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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 June, 2000
Directors and Officers: Theresa D.Cederholm    Judith G. Edington    Jonathan L.Fairbanks    Elizabeth B. Johnson    Robert G.Windsor    Marilyn B. Justice, President

Connick's Pittsburgh Years: Life before Boston

This is the second of a two-part article written by Joan Gaul.  The first part appeared in the February, 2000 Newsletter.
The years between 1875, Charles Connick's birth, and 1894, when his apprenticeship with Horace Rudy began, were mixed.  Connick's family was strong and loving, but they were poor.  His father was often sick and under- or un- employed.  When Charles was eight, his father's new job took the family from their small northwestern Pennsylvania town to the booming city of Pittsburgh.  There, in grade school, Connick was an unsophisticated, undersized child, but talent and determination served him well.  Connick attended school and worked at various jobs until his father lost his business in 1893.  By 1894, Mother Connick was writing advertising verse, sister Grace was a stenographer, and Charles's credentials included cartoonist, errand boy, office boy, general helper, cub chalk plate engraver, and newspaper illustrator.  The last role brought him to Horace Rudy's attention.

Connick as a child and young man attracted friendship.  He wrote of the kind neighbors in Springboro; the Powell family of Shadeland who cared about the little boy and invited him to stay when he visited from Pittsburgh; the teachers at Liberty School who let his drawing give him status; Professor Gage who opened the world of the arts, and who, with another Sunday school teacher, encouraged him to seek work as a newspaper artist during the financially disastrous times; and Horace Rudy, who brought his world of Philadelphia artists and arts to what was then a grim western outpost.

Drawing by
Charles J. Connick  for a
Conroy, Prugh & Co. 

Connick wrote frequently of the strong relationship with Horace Rudy that grew in their three years together at Rudy Brothers, and he extolled the excellence of Rudy's teaching, the sharing of what he knew and loved in art and music and literature.  So, why did Charles Connick leave Rudy Brothers in 1897?  Connick writes simply of hard times coming to the glass shop.  There had been conflict and it is possible that the money men at Rudy's

gained the upper hand and forced him out.  Increased competition in Pittsburgh's stained glass market might have caused business to drop and Connick to be let go.  It's also possible that Connick could have chosen to work for some other firm.  Connick remains in the Pittsburgh directories after 1897, listed as an artist in 1898 and a designer in 1899.  Why or wherever he worked, it was downtown, and it wasn't a happy experience.  Connick describes his bosses as money grubbers and the air as filled with dirt, noise, and the roiling of the nearby mills.  Occasional meetings with Horace Rudy or Professor Gage were all that saved him from despair.

Fate and friends came to his rescue.  His family doctor, who, considering all that sickness and death, was probably a good friend, suggested he send sketches to his sister who lived in Boston.  Connick did and was offered a job at $25 a week.  Connick's joy at Boston and the lordly salary was short lived as he found pretty much the same artistic trends in Boston that he'd left in Pittsburgh.  But, Connick's early Boston sojourn is another story; he returned to Pittsburgh.  Considering the close family ties, George Connick's death on May 9, 1902 probably precipitated that action.

In 1903, Charles J. Connick's name was back in the Pittsburgh city directory as the manager of Conroy, Prugh & Company's showroom on Penn Avenue.  His work for them is listed and pictured in the Pittsburgh Architectural Club's 1903 exhibition catalog.  Connick's Pittsburgh track record and his fresh out-of-town credentials would have been welcomed by a firm such as Conroy, Prugh, specialists in silvering and beveling from 1886, but just entering the lucrative field of art and/or stained glass.  The following year Conroy, Prugh incorporated as Pittsburgh Stamed Glass Company.  Charles J. Connick is listed as "of Pittsburgh Stained Glass."

Connick wrote a lot about his childhood and his time in Pittsburgh before 1897, but very little about the five years he spent back in this city between his Boston days.  When Connick returned to Pittsburgh, Horace Rudy, who had married in 1900, was preparing to move part of the firm's operation to York, Pennsylvania.  Two talented artists, George Sotter and Lawrence Saint had worked with Rudy after Connick left in 1897 and were probably still there in 1903.  Under Horace Rudy's urging Sotter had spent a year at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Saint would spend three.  There is little question that the advanced ideas on stained transparent or thin opalescent glass that Connick wrote of finding on his return to Pittsburgh were due to developments at Rudy's with Sotter and Saint and to William Willet.  In 1898 Willet had come from Philadelphia to manage an existing art glass firm, which the following year became Willet Stained Glass.  The examples of Willet's work from that period are painterly but not unusual.  After a 1902 visit to Europe, Willet came back to Pittsburgh and created his seminal medallion window for First Presbyterian Church, and his chancel windows at Calvary Church for Ralph Adams Cram.  Pittsburgh's East End was too small a place for these artists not to have seen each other's work and exchanged ideas.

Connick left Pittsburgh Stained Glass Company to return to Rudy Brothers shortly after Horace's departure.  By the 1905 City Directory, Connick was no longer listed with Pittsburgh Stained Glass.  By 1907 his work as art director at Rudy Brothers was lauded in a publication of the Pittsburgh Board of Trade.  The article spoke of his staff and the three kinds of windows the company was producing.  Small windows at St. Mary's church were given as examples of a new kind of stained transparent glass. 

Continued on the OVERLEAF.
Even as that was published, the Rudy Brothers and Pittsburgh were about to lose Connick for good.  Back m Boston, E. 0. Swift, whom Connick had met while on Cape Cod with his mother after his father's death, was the executor of a will that called for a memorial window in a new church in Brookline.  Swift spent some years conducting a lobbying campaign for "his young friend, Connick, from Pittsburgh," and making the connections and contacts that would lead to Connick's meeting with Ralph Adams Cram.

By 1908 the necessary introduction had been made to Ralph Adams Cram, the sketches of four small windows from Bishop Whiteheads own Pittsburgh Church, St. Mary's, had been sent and appreciated and Cram had hired Connick to do the window at All Saints in Brookline.

Connick went back to Boston, off to Europe, and within a few years to the studio on Harcourt Street from which flowed windows, and with them fame, fortune, and an elegant life among artists, writers, and poets that was light years away from Springboro and Pittsburgh.

Castle Rock Foundation in Denver, Colorado has recently granted $17,475 to The Connick Foundation for the planning and design of our traveling exhibition.  The planning phase will begin in early September under the direction of Catherine Zusy, a free-lance exhibition and interpretation consultant.
The Sisters of Saint Anne, Cambridge gave The Connick Foundation five Connick stained glass panels from their Saint Joachum Chapel when their convent on Craigue Street closed this winter.
At the 15th amual Connick Foundation Board of Directors meeting, Judith G. Edington was welcomed as a new director.  Ms. Edington is a Boston attomey and has had a dedicated interest in Connick stained glass for many years.
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.
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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