Sunday, July 23, 2017

Label for Harry Yerger's Art Shop in Wilmington, Delaware

In addition to sorting through so many family photographs, I've also been dealing with downsizing and donating a multitude of picture frames. This is one of the most unique ones I've come across. It measures 6 inches by 7¾ inches, and the front features etchings of tree branches, some fruit and a wooden fence surrounding the oval space for a photograph.1

It's not the most attractive thing in the world. Time and tape and scratches have left it with a sad and worn appearance (which is not necessarily a bad thing, in my book), but what really piqued my interest was the 1½-inch label on the back of the frame, for Harry Yerger's Art Shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

Here are some historical tidbits I discovered about this man and his business with the help of

  • Some advertising copy in the December 14, 1907, edition of The Morning News of Wilmington states:
    "Selected with artistic taste, the pictures being displayed at the art shop of Harry Yerger, at No. 419 Shipley Street, are among the best to be found in the city. Backed by many years' experience, Mr. Yerger has added to his collection of prints, paintings, posters and other art works one of hte best lines in Wilmington, and if it is a picture of any description your [sic] are thinking about giving as a present, you will do both yourself and the person to whom you intend to give the picture an injustice if you do not visit Yerger's. Possibly you have some picture or print you want framed? If that is the case take it to Yerger's. He knows how to do it and how to send it to you when he says so."
  • An advertisement from November 11, 1914, indicates that the store was open on Saturday evenings until 10 p.m. (It's not clear if that was the ONLY time it was open.)
  • A one-sentence notice on April 16, 1915, informs readers that Harry Yerger repairs window screens.
  • Around Christmas 1915, Yerger's shop was open "every evening."
  • In March 1916, Yerger had "Dollar Day Offers" and other price reductions. The store at this point was named Yerger's Red Front Art Shop, still on Shipley Street.
  • A news article on the front page of the April 5, 1924, edition of The Morning News states:
    Local Art Dealer for 50 Years
    Must Retire Because of Illness
    Harry Yerger, for more than fifty years identified with the art trades in this city, announced last evening he will retire from active business, although he will continue his shop at 419 Shipley street and employ a manager. Mr. Yerger has maintained the same stand during the past half century and is relinquishing active work to recuperate from an illness which has extended over the past three years.

    When but a young man, he started his Art Shop here on the basis of his knowledge of carpentry and cabinet-making, the great of his work in those days being confined to picture framing. The shop was small, indeed, but since that time has been built into a large establishment, dealing in materials used in nearly every branch of the art business.

    Charles Lee Stroman, nephew of Mr. Yerger, of Bethlehem, Pa., will take charge of the shop beginning today.
  • I found another advertisement for the store as late as December 1932.
  • Agnes A. Yerger, Harry's widow, died in February 1952. I can't find Harry's earlier date of death, though.
  • And, fast-forwarding to 1981, there is this item in the August 21, 1981, edition of The Morning News:
    "Strange things are happening way downtown in Wilmington — things that might interest old timers.

    "First, the original Hardcastle's art store at 417 Shipley is being torn down; a sad end for what was the town's earliest art shop.

    "Also, the next building, 419 Shipley, where Harry Yerger operated his frame store, is coming down."

1. The photograph that was once in the frame featured Rachel Matilda Austin Chandler (1829-1907), who was one of my great-great-great-grandmothers on Mom's side of the family. (Rachel was Greta Miriam Chandler Adams' grandmother.)

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