Thursday, August 25, 2011

Morton Smith's Dad Owned and Managed a Stained Glass Window Company With Renowned Italian Artist Nicola D'Ascenzo

Smith, Morton. Born: 28 May 1915, Philadelphia, PA, to Rupert H., owner of D'Ascenzio & Smith stained glass window-makers, Mary Funk S. Education: AB Harvard, 1936; Ph.D. Hebrew U. of Jerusalem, 1948; Th.D. Harvard Divinity Sch., 1957. [From the Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists]
So his father didn't just abandon H J Smith & Sons at the beginning of the Great Depression. He eventually formed a company with an Italian artist Nicola D'Ascenzo who moved to Philadelphia in the late nineteenth century. My guess is that he was one of H J Smith & Sons artisans during the book period.

It's really worth while to check out the beautiful creations made by D'Ascenzo.   The link is here.  He seems to have designed many of the most famous stained glass windows in Philadelphia.  The page at the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings is particularly good, including a short slide slow of D'Ascenzo's artistic masterpieces as well as a complete record of over one thousand works of art he produced. Quite impressive, I must say.

I really don't know what happened in Philadelphia stained glass business while a young Morton Smith was attending the New Academy.  Yet my impression is that H J Smith & Sons, the company his grandfather started in 1871 simply couldn't compete with a real Italian artist.  The stuff D'Ascenzo was creating was far superior to what I have seen at least from Henry J Smith's company.  D'Ascenzo might have started as an artisan who was hired by H J Smith & Sons at the turn of the twentieth century but in time people went to him directly cutting out the middle men.

I suspect that Rupert H Smith was smart enough to figure - if you can't beat 'em join 'em.  Again, this gives us a glimpse into the kind of background Smith came from.  Very, very interesting I must say.

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