S. Jones & J. L. Krimmel. “The Conflagration of the Masonic Hall Chestnut Street Philadelphia. Which Occurred on the Night of the 9th of March, 1819.”
[Philadelphia, 1819.] Later strike, Philadelphia: William Smith, 1862-91 (fourth state). 21 1/4 x 17. Aquatint by J. Hill. Deak: 309; Fowble 317; Naeve: 96c; Stauffer: 1345. Areas of in-painting in sky. Dry-mounted. As is.
The dramatic event depicted is the burning of the Masonic Hall, a gothic brick and marble structure designed by William Strickland and built to much acclaim in 1809-10. This striking edifice, located on Chestnut Street above Seventh, burned in spectacular fashion in 1819, watched by a large crowd of spectators. Originally issued just a few months after the conflagration, this rousing print well captures the drama of the scene. The print conveys the excitement of this Philadelphia disaster from over a century and a half ago, testifying to the ability of the artists and engraver.
The view was a collaboration of two artists, John L. Krimmel and Samuel Jones. Little information is available on the life and works of Jones. He seems to have been commissioned by the original publishers to paint the background for the scene. For the figures in the foreground, John L. Krimmel was hired. Krimmel was a native of Germany, who came to the United States in 1810, settling in Philadelphia, where he painted portraits, miniatures, and good-natured street scenes. Krimmel is particularly known for his delightful treatment of the latter, and this print is a fine example of his style. Krimmel was able to graphically capture the frenzy of activity at the scene, the details and furor of the fire illustrated with great intricacy and emotion. The print was aquatinted by John Hill, the most skilled etcher in the United States. Hill (1770-1850) was an Englishman who had just settled in Philadelphia, and he was soon to go on to other projects which would bring him great fame.