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Circa 1821 - Design and Material Culture in the Young Republic

About the Exhibition

In the continued celebration of University of the Sciences in Philadelphia’s 185th Anniversary, The Marvin Samson Center for the History of Pharmacy presents Circa 1821: Design and Material Culture in the Young Republic.

The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 14, 2007, examines some of the major design influences for a wide range of decorative and functional objects made in, or imported into, the United States during the first half of the 19th century.

“This exhibition is a landmark one for the USP Museum in conception and theme. It ranks with the efforts of larger universities, which often develop their art historical offerings around actual objects displayed in temporary exhibitions,” Michael J. Brody, the USP Museum’s director and curator, said. “The exhibition has wide appeal for those interested in 19th-century history, in the decorative arts and prints of the period, as well as devotees of Philadelphia history, its architecture and cultural institutions.”

Circa 1821 pays special attention to Philadelphia, which from 1790 to 1800 was the nation’s capital, and for the decades that followed, was a vanguard of education and the arts for the fledgling republic.

About 60 period objects illustrate consumers’ changing tastes in our country’s first decades, when artists and leaders in all fields looked to European models–particularly those derived from the classical world–in a self-conscious attempt to construct for America a national identity rife with symbolic links to past cultures.

“It is my hope to show visitors how 19th-century objects made in vastly different media–and broadly classed as that era’s ‘material culture’–are interrelated, and are functions of political and military history, technological developments and classical design reinterpreted for new contexts,” Brody explained.

A brochure describing the exhibition is available to visitors.


Michael J. Brody
Director and Curator


Office Location: Griffith Hall
University of the Sciences
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Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495