What A Wonderful Life:Lowville’s Erwin Eugene Lanpher

Research has taken me to more cemeteries than I can remember. Surrounded by hundreds of gravestones, I frequently remind myself that every person has a story. What often impresses me is that many people who are largely forgotten actually made a real difference in other people’s lives. Uncovering those stories from the past is humbling, carrying with it the realization that I’ll probably never approach the good works done by others.

Sometimes those good works seem to escape notice, and that was the sense that engulfed me as I read the obituary of Erwin Eugene Lanpher of Lowville. It reminded me of George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life, a regular guy who, as it turned out, was darn important to a lot of people.

Lanpher’s life seemed accomplished, but average—born in 1875- schooled at Lowville Academy, Union College, and Cornell- a year working as a government surveyor on the Panama Canal- working as an engineer for the Atlantic City water bureau- and a twenty-six-year career in the engineering department caring for Pittsburgh’s water system.

The Lanpher family was remarkable in at least one sense: Erwin’s great-great-grandfather moved from Rhode Island to Lowville in 1801, so they were among the earliest settlers of the region. Otherwise, Erwin appeared to have led the life of an average man who excelled at his job. In fact, Lanpher was revered in Pittsburgh for his long-term dedication to developing the city’s water system. In performing at such a high level, he affected the lives of thousands in a very positive way.

But Erwin Lanpher’s reach went far beyond developing an adequate system of delivering water to a city of over a half million people. Evidence reveals that the tremendous effect of his work is undeniable, yet incalculable. After all, who can measure the changes in the world from saving one life, let alone hundreds, or even thousands?

Lanpher was a stickler for quality. Besides designing an efficient system of distributing water to thousands of homes and businesses, he developed revolutionary methods of purification that drastically improved the process. The results were indisputable.

In 1904, at the age of 29, he began working on Pittsburgh’s water system. One of the main issues affecting water quality was the frequent turbidity of the Allegheny River, causing tons of mud to enter the city’s water system on a regular basis. Disease was a major consideration, and typhoid was a prime enemy, spread by ingesting contaminated water.

Erwin Lanpher attacked the problem, and in retrospect, his incredible value to society can be summed up in three simple lines. The third line reveals statistics from Lanpher’s tenure.
1873: Pittsburgh population—133,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 191 (143.6 per 100,000).
1907: Pittsburgh population—535,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 648 (125.2 per 100,000).
1927: Pittsburgh population—665,000. Deaths from typhoid fever, 12 (1.8 per 100,000).

Another important set of statistics addresses the overall illness rate. In 1907, the Pittsburgh area had 5,652 cases of typhoid fever- in 1927, the population had risen by 130,000, but the total cases of typhoid fever had declined to 78 due to Lanpher’s work. Many cities sought his guidance to duplicate the results and dramatically enhance the quality of life.

The numbers are astonishing. Imagine the huge negatives that were avoided—the physical pain, the financial cost to patients, the pressure on the health care system, and the grieving for the deceased—all of it diminished as a result of Lanpher’s efforts. A decline in deaths from 648 to 12 during a 20-year period, with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives saved along the way. Amazing—and that’s just in one city.

Erwin died in 1930 at the age of 55. Seven months later, the city of Pittsburgh recognized and honored his legacy, unveiling a stone marker at one of the reservoirs he built and re-christening it the Lanpher Reservoir. Eighty years later, it still bears the same name.

Pittsburgh’s mayor and all the top city officials joined the Lanpher Memorial Committee for the ceremony, noting that, “&#8230- the city has published an official memorial book containing Mr. Lanpher’s speeches and public record. Mr. Lanpher was nationally known as a water works engineer and was consulted frequently by directors of water systems from all over the country.”

Now there’s a man who made a difference.

Photo Top: Erwin Eugene Lanpher.

Photo Bottom: Location of the Lanpher Reservoir in Pittsburgh.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Washington Irving Film Screening, Benefit

washington irvingKaren Kelleher, a writer and filmmaker currently finishing a documentary about Washington Irving’s literary journey is holding a screening and seeking your support at the Warner Library, in Tarrytown, Thursday November 10th. Kelleher discovered that no film on Washington Irving (1783-1859) existed, the man widely hailed by some as the founding visionary of authorship in the United States. She was inspired by this omission to direct her documentary on Irving and believes that her film will change the impression of Irving as both an author of not just “Sleepy Hollow” but also all of his works especially those works produced in Spain “The Life of Christopher Columbus,” “The Civil Wars of Granada,” and “Tales of the Alhambra.”

The Dutch legacy is one that includes diverse cultures and Irving did not miss the opportunity to explore foreign lands. Irving is the first American writer who authored so many popular storybooks, biographies and historical volumes that bookshops, printers and publishers could establish profitable businesses in New York City and Westchester and thus the industry was partly founded on Irving’s personal genius and creative contributions.

Washington Irving also operated with incredible personal integrity and his long friendship with John Jacob Aster is explored in specific consideration of Irving’s unique appointment as a trustee of Astor’s last will. The current version of the film meets many of the objectives projected thus far. The additional funds are hoped to enable one more shoot date with two authors who agree to read a story from “Tales of the Alhambra” and discuss how this story impacts America’s literary tradition and why it is important include “Tales of the Alhambra” in courses and school programs on Washington Irving. Washington Irving produced more works while living in Spain that any other nation.

Interviews Kelleher has completed so far include Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Curator at Sunnyside and author of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside and Visions of Washington Irving: Selected Works from the Collection of Historic Hudson Valley; Washington “Rip” Irving III, poet and adjunct professor at Salve Regina University – as well as a descendant of the 19th century author Washington Irving; John ‘Jock’ Elliott, who has died aged 84 in 2005, was arguably one of the most significant advertising account managers of the 20th century and an expert on Washington Irving’s literary influence upon the modern Christmas holiday; Andrew Burstein, Charles Phelps Manship Professor, History Professor at Louisiana State University and author of The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving; Maria del Mar Villafranca, Director of the Patronato of the Alhambra. Karen Kelleher has developed and produced feature films and television programs for Paramount Pictures, Miramax Films, A&E Networks and PBS.

Photo: Daguerreotype of Washington Irving.

New Plaque Honors Edith Wharton

New York City’s Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center have commemorated the life and work of Edith Wharton, author of “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence” with a historic plaque. Born in 1862 at 14 West 23rd Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, Wharton was a chronicler of New York City’s Gilded Age and trendsetter for her generation.

The plaque is part of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center’s Cultural Medallion program. The Center, chaired by Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel (HDC’s 2011 Landmarks Lion), has installed almost 100 medallions around New York City to heighten public awareness of New York’s cultural and social history.

Distinguished Edith Wharton scholars, including Susan Whissler, executive director of The Mount, participated in the plaque unveiling.

Photo: Photograph taken in Newport, Rhode Island, of author Edith Wharton, wearing hat with a feather, coat with fur trim, and a fur muff. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Olana Presenting The Life of Emily Dickinson

The Olana Partnership will present “To See a Summer Sky,” a one-woman theatrical performance based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Excerpted from William Luce’s play “The Belle of Amherst,” on Saturday, July 2 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. The performance will take place at Cosy Cottage, the first home of Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church located in the historic farm complex at Olana State Historic Site.

The production, performed by Triple Shadow actress Mari Andrejco as Emily Dickinson, and directed by Beth Skinner, focuses on Dickinson’s quiet life of transcendent reflection. Dickinson’s poems were inspired by a circumscribed world of home, garden, and village of Amherst. Andrejco says the play is “created for family audiences and allows them to learn about Emily Dickinson as if they were living at that time period (1830-1886).”

Triple Shadow creates visual theater challenging artistic boundaries, revealing the interconnectedness between human cultures and nature. The collaborative process is intercultural and interdisciplinary, affecting audiences in sensory and subconscious ways creating new perceptions of time and memory.

Mari Andrejco trained with Sanford Meiser at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. She has performed in Europe, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. Andrejco has done stage acting, television, and video including appearing as Queen Elizabeth I and Susan B. Anthony for PBS. She has worked with Shakespeare and Company, Triple Shadow, and the Pleiades Company and has taught at the Institute for Arts in Education in the Albany schools.

Beth Skinner has premiered ten productions at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City with support from the theater programs of National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as grants from NEA Opera and NEA Presenting Program. The company has toured in Egypt, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Canada, and Indonesia and collaborated with artists from Japan, China, Korea, Hungary, Romania, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia.

The performance will take place at Olana State Historic Site 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY.

Cost of the play is $5.00 per person for non-members and free for members of The Olana Partnership. A $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (fee is waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as house tour tickets are available. Please bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating. For more information contact Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

This program is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency- the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation- the Educational Foundation of America- the John Wilmerding Educational Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

National Sporting Library and Museum Grants

The National Sporting Library & Museum (NSL&M) offers the John H. Daniels Fellowship to support researchers at the Middleburg, Virginia research center for horse and field sports, for periods of up to one year. Disciplines include history, literature, journalism, art history, anthropology, area studies, and history of sport.

Applications are due February 1, 2011 for the 2011-2012 fellowship year. Application criteria and instructions are included in the 2011-2012 fellowship brochure. Contact Elizabeth Tobey, Director of Research & Publications at fellowship@nsl.org or 540-687-6542 x 11 if you have further questions.

Located in western Loudoun County just 42 miles from Washington, D.C., Middleburg, Virginia is located in the heart of horse country and is a destination for shopping, dining, and equestrian events.

The program began in 2007 in honor of sportsman and book collector, John H. Daniels (1921-2006), a longtime supporter of the Library. Since 2007, the fellowship has supported fifteen researchers-in-residence at the NSL&M from all regions of the United States and four foreign countries.

APPLICATION GUIDELINES for 2011-2012

Who is eligible

University faculty (both current faculty [tenure-track, tenured, as well as adjunct] and retired/emeritus) and graduate students- museum curators and librarians- and writers and journalists are encouraged to apply. U.S. citizens and legal residents may apply for fellowships for periods of 12 months or less. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda may visit for 180 days or less without a Visa. Citizens of countries that participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Waiver Program may apply for periods of 90 days or less (see website for list of countries).

Fellowship on Field Sports and Conservation

The National Sporting Library & Museum is committed to supporting scholarship and research in the subject area of traditional field sports as well as the connection between field sports and conservation, and invites applications from both academic and independent researchers.

At least one fellowship award each year will be reserved for a topic exploring the intersection of field sports with the evolution of conservation thought, such as methods of game keeping, the role of the naturalist from the sixteenth century forward, or the origins of the modern principles of conservation prior to the mid-twentieth century. Recent scholarship in environmental history has demonstrated that historically, hunters and anglers were often at the forefront of efforts to preserve wildlife and the natural environment.

The procedures for applying are the same as for a regular Daniels Fellowship, although applicants should specify in their cover letter interest in the conservation fellowship.

Fellows will receive

• Monthly stipend (max. $2,000/month) and complimentary housing near the Library.

• Workspace and access to computer and photocopier..

To Apply

Applications must be postmarked by February 1, 2011. Applicants will be notified of a decision by late March 2011. Detailed descriptions of the book collections, including a full list of archives and manuscript collections (with box descriptions) and a partial list of current and historical periodicals and with instructions for searching and a link to the card catalog, can be found online. The website also contains a page with links to articles about highlights of the collections.

Two useful booklets, Treasures of the National Sporting Library and This is the National Sporting Library contain descriptions and essays about some of the most important individual works and collections, and free copies of the latter publication may be obtained by contacting Lisa Campbell, Librarian, at lcampbell@nsl.org or 540-687-6542 x 13 or the fellowship coordinator at fellowship@nsl.org or 540-687-6542 x11.

Exhibit: African American Womens Literary Societies

&#8220They Kept Their Word: African American Women’s Literary Societies and Their Legacy&#8221 is a fascinating new exhibit that has opened at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. The exhibit traces the development and influence of African Americans in Buffalo, particularly with regard to women’s efforts to improve their economic and intellectual conditions.

The remarkable growth and accomplishments that took place in the Buffalo area during the 1830s and 1840s were due to many factors, including expansion of communication through transportation, newspapers, pamphlets, study groups, and lecture series.


Photo: Mary Church Terrell was an influential African American woman in Buffalo in the 1900s. Photo provided.

Communipaw Story Marathon in Jersey City

A Communipaw Story Marathon will be presented tomorrow, Friday, June 4, as part of Jersey City’s quarterly arts and culture festival, JC Fridays. There will be dramatic readings by professional actors of several short stories by Washington Irving, including three set in Communipaw, from his 1855 collection, Wolfert’s Roost And Miscellanies.

Also included will be an excerpt from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Trish Szmanski will be reading A Tale of Communipaw / Guests from Gibbet Island, the story on which she is adapting a script for theater. According to Trish &#8220The play is coming along well, not done, but close to final in form. Lots of new characters, dialogue, drama, four acts &#8211 exciting!&#8221

Communipaw is the historic European place of origin for Jersey City begun in 1634 when one of the first &#8220bouweries&#8221, or farnmsteads, in New Netherland was built there. The homestead was part of Pavonia, a patroonship of Amsterdam businessman Micheal Pauw. Plantations, worked by enslaved Africans, were located there. The Tappan and Wecquaesgeek took refuge there in 1643 before being attacked by the Dutch in the Pavonia Massacre, which led in part to Kieft’s War.

The village of Communipaw was originally part of the Dutch West India Company holdings. After the British takeover it became part of the Province of New Jersey although it retained its Dutch character for hundreds of years. Washington Irving visited the area often and referred to Communipaw as the stronghold of traditional Dutch culture.

Illustration: Joan Vinckeboons (Johannes Vingboon), &#8220Manatvs gelegen op de Noot [sic] Riuier&#8221, 1639. &#8220Manhattan situated on the North Rivier&#8221 with numbered key showing settlements at Communipaw.

Chemung County Celebrates Mark Twain in 2010

The year 2010 will mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), the Centennial of his death, and the 125th anniversary of the release of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Elmira, New York, also known as Mark Twain Country, will be celebrating his life with a year of Twain themed events and special promotions. During this celebration year of Twain, one thousand copies of Twain’s iconic American novel will be distributed, courtesy of the Community Foundation.

The following events will take place from April 21, the death date, through April 24, the day he was laid to rest at Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery:

* Wednesday, April 21, (Death Centennial) Hal Holbrook to perform his Emmy & Tony award-winning performance of Mark Twain Tonight at Clemens Center for the Performing Arts.

* Saturday, April 24, Re-enactment of Twain’s gravesite service and burial at Woodlawn Cemetery. The event will use details provided by articles from the New York Post and New York Times along with other historical sources, and will include a horse drawn carriage transporting the casket.

* Wednesday, April 21 – Saturday, April 24, Trolley into Twain Country Tours Centennial Excursions, One hour guided tours that will include a stop to go inside the Mark Twain Study (where Twain penned such classics as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn while summering in Elmira with his in-laws for 22 years) and the Clemens family burial site at Woodlawn Cemetery.

* Wednesday, April 21 – Friday, April 23, Dine like Twain dinners to be offered at Hill Top Restaurant. Feast on Twain’s favorite foods while overlooking the exact same view of the Chemung River Valley that inspired him while writing his classics.

* April 22 & 24, Twain Notes, A theatrical reading of the personal correspondence of Samuel Clemens and those closest to him. Held at The Park Church, of which Twain was a member.

* Saturday April 24, Tom Sawyer & Becky Thatcher Day at Harris Hill, Harris Hill, the Soaring Capital of America, welcomes Twain enthusiasts to take a glider ride over Mark Twain Country and view the Twain Exhibit at the National Soaring Museum, or join in a Tom Sawyer & Becky Thatcher in a game of putt-putt at Harris Hill Amusement Park.

Other events during in Mark Twain Country during 2010 include scenic glider, vintage plane and helicopter rides over the spectacular views that inspired the author- the dedication of a Twain hiking trail overlooking the Chemung River and complete with Twain quotes- Trolley into Twain Country Tours throughout July and August, the release of a commemorative Twain-labeled Riesling from award-winning Glenora Wine Cellars, and more. Visitors are also encouraged to pay their respects to this American Classic at Woodlawn Cemetery, enjoy a tour of the Mark Twain Study, or visit the permanent display a the Chemung Valley History Museum. A complete calendar of events can be found at www.MarkTwainCountry.com//Twain2010.asp.

For more details on this event or Twain-themed events throughout the year, visit www.MarkTwainCountry.com or contact Cynthia Raj at the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce at cynthia@chemungchamber.org or 800.627.5892.

Illustration: Commemorative Mark Twain poster designed by Finger Lakes artist Brandi Smith.

Exhibition Celebrates Important Literary Couple

A new exhibit which will run for the next year at the The New York Society Library. &#8220Literary Lives: The World of Shirley Hazzard and Francis Steegmuller&#8221 will feature Shirley Hazzard, award-winning author, and Francis Steegmuller, award-winning author, Flaubert expert and translator along with unique images from Hazzard’s private collection.

Shirley Hazzard, author of The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire, unlocks her private collection of personal photographs and books that gives a first-ever look at the life she shared with her husband, Francis Steegmuller, whose pioneering work on Flaubert, Cocteau, and de Maupassant brought him worldwide acclaim.

On view at The New York Society Library, this FREE exhibition will also display photographs of European landmarks taken by Steegmuller, a gifted photographer whose work behind the lens has not been seen before. A 44-page catalogue accompanies the exhibit which will run from March 24, 2010 to January 31, 2011 at the New York Society Library’s, Peluso Family Exhibition Gallery, 53 East 79th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues, New York, NY. Admission is free.

US Cultural History Fellowships Announced

The Library Company of Philadelphia and Historical Society of Pennsylvania have announced research fellowships in Colonial and U.S. History and Culture for 2010-2011. The fellowships, outlined below, include generally orientated one-month visiting fellowships, and long term dissertation fellowships, and a dissertation fellowship for the study of Early American Literature and Material Texts.

One-Month Visiting Research Fellowships

These two independent research libraries will jointly award approximately thirty one-month fellowships for research in residence in either or both collections during 2010-2011. The two institutions, adjacent to each other in Center City Philadelphia, have complementary collections capable of supporting research in a variety of fields and disciplines relating to the history of America and the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 19th centuries, as well as Mid-Atlantic regional history to the present. For information on the collections, visit www.hsp.org and www.librarycompany.org.

One-month fellowships carry a stipend of $2,000 and are tenable for any one-month period between June 2010-May 2011. Two Barra Foundation International Fellowships, each for $2,500 plus a travel allowance, are reserved for foreign national scholars resident outside the U. S. Some of the short-term fellowships provide for study in specific fields, such as ethnic and immigrant history- history of the book- African American History- visual culture- and economic history (through the Library Company’s Program in Early American Economy and Society). For more detailed information about all of these fellowships, go to www.librarycompany.org/fellowships. We invite inquiries about the appropriateness of proposed topics to jgreen@librarycompany.org. The Library Company’s Cassatt House fellows’ residence offers rooms at reasonable rates.

The deadline for receipt of one-month fellowship applications is March 1, 2010, with a decision to be made by April 15. To apply, visit www.librarycompany.org/fellowships, fill out an electronic cover sheet, and submit one portable document format (PDF) containing a resume and a 2-4 page description of the proposed research. One letter of recommendation should arrive under separate cover in PDF format as well. Please email materials to fellowships@librarycompany.org. If you wish you apply for more than one fellowship, simply check more than one box on your electronic cover sheet.

Library Company Long-term Dissertation Fellowships

The Library Company also supports dissertation research in residence through the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Fellowship (on any subject relevant to its collections) and the Program in Early American Economy and Society Fellowship (for research in economic history). The term of these fellowships is from September 2010 to May 2011, with a stipend of $20,000. The awards may be divided between two applicants, each of whom would spend a semester in residence. The application deadline and procedures are the same as for the one-month fellowships as described above, with the addition of a second letter of reference and a writing sample of about 25 pages.

Dissertation Fellowships in Early American Literature and Material Texts

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, in collaboration with the Library Company, offers two dissertation fellowships in early American literature and material texts, supported by a new grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Fellows will be in residence from July 2010 through July 2011. The stipend for a 13-month term will be at least $28,000. To apply go to www.mceas.org. Deadline, March 1, 2010.