The Windhill Bequest

an Exhibition in the

Moncure Biddle Room

January 13 to February 11, 1998

The Free Library of Philadelphia

Through an extraordinary testamentary bequest to the Free Library of Philadelphia, Elizabeth Windhill (1901-1997) has endowed a fund for the Windhill Storyteller-in-Residence serving the Central Library and the branch libraries, as well as a related fund for the support of children’s activities at the branch libraries throughout the city of Philadelphia. This exhibition of items from Miss Windhill’s personal collection is held in conjunction with the announcement of the first holder of the position of Windhill Storyteller-in-Residence.

Elizabeth Windhill was the youngest child and only surviving daughter of Philadelphia industrialist Nicholas Windhill (1843-1913). She was educated privately at the family house on South Third Street and at the Windhill farms in Chester County. Miss Windhill volunteered at the Free Library from the opening of the Central Library Building in 1927 until 1989, when ill-health at last obliged her to retire. In 1934 she established a summer gardening education program that brought city children from diverse backgrounds to the farm for residential learning and experience of outdoor life. Over a thirty-year period, more than twelve hundred children attended the Windhill Garden School. The Windhill Bequest is an enduring monument of Elizabeth Windhill’s lifelong devotion to the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Checklist of the Exhibition

Case one : Nicholas Windhill & Family

  1. Windhill, Nicholas.

    Ueber die Kalkulierung von optimalisierten Treffpunkten in einer Verbindungsnetze, insbesondere in ihrer Beziehung auf Ueberfluessigkeit und Parallelitaeten. Von N. Windhill zu Philadelphien. Sonderdruck, Zeitschrift für Mathematik und Physik, Elfter Jahrgang. Pp. 479-86. Leipzig: Teubner, 1866.

    First mathematical publication of Nicholas Windhill, while a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He withdrew in his second year and went to work as a mathematical consultant for the telegraph and railroad industries, and was later a prominent investor in companies during the electrification of the United States in the 1880s and beyond.

  2. Pennsylvania Silk Mills.

    Chromolithographic promotional brochure, with portraits of the founders printed on white silk. 8 pp. Conshohocken, 1887.

    With two carte de visite photographs of Nicholas Windhill, Gutekunst, circa 1879 and 1907.

  3. Dunkelhain zu Birawka, Wilhelmina von.

    Engagement portrait with Nicholas Windhill before orchard gates, Dunkelhain estate, Silesia, 1879. Mounted on card; trimmed, with loss of photographer’s stamp.

    Windhill met Mina, daughter of an aristocratic Silesian family, during his trip to Germany in 1879. Among her wedding gifts, Mina brought with her two dozen mature seedling Sternfrucht trees (Stellifer silesiensis Wimmer). The trees were successfully acclimated and continued to bear fruit into the late 1970s. See also no. 12.

  4. Dunkelhain zu Birawka, Wilhelmina von.

    Sommerbär [and] Winterbär. Four-page autograph manuscript in German, ink on paper, undated but first two leaves watermarked 1883; second text in a later hand, without watermark.

    Two folk stories told by Mina to her children, and by EW to the children of the next and subsequent generations, “When I lived in the forest . . .”

  5. Windhill Switching Company.

    Windhill Point One. Albumen photograph of the exterior of the brick building built as the first distribution hub during the electrification of Philadelphia. 10 x 14 inches, mounted on studio card. Philadelphia: Gutekunst, circa 1881.

  6. The Perkiomen Creek Shooting Club.

    Established 1879. Incorporated 1880. Illustrated with 15 original mounted albumen photographs by Gutekunst, Philadelphia, with printed captions; partly colored printed map showing the original tract and The Marshes, purchased 1885. 67 pp. [Phoenixville, Penna.:] Privately printed for the members [Upland Job Printing Co.,] 1892. With 11 pages of manuscript additions in Windhill’s hand, 1892-1901.

    Constitution, by-laws, and history of the club, founded by Nicholas Windhill and five friends; in 1885 the membership grew to eight when the club absorbed the large marshland tract owned by the Bishop brothers. With printed Game Bags for the years of 1879 to 1891 (October), including snipe, duck, geese, and a small flock of passenger pigeons driven east in a storm in January 1883. The photographs include formal portraits of the members in dinner jackets and in hunting attire before the board-and-batten club-house; at table for a game dinner in the club-house; as well as scenes of launching punts, standing before a duck blind, stacked rifles, game bags of duck, deer, and the pigeon hunt; and a portrait of club servants Cecil and Beulah standing in a snowfall of plucked feathers, with an ink note: “C. & B. were born into slavery on a low country plantation owned by G.H.B.’s wife’s family.” Following a shooting accident in 1902, the club was dissolved and the leases terminated. Portions of the marshland remain under conservation easement.

  7. Windhill, Nicholas, Jr.

    Diary of a Canoe-Trip in Algonquin Park, Summer 1911. Bound typescript, illustrated with 75 photographs mounted on grey card. 132 pp., typed on rectos only.

    Nicholas Windhill and his son, Nicholas, Jr., went on a camping trip in Ontario with the elder Windhill’s friend George Bishop, from mid-August through mid-September 1911, with an Indian guide and a Scots cook.

  8. [Bishop, George H.]

    In Memoriam : Nicholas Windhill. 16 pp. [Philadelphia,] Privately printed, 1913.

    Order of service, and elegy by a friend and business associate. With the manuscript of the elegy, inscribed at top “To Mina, G.H.B.”

  9. Windhill, Elizabeth.

    Little Farm Haying Records. [Cover title]. Manuscript book, ink on ruled paper. 144 pp. Windhill, Penna.: Little Farm, 1925-1937.

    Meteorological records and notes on the haying season (yields, workers, birds seen, etc.) for the years 1925 to 1937 at the downstream farm of the Windhill estates in Chester County. Open to late August 1929. EW filled five volumes of Haying Records, as well as series of manuscript logs of Fruit Trees, Roses, and Herb Gardens.

  10. [Windhill, Rutherford Whipple].

    Ford Whipple. Tableaux 1919 – 1927. Color reproduction of composition entitled Walata 23 mounted on upper cover. 8 pp. [Tanger:] A l’Orangerie, 1927.

    Checklist of a private exhibition of 32 paintings in oil and 24 wash drawings, with a two paragraph Note on the Artist by Gertrude Stein on p. 3. Inscribed on the title page, Elizabeth from her brother. With a photograph of the artist in the gallery wing and a printed card: Vernissage 20 janvier 1927 19h30. EW’s precocious older brother Rutherford (1899-1990) trained at the Penna. Academy of Fine Arts and left Philadelphia in 1917. He stopped briefly in Paris on his way to Tangiers and settled at a large villa above the city. The earliest member of a cosmopolitan artistic community, he exhibited paintings under the name Ford Whipple through the late 1950s. After his death, a servant burned the villa to the ground and most of his paintings were lost.

  11. Windhill, Elizabeth.

    Windhill Garden School. Breathe Garden Read. On the Little Farm, Windhill, Penna. Illustrations from photographs. 16 pp. [Phoenixville: Upland Job Printing Co.,] 1931.

    Brochure announcing the summer program for city children established by EW. From small beginnings: a first season with 10 children ages 10 to 12, taught by herself and a school chum, by 1935 the gardening & schooling experiment grew to include 40 children, with older graduates of the first year returning to help as counselors or Weeders as EW called them. 1966 was the final summer of the school; EW appealed condemnation proceedings to the state Supreme Court but was unable to halt highway construction that claimed the Windhill request stop on the Pennsylvania Railroad line, the Herb Garden, and the school grounds of the Little Farm.

  12. Brown, Col. J. Watson.

    Monograph of Stellifer silesiensis Wimmer, Sapindaceae. With notes on folk customs pertaining to the Sternfrucht or Silesian Lychee. Offprint. Contributions to the Botany of Pennsylvania 302. Illustrated with two photographs. 37 pp. Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Sciences, 1947.

    First described in Wimmer’s Flora von Schlesien (Berlin, 1832) as frost resistant with late-ripening fruit enclosed within a thick, spiny pedicarp or husk, by 1900 this rare species of fruit tree was preserved only in the orchards of the Dunkelhain family in Silesia; in the text, Brown notes elliptically that “a few specimens were brought to Penna. in 1879 and continue under cultivation.” In Silesia, a handful of trees survived clearcutting of forests in WWI, but not the conversion of the valley to a Nazi industrial camp, bombed by the Allies in 1944. The offprint is inscribed on the front wrapper “To Elizabeth Windhill from one of your Weeders in the distant summers of 1936 & 1937, the first botanical monograph to require security review, pardon the delay — all the old people I talked to in the Birawka valley told me the Sternbäume were cut and burned in the winter of 1942-3 — yours are all that survive. JWB December 1947.” Brown, U.S.M.A. class of 1940, served on Patton’s staff and in the OSS, where he was decorated for gallant conduct conduct on perilous service behind enemy lines. In 1954, he was the second U.S. military adviser killed in French Indochina.