Free library displays local folk art

    The Free Library in Philadelphia has been busy making digital scans of their collection of fraktur, a unique Pennsylvania-Dutch form of folk art.

    The Free Library in Philadelphia has been busy making digital scans of their collection of fraktur, a unique Pennsylvania-Dutch form of folk art. The Library has about 13 hundred of these paper documents covered in intricate calligraphy and watercolors of flowers and birds.

    The fraktur on display in the Free Library’s Rare Book Room are extremely fragile, made out of paper and some over 2 centuries old. They are kept behind a security door.

    They were made mostly by schoolteachers hired to draw stylized certificates for birth, baptism, and prayers.

    Retired University of Pennsylvania history professor Don Yoder says they came out of an old European culture where school was part of a religious upbringing.

    In 1834 the state passed the law that every district should have public schools, and not religious school. There was a long time when Pennsylvania-Dutch wanted to keep their schools, but they eventually accepted a public school system. And that killed fraktur.

    The Free Library has posted the database of images online for both aesthetic and geneological study.

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