City Museum Polka


This lithograph from circa 1854 shows a view of the fancifully adorned City Museum, located at 415–417 Callowhill Street in Philadelphia, originally built as a church in 1823. Lamps line the street outside, where many people are seen standing or walking on the sidewalk; some individuals enter the building. A few men are visible on the balcony of the building. The roof of the museum includes a series of painted billboards designed as a frieze. The billboards depict scenes with animals and include: a ram; a donkey and a goat; a jungle scene with a giraffe, a snake, and a man riding an elephant; a mother tiger with her cubs; and a lion tamer with his big cat. The decorative roof also features two model alligators entwined by snakes, architectural embellishments, and flags. The City Museum opened in 1854 and housed natural history, science, and portrait exhibits on the lower floor, and a theater on the upper floor. The museum burned in 1868. This lithograph was designed as a sheet music cover illustration created by artist and illustrator Peter Kramer (1823–1907). The composer, Adolph Scherzer, composed the city museum polka for the piano forte and dedicated the composition “to his diligent pupil Miss Louisa Osheimer.” The printer, Thomas S. Sinclair (circa 1805–81), was born in the Orkney Islands of Scotland and was active in Philadelphia by 1833, where he soon had his own business and was one of the first local printmakers to experiment with color lithography. A practical lithographer throughout his career, Sinclair produced all genres of lithographs, including maps, advertisements, city and landscape views, sheet music covers, portraiture, political cartoons, certificates, and book illustrations.

Last updated: January 9, 2018