Pair of Ambrotypes of Mary and Moses Penrock, Members of the Kennett Square Underground Railroad Network, by Isaac Rehn, c. 1854.
Philadelphia: 1854. Ninth plate ambrotypes in a union case, measuring 2 ½ x 2 ⅛ inches (visible) in larger case. With the identification of (Isaac) Rehn, with his imprint and “Patented July 4 & 11, 1854” imprinted on the case. A fine pair. Item #List1708
A striking pair of ambrotypes of Mary and Moses Pennock, who were members of the Kennett Square Underground Railroad network as well as active members of the Kennett Square abolitionist and Quaker community. Moses was one of the founders of the Longwood Progressive Meeting. In R.C. Smedley’s History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, (Lancaster, Office of the Journal, 1883), the Pennocks are mentioned on p. 301 as working as part of the network surrounding Isaac and Thamazine Meredity. Their son Samuel, who would go on to secure important agricultural patents, is also mentioned twice.
The images are notable from a photographic history perspective as well, as being early examples of the ambrotype process that had been patented in part by fellow Quaker and spiritualist Isaac Rehn. Rehn held a partial patent on ambrotypes, along with James Ambrose Cutting of Boston, and became unpopular among other photographers for his efforts to extend his patent. He later practiced spiritual photography and was a Professor Chemistry at Pennsylvania Medical University in Philadelphia. Rehn was also involved in radical politics as a founder and leader of the Philadelphia section of the International Workingmen’s Association, which was later disenfranchised by Karl Marx, along with several other American sections. Examples of Rehn’s work are held at the National Gallery of Art, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library.
Overall a very fine and significant pair of images.