FAITH IN ACTION FOR 250 YEARS

JOSEPH T. FRASER JR.

 Joseph T. Fraser Jr., (1898-1989), was, for many years, director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as a vestryman for 27 years.

 From 1938 until 1969, a period in which American art underwent a dramatic transformation, Fraser was at the helm of the venerable academy, the oldest such institution in America.

 As such, he was in charge of overseeing the acedemy's fine arts school, its collection of American works, which doubled in size during his tenure, and its annual exhibition, which was at that time a national showcase for promising
 artists.

 A native of Philadelphia, Fraser attended the University of Pennsylvania and was an architect here for about 10 years, working with Robert McGoodwin, who was noted for his residential designs in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill.

 Mr. Fraser's long affiliation with the Pennsylvania Academy, which is housed in a Frank Furness-designed building at Broad and Cherry Streets in Center City, began during the depths of the Great Depression.

 "He was standing in a line for the WPA projects during the Depression when somebody came up and said, 'You might just find a job at the academy, they're looking for somebody. ' That's how he started as curator at the school," his son, Joseph T. 3d, said.

In 1938, the academy's board chose him as its director. "He was immensely proud of it (the museum) and the school," his son said. "It was his life, really. He kept himself happy. "

 Each year, the academy hosted an annual exposition that brought together a selection of works from American artists. Fraser had a key role in what would be shown.

In 1966, Fraser oversaw a facelifting of the academy's exterior, in preparation for two major exhibits marking the academy's 160th year. It hosted the largest exhibition up to that time of works by Andrew Wyeth, then a few months later staged a large exhibition of the works of Edouard Manet, the French impressionist, both of which drew large crowds and widespread publicity.

His wife, Isobel Chism Fraser, died in 2000.

The People of St. Peter's Church
John Swanwick (1740-1798), was born in England and came to Philadelphia in the 1770s. He was junior partner in the mercantile firm of Willing, Morris & Swanwick. He was also interested in literature, and published a volume of poetry (Poems on Several Occasions). A Republican, he was elected to Congress in March 1795, defeating Thomas Fitzsimons, a Federalist. He served until his death Aug. 1, 1798. He was chairman, Committee on Commerce and Manufacturing in the Fourth Congress.

Joseph Reed Ingersoll (1786-1868), was born in Philadelphia. His father, Jared, was a signer of the Constitution, and both his father, an Admiralty lawyer under the Colonial government, and his brother, Charles, served in Congress. Ingersoll, a lawyer, graduated from Princeton in 1804 with highest honors (every letter his father sent him college concluded with "remember the honors"). Elected in 1834 as an anti-Jacksonian candidate, he served in Congress from 1835 to 1837, but declined to run in 1836 and returned to his law practice. he was elected in 1840 as a Whig to fill the vacancy of John Sergeant and was re-elected three times, declining to serve again in 1849. He was U.S. minister to Great Britain 1852-53. He secured a cancellation of the tariff on the eight Whitechapel bells donated to St. Peter's in 1842 by his brother-in-law Benjamin Chew Wilcocks (1776-1845).

Francis Gurney (1739-1815) was born in Berks County, Pa., and joined the Provincial militia in 1756 during the French and Indian War. He served in Canada, the French Indies and the capture of the island of Guadalupe. A prominent merchant in Philadelphia, he partnered with Daniel Smith as Gurney & Smith, U.S. naval agents in the early days of the Republic. He served as a captain with the Grenadier Company, 3rd Regiment, Philadelphia Militia, and was later promoted to lieutenant colonel.  He resigned his commission on October 22, 1777, following the Battle of Germantown, after a failure to receive an expected promotion.  Gurney served throughout the remainder of the war and its aftermath in civilian offices. During the Whiskey Rebellion his military services were again called upon. For three months, Gurney led 600 militia against rebelling farmers in western Pennsylvania.  In 1799, he was promoted to brigadier general. 

George Harding (1827-1902) was a patent lawyer. In 1855, with Edwin Stanton and Abraham Lincoln, he successfully defended John Henry Manny in a patent infringement suit brought by Cyrus McCormick over the mechanical reaper. He also represented Samuel F.B. Morse in a successful defense of Morse's telegraph patent. He turned down a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court offered by Lincoln.

Forward    In the beginning

The 18th Century

The 19th Century

The 20th Century

The People of St. Peter's

The Choir

Mission and Outreach

Did You Know?

The Next 250

The Hero of Tripoli

The Book