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Archives & Manuscripts

Friends Historical Library collected silhouettes

Identifier: SFHL-PA-033
This collection combines various silhouette albums and images acquired by Friends Hitorical Library into a single unit.


  • Circa 1803-1845


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Access is restricted due to the fragility of the materials.

Copyright and Rights Information

Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.


6 Linear Feet


This collection combines various silhouette albums and images acquired by Friends Hitorical Library into a single finding aid.

Biographical / Historical

Cut paper silhouettes were a popular art form in the first half of the 19th century as an alternative to painted portraits. They were generally mounted on a contrasting color paper or silk and often collected in albums or framed for home display. Skilled specialist artists such as August Edouart could quickly cut freehand and produce faithful likenesses in duplicate. Other artists drew an outline on paper, then painted it in. The physionotrace apparatus made the production and duplication of likenesses easily available. Charles Willson Peale introduced the machine in his Museum in Philadelphia in 1803, and thousands of images were produced. Silhouettes were particularly popular with members of the Society of Friends who were opposed to the vanity of painted portraiture, but embraced the simplicity and close representation from life of silhouettes. The popularity of silhouettes quickly declined with the invention of photography.


The albums and collections were described as separate series.

Processing Information

In 2018 the scattered silhouette collections in Friends Historical Library from various sources and poorly described were combined into a single artificial collection for better preservation and cataloging.
Susanna Morikawa
September 2018
Description rules

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA