A Guest Post by Stephen H. Grant
Dear Collators, at a Fall 2019 reception in the Great Hall, I captured a rare historic moment in the Library’s history. We contemplate the personification of more than a third of a century of recent Folger leadership, side by side, in flesh and blood. Werner Gundersheimer was Folger director from 1984 to 2002. Gail Kern Paster succeeded Werner as Folger director in 2002 and stepped down in 2011. Mike Witmore took over as director in 2011.
In this blog post, by contrast, we shift back to the era belonging to first Folger director, the early 1930s.
Some of you saw this photo in my blog post of September 2019 entitled Emily Jordan Folger’s Deltiological Profile. Others saw it projected on the Folger Theatre screen in the Fall of 2018 when the Folger docents invited me to deliver an address on “Images that did NOT make it into COLLECTING SHAKESPEARE.”
1932 was a kick-off year for the Folger when the Shakespeare Library was dedicated on the Bard’s 368th birthday, April 23. On July 15 of that year, the first Folger director, William Adams Slade, visited widowed Emily Folger in her Long Island home in the town of Glen Cove. As Emily reports, “Mr. Slade was full of his plans for visiting libraries in England and meeting scholars” (July 18, 1932 letter from Emily Jordan Folger to Joseph Quincy Adams, director of research at the Folger, Folger Archives Box 58).
As one means of reporting on his professional visit to England, William Slade chose picture postcards.
The card depicts Shakespeare’s Garden in Stratford-on-Avon. It’s beautifully composed with four visitors walking on a dirt path separating the colorful garden into two sections with buildings rising up in the background on the right side. But, horrors! A charming garden scene has been sullied by a British cancellation machine. You can make out “Stratford-on-Avon” and “Wa” for Warwickshire, printed backwards. What has happened is that the ink has penetrated the postcard all the way through. Most probably the postal clerk had just finished re-inking the machine. In 1905, the Folgers visited this Shakespeare garden in New Place, Stratford-on-Avon. They paid 6 pence apiece for admission, with ticket numbers 317 and 318. Loving gardens, Emily would have been thrilled to receive this postcard with its message.
Now you clearly see the full machine cancellation on the address side. The double (right and left) cancellation is not that rare. This color postcard numbered 2042 was printed and published by J. Salmon, Sevenoaks, England from an original water color drawing by W. W. Quatremain in the Salmon Series. Born in London, William Wells Quatremain moved to Stratford-on-Avon in 1867 at age ten. His first known painting dates from 1884. Over a 45-year period he painted in watercolor or oil more than 200 scenes of streets, houses, and landscapes in Stratford-on-Avon and elsewhere in Warwickshire, according to a 1971 article in Warwickshire History by Patricia McFarland. Many acquaintances had similar descriptions of the painter as a “slight gray-haired man with a straggly white beard and a black slouch hat who rode a strange bicycle.” Poor Quatremain would not have been happy to find his Shakespeare garden under wavy ink marks. J. Salmon was a family-owned company that boasted to be the oldest postcard and calendar publisher in Britain. The Kent-based firm, founded in 1880, closed its doors in 2018. It is most likely that Emily Jordan Folger never realized that the watercolorist of the postcard and Henry Clay Folger shared the same birth and death years, 1857–1930.
Slade mailed this postcard to Mrs. Henry C. Folger at her Glen Cove, Long Island residence on Aug. 5, 1932. Postage was a brown three-pence stamp bearing a portrait of the reigning monarch, King George V. The sender’s message: “This afternoon we go to Snitterfield, Warwick, and other neighboring places by automobile. With greetings to Mrs. F and Miss J from G.M.S. and W.A.S. Stratford-on-Avon Aug. 5, 1932.” Snitterfield is a village less than a mile north of Stratford-on-Avon. Miss J refers to Emily Jordan Folger’s elder sister, Mary-Augusta Jordan. G.M.S stands for Gertrude MacArthur Slade, William Adams Slade’s wife.
Gertrude MacArthur graduated B.A. from Vassar College in the class of 1896, one of 121 students in her class. Emily received her M.A. from Vassar the same year, the only one in her class among the 7 masters recipients at the college. Standing by her husband’s side as he mailed this postcard in 1932, Gertrude Slade might well have thought back on Sept. 9, 1930, when she penned a condolence letter to the recently widowed Emily. This is the earliest of few pieces of correspondence between the Slades and the Folgers. In it, Mrs. Slade started, “My dear Mrs. Folger, so many times I have thought of you this summer that I must have already expressed to you the thoughts in my mind. First when we heard of the sudden going of Mr. Folger I felt such depth of sympathy with you, and then such admiration as you went on planning the details of his wonderful memorial. And I can never tell you the joy Mr. Slade and I felt to know that Mr. Folger ever thought of him in connection with the Library, that he had confidence in Mr. Slade’s experience and personality so that you wanted him to work with you at this time” (Folger Archives Box 27).
This color postcard numbered 2003 was also printed and published by J. Salmon, from an original water color drawing by W. W. Quatremain in the Salmon Series. The card depicts Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-on-Avon.
William Slade writes Mrs. Henry C. Folger, “Greetings from the Ann [sic] Hathaway Cottage and Shottery, and from G.A.S. + W.A.S.,” followed by “this afternoon we go see Julius Caesar.” Shottery is the Warwickshire village where Anne Hathaway grew up. Receiving this postcard in the mail would have meant an awful lot to Emily. It would have reminded her of Aug. 12, 1910, when she had walked with her husband Henry from Stratford-on-Avon to visit the cottage three-quarters of a mile away. Postage was also a three-pence stamp bearing a portrait of King George V.
This color postcard numbered 660 was printed and published by J. Salmon, from an original water color drawing by W. W. Quatremain in the Salmon Series. The card shows the famous Shakespeare bust in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, overlooking the stone flooring above the Bard’s bones. In receiving this postcard from the director of the Folger, Emily would have thought back on her visits with her husband to Stratford, in 1903,1905, and 1910. She saved the 1903 admission ticket to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 6 pence per person.
William Adams Slade sends the postcard on Aug. 17, 1932 to Mrs. Henry C. Folger in Glen Cove, Long Island. “Dear Mrs. Folger: You can guess from the picture on the other side all that I want to say. As always yours, William A. Slade.” A cryptic message, the type of language that Mrs. Folger herself liked to use in her correspondence. Postage is the now-familiar brown three-pence stamp bearing a portrait of King George V.
The Folgers were clearly awed by the bust of Shakespeare they contemplated in the Holy Trinity Church, overlooking the Bard’s bones. Folger acquired not one but four copies of the bust (letter from Henry Folger to Paul Philippe Cret, July 3, 1929, Folger Archives, Box 57). In 1929 Folger was both meeting and corresponding with the Library consulting architect (Alexander B. Trowbridge), the Library principal architect (Paul Philippe Cret), and the marble sculpture designer (John Gregory), leaving a fascinating paper trail. John Gregory is well known by visitors to the Folger as the sculptor behind the nine bas-relief friezes on the north façade which display scenes from nine Shakespeare plays. Gregory is less well known as the sculptor of the Henry Folger bust in the center of the south wall in the Great Hall. The principal architect asked Mrs. Folger if she wanted to have a marble bust of herself along with that of her husband, but she declined.
When John Gregory prepared to install the Shakespeare bust in the high niche above the tablet, he discovered a problem. The niche was already carved out, but the bust he was ready to install was too wide to fit. The bust was an exact full-size copy; other busts were slightly smaller. Gregory described the nature of the issue and the resolution in a letter to Cret: “I opened your letter regarding the cutting of the Shakespeare bust and in view of the conflicting instructions called a meeting of Mrs. Folger and Mr. Slade. Mr. Slade took the matter up with you by telephone and Mrs. Folger expressed herself as being anxious to use the present bust for sentimental and other reasons. Since you authorized me to use my judgment, I did so by deferring to the wishes of Mrs. Folger. To this end I cut off two vertical slices from the sides of the busts [sic] arms and cushions and placed the bust in the niche, fitting snugly between the sides. Mrs. Folger was perfectly satisfied (letter from John Gregory to Paul Philippe Cret, Mar. 1, 1932, University of Pennsylvania Rare Book & Manuscript Library). We don’t know what “sentimental and other reasons” refer to, but a happy solution was found.
In a similar fashion that the Shakespeare bust looks down over Shakespeare’s bones in Stratford-on-Avon, so does a copy of that bust in the eastern section of the Folger reading room look down over the two urns bearing the ashes of Henry and Emily Folger. The urns are hidden from view behind the dedication plaque for the library.
In August 1905, H. C. Folger Jr. and Emily Clara J. Folger from “New York, U.S.A.” signed the Visitors Book at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, along with another New Yorker and visitors from Alcester and Cheltenham in England, and Glasgow in Scotland.
The Folgers found this postcard of the Golden Lion Hotel in room 10 where they habitually stayed in Stratford-on-Avon. In Shakespeare’s day, 1613, it was called “Ye Peacocke Inn.” What is on the site today, can you guess? A Marks & Spencer department store.
Golden Lion Hotel guests learn that for domestic (called “Inland”) postage, they must place a half penny stamp; to send abroad a one-penny stamp. Gentle readers, what would you understand by the instruction, “Write here—for Inland Postage only”? Does this mean that you are not invited to send a message abroad, only Inland?
Well, no matter where that postcard could have been sent, I like to think that some of the happiest and most relaxed moments of the Folgers’ lives were walking in and around Stratford-on-Avon. To have a precise idea of the walk between the Golden Lion Hotel and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, in 2017 I counted my steps: 375.
Stephen H. Grant is a retired Foreign Service officer turned writer. He is the author of, among other things, several books about postcards, and Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger.