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Molly-Polly-Chunker photos at St. Mark's

  • Molly-Polly-Chunker photos at St. Mark's
    Copyright 2010
Published July 07. 2010 05:00PM

A series of photographs, taken in 1886 on a Lehigh Canal adventure trip organized by glass magnate Louis Tiffany, are on exhibit in Jim Thorpe.

The exhibit of 10 8-inch by 10-inch images were selected from among 60 remaining photographs from the journey, of which about 600 photographs were taken.

The exhibit, located in the Great Hall of St. Mark and John Episcopal Church, 21 Race St., Jim Thorpe, is open Tuesday through Saturday, from noon until 4 p.m., and will run until the end of August.

St. Mark's received permission from the Bucks County Historical Society to display the pictures pertaining to Mauch Chunk, which is now known as Jim Thorpe. A reception was held on June 26, the 124th anniversary of their arrival in Mauch Chunk.

"Tiffany has always had a place in St. Mark's," said Suzy Esrang, St. Mark's tour program manager and the organizer of the exhibit. "We have two stained glass windows known to be from Tiffany and maybe more."

The windows are "The Breath of my Love," donated by Mary Packer, and "The Road to Emmaus," donated by the children of Alexander and Anna Butler.

Between June 15 and 29, 1886, a party consisting of Tiffany; New York publisher Henry Holt; CNJ Railroad general counsel Robert Weeks De Forest; Lois Knox, daughter of the president of Lafayette College and the future wife of Tiffany; photographer Walter C. Tuckerman; and assorted staff set out on an adventure aboard a luxurious canal boat created from a gravel scow, traveling the Delaware and Lehigh Canals from Bristol to Mauch Chunk.

"In all, fourteen souls," noted Holt's log, that counted donkeys Molly and Polly among the souls.

Holt described the christening of the boat.

"The boats going to Chunk are called Chunkers. This one drawn by Molly and Polly is therefore distinguished above all other Chunkers by being the Molly-Polly-Chunker.

"During the day we were towed up to Mauch Chunk, where we excited much curiosity," Holt wrote in the journal. "Our approach had been heralded by the ... Mauch Chunk paper, and the guests at the Mansion House were on the qui vivre for our appearance."

Their trip neared completion as they passed through the Coalport Lock, docked at Coalport a mile above Mauch Chunk and ate their lunch amid ravenous flies.

The photographs on exhibit are: Tiffany and Party, Views of Mauch Chunk, Lock Keeper's Family, Children and Adults Aboard a Typical Canal Boat, Tiffany's Boat Entering a Lock at Weissport, Switchback Railroad Tourist Attraction, the Coveted Christmas Cactus, Children Spellbound by the New Technology of Photography, and Molly and Polly with their Attendants.

The photograph Children Spellbound by the New Technology of Photography, reflects a theme of the display a photographic field trip. The photograph "Tiffany and Party" illustrates the embellishment of their boat with laurel, Japanese lanterns, and freshly cut flowers.

The original images were taken with a large format camera that captured images on an emulsion-coated flat glass plate. Exposures at that time could last up to several minutes. After being exposed, the glass plates were chemically developed.

The Molly-Polly-Chunker photographs offer a window into how the wealthy, the poor, the urban and the rural people, the old and the young lived at the peak of the Victorian era.

For information, call (570) 325-2241.

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