Displaying items by tag: art

Thursday, 07 September 2023 15:58

Othniel S. Spang

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.




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.

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.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 24 March 2022 15:14

J. Lizzie Cloud Waters

If you follow our blog closely, you may remember reading about the Snowballing painting created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters. You can click here to read that article. I could not have imagined the good fortune that would come from writing that article! With help from Lynn Emery (HSMC member and genealogist) and Daniel Sheppard (Irish art dealer and researcher), we now have a clear picture of Lizzie's life!

On July 22, 1833, Josephine Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cloud was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. and Elizabeth Roberts. Lizzie was the youngest child and had three older brothers: Oliver Evans Cloud, Joseph Cloud III, and Edwin Carroll Cloud. Her father Dr. Joseph Cloud Jr. Died on June 2, 1834, shortly before Lizzie's first birthday.


Baptisms at St. John's Episcopal Church, Norristown, December 21, 1838

Lizzie, her brothers, and their mother, were all baptized at St. John's Episcopal Church in Norristown on December 21, 1838. All of them were still living together in Norristown in 1850. Around this time, Lizzie attended the Oakland Female Institute.

On August 10, 1853, Lizzie married Dr. George Henry Waters. They resided together in Philadelphia until at least 1871, when Lizzie's mother died. After her mother's death and into the early 1880s, there are records of Lizzie traveling in Ireland and England. During her travels she published articles and illustrations in Harper's New Monthly Magazine.

The Piper

Drawing by Lizzie for her article "A Lone Woman in Ireland." Harper's Magazine, Vol. 47, 1873

Lizzie's artistic style seems similar to fellow American Artist, Howard Helmick. Furthermore, the Irish and London addresses used by Helmick during his exhibitions seem to coincide with Lizzie's travels. It seems they may have been traveling together during this time. Lizzie's paintings were exhibited in several galleries and are signed in different ways: Elizabeth Waters, Josephine Lizzie Cloud (sometimes signed Miss. or Mrs.), J. Lizzie Cloud, J. Lizzie Cloud Waters, and Mrs. J. L. Cloud.

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Snowballing, created by J. Lizzie Cloud Waters c. 1873 (left)    LeMauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) by Howard Helmick, c. 1869 (right)

While Lizzie was in Ireland and England, Dr. Waters stayed in Philadelphia. We have not located any divorce records, but it seems they became estranged at this time. Dr. Waters committed suicide on November 12, 1891 and is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.

By 1920, Lizzie had moved back to the United States and was living in West Grove, Chester County with her nephew Joseph E. Cloud. She died on January 21, 1922 and is buried in New London Presbyterian Church Cemetery, New London township, Chester County.

I want to thank Lynn and Daniel for their help uncovering Lizzie's story. Their kindness in sharing research with me was vital to creating this article. Thank you!







Edited by Vera Kreilkamp. RURAL IRELAND THE INSIDE STORY. McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2012.


Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 47 June to November 1873, Vol. 47. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.


"Howard Helmick (1840-1907) American, Le Mauvais Oeil (The Evil Eye) (1869)." Morgan O'driscoll.


“J. Lizzie Cloud (British, flourished 1873-1880).” Studio Antiques & Fine Art Incorporated. Lois Boyles & Richard Totoiu.



Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 16 December 2021 18:21


With the official start of winter just around the corner, I wanted to share this unique painting with you today.


It's oil paint on a wooden panel. The title is Snowballing, Scene at Ecouen France. It depicts five children and a woman on a city street. The children appear to have been having a snowball fight, much to the woman's displeasure. what I find most amusing about this image is the fact the woman is unaware she is about to get hit by a snowball. Let's hope for her sake there are no icy bits in it!

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Anyway, you might be wondering why this French scene is at HSMC. According to the donor records, it was painted by a Norristown resident, J. Lizzie Cloud Waters. The records claim Lizzie's mother was the widow of Dr. Joseph Cloud. Her mother lived in the same building as Daniel Longaker's grocery store in Norristown and Lizzie was the ward of Daniel Mulvaney.

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Lizzie eventually married a Dr. Waters, but apparently it was not a happy marriage. Lizzie left to live abroad. Where Lizzie went is not specified, but given the painting is identified as Ecouen France (roughly 12.5 miles north of Paris), it's fair to say she spent at least some time in that region.

What's puzzling about this story is I have yet to come across a paper trail for Lizzie. The donor of this painting provided a good amount of information, but I have not yet found any records for her, her husband, or her mother. I don't even know her husband's first name.

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Being a ward of Daniel Mulvaney, it's certainly possible Lizzie was only in Norristown for a brief period of time. If she moved around a lot, it would be easy for the US census to miss her while she was living in Norristown. If you know anything more about Lizzie or her family, send me an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 05 November 2020 18:06

New Accession: Lois Rapp

We recently received a call from local CPA firm Dreslin & Co. They informed us they were closing their office and had three framed watercolors made by local artist Lois Rapp. While we have several paper materials from Rapp, we did not previously have any of her artwork. HSMC is thrilled to add these three works of art to the collection!

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Cannon at Ft. Washington Valley Forge, PA, undated

Lois Rapp was born in Norristown on March 21, 1907. From 1925 to 1929 she studied at the Philadelphia College of Art, receiving her degree in teacher's training and illustration. Rapp also studied art under notable Philadelphia artist Earl Horter.

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Wetherill Mansion, July 27, 1938

She was a member of the American Watercolor Society, Philadelphia Watercolor Club, and the Woodmere Art Gallery. She was on the exhibition committee at Woodmere from 1965 - 1969. Rapp's work has been exhibited in many local museums and venues such as: Society of Independent Artists, American Watercolor Society, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Watercolor Club, and the Woodmere Art Gallery.

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Shanesville, PA, August 1950

Rapp was also an art instructor at the Conshohocken Art League, the Mater Misericordiae Academy (now known as the Merion Mercy Academy), and the Collegeville Trappe Public Schools. She died on October 22, 1992 and her artwork can still be found throughout Montgomery County.




“Lois Rapp Papers." HistoricalSociety of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories, prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael GubiczaMarch 21, 2013.



Published in Found in Collection
Thursday, 17 September 2020 20:41

Francisco Espinoza Duenas


Among our recent acquisitions was a collection of slides, photographs and papers of the Peruvian artist Francisco Espinoza Duenas. He might be best known to our readers as the artist who painted the cafeteria mural at Norristown High School.

Espinoza Duenas was born in Lima, Peru in 1926. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts there, graduating with First Honors. In 1955, he travelled to Spain on a scholarship to the Institute of Hispanic Culture at the San Fernando Superior School of Fine Arts in Madrid. He went on to work and study in France for several years, followed by a few years in Cuba before heading back to Madrid.

In 1984, he first came to America, and he stayed in the Philadelphia area for about 5 years. During this time he painted murals at several schools in addition to Norristown High School as well as public buildings such as Norristown’s Human Resources Building and the International House in Philadelphia.


International House mural

Teaching art was also important to Espinoza Duenas, and he conducted programs at the Alternate School in Cherry Hill, the Elizabeth Haddon School in Haddonfield, and with the Delaware County Girl Scouts. He was an artist-in-residence in Delaware County, painting a large 16x8 foot mural at the Redwood Community Playhouse.


The Redwood Playhouse mural

In Norristown, he also worked with local Cuban refugees to paint a mural in the basement of the Central Presbyterian Church on W. Main St. As with students, he often turned painting into a communal activity.

Before returning to Spain in 1989 to live, he was very involved with Mosaico Atlantico, an artistic commemoration of Columbus’s first sailing to the Americas. He still lives in Spain today.

Unfortunately, the collection donated to us by a former student of his did not include any photographs of the mural in the Norristown High School cafeteria. If anyone out there has one, we’d love a copy.

Published in Found in Collection