Four charming wall panels, each depicting the calendar seasons of the colonial ports of Boston, New York, Charleston and Philadelphia respectively, are a compelling gouache on paper series by Philadelphia artist, illustrator, photographer and sculptor, Margaretta Shoemaker Hinchman (1876-1955). Born in Philadelphia to Lydia Swain Mitchell and Charles Shoemaker Hinchman, she studied art in the late 1890s with Kenyon Cox, Charles Grafly, and the renowned illustrator, Howard Pyle. A contemporary of Jessie Willcox Smith and Violet Oakley, Hinchman illustrated a number of books, including: Early Settlers of Nantucket: Their Associates and Descendants by her mother Lydia S. Hinchman (1901); My Busy Days: A Child’s Verse by Edith B. Sturgis (1908); and The Beauties of Fairmount Park Throughout the Year (1936). Her work is found in several museum collections, including Philadelphia’s Woodmere Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Delaware Museum of Art. She was also an early member of The Plastic Club, an art club for “civic-minded women artists” organized in 1897, a founding member of the Art Alliance, and active at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Hinchman created these romantic and nostalgic views by utlizing period prints for the back- grounds and placing figures attired in accurately drawn historic dress in the foregrounds. George Washington, William Penn and a native American are shown in the Philadelphia view gazing across the Delaware River. Undoubtedly influenced by the Colonial Revival Style ushered in by the Centennial Exposition of 1876, the panels reflect the renewed public interest in early American history, architecture, and antique furnishings characteristic of the early 20th century.
Serving as windows into the past, the panels were appropriately unveiled and first exhibited at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial International Exposition of 1926, which marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They were displayed in the front hall of the Washington House, one of twenty-two replica buildings in the Exposition’s ambitious and wildly popular “High Street Exhibit.” Organized by the Women’s Committee of 1926 – a group comprised of Philadelphia’s most influential women – the interactive exhibition sought to educate visitors on 18th-century American life through the dramatic recreation of Colonial High Street, equipped with full-scale, furnished replica homes and shops populated with docents in period dress.
A year after the Exposition, the panels were featured in Margaretta Hinchman’s one-woman exhibition at the School of Industrial Art, Broad and Pine Streets (now the University of the Arts) and exhibited at the Woodmere Gallery (now the Woodmere Museum) in 1951. The port views were reproduced as scenic wall paper by Birge & Co. and hung for many years in the historic Sweetbriar Mansion in Fairmount Park.
In the April 2014 auction of American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts this set of four panels depicting Colonial port views of Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Charleston by Margaretta S. Hinchman (1876-1955) sold for $20,000.