Pennsylvania German heritage flows through the veins of thousands of Delaware Valley residents due to the settlement of that region by Germans during the early 1700’s. I grew up in Lower Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania and often wondered about, but had no knowledge of the early inhabitants of that region and the surrounding area. In High School, I would idly doodle hearts, tulips, distelfinks (fanciful birds), and decorative wavy lines on my homework papers or brown paper shopping bag schoolbook covers, having no idea why I felt the impulse to draw such things.
Then, I learned about fraktur. Fraktur is a handwriting style, as in the fracturing of script lettering. It is also the word used to identify Pennsylvania manuscript created by Germans to commemorate births and baptisms. Why is this important? Because it gives us a glimpse and a clue of what life was like in the past and the priority that Pennsylvania Germans placed on elegant detail and decoration to everyday objects.
With clarity and assurance gained from studying hundreds of these lovely images, Lisa Minardi handled this topic with ease at the lecture she presented on January 24, 2015 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The subject of her presentation was the promised gift of almost 250 pieces of Fraktur from the Collection of Joan and Victor Johnson to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Joan and Victor Johnson thoughtfully and carefully constructed their collection with experience gained from years of research and observation. Their choices reveal variety and depth and represent not just Pennsylvania, but, fraktur created by Germans in early New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, and even Canada.
To celebrate the promised gift of the Fraktur Collection of Joan and Victor Johnson to the Philadelphia Museum of Art a number of local institutions will present companion exhibitions this Spring.
-Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection, February 1- April 26, 2015, www.philamuseum.org
-A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans & the Art of Everyday Life,March 1, 2015 – January 3, 2016, www.winterthur.org/colorfulfolkart
-Quill & Brush: Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Material Culture, March 2- July 17, 2015, www.freelibrary.org/framingfraktur
-Fraktur and the Everyday Lives of Germans in Pennsylvania and the Atlantic World 1683-1850, March 5-7, 2015, www.mceas.org/fraktur
If you want to learn more about Fraktur, I highly recommend the book expertly written by Lisa Minardi titled, “Drawn With Spirit, Pennsylvania German Fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection.” It is a complete compendium of the collection with color photographs and detailed descriptions.