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T.M. Fowler’s Pennsylvania Bird’s-Eye Views

January 2, 2018

Filed under Changing Exhibits, Exhibits

‘Every Thing of Interest Shown’: T.M. Fowler’s Bird’s-Eye Views of Pennsylvania, 1885-1905, on exhibit now through May 6 on the first floor of The State Museum, showcases a series of bird’s-eye views, or panoramic maps, of Pennsylvania communities as they appeared during the late 19th century.

This exhibit features 32 original lithographic prints from a collection of about 170 views created by artist T.M.Fowler and preserved in the permanent collections of The State Museum and the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler – who signed as “T.M. Fowler” — was part of a small group of itinerant artists who made their living by sketching and publishing panoramic views of American cities and towns in the decades after the Civil War. During a career that began in 1869 and continued for another 53 years, Fowler published well over 400 views, more than that of any other American viewmaker. Of that total, more than half were of towns and cities in Pennsylvania – then the second largest state in the nation and a bustling center for steel, coal, glass, lumber, railroads and other industries. Thanks to Fowler – who came to make his home in Morrisville, Bucks County — the commonwealth boasts more bird’s eye views than any other state.

The examples showcased in the exhibit are presented in much the same sequence as they were originally drawn and published. Working in tandem with his business partner, James Moyer, Fowler canvased the state, region by region, beginning in 1888. Visitors to the exhibit will get a strong feel for the varied and often surprisingly landscapes that the pair encountered and depicted as they worked their way across the state.

We invite you to tour this exhibit, which includes a touch-screen interactive allowing visitors to explore more than 200 additional digitized views of Pennsylvania towns and cities.

Fowler views at The Pennsylvania State Archives

The State Archives has digitized its collection of nearly 170 Pennsylvania bird’s-eye views drawn by T.M. Fowler.

A view of Pottsvile as drawn by T.M. Fowler in 1889.

A view of Pottsville, Schuylkill County, as drawn by T.M. Fowler in 1889.

The Art and Technique of Bird’s-Eye Viewmaking

John Reps is professor emeritus at Cornell University and the foremost expert on the history of town views and the artists who created them. Hear Professor Reps as he discusses the art and technique of viewmaking and T.M. Fowler’s work in Pennsylvania towns and cities: