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Past Exhibition

George Pope Morris: Defining American Culture at the Putnam County Historical Society April 19 – August 23, 2009

George Pope Morris: Defining American Culture
April 19 – August 23

Exhibition on Life and Work of Leading Editor, Publisher, Poet, Songwriter and Cold Spring Resident Opens April 19

Patriots Day marks the opening of a major new exhibition at the Putnam County Historical Society’s Foundry School Museum. George Pope Morris: Defining American Culture explores the life and times of one of 19th Century America’s most interesting and influential cultural figures.

He may not be a household name today, but few men had a greater impact on the tastes of their time than the poet, songwriter, essayist and newspaperman, George Pope Morris (1802-1864). He is perhaps best known for his poem, "Woodman, Spare That Tree!" (Woodman, spare that tree!/Touch not a single bough!/In youth it sheltered me,/And I'll protect it now"), which was a staple in schoolbooks for years. He was also founder of the New-York Mirror, a leading literary magazine, and the first to publish Edgar Alan Poe’s poem "The Raven" in 1845. Poe wrote for the Evening Mirror and was a vocal admirer of Morris’s poetry.

With his partner, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Morris founded the Home Journal, which became Town & Country in 1901 and is still published today. Morris was a resident of Cold Spring and drew national attention to the beauty and splendor of the Hudson Highlands. His house, Undercliff, was located along the river, just south of Little Stony Point.

Organized by the Putnam County Historical Society (PCHS) and the Boston Athenaeum, the exhibition focuses on Morris’s life and work and includes paintings, prints, photographs, letters, books, periodicals, sheet music covers, and examples of his pioneering career as a journalist. It examines Morris’s historical significance, the state of American literature during Morris’s time, his role in supporting the fine arts, and the connection between Morris and the Hudson River Valley. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the quadricentennial in 2009 of Henry’s Hudson’s initial voyage up the Hudson and the two hundredth anniversary of Robert Fulton’s launching of the first commercially viable steamship (from New York to Albany).

PCHS members are invited to an opening reception on Saturday, April 18, from 5:00 to 7:00. The exhibition opens to the public Sunday, April 19, at 11:00 and will remain at the Foundry School Museum until mid-August when it travels to Boston. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that includes essays by Trudie Grace and David Dearinger, curators of PCHS and the Boston Athenaeum, respectively, and Charles Adams, who specializes in 19th Century American literature at Whittier College.

The exhibition and catalogue are sponsored in part by the New York Council for the Humanities.