1882 · Reading, PA. & Boston, MA
by Schoener, Jacob B., William, and William B.
Reading, PA. & Boston, MA, 1882. Manuscript archive consisting of letters, documents, wills, etc. from the Schoener family of Reading, Pennsylvania, including documents that detail the lives of two generations of family members and their successes and failures in making lives for themselves in 19th century America. Jacob B. Schoener: The focus of the archive is the life Jacob B. Schoener (1805-1846), a highly successful miniature painter who over his career became one of the leading practitioners in the field. By reading his letters it was apparent that he had considerable skill as a draughtsman and his father sent him to Philadelphia to study with the Italian artist Gennarino Perisco from whom he learned the elements of portraiture. His mastery of the art form was developed over time as he traveled from Reading to Philadelphia, to New York, To Albany to Providence and finally to Boston where he made his home for much of the 1803's. He learned that in order to make his living he needed to travel where the work was and he spent many winters in Charleston and other Southern cities, when the New England market grew soft. His letters home are filled news of his itinerary, his successes and dry periods and his constant quest to find new portraits to paint and money to make. In a letter dated November 16 apologizing for not having written sooner JSB ". . . it should have happened had I not been so busily engaged in painting miniatures, which must certainly be very agreeable to you -when you hear that I have already collected nearly money enough to discharge the remaining amount of what is do be paid on your house - which I believe amounts to about $250 or 260 . . . I paint much larger generally now, that I used to paint formerly - my $ 50 and 60 miniatures which are about 6 inches in length [with] breathe in proportion, these are cabinet pictures & generally for aged people, chiefly old ladies. Young people have theirs in a locket form generally. . . Don't forget to write soon . . ." His letters also suggest that he was not only quite sickly, but also high-strung and driven to meet the demands of his father. According to a newspaper article in the Louisville Daily Courier of July 30, 1846, JBS ended his life in Boston in a fit of insanity by cutting his own throat at age 41. The article continues to say that "Mr. Schoener was highly esteemed and respected by a large circle of acquaintances." This sentiment is reinforced by a clipped newspaper article in the archive that was published in the Boston Traveler from the 1830s which calls him the leading miniature painter in the city and highly successful gaining commissions. The archive includes 25 letters from the artist to his father William, 11 from his father to JBS, and few letters to his sister who was attending school in Wilmington. Also included in the archive is a notebook with his recipes for creating various colors and a sketch book with text and images throughout. Included in the letters from father to son, are discussions of JBS's training with Gennarino Perisco, his travels as an itinerant miniaturist throughout NY State, Providence and Boston, and his struggle to make it in Boston, where, by the mid-1830s, he was considered one of the best painters in the city. His letters to his father document much of life as an itinerant artist and express his drive to make a living and send money home. By his own account, JBS created a lucrative business and painted many miniature portraits in New England, Philadelphia and the South. JBS exhibited his miniature portraits at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1826 - 1828 and at the Boston Athenaeum in 1832. William Schoener and William B. Schoener: The father, William Schoener (1779-1850) was a local politician in Reading and a strong supporter of Gen. Jackson. He had a tendency in his letters to rail against the Banks, Whigs, and aristocratic Federalists. Lots of discussion of how the National Bank was putting the screws to the common man and how American was turning into a caste system with the aristocrats controlling the lives of the working staff. He called for more government investment in education for the people and the control of interest rates. He was in and out of political office and as a result he did a lot of work as a scrivener for local lawyers and politicians. He drew up deeds, wills, and indentures and was a legal signatory on many local documents. Some of these documents, especially if they concerned the family are present in the archive. An example of WS's democratic impulse appears in a letter written to JBS in March of 1836. He begins by suggesting that JBS, is "laboring under the same error which has misled many a Patriotic Citizens to join "the ancient enemies of the true Jeffersonian doctrine, 'That, all men are born free and equal' and 'none with saddles on their backs to be rode, booted, and spurred by the grace of God' . . . I to add another word in condemnation of this hateful monied aristocracy to a mind which is sincerely roiling and desirous to keep the People and its agents (I mean its officers) unshackled of chains forged or prepared by a self-constituted Aristocrat like Nicholas Biddle a man who is answerable to nobody but the stockholders of the Bank . . . You appear to think a great deal of the advantages our State derives from the bonuses of the Bank. I my next, which shall soon follow, I will endeavor to convince you to the contrary." William and his wife Catherine had seven children, JBS, John, Elizabeth, William B., Louisa, Mary and Franklin. JBS was the oldest and William Senior drove all of his children to find a trade, make a living and invest in each other's ventures. JBS made quite a bit of money and after stabilizing his own life, he invested much of it in the construction of the family home. The archive includes an account book listing every contractor who worked on the house, every expense for labor and materials and a complete accounting of the cost to build a beautiful house (which is still standing) in Reading PA in the mid 1830's. Many of the discussions that appear in the letters between father and son were about how much money JBS was making, how much his living expenses were, and how much he was sending home. There was a constant demand for money and by all accounts JBS sent it willfully. Once the house was finished, William Senior encouraged JBS to invest in William Jr.'s piano manufacturing company and his brother John's cabinet making firm. They both failed, but not for lack of trying. According to WSS the cause of the business failure was the banking crisis that started in 1835. After the Panic of 1837 was over JBS was encouraged to invest in William Jr.'s Mulberry farm for the production of silk, a venture which proved to make money. The letters to JBS contain a lot of information on the establishment of the Mulberry Farm, the cost of importing seed and seedlings and the hazards of transporting them from Boston Harbor to Philadelphia. There is also a lot of information on the agricultural side of the venture including discussion of the research that William Senior and Junior did before making the decision to invest in silk manufacturing. The archive includes a number of land deeds and mortgages for property that WSS purchased in Reading with JBS's money in order to build the Mulberry tree farm. The letters also include much discussion about the neighbors they had to deal with as they amassed 10 acres of adjacent property without spilling the beans as what they were up to. There is an archive of about 60 letters at the Library of Congress from JBS to his father written during the 1830's. There is much more information on family matters in these letters and they fill in a lot of information on William Senior's work and his relationship with his other children. The two archives together give an incredibly detailed account of the life of a painter, business investment, local and national politics, house construction, health issued faced by all members of the family, and female education. Surprisingly, there was very little discussion of religion, no church was mentioned and no reference to the Bible was uttered by either father or son. But ethics, personal conduct, and family values were interwoven in just about every letter. Condition of the Archive: The condition of the archive is as to be expected. Many of the letters are torn at the folds and there is some staining to the paper, pieces of paper are missing at the wax seal, but generally they are complete, in good condition and readable. JBS's handwriting is difficult to read at times, but the letters and notebooks of WSS and WBS, both trained scriveners, are highly legible. References: Croce, George and David Wallace, The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860, p.563. Louisville Daily Courier July 30, 1846. The New-Hampshire Sentential July 29, 1846. Hensel, W. U., An Italian Artist in Old Lancaster, Luigi Perisco 1820; Lancaster, PA., 1912. Poole, Earl L. "Some Early Artists of Reading." The Historical Review of Berks Country, Vol. IX, No. 2 (January 1944), pp. 35-39. Wayne E. Homan, "Bill Schoener's Orchards", Sunday Eagle Magazine, (Reading, PA.), May 11, 1969. Contents of Archive: Jacob B. Schoener (JBS): Folder A: 1] Twenty-two letters from JBS to his father William Schoener Sr. from the years 1824 - 1840. 2] Eleven letters from William Schoener Sr. to his son John B. Schoener, 1830 - 1840 3] Three letters from John B. Schoener to his sister Mary, 1839 - 1840. 4] Three Letters from Patrick Riley, J. B. Schoener's Agent in Boston, 1837. 5] Four Letters of Introduction from Chas. W. Green for J. B. Schoener during his trip to Cuba in 1840. 6] Five miscellaneous manuscript items. Folder B: 1] One Drawing book belonging to Jacob B. Schoener. 8vo. 22 leaves. Self-wrapper, sewn. 1829 - 1830. Completely filled with text and drawings in pencil. The text is a diary which records his thought and activities for the year. 2] A manual for painting in pastel (crayon painting). Oblong 12mo. 28 leaves. Leather spine marbled paper boards. Includes notes on how to mix colors and methods for producing red, blue green, black and vermillion. The final few leaves have notes on lithography and techniques required for working with color on stone. 3] JBS's Leather wallet, with a cover of a 12mo. book with his name and address in his writing and the date July 30, 1830. 4] A small booklet containing remnants of gold leaf and a clipping from the Boston Traveller that reads in part, "Mr. Schoener, the miniature painter, has succeeded admirably of late in some of his pictures. . ." Folder C: 1] Sixteen miscellaneous drawings by JBS, mostly portraits, a little booklet of military poses, a few views of Pennsylvania countryside, three flower drawings and 1 silhouette. 2] Four engravings of the Pennsylvania countryside 3] Invoices for purchases by JBS 4] One photograph of a small boy, two memorial ribbons made for Schoener family members, perhaps by sisters, Louisa or Mary Folder D: 1] Painter Tin Trade Sign. Schoener, J(acob), B. J. B. Schoener Portrait & Miniature Painter. (Boston)?, ca. 1830. Contents of Archive: William Schoener Sr. (WSS) & William B. Schoener Jr. (WBS) Folder E: 1] Professional Licenses for WWS dated 1818 and 1836 2] Fourteen Indentures and Notices of Mortgages , WSS and his wife Louisa, and WBS 1831-1881. 3] Eight spreadsheet of expenditures and payments of Schoener family member, including John Schoener for labor and material expenses in running a farm 1848 - 49 4] Fourteen indentures, mortgages and property transfers, mostly of the Schoener family members 1752-1864. 5] Three copies of wills from the early settlement of Reading PA. 6] Four property maps of parcels of land in Reading PA 7] Eight miscellaneous documents from the Schoener family. Folder F: 4] Five account books. 1) Oblong 12mo. 72 pp. Reverse leather binding, upper board detached. WWS record of legal and professional work with names of clients, dates, services renderer and payment received. 1799 - 1808 2) Oblong 12mo. 29 leaves plus numerous inserted notes and invoices. Leather backed boards; boards detached. Recorded by WSS of all the expenses for the building of the house on North 4th Street, Reading. Extremely detail book of account for the entire project from April 1833 to 1835 recording all the contractors, tradesmen, laborers, and local business that contributed to the project with their services and costs listed. Including two floor plans of the house. 3) Oblong 8vo. 19 pp., plus inserts. Memorandum of W.B. Schoener's Law Concerns, October 29th, 1841. 4) 12mo. 32 pp. Leather binding. WBS accounts 1869. 5) 12mo. 4pp. Leather binding. The Estate of WBS 1882 Folder G: Education of Mary Schoener at Miss M. C. Smith's Seminary for Young Women, Wilmington, DE., 1839. 1] Terms of School, including cost of instruction, room and board, fuel charges, charges for music lesson and charges for teaching French, mezzotint printing and drawing. Attached is a letter from Miss Smith, the owner of the school to WSS hoping that Mary will matriculate and a bill for $ 150.00 2] Two monthly school reports recording Mary's progress, dated Oct. 1839 and July 1840. 3. Nine letters to Mary, dated September 1839 - July 1841 from brother Frank (4), WSS (2), Harriet A. Dickenson of Miss Smith School (1), and school friends M. E. Simmons (1) and Elizabeth Allen (1). Folder H: 1] Letter from WBS to his Mother, 1818. 2] Written address by Frank Schoener (youngest son) to his School 1830. 3] Handwritten poem "Ecco Homo", written on the occasion of WBS's death by John Evinemlroud, 1880. 4. Poem "Acrostics" probably written by JBS 5. Letter to WBS as a member of the House of Representatives in Harrisburg 6. Political document, vote of the "Whole House". 7. Letter to Mr. Leager, about voting for the Banks, a discussion of the need for meritocracy and not the rule of the wealthy. Requests the legislation for funding of education so that all Pennsylvania residents will have the opportunity to succeeded, signed Free Frank. Folder I: Biographical information on John B. Schoener, William Schoener Sr., and William B. Schoener. Genealogical information and some information on Reading, PA.
(Inventory #: 320)