); $6 PFS Member


Wednesday, January 13
The Tragedy of Macbeth
(Roman Polanski, 1971)

Screening followed by a moderated discussionModerator Annalisa Castaldo, Professor, Widener University.
Synopsis: Roman Polanski's version of Shakespeare's tragedy about a Scottish lord who murders the king and ascends the throne. His wife then begins hallucinating as a result of her guilt complex and the dead king's son conspires to attack MacBeth and expose him for the murderer he is.


Wednesday, January 27
Henry V
(Kenneth Branagh, 1989)

Screening followed by a moderated discussion.  Moderator: Dr. Matthew Kozusko, Professor, Ursinus College.
Synopsis: King Henry V of England (Kenneth Branagh) is insulted by the King of France. As a result, he leads his army into battle against France. Along the way, the young king must struggle with the sinking morale of his troops and his own inner doubts. The war culminates at the bloody Battle of Agincourt.


Hidden Treasures

The Athenaeum's Vaux Collection is full of treasures, but this month we highlight one especially interesting item donated by former Athenaeum President,  George Vaux (1908-1996).  The drawing to the left is a design for six Federal style rowhouses designed and built c. 1796.  They were located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 19th St. NW in Washington DC.   Among the developers of the property were James Greenleaf, John Nicholson and Robert Morris.  

The most important feature of this drawing is the house on the 19th St. corner, which had a rounded end to meet the angled intersection.  This large house was purchased in 1800  by the federal government and was occupied by the State Department. Over the years it served as home to a number of important historical figures including Vice President Elbridge Gerry (1813-1814); President James Madison (after the White House was burned, 1815-1817); Vice-President Martin Van Buren (1833-1837); and General George McClellan who used the building as his headquarters during the Civil War.  The corner house was demolished in 1959 to make way for an office building, but two of the houses in the row remain as part of the Mexican Embassy.  

Above Left: The c. 1796 drawing showing the plan and elevation of the row.

Above Right: Detail of the house on the 19th St. corner that served as the temporary White House.


Member Critics

Vonnegut, Kurt.  Look at the Birdie.  New York: Delacorte, 2009.


It probably happens to all of us eventually:  trying to pull out a happy ending from an ever-worsening disaster, the author pulls in an improbable doctor ex machina.  Well - if you can use a thief to catch a thief, it isn't malpractice to use a doctor to doctor a story, is it?  Anyway, this is an "average" Vonnegut work:  often scarily good, but sometimes . . . not. . .


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


Save the Date:  

January 12: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am.

February 1: Coffee Day in Members' Reading Room.

February 6: First Saturday, Athenaeum open, 10:00am-2:00pm

February 24: Thomas Fleming, The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers. Lecture and Book Signing, 5:30pm


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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.