The artist of the watercolor painting in the Marx Room is still unknown. It is a view of Easton and the covered bridge over the Delaware River, looking from the New Jersey side of the Delaware. For years it was thought to be the work of Mary E. Maxwell McCartney titled FORKS OF THE DELAWARE ca. 1834-1839. After being sent out for restoration in 2011, it was decided it was not a McCartney painting mainly because of the signature now being exposed.
In August of 2012, art historian/appraiser, Frederick C.Bond III happened to be in the Marx Local History Room and noticed the painting. When mentioned that the artist was unknown, he took to task to try to decipher the signature. What unfolded was the possible story behind the painting itself.
1. It is thought that this painting may have been commissioned by Samuel Sitgreaves (1764-1827). Sitgreaves was an Easton lawyer and former U.S. Congressman. He was the moving force behind many of the developments and improvements that were being made in Easton. Among his many involvements, he was a stockholder in the corporation of the Delaware Bridge Company and served as secretary and treasurer for them. In 1803 he made personal loans to the Company so that the bridge could be finished. The bridge was finished and opened on October 14, 1806.
2. There are three people standing on the New Jersey shore, the man pointing to the either the bridge or possibly a large white building that was built on a knoll. Bond surmised the man may be Samuel Sitgreaves. He is holding the hand of a woman that may be his second wife Mary Kemper. Standing next to her is a young woman, possibly his first daughter Francis Harriet born September 9, 1786. Frances’s mother was Francenia Allibone. She married William Mcall on April 18, 1807 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Easton. The period of the clothes suggest 1806-1810.
3. The large white building on the hill, is the Union Academy. A school that Sitgreaves was instrumental in starting. ( c. 1795)
4. The painting is of the covered bridge spanning the Delaware River from Easton PA to Phillipsburg NJ. The bridge was built by Cyrus “Timothy” Palmer (1751-1823). In 1805 Palmer built the first covered bridge in our country. This was located in Philadelphia and spanned the Schuylkill River. At about the same time Palmer was hired to build the Easton Bridge. It was suggested that both be covered to protect the investment of the stockholders and indeed, the Easton Bridge lasted until 1895 when it was decided it could no longer handle the demands of traffic and was torn down. www.ce.memphis.edu/3121/stuff/general/timothy_palmer.html
5. Also in the painting are three men in a boat. This may signify a ferry boat owned by Thomas Bullman, a service that was no longer needed as the bridge was now erected. Hence showing the “old” and the “new” way to cross the Delaware River. On Delaware River Ferries 2002 Frank T. Dale
6. The Northampton County Courthouse (1763-66)
As of this writing, this painting appears to be the oldest image of the Easton Delaware River Bridge that is known. June 2021