Pegasus Medallion Connick Windows
Thoughts, news and comments concerning the art and craft of Connick Stained glass, published periodically by...

The Charles J. Connick Stained Glass Foundation, Ltd., Orin E. Skinner, Founder February, 2000
Directors and Officers: Theresa D.Cederholm    Jonathan L.Fairbanks    Elizabeth B. Johnson    Robert G.Windsor    Marilyn B. Justice, President

Connick's Pittsburgh Years: Life before Boston

This is the first of a two-part article written by Joan Gaul.  The second part will appear in the June, 2000 Newsletter.

Charles J. Connick left sparkling windows all over the United States and tantalizing bits of himself in his writings.  In the papers he chose to leave, however, Connick, a rambling writer with broad interests and many friends, did not suffer from specificity.  This is a compressed effort to fill in some of the dates and spaces in the artist's first 35 years, not as an artistic critique but as an attempt to find out where the man came from, and who he was.

Charles J. Connick was born ninety miles north of Pittsburgh in Springboro, Pennsylvania.  Viewed in late 1999 Springboro was a quiet hamlet at a crossroads on Route 18, but in 1875, when Connick was born to George H. and Mina Marilla Trainer Connick, Springboro was a prosperous stock, dairy farming, and transportation center.  Until 1870 it had been a stop on the Erie-Pittsburgh Canal, and it continued as a stop on a major north-south rail route.  Tanning, blacksmithing, carriage and sleigh manufacturing, and cheese production thrived.  This prosperity seemed rarely to have hit George and Mina Connick's family.

Charles was the third of their six known children.  Grace was the oldest.  Clarence, a year older than Charles, died at 20 months.  Jessie and Bertha June, born in 1878 and 1880, died in their teens in Pittsburgh.  A baby brother born in Pittsburgh is mentioned in passing.  This depressing necrology could reflect either poor family health - Connick often refers to his "sick father" - or to the perilous times in which they lived.  Though born in the country, the children lived in an industrial area, played in the tannery creek, and seem to have been perpetually impoverished.  Their years in Pittsburgh, starting when Charlie was eight, were spent in noise, smoke, and the ever present possibility of disease.

Little concrete is known of Mina Connick except that Charles honored and protected her all her life.  He writes of her as loving, industrious, creative, and complete in her belief in her son.  In 1933, he installed a window in her honor in their Springboro church.

George Connick, on the other hand, leaves a trail of dates but a mysterious story.  Born in Rochester, New York in 185 1, he came to western Pennsylvania when his family settled near Springboro.  Charles's paternal grandfather was a respected blacksmith and, when he retired from that, a store keeper.  The 1870 census lists 19-year-old George as a telegraph operator, a good job for a bright young man.  By the 1880 census, George is married to Mina, has four living children, and lists no occupation.  Charles recalls their living in a series of small, rented houses.  He wrote that as a little boy the kindness of neighbors and relatives often fed them.

By the later 1880s George had connected with the Powell Brothers who owned Shadeland, an almost legendary stock farm, described in Springboro's Bicentennial history as the "grandest establishment for the breeding of livestock on the continent." George handled their advertising, and little Charles had a wonderful time, charming, as he often seemed to, all on hand.  Shadeland's glorious job opportunities were apparently part-time or short-term because in 1883 when George was offered full time work in Pittsburgh with the National Farmer and Stockman, he packed up the family and moved south.

George is listed in advertising or as a manager in Pittsburgh directories until 1888, at which point he had launched his own business, the Mercantile Protective Bureau.  He kept it for four or five years, and they seem to have been good years.  The Connicks moved to a small house in a nicer neighborhood.  The business does not seem to have been an advertising agency, and might well have been a brokerage or collection agency.  In any event, young Charles found himself taking a lot of time off from elementary school to run errands all over town for his father.

1892 was a bad year, sister Jessie died, possibly in one of Pittsburgh's typhoid epidemics; and 1893 was worse.  There was a major national Depression.  George's business failed completely.  Three months into high school, Charles had to quit to take a full time job.  After 1893, although George is listed on and off as a clerk, Charles, with the help of his mother - who wrote verse for his trolley car cards, and his sister Grace, a stenographer, seem to have been the main support of the family.

Charles was eight years old when the Connicks came to Pittsburgh.  He wrote vividly of his memories of the house on Broad Street, with its shabby bed-living room and the constant roar of escaping and burning gas from a nearby natural gas vent.  He also wrote of the constant kindness and care of the good hearted folks at Emory Methodist Church, who watched out for his physical well-being, and introduced a world of values, and language, and stories.  Where better to absorb early the images that were to appear later in church windows all across the United States?  Connick wrote particularly of a Sunday School teacher, Professor Frank Gage, a teacher of German at Shadyside Academy, who first introduced him to poetry and music.

Continued on the OVERLEAF.

Ward's Bread
This sketch by Charles Connick accompanied his mother's verse below.  Their collaborations, which helped support the family, were used as trolley car advertisements.

Oh dear, Oh dear what shall I do
I stopped too long to play
And now Wards Bread has all been sold
And this is Saturday.

They've lots of other kinds to sell.
But I daren't take one home
For Mother'l make me bring it back
As fast as I can come.

Throughout his father's checkered career in Pittsburgh, Charles had been doing part time work, for him and for others.  His life as the foil for bullies at Liberty School had ended when he became respected as the school's artist.  He sold cartoons to the Dispatch and the Post while in grade school, and, when he had to quit high school, he turned again to newspapers.  Before photography, newspaper illustration kept many American artists alive.  Charles became a chalk plate engraver at the Pittsburgh Press.  His illustrations of the time could be seen as predictive of his later use of leading in stained glass.

Less than a year after he started at the Press, when it looked as though his newspaper career was going nowhere, Connick was assigned to cover the July 28, 1894 athletic meet in Pittsburgh's East End.  The meet ran late that day, until 7 p.m. On his way home he met Horace Rudy.  So begins Adventures in Light and Color, and so began Charles Connick's adventures in stained glass.

Joan Gaul was introduced to Charles Connick's windows when she wrote the book Heinz Memorial Chapel for the University of Pittsburgh.  Her interest in American stained glass and its artists grew as she learned and wrote about Horace Rudy and the Rudy Brothers for Stained Glass magazine.  She further works with stained glass as a consultant and tour leader for Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.  Mrs. Gaul holds a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a master's from Duquesne University.

The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities has awarded The Connick Foundation $7,500 towards planning a major traveling exhibition of the Connick Studio's history and practice of stained glass.
Grateful thanks to James L. Yarnall who, in November 1999 at the Boston Public Library, presented the Orin E. Skinner Annual Lecture on John LaFarge's work as a stained glass artist.
Please address questions, comments and/or gifts to The Charles J. Connick Stained Glass Foundation, 37 Walden Street, Newtonville, MA 02460.  Telephone (617) 244-2659.
The directors of the Connick Foundation are pleased with the responses from so many friends to our annual appeal.
One definition of Window is "a means of obtaining information". Our newsletter will keep you informed of the Foundation's activities, the Connick
Collection in the Fine Arts Department of the Boston Public Library, and Connick news around the country.

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