Tyrone Area Historical Society

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Q ~ What can you tell me about the artist who drew and published
the panoramic view of Tyrone in the late 1800s?

  A ~ The name that appears on the greatest number of panoramic maps in the collections of the Library of Congress is that of Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler. He was born in Lowell, Mass., on December 21, 1842 and ran away from home at the age of 15. 
    When the first call for military volunteers for the Civil War was issued by President Lincoln, Fowler was in Buffalo, N.Y. After some maneuvering after being rejected because he was underage, Fowler was sworn into the 21st Regiment of the New York Volunteers at Elmira, N.Y. in May 1861. His ankle was wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and he was honorably discharged at Boston in February 1863, leaving the hospital on crutches after refusing amputation. He then visited Army camps where he made tintypes of soldiers. 
    In 1864, Fowler migrated to Madison, Wisc., where he worked with his uncle, J.M. Fowler — a photographer. He established his own panoramic map firm and in 1870 produced a view of Omro, Wisc. This was followed the next year by panoramas of Peshtigo, Sheboygan Falls, and Waupaca, Wisc. The Boston Public Library has six views drawn and published by Fowler in the 1870s. During that decade, he was employed as an artist by J.J. Stoner. 
    Fowler moved from Madison around 1880 to northern New Jersey, first to the Oranges and later to Asbury Park. A panoramic map of Stewart, Ohio, which appears in D.J. Lake's Atlas of Athens Co., Ohio, is the earliest Fowler view in the Library of Congress's collections. Between 1881 and 1885, Fowler was located successively in Lewisburg and Shamokin, Pa., and in Trenton, N.J. 
    On April 1, 1885, he moved with his family to Morrisville, Pa., where he maintained his headquarters for 25 years. One of the inconveniences of his profession was the recurring need to find new territory for his artistry. In a 1913 request for an increase in his military pension, Fowler noted that “although claiming home where my family was located — I was on the road as Publisher and Canvasser ever since the war.” 
    Morrisville served as a convenient operating center as Fowler began to draw and publish views of cities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. His production of Pennsylvania panoramas was greater than that of any other artist for a particular state. In the Library of Congress's collections, there are 220 separate Fowler views of Pennsylvania, representing 199 different towns. There are, moreover, an additional 165 Fowler views of Pennsylvania towns in the Pennsylvania State Archives and at Pennsylvania State University. This is an outstanding production record. 
    At various periods during his career, Fowler was associated with other panoramic artists. The association with James B. Moyer, of Myerstown Pa. from 1889 to 1902 was particularly extensive and productive. Some city maps also were published under the imprints Fowler & Kelly, Fowler & Albert E. Downs, and Fowler & Browning. After 1910, Fowler prepared panoramic maps of cities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York for Oakley H. Bailey, who marketed his prints as “aero views.” 
    Throughout his career, which extended over 54 years, Thaddeus Fowler never ceased to find pleasure in drawing and publishing panoramic maps. In a letter to his granddaughter written in 1920, he said that he felt “an unadulterated joy” while sketching a view of Middletown, N.Y. This was the expression of a man who at that time had been working at his profession 50 years! In the same letter, Fowler alluded to some of the problems viewmakers encountered. He was in Allentown, Pa. in 1918, he recalled, preparing an aero view of the city, probably in association with Oakley H. Bailey. Airplanes and a dirigible circling the city were included in the trademark of the aero view to give the impression that some of the information was derived from aerial reconnaissance, which, of course, was not true. 
    Some Allentown citizens noticed the view with the planes on the manuscript map, and in the excitement engendered by World War I, Fowler was accused of being a German spy and was jailed. Members of his immediate family drove from Morrisville to identify their father, who suffered injury only to his pride in the incident. 
    In the 1920 letter previously cited, Fowler also noted that “Oakley H. Bailey had taken up my job at Allentown where I left off. The secretary of the Chamber of Commerce was very much taken with the drawing as far as I had it done and promised to help. Mayor Gross was very gracious and also favored the idea very much. Quite a different reception Bailey had to mine. There's no doubt we will do well there.” 
    The Allentown panorama, the largest extant Fowler view, apparently never was published. The original drawing was presented to the Library in 1970 by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. T.B. (Roxana) Fowler. The magnificent pen-and-ink manuscript with grey wash, which measures 28 by 71 inches, engaged Thaddeus Fowler and Oakley H. Bailey for over four years. A feeling of the city's vitality was expressed by drawings of operating industrial plants, trains in motion, city thoroughfares filled with automobiles and pedestrians, and a group of fans watching a baseball game. The Allentown map was one of the last to which Fowler contributed.Fowler died in March 1922 in his 80th year, following a fall on icy streets incurred while preparing a panorama of Middletown, N.Y. Fowler's career spanned the entire period of panoramic map production, and only Oakley H. Bailey shares this distinction. 
    The views of Thaddeus Fowler include cities and towns in at least 21 states and Canada. To date, 411 separate Fowler panoramas have been identified. Of the 324 in the Library of Congress, the majority were acquired on copyright deposit. In 1943, 60 Fowler views of Pennsylvania and West Virginia were purchased from the Laurel Book Service, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, among which are 11 of the Library's 28 Fowler views of West Virginia. In 1970 and 1971, the artist's daughter-in-law Mrs. T.B. (Roxana) Fowler and her family presented to the Library a collection of over 100 of his maps, 46 of them not previously in the Library's collections. This group has been kept together by the Library as the Fowler Map Collection. 
    An analysis of Fowler views of Pennsylvania towns suggests that the panoramic artist concentrated on a specific geographical area in a given year, very likely to minimize transportation problems. From 1889 to 1894, for example, he sketched cities in eastern Pennsylvania. In 1889, he focused on Schuykill County; from 1890 to 1892, he focused on the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area; and in 1893, he mapped the area north of Philadelphia. He made views of cities between Morrisville and Chambersburg in 1894, and from 1895 to 1897, he worked in the western part of the state, especially around Pittsburgh and in the northwest sector of Pennsylvania. (Click here to see the panoramic view of Tyrone drawn by Fowler and published in 1895.) In 1898 and 1899, Fowler sketched West Virginia towns, and from 1900 to 1903, he was back in western Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he made trips to Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia to draw city plans and to investigate the possibility of expanding his trade into the South, which proved unsuccessful. 
    Fowler gained commissions for city plans by stimulating interest in citizens and civic groups the idea of creating a panoramic map of their community. After one town had agreed to having a map made, he would seek to involve neighboring communities. By noting that he had already secured an agreement for a view from one town in the area, he would play on the pride, community spirit, and sense of competition of adjacent communities. By such promotional procedures, he garnered commitments for panoramic maps from a limited geographical area, thus reducing travel expenses. Similar methods were employed by Ruger, Stoner, and Burleigh.

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