The Roman Bronze Works of New York was the premier art bronze foundry in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. In 1991, the Amon Carter bought business records of the foundry, recognizing them as key to documenting the work of American sculptors.
Several public sculptures in Fort Worth were cast by the Roman Bronze Works, including the monumental equestrian statue located off Lancaster Avenue in front of the Will Rogers Memorial Center. The statue of Will Rogers sitting on top of his horse was commissioned by Amon G. Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and longtime friend of Rogers. Rogers was killed in a plane crash in 1935, and when the complex was completed in 1936, Carter named it after him. Carter chose for the commission an artist with a long Texas pedigree, Electra Waggoner Biggs of the Waggoner Ranch family (who were also owners of Fort Worth’s W. T. Waggoner Building).
With the museum’s acquisition of the Roman Bronze Works archive, the story of the statue’s casting can be fully documented. The Amon G. Carter Papers and the Roman Bronze Archive provide both sides of the correspondence and planning of the sculpture from its inception in 1942 to its official unveiling in 1947 (as well as two further copies erected at Texas Tech, Lubbock, and the Will Rogers Memorial Museums, Claremore, Oklahoma).
One of the earliest businessmen in Fort Worth, Julian Feild [sic] opened the first gristmill on the Trinity in 1856. He was also the first postmaster in the city. After this first gristmill floundered, he later opened a more successful mill near what was to become Mansfield. The research library preserves and makes available an early accounting book kept by Feild, with the first entry dated January 1, 1856. It would appear that most of the entries date from that year, though there are entries as late as 1869. As you handle this book, you're instantly taken you back in time, and you find yourself imagining what it must have been like sitting in front of this document, recording what were the mundane transactions of the day, not realizing their captivating power over 150 years later. This document preserves some of the earliest commercial activity in Fort Worth and establishes the importance of Feild as an influential entrepreneur. Read more about Julian Feild in the Handbook of Texas Online and in the Fort Worth History document available on the city's website.
Wilson is mainly known as illustrator of his monumental bird book American Ornithology, published in nine volumes from 1809–14, which is in the library’s holdings. Before starting American Ornithology, Wilson made a visit to Niagara Falls with two companions and wrote a long poem, The Foresters, based on the journey. The poem first appeared serially in The Port Folio before being published in book form in 1818. The poem provides one of the earliest descriptions of the American wilderness. This modern edition published by Bird & Bull Press on view now in the library reading room features original wood engravings by Wesley Bates that depict several scenes from the poem.
Alexander Wilson (1766–1813)
Wood engravings by Wesley W. Bates (b. 1952)
The Foresters: A Poetic Account of a Walking Journey to the Falls of Niagara in the Autumn of 1804
Newtown, Pa.: Bird & Bull Press, 2000
Late last year the research library acquired a unique artist book by Cynthia Brants, a member of the Fort Worth Circle. The pages fold out in accordion fashion and provide a moving-image-style recounting of a sometimes traumatic riding lesson. Though it appears she intended to make several of them, ours is the only known copy in existence. Yesterday library staff installed the book and accompanying printing blocks—a rarity to have both. This side-by-side arrangement gives visitors a chance to study the relationship of printing surface and resulting print. We invite you to come take a closer look in the library reading room during our public hours.
Cynthia Brants (1924–2006)
The Riding Lesson, or, The Nonzen of Riding a Moving Picture
Fort Worth, TX: The Mangle Press, 1959
Color woodcuts and accompanying wood printing blocks
The first Dust-to-Digital title to enter the research library's collection was Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950: Photographs from the Collection of Jim Linderman, published in 2009. We recently got the publisher's latest title, Lead Kindly Light: Pre-war Music and Photographs from the American South. With the other Dust-to-Digital titles in our collection, I Listen to the Wind That Obliterates My Traces: Music in Vernacular Photographs, 1880-1955 and Never a Pal Like Mother: Vintage Songs & Photographs of the One Who’s Always True, we're clearly making a statement that we're a fan of the publisher's approach of marrying vintage photographs and music. Founded by Lance Ledbetter in 2003, Dust-to-Digital is currently operated by him and his wife April in Atlanta, Georgia. Though a strong impetus in their mission is preserving and making available rare recordings, we've chosen titles from their catalog that have strong photography content. The combination of period music and images really creates an immersive and magical experience. I encourage you to drop by the research library during our public hours to see (and hear) them--we're the only library in Fort Worth to offer these publications to the public.
The library recently installed two very special books in the reading room. Though both offer botanical subjects, they represent divergent views of nature from two different time periods.
First up is Jim Dine’s exquisite set of drypoint engravings in book form modeled on the classic Temple of Flora first published in the very early nineteenth century by Dr. Robert John Thornton that combined images, poetry, philosophy, and botanical information. We’re also showing Dine’s bonded bronze sculptural box (bas-relief) made to hold the book, along with a single print on chine collé taken from the second state of the book’s frontispiece. We’re pleased to show this book as a tribute to longtime museum board president Ruth Carter Stevenson’s gardening interests and generosity to the museum. This copy came to the museum from Mrs. Stevenson in 2008.
Jim Dine (b. 1935)
The Temple of Flora: Twenty-eight Drypoint-engravings
Botanical notes compiled and poetry selected by Glenn Todd and Nancy Dine
Intaglio printing by R. (Robert) E. Townsend, Inc.
Bas-relief sculpture on lid: Flora’s Temple Gate cast in bonded bronze by Jim Dine
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1984
Edition of 150
Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson
Next we have a very rare volume produced by Edward Vischer in 1862 of lithograph views documenting what was thought to be a singular grove of Sequoias in California in an area near Yosemite (the images in this book relate to the small exhibition on the second floor of the museum featuring Yosemite images). Many consider this collection of lithographs to be among the rarest pictorial records of early California. Vischer, a German-born artist, spent a good deal of his career in the commercial trade business in Mexico and Peru before turning his artistic focus to California. The museum’s copy has a distinguished provenance: it once belonged to Thomas Streeter, a famous bibliographer and collector of Americana and Texana.
This passage from the introduction which expresses the spiritual power of viewing these trees:
To the spirit bowed with affliction, or harrowed with cares, a pilgrimage to these shadowy shrines offords most soothing consolation. Behold the evergreen summits of trees that have withstood the storms of more than three thousand years! Gaze on the ponderous and almost imperishable remains of their sires. While lost in wonder and admiration, the turmoil of earthly strife seems to vanish; and the true harbinger of Peace, the olive branch of Hope, returns to the mind, in the comparison of Time with Eternity.
Edward Vischer (1809–1878)
Vischer's Views of California: the Mammoth Tree Grove, Calaveras County, California, and its Avenues
Twelve lithographs by C. (Charles) C. Kuchel (1820–1866) after drawings by Vischer; printed by L.
(Louis) Nagel (b. 1817)
San Francisco: Edward Vischer, 
During the last three months over 1,000 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students from schools in Palo Pinto County visited the museum as part of an education program generously funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Before their visits, students read the book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein as the catalyst to explore the museum’s library and collections. The students toured through the art collection with our gallery teachers, and at each stop they solved challenges and puzzles that advanced them to the next stop, with the ultimate destination being the museum library—paralleling the action of the book. Once in the library they learned about the library’s collections, how a library functions within a museum, and how books can be works of art. We had such a surprising array of questions from the students that kept us on our toes and showed that a specialized library such as ours can touch a range of age groups and inspire curiosity about art.
The museum's research library has in its holdings a copy of the first lithograph printed in the United States. Printed in 1819 by Bass Otis, an artist famous as a portrait painter, the lithograph appears in the July 1819 issue of The Analectic Magazine. This print is on display in the library's reading room for a short time.
The lithographic process—a technique of drawing on stone and applying water and ink that permits multiple copies of an image to be printed—originated in Europe in the early nineteenth century. The article accompanying Otis’s lithograph gives detailed instructions for the preparation of the printing stone (the stone used to print Otis's image was from Munich), crayon, and ink, reflecting the relative novelty of the technique in this country. It also pronounces the advantages of the technique, especially referencing its superiority over engraving:
- It is a perfect fac simile: there can be no mistake or mis-copy.
- It supersedes all kinds of engraving: when the drawings is finished, it is now sent to the engravers, and no impression can be taken till the engraving is finished: in lithography, impressions can be taken the instant the drawing is dry, more perfect than any engraving can possibly produce.
- It can imitate not only drawings in crayon and Indian ink, but etching, mezzotinto, and aqua tinta.
- The plate is never worn out as in copper-plate engraving …
- All works of science, may now be freed from the prodigious expense attending numerous engravings.
- Any man who can draw, can take off any number of impressions of his own design, without trusting to any other artist.
Cover of program for screening of Sunrise in 1927
It is great to find new venues to show the museum’s archival holdings and collaborate with our sister institutions in the Fort Worth Cultural District. The Kimbell Art Museum, in association with the Lone Star Film Society, will be showing the seminal classic film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans in their beautiful new auditorium on February 16, 2:00. Sunrise won the first academy award in 1929 for cinematography, and the Amon Carter Museum is fortunate to hold the archive of the cinematographer, Karl Struss. We have made selections from the Struss archive relating to the academy award and behind the scenes views from the making of the film. We will be showing them in the Renzo Piano Pavilion atrium immediately following the screening of the movie. Come join us.
Portrait of Karl Struss by Edward Weston, 1923. ©1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents
A frequent question I ask myself is what makes a book presentation of photographs different than viewing them in a gallery setting or on a computer screen. What is it about the book that continues to capture photographers' attention as a means to convey their images? The history of the photobook could easily be told from the library's collection. Over the years, we've collected "traditional" photobooks with straight forward sequences of images to recent works that push at the format's limits, testing how a book can function as a communicator of images and information and more self consciously as an object (art or otherwise) and sometimes simultaneously functioning on all levels.
George Tice's new book, Seldom Seen, which the library recently acquired, continues Tice's longtime relationship with the book. Published by Brilliant Press, its quadtone images reveal such depth that, as Tice discusses in a recent video, you might mistake them for silver-based prints, ie "real" photographs. Tice also reveals that when he's engaged in a photo project, the work is intrinsically tied up with thinking about how his images will play out in book form.
Bryan Schutmaat's new book, Grays the Mountain Sends, also new in the library, features the familiar territory of somber portraits and landscapes of small-town American West, especially mining towns. Yet the book offers a few surprises that tease it into the realm of an art object. Its metal binding suggests ore or perhaps the rails of a mining car, and its tightness makes the reader flip the pages rather than linger on a spread (the book will not lie flat). The book requires that you handle it in order to take in its contents. Alternating landscapes and portraits are interspersed with coal-colored sheets that seem to force a retinal reset, serving as a pause between sections. These features married with the images give the viewer a multidimensional experience.
Each takes a different approach to the book format, yet both communicate with equal power. You can experience both in the reading room starting next month.
Samuel Duncan, Library Director