University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Collins and Autenrieth
Architectural Works

1852 -1904

Manuscript Collection Number: 359
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman family, 1972.
Extent: 422 items.
Content: Drawings and sketches, floor plans, elevations, sections, details, perspectives, renderings, blueprints,
notebooks, and an indenture.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: March 1998 by Arthur Siegel.

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Table of Contents

Contents List

+ Series I.: Competitions & Exhibitions

+ Series II.: Public Structures

+ Series III: Private Structures

+ Series IV: Project Journals

Biographical Note

Despite the prominence of the nineteenth-century Philadelphia architectural firm of Collins & Autenrieth, not much is known about the background of its two founding members. Edward Collins (1821-1902) was born in Köningsberg, Prussia, and studied at universities in Karlsruhe and Berlin, two important architectural centers in Germany. While there, he became friends with Charles M. Autenrieth (1828-1906), who was born in Wurtenburg, and who was also a student of architecture. According to the records of his family, Collins came to Philadelphia in 1849, and it is likely that he persuaded Autenrieth to come with him. This emigration may have been the result of the Revolution of 1848 which swept across Germany, France, and other European nations, and which resulted in the flight of many German engineers and architects to the United States in the years immediately following.

Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Autenrieth found a job in the architectural firm of Samuel Sloan. Collins, too, may have been in Sloan's employ, perhaps as an illustrator, since his signature is on several works that are thought to have come from Sloan's firm, such as the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia. Collins' first recorded job, however, was with the firm of John McArthur Jr., and the first mention of his work came during his collaboration with McArthur on designs for the Grand House Hotel and the House of Refuge. In 1852 Collins left the firm to establish his own practice which was located at 92 Walnut Street. Two years later Autenrieth left Samuel Sloan to join Collins in a partnership, and their first collaborative effort was in an 1854 competition for the design of an opera house in Philadelphia, sponsored by the American Academy of Music. According to an announcement in Cummings' Evening Bulletin, "A Premium of $400 will be awarded for such Design as may be adopted, and $200 for the next best, for an Opera House, to be erected at the southwest corner of Broad and Locust streets in the City of Philadelphia." Though they lost this competition to the partnership of Napoleon Le Brun and Gustave Runge, over the course of the next fifty years Collins and Autenreith would be considered one of the top firms in Philadelphia, and would be asked to compete in numerous other competitions. Indeed, in 1873 they were one of the few American architects to submit their work for display at the Vienna Universal Exhibition. The two men continued to work together until Collins' death in 1902. Afterwards, Autenrieth continued the practice with his son, Charles M. Autenrieth Jr., until his own death in 1906.

The work of Collins and Autenrieth was quite varied, designing buildings for both private individuals and civic institutions, and much of their work centered on the German immigrant community of Philadelphia. One of the most important and fruitful connections they made was with the Lea family. Matthew Carey Lea (1823-1897) and Henry C. Lea (1825-1909) were the sons of Isaac and Frances (Carey) Lea, and were members of a family whose ancestors arrived in the colonies with William Penn. Matthew undertook a career in law, but abandoned it after several years to pursue a second career in chemistry. His particular interest was in photographic chemistry, and he was influencial in laying the foundations for the science of photography. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Boston, as well as other prestigious academic societies.

His brother Henry Lea also had an interest in the sciences, and published numerous articles on various scientific matters from medicine to marine biology. However, his education was extremely broad, and he was considered one of the leading medieval historians of the late nineteenth century. Aside from being a scholar, Henry was a distinguished businessman as well as the owner of a publishing house. In 1880 his son Charles M. became a partner in the business, and the name was changed to Henry C. Lea's Son & Co. In 1885 Henry retired, and the name of the business was again changed to Lea Brothers & Co. as his other son, Arthur H., became a partner. It was through this enterprise, as well as by virtue of his personal contacts, that Henry Lea became involved in both local and national politics, undertaking a decades-long war against corruption in government through the media of pamphlets and articles.

It is clear from the collection that the Lea family was a major client of Collins & Autenrieth, as there are over half a dozen major projects for Lea family properties, or buildings with which they were associated -- such as the Penn Mutual life Insurance Co. Building and the Library Company of Philadelphia, which was established by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Indeed, Henry C. Lea was director of the Library Company of Philadelphia from 1870-79, and again from 1887-1902, and it was during this latter period that Collins & Autenrieth worked on designs for the institution.


Abbot, George Maurice. A Short History of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: The Library Company Board of Directors, 1913.

Findling, John E., ed. Historic Dictionary of World's Fairs & Expositions 1851-1988. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory. Philadelphia: James Gopsill, 1870, 1873, 1904.

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. 63 vol. New York: James T. White & Co., 1892-1984.

O'Gorman, James F., Jeffrey A. Cohen, George E. Thomas, and G. Holmes Perkins. Drawing Toward Building: Philadelphia Architectural Graphics 1732-1986. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.

Tatman, Sandra L. and Roger W. Moss, eds. Biographical Dictionary of Philadelphia Architects: 1700-1930. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1985.

Wolf, Edwin 2nd. At the Insistence of Ben Franklin: A Brief History of the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1731-1976. Philadelphia: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1976.

note: additional biographical material found in the collection folder

Scope and Contents Note

The Collins & Autenrieth Architectural Works collection comprises material from the prominent Philadelphia firm of Collins & Autenrieth, and covers the entire span of their partnership from 1854-1902. The collection contains 422 items, and includes elevations, floorplans, perspectives, renderings, sections, details, blueprints, and several notebooks. The collection itself is divided into four series: I. Competitions and exhibitions, II. Public structures, III. Private structures, IV. Journals and an indenture. With the exception of several pages of notes, the first three series are exclusively architectural drawings. In addition, the first three series are stored in oversize map drawers, while the fourth series is housed in a regular manuscript box in the manuscripts stacks.

The first series contains watercolor elevations, floorplans, and sections from the competition sponsored by the Academy of Music in 1855, as well as copies of sections and floor plans submitted to the Vienna Universal Exposition of 1873.

The second series spans the period 1852-1898 and contains elevations, floorplans, sections, and details in watercolor and ink of various public buildings in Philadelphia. These include the Central Presbyterian Church, the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. Building, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Masonic Hall.

The third series spans the period 1863-1904, with a concentration of works in the 1880s and 90s. This series includes a wide variety of drawings: not merely elevations, sections, and floorplans, but also full renderings and perspectives of several buildings, including an Italianate villa and an unknown shop. There are also several drawings from projects and firms which have not been identified.

The fourth series spans the period 1857-1900 and includes an architectural sketchbook, a journal, and an indenture between Collins & Autenrieth and Matthew Carey Lea.

The collection at the University of Delaware contains only a portion of the extant works from the firm of Collins & Autenrieth; additional papers are located at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the INA Corporate Archives in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, the collection provides a good indication of the scope and quality of their work. In addition, many of the buildings which Collins & Autenrieth designed have either been dramatically modified or no longer exist, so these drawings are a good source of information on the architectural history of the city of Philadelphia.

Interestingly, it is also possible to trace the development of various projects -- who was involved, what features were treated first, what changes were made. Many of the drawings in the third series are numbered, though it is uncertain whether this represents the order in which they were drawn, or perhaps represents an order for presentation to clients. Most of the drawings are inscribed "Collins and Autenrieth," providing a date and address, and some are signed by clients and contractors, perhaps indicating their approval or receipt of the design. Many of the drawings are also inscribed with dates on which copies of the design were mailed, again indicating an interaction with clients.

The condition of the items in the collection varies from good to fragile. Collins & Autenrieth used a number of different media for their work, including pencil, ink, watercolor, and opaque tempera. Often, watercolor was used sparingly, perhaps to highlight distinctive features or details, but the drawings for the Academy of Music competition as well as renderings such as the Italianate villa display a full use of the medium. In addition, the paper used is quite varied in type, including waxed, tracing, and linen paper. It is this last type that is the most fragile, as several pieces (particularly in the designs for H.M. Daly) have deteriorated to such a point as to reveal the underlying weave. The rendering of the Italianate villa has lost a fraction of its original dimensions due to flaking around the edges, and some of these "lost" pieces have been retained in a separate envelope. Other drawings have lost important information, such as names or dates, due to this very same effect.

There are several works in the collection that were not produced by the firm of Collins & Autenrieth, but which may represent some of the work with which Collins was involved through his associations with John McArthur Jr. and Samuel Sloan. These include, most notably, a design for the New Masonic Hall, and a matted storefront elevation for James E. Caldwell Jewelers. The latter was signed by McArthur, who was the architect, and its presence in this collection can perhaps be explained only by virtue of his earlier partnership with Collins.

Series Outline

I.    Competitions & Exhibitions  
         Academy of Music Competition, 1855                     
         Vienna Universal Exhibition, 1873                       

II.    Public Structures 
         Central Presbyterian Church, 1876-1878                  
         Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. Building, 1865-1866      
         Library Company of Philadelphia, 1898                   
         New Masonic Hall, 1852                                  

III.   Private Structures  
         H.M. Daly, Esq., 1868                                   
         Henry C. Lea
              822 Chestnut St., 1893-1894                       
              911-15 Market St., 1899                            
              1020-24 Market St., 1883                           
              1219-21 Market St., 1887-1901                      
              1319 Market St., 1893, 1897, 1899                  
         Charles & Arthur Lea, 1886                              
         Charles Lentz, 1886                                     
         R.T. Lowndes, 1902                                      
         Jacob Steinmetz Thorn
              Callowhill St. (general), 1891                     
              1223 Callowhill St., 1891                          
              1225-29 Callowhill St., 1889                       
              1233 Callowhill St., 1891                          
              Callowhill above 12th St., 1889, 1891              
              Misc. Callowhill projects, 1891                    
         Johnes Abbot & Co., 1859                                
         Mrs. Drexel, 1863                                       
         John Campbell Harris, n.d.                              
         Thomas G. Harrison, 1890                                
         Hernig's Dairy, 1898                                    
         Joshua Lippincott, Esq., 1869                           
         Thomas Martindale, 1904                                 
         John Rice, Esq., 1858, 1893                             
         L. & S. Sternberger, n.d.                               
         Unidentified clients                                    

IV.   Project Journals  
         Architects Plan Book, 1877-1879                         
         Indenture, 1857                                         
         Journal, 1866-1900                                      

Contents List

+ Series I.: Competitions & Exhibitions

+ Series II.: Public Structures

+ Series III: Private Structures

+ Series IV: Project Journals


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