The Seneca Falls Convention Continues

On July 20, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention convened for a second day. On the previous day, convention organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton had read the Declaration of Sentiments. In the process of reviewing a list of attached resolutions, the group united to demand women’s right to vote in the United States.

Tillers of the Soil. Betty Rolfe, Maud Davis, Elizabeth Davis, Martha Warren of Seneca Falls, as Tillers of the Soil in the Dance Drama depicting the Progress of Woman to be given at the reception at Seneca Falls on July 20…seventy fifth Equal Rights anniversary celebration. Bullock Studio, Seneca Falls. [July], 1923. Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Manuscript Division

Eleven of the resolutions proposed in the “Declaration” passed unanimously and without much argument, yet, the resolution calling for women’s enfranchisement met with some opposition. Some attendees did not feel that the vote was an important or necessary goal. Lucretia Mott is quoted as having said, “Lizzie (E.C. Stanton), thou wilt make the convention ridiculous.” Former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass stood with Stanton and argued forcefully for the absolute need and intrinsic value of the elective franchise for women.

“Frederick Douglass” / Charles White ’51. Charles White, artist; Los Angeles: Heritage Gallery, c1951. Goldstein Foundation Collection–Prints and Drawings. Prints & Photographs Division

After intense debate among those present, the historic assembly passed all twelve of the resolutions, including the following:

Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

The Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 individuals, 62 women and 38 men. As a comparison, there were 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence, all men. Although narrowly approved, passage of the suffrage resolution inaugurated seventy-two years of organized struggle for woman suffrage culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

The Public Reaction to the Seneca Falls Convention

National Anti Suffrage Association. Harris & Ewing, photographer,[1911?]. Prints & Photographs Division

The fledgling women’s rights movement had no shortage of detractors. The various forces of opposition challenging the women’s rights movement during this time had many names, but in general are referred to as part of the anti-suffrage movement. In addition to the critiques found in newspapers, both at home and abroad, the backlash also included various political cartoons and propaganda.

“Woman’s Rights Convention.” Geo. G. Cooper, Editor. National Reformer (Sheffield, UK), August 10, 1848. Reason Gallery A. American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division

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Lucy the Elephant and Other Roadside Attractions

On July 20, 1970, the six story tin-clad novelty building known as Lucy the Elephant was moved two blocks down the street to its current location at 9200 Atlantic Avenue in Margate, New Jersey.

“Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture, constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1881 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey, two miles (3.2 km) south of Atlantic City.” Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, 2015. Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive. Prints & Photographs Division

At 65 feet tall, and weighing 90 tons, “Lucy” is both a rare survival of a Victorian-era architectural folly and an early prototype for a class of structures known as roadside architecture that flourished in the 20th Century with the invention of the automobile. The building’s dramatic rescue and restoration by Margate’s volunteer-driven Save Lucy Committee is also a significant historic preservation success story.

Lucy the Elephant started life in 1881 as the Elephant Bazaar, soon Elephant Hotel, built by Philadelphia real estate developer James V. Lafferty to lure buyers to what was then called South Atlantic City.  Visitors arrived by train. Lafferty, who earned a U.S. patent for his unique design idea in 1882, was soon involved with two additional seaside elephant buildings that do not survive: the much larger 1885 Elephantine Colossus (also confusingly known as both the Elephant Hotel and the Elephant Bazaar) that he built at Coney Island, New York, which at 122 feet was almost twice as tall as Lucy; and the smaller Light of Asia built in Cape May, New Jersey in 1886.  Coney Island’s elephant burned down in a fire in 1896, while Cape May’s was torn down in 1900. Lucy, who earned her nickname sometime around 1900, survived because when Lafferty’s real estate development languished, he sold her to an area resident who kept the structure as a tourist attraction while adding to the site a Turkish-style pavilion that had originally been part of the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Aeroview of Margate City, New Jersey 1925. (Detail showing Lucy the Elephant). Hughes & Cinquin, 1925. Panoramic Maps. Geography & Maps Division

Roadside sculpture and architecture (as well as signage) captured the eye of Farm Security Administration photographers who traveled the United StatesExternal in the 1930s documenting Depression-era living conditions, and the Library’s extensive collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives includes many examples, such as:  folk art sculptures in New Mexico, teepee-shaped tourist cabins in Kentucky, a derrick-fronted roadside stand in Oklahoma, a pig-shaped barbecue joint in Texas, an ice cream shop shaped like a carryout container in Pennsylvania, and an oversized Paul Bunyan monument in Minnesota.

While Lucy wasn’t photographed by the Farm Security Administration, the Margate Elephant was documented more recently by another Depression-era project that is ongoing: the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The survey of Lucy includes before-and-after restoration photographs and measured architectural drawings; some HABS surveys also incorporate written histories. Other roadside architecture documented by HABS includes a milk can, a milk bottle, a wine bottle, a dinosaur, the Clam Box Restaurant, and Mammy’s Cupboard inspired by Gone with the Wind. The Bedford, Pennsylvania, Coffee Pot (built 1927) was both photographed for the FSA by Esther Bubley in 1943 and documented by HABS in 1999. More recently—and among many others, structures—photographer John Margolies captured additional coffee-pot-shaped buildings, in color, in Takoma, Washington and Lexington, Virginia.

New Bedford, Pennsylvania. An eating place near the Greyhound bus stop.  Esther Bubley, photographer, 1943. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Paul Bunyan and Babe, Route 2, Bemidji, Minnesota. John Margolies, photographer, 1980. Prints & Photographs Division

In her 1984 book The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol along the American Highway, art historian Karal Ann Marling heads out in search of roadside giants that dot Minnesota’s landscape, starting with Bemidji’s quintessential 15-foot-high Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox of 1937—the same one documented by FSA photographer John Vachon. “Marking the primary route heading west through town,” she writes, “the glossy red and blue figures invited the motorist to abandon the highway for Bemidji’s first annual Paul Bunyan Winter Carnival. These crudely formed, garishly colored behemoths demanded attention by the sheer force of their intrusion upon the flat, white wintertime landscape of Minnesota.”1  In the early years, Paul Bunyan’s arms could move with hidden wires while Babe was fully mobile, having been mounted on the frame of a Ford Model A. Oversized sculptures are not buildings, but their roadside novelty still draws our gaze on the road. John Margolies, who specialized in photographing roadside attractions during a forty-year career, refers to sites like these as “‘unnecessary’ places,” though they nevertheless continue to fascinate, amuse, amaze and draw us in as we travel the vast American landscape.2

As early as 1972, professional architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s classic book Learning From Las Vegas used the influence of roadside architecture to develop what became the late-20th Century’s predominant architectural style, postmodernism. In their book, they argue that buildings take two forms: ducks and decorated sheds. A duck, named for the Long Island Duck (or Big Duck) that was photographed by Margolies in 1976, is shaped exactly like the thing that it is, while a decorated shed—such as Randy’s Donuts photographed by Margolies in 1991—is a generic box that can have any sort of words and icons stuck to it. This observation led to a complete departure from the early-20th Century truism that “form follows function,” so well known in the work of architects Louis Sullivan and those who followed, toward a style that instead separates form from function in significant ways.

Long Island duck, Long Island, New York. John Margolies, photographer, between 1972-2008. Prints & Photographs Division

While it may seem a long way from roadside attractions like 1881’s Lucy the Elephant to 1931’s Big Duck on Long Island, to 1964’s high-style Vanna Venturi House, or 2003’s Walt Disney Concert Hall by architect Frank Ghery or the like, these buildings are all iconic structures that, through their visibility and influence, have helped to fundamentally change the shape of our built environment.

  1. Karal Ann Marling, Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol along the American Highway (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 3. (Return to text)
  2. John Margolies, Fun Along the Road: American Tourist Attractions (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1998), pp. 1-29. (Return to text)

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Anne Marbury Hutchinson

Although her exact birth date is uncertain,1 on July 20, 1591, the infant Anne Marbury was baptized in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. The first female religious leader among North America’s early European settlers, Anne Marbury Hutchinson was the daughter of an outspoken clergyman silenced for criticizing the Church of England. Better educated than most men of the day, she spent her youth immersed in her father’s library.

At twenty-one, Anne Marbury married William Hutchinson and bore the first of their fourteen children. The Hutchinsons became adherents of the preaching and teachings of John Cotton, a Puritan minister who left England for America. In 1634, the Hutchinson family followed Cotton to New England, where religious and political authority overlapped.

The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised and Reprinted, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Samuel Green, 1672. Law Library. Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Part 1.

Many criminal laws in the early New England colonies were based on the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Often called “Bible Commonwealths,” the New England colonies sought guidance from the scriptures in regulating the lives of their citizens.

Serving as a skilled herbalist and midwife in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne Hutchinson began meeting with other women for prayer and religious discussion. Her charisma and intelligence soon also drew men, including ministers and magistrates, to her gatherings. She emphasized the individual’s relationship with God, stressing personal revelation over institutionalized observances and absolute reliance on God’s grace rather than on good works as the means to salvation. Hutchinson’s views challenged religious orthodoxy, while her growing power as a female spiritual leader threatened established gender roles.

Mary Dyer Led to Execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660. Color Engraving, Nineteenth Century. Courtesy of The Granger Collection. Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century, Part 2

Dyer was a supporter of Hutchinson who was exiled from Massachusetts and hanged for supporting Puritan orthodoxy.

Called for a civil trial before the General Court of Massachusetts in November 1637, Hutchinson ably defended herself against charges that she had defamed the colony’s ministers and that as a woman she had dared to teach men. Her extensive knowledge of Scripture, her eloquence, and her intelligence allowed Hutchinson to debate with more skill than her accusers. Yet because Hutchinson claimed direct revelation from God and argued that “laws, commands, rules, and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway,” she was convicted and banished from the colony, a sentence confirmed along with formal excommunication in the ecclesiastical trial that followed.

Refusing to recant, Hutchinson accepted exile and in 1638 migrated with her family to Roger Williams’ new colony of Rhode Island, where she helped found the town of Portsmouth. After her husband died in 1642, Hutchinson moved to Dutch territory near Long Island Sound (across from an area now known as Co-op City, along New York’s Hutchinson River Parkway, named for Anne Hutchinson). In 1643, Hutchinson and six of her children were killed by Siwanoy Indians, possibly with the encouragement of Puritan authorities. “Proud Jezebel has at last been cast down,” was the supposed comment of Hutchinson’s nemesis, Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop.

  1. During Hutchinson’s lifetime, England still followed the Old, or Julian, Calendar, even though in 1582 much of the rest of Europe had adopted the modern New, or Gregorian Calendar, which differed by ten days at that time. Thus Hutchinson’s baptism actually occurred on what would be July 30 on today’s calendar. (Return to text)

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