By Celia Caust-Ellenbogen
Antique silver. Sumptuous furniture. Priceless works by famous artists including Violet Oakley. Y’know, just another day in the archives.
One of the perks about working on the HCI-PSAR project is that, rather than sitting in the basement stacks of a dusty archives all day, my co-surveyor Michael and I get to explore all different types of places in search of archival gold. Recently we enjoyed a backstage pass to the exquisite Glen Foerd on the Delaware, a historic estate on the Delaware River in Torresdale, Philadelphia.
As archivists, we admired but did not attempt to classify the antique furnishings and priceless artwork at Glen Foerd. We focused on the manuscripts, photographs, and other archival materials we found cached around the mansion. The highlight of Glen Foerd’s holdings, to our minds, is a collection of family papers from the Foerderers and Tonners. The papers feature nearly fifty pocket diaries that belonged to William Tonner (Florence’s husband) and document his daily life over half a century, 1898-1948. There is also some Florence Tonner correspondence with and about various artists, including Philadelphia local Violet Oakley. Additional financial records and other papers document the family’s history fairly extensively, and span about 100 years, circa 1870-1970.