Displaying items by tag: artist

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.

Bridge Over Saw Mill Run 3

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.

snowballing                   1

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, 10 March 2022 21:24

Helen Corson Hovenden

If you live in the Plymouth Meeting area, you likely recognize the family names Corson and Hovenden. These families owned Abolition Hall, one of the many local sites connected to the Underground Railroad. It was also the studio of famous artist Thomas Hovenden. 


Thomas Hovenden, HSMC Photograph Collection

However, you may or may not be familiar with the name Helen Corson Hovenden. She was born in Whitemarsh to George and Martha (Maulsby) Corson on September 15, 1847. Helen wanted to become an artist, so she attended the School of Design in Philadelphia, now known as the Moore College of Art and Design. In 1875, she traveled to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian. 

Helen Corson Hovenden

Helen Corson

While studying art in Paris, Helen met her future husband and fellow artist, Thomas Hovenden. They both moved back to Montgomery County in 1880 and were married on June 9, 1881. Helen and Thomas used the Corson family barn (Abolition Hall) in Plymouth Meeting as their art studio from 1881 to 1895. 

Abolition Hall

Abolition Hall, HSMC Photograph Collection

Helen was a widely respected artist in Montgomery County and Philadelphia. She was mostly known for her portraits and animal paintings. You can find her work at places like Woodmere Art Museum and the Smithsonian. HSMC even has two portraits created by Helen. 


The first one is of Dr. Louis W. Read. He was a renowned Civil War surgeon from Upper Merion.


Dr. Louis W. Read, HSMC Collection

The second portrait is of Dr. William Corson. He was Helen’s uncle.

Dr Corson

Dr. William Corson, HSMC Collection

Helen died on October 6, 1935. She and her husband are buried at Plymouth Meeting Friends Cemetery.






Helen Corson Hovenden. Woodmere Art Museum.

Montgomery County the Second Hundred Years, Edited by Jean B. Toll and Michael J. Schwager. Montgomery County Federation of Historical Societies Norristown, PA 1983

Published in Found in Collection