Wednesday, 12 July 2023 15:11

William Henry Ortlip

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This week's blog is brought to us by one of our volunteers, Tate Conklin.

Painting of the DeKalb Street Bridge
Painting of the DeKalb Street Bridge by William H. Ortlip (HSMC Art Collection)

General Winfield Scott Hancock is a name widely known due to his dominance in the Civil War as a Union general. Recently, we found this oil painting of the DeKalb Street Bridge. It was painted by William Henry Ortlip—seemingly having no connection to W.S. Hancock. However, upon further research, we discovered that he is actually a first cousin of W.S. Hancock. 

William Henry Ortlip was born in 1851 in Audubon, PA. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Ortlip specialized in still life and landscape oil paintings.  He was good friends of Thomas  Eakin, an extremely notable artist of the late 19th century. 

Black and white photograph of William H. Ortlip
William Henry Ortlip (1851-1936) (HSMC Photograph Collection)

Ortlip’s monochromatic depiction of the DeKalb Street Bridge features a calming overcast sky reflecting  off of the Schuylkill River. This is contrasted by the prominent green trees, scattered in front of and around the bridge. The original bridge no longer stands; it burned down in 1924, but it was reopened a few years later. 

Painting runs in the Ortlip family, as it spans four generations of professional artists. William Henry Ortlip’s son, H. Willard Ortlip, was a motivated and skilled artist. He followed in his father’s footsteps and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he met his wife, Aimèe Eschner. Three of their seven children became professional artists. Third and fourth-generation descendants of William Henry Ortlip have continued embodying the family’s profound heritage. 

William Henry Ortlip died in 1936 and was buried in the Montgomery Cemetery. He has continued to inspire generations upon generations of Ortlips to follow suit and express their artistic talents. 


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