Back to the Drawing Board

Cazes, J. E. Design for a chair, circa 1918.
Modèles pour le luminaire études & projets pour intérieurs modernes, circa 1918, Ms. Coll. 1069
Perhaps you take the chair in your living room for granted—not thinking very deeply about its design. Here you will see that the very talented J. E. Cazes of Vincennes, France, did, indeed, think of the design of such things. The collection contains his designs for exteriors, interiors, chandeliers, and, of course, chairs.

Haviland, John. Agreement, preliminary sketch, and notes about the design for the Franklin Institute, 1825.
John Haviland papers, circa 1806-1868, Ms. Coll. 176
John Haviland (1792-1852) was an architect who designed many of Philadelphia’s most iconic buildings in the Neo-Classical style. Among his completed buildings were several Philly churches, Eastern State Penitentiary, the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, the Walnut Street Theater, and the Franklin Institute. He was also trusted with additions and alterations of Old City Hall. In this volume, you will see his agreement regarding the Franklin Institute (now the location of the Philadelphia History Museum) as well a preliminary sketch, and a lot of math! The volume is filled with his sketches and plans for many of his other buildings outside of Philadelphia, including banks, other penitentiaries, a “lunatic asylum,” a naval asylum, and a few county halls.

Mauchly, John W.  Skeduflo designs, confidential notes, and press, 1961-1962.
John W. Mauchly papers, 1908-1980, Ms. Coll. 925 (cataloging in process)
In 1946, along with J. Presper Eckert, physicist John Mauchly (1907-1980) invented the ENIAC, the first all-electronic computer, which filled the basement of the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School. His subsequent computers, the EDVAC, the BINAC and the UNIVAC I, were increasingly compact, and in 1962, he produced the Skeduflo, a computer the size of a suitcase. Here you will see the schematics of the Skeduflo, media coverage, and Mauchly’s notes. He predicted that every businessman would carry a computer in his pocket by the 1980s. It took a bit longer than he expected, but today, much of the general public carries a computer in their pocket.

Miller, G. A. Q.  Letters and clipping regarding invention and patent of covered mail wagons, 1890-1891.
G.A.Q. Miller papers, 1841-1895 (bulk: 1871-1892), Ms. Coll. 998
Some of you may remember the delightfully crabby G.A.Q Miller from last year’s Archives Month. In addition to his duties as special agent in the United States Post Office Department during the 1870s, Miller apparently invented the covered mail wagon to prevent thefts of mail. Over the years, he tried to get a patent for his invention, but did not get much satisfaction from John Wanamaker, the Postmaster General. Never one to take dismissal easily, Miller’s penciled note reads, “Will I never get even thanks-let alone money-and I don’t think “John” does much that he doesn’t get paid for.”

Motoki Shōei.  Gunkan zukai, after 1808.
Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, LJS 454
This manuscript is a Japanese guide to naval self-defense, which includes detailed illustrations such as a cross-section diagram depicting the arrangement of cabins, ladders, cannons, and supplies inside a Western ship. The text and illustrations are also a window into the intellectual and political engagement of the shogunate of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with Western powers, particularly the Dutch.

Vegetius Renatus, Flavius.  Vier Bucher der Rytterschafft.  Erffurt:  Durch Hansen Knappen, 1511.
Folio LatC V8345 486m 1511
Illustrations of “a water helm, for going under water” (leaf P3v) and “a water belt, filled with air” (leaf P4r), as their manuscript captions explain, from a German translation of Flavius Vegetius Renatus’s De re militari. This late antique military handbook enjoyed great popularity during the high Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Knappen updates the work with detailed woodcuts of contemporary military technology (actual and theoretical), from personal flotation devices to cannons.

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