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Thursday, 07 September 2023 15:58

Othniel S. Spang

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We have several framed paintings at HSMC. Two of these paintings were created by a Norristown artist, Othniel S. Spang. The first example of his work is a painting of the bridge over Saw Mill Run in Norristown.

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The Bridge Over Saw Mill Run. Painted by Othniel Spang. (HSMC Art Collection, 1931.8290.003)

Othniel was born in the Oley Valley, Berks County on April 14, 1821. He was the eldest son of Jacob and Mary Sands Spang, who were both from Philadelphia. Othniel's paternal grandfather owned an iron furnace in the Oley Valley. The Family moved there when his father Jacob became the manager of this iron business. In 1831, the family moved to Norristown where Jacob became the owner of the Farmer's Hotel, a local tavern. Jacob ran this business until 1834, when he transitioned into politics.

At the age of seventeen, Othniel was learning the stone cutting trade. Ultimately, he left this trade in 1843 to work in a foundry business with his brother-in-law, Thomas Saurman. By 1854, Othniel decided to pursue his true passion, art. He opened his studio in Norristown. By 1855, he was teaching art in the local public schools.

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Portrait of Thomas Martin Saurman,1846-1908. Painted by Othniel Spang 1860. (HSMC Portrait Collection, 1937.9138.001)

Othniel's talent was largely self-taught. The only official training he obtained was one course taught by Professor Mason, from the Franklin Institute, and a technical instruction from his friend and fellow artist, Paul Weber. 

Othniel took a break from teaching art when the Civil War began. He enlisted in Company E of the 15th PA Cavalry. After the battle of Antietam, Othniel became sick with typhoid fever. He managed to recover and rejoined his regiment. During his time in Tennessee, Othniel kept a sketchbook so he could continue practicing art. After the war, he continued to work with local students in Norristown and was listed as an instructor at the Oakland Female Institute. Othniel died on March 11, 1898 and was buried at Historic Montgomery Cemetery in lot A-49.

 

 

Sources:

Kelly, James C. "A Union Soldier's Sketchbook of the Chattanooga Region," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Fall 1992), pp. 157-160. Tennessee Historical Society. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42627011

Wiley, Samuel T. "Othniel S. Spang," Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: Containing Biographic Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch. Biographical Publishing Company, 1895, pp. 78-79. https://books.google.com/books?id=kno_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=Othniel+Spang&source=bl&ots=J4LnSpdtso&sig=ACfU3U0E1SCViaD87JnN1OwuQ257fOki6w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiJlIHI2OP_AhX7FVkFHXJQDws4ChDoAXoECAIQAw#v=onepage&q=Othniel%20Spang&f=false

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