Reverse glass paintings of Columbia Bridge on fire were part of 1913 Old Home Week
A Cannonball blog reader from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, has the above reverse glass painting. Only a handful, including well preserved examples at the Columbia Historic Preservation Society and Historic Wrightsville, Incorporated, of these are known to exist. The reader’s copy, one of the few privately-held examples, is in pristine condition. The artist painted the image in reverse on the backside of a sheet of glass. This was a fairly common art form at the turn of the century.
According to researcher/curator Chris Vera at CHPS, “they were painted for the 1913 Old Home Week Celebration in Columbia by the Seniors at the Columbia High School. 1913 Old Home Week was a grand celebration with a huge parade and commemorating the fiftieth year since the invasion of the Confederacy. Some of the veterans that were still alive were in attendance.” One of these reverse paintings of the Columbia Bridge on fire sold at a public auction back in April 2016.
Celebrations dubbed as “Old Home Week” were fairly common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The practice originated in New England, where civic officials would declare a festival or town holiday, and invite former residents to visit the “old home” of their birthplace. These parties proved to be very popular in several places.
In addition to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Gettysburg campaign and the Confederate invasion, Columbia’s Old Home Week celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of the town. A Philadelphia printing company, E. A. Wright, printed the formal invitations to the celebration; a copy is in the extensive collection of the Lancaster History Center. The program for Old Home Week featured paper made at one of the most historic paper mills in the United States — the old Ivy Mill (now defunct) in Chester County. It had been one of the first commercially successful paper mills in the country,
According to the Lancaster History Center, the week-long celebration in Columbia, held October 12-19, 1913, “included parades, band and choral concerts, athletics, special church services, and military parades and drills. It began with a proclamation issued by George W. Weaver, the chief burgess of Columbia. Among the highlights was a special poem, “Columbia,” written by Mrs. A. W. Rogers and meant o be sung during Old Home Week. A committee of members of the Lancaster County Historical Society (the forerunner to today’s Lancaster Historic Center) were on hand for the 1913 celebration to talk to the public.
For more details on the Confederate invasion of Adams and York counties, and the threat to Lancaster County which led to the burning of the 50+ year-old Columbia Bridge, pick up a copy of blogger Scott Mingus’s best-selling book, Flames Beyond Gettysburg: The Confederate Expedition to the Susquehanna River, June 1863. The cover features another image of the burning covered bridge as state emergency militia emerge from the eastern egress, painted by then-Columbia resident Bradley Schmehl.
The public is invited to a free PowerPoint presentation by Scott Mingus on “The Underground Railroad in York County” this Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the second floor of the Peoples National Bank at 1 Manchester Street in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. Doors open at 6:30. Enter the building at the rear entrance near the fire escape.The talk is sponsored by the Glen Rock Historic Preservation Society.