Philomathesian Society Banner
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Decorative banner painted on silk for the Philomathesian Literary Society of Wake Forest College. The banner was named an Endangered Artifact for the State of North Carolina by the North Carolina Preservation Consortium. Created in 1857 and signed by African American artist, David Bustill Bowser (1820-1900). During the Civil War, Bowser also created banners for several regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. The Clio Society at the Oxford Female Seminary (a now-defunct sister institution to Wake Forest) purchased the banner for the Philomathesian Society. The banner was named an Endangered Artifact for the State of North Carolina by the North Carolina Preservation Consortium.
The Philomathesian Society was one of two literary groups that began at Wake Forest in 1835 (the Euzelians being the other). For much of the 1800s, these societies challenged young farmers and ministerial students to study and debate historical, political, and philosophical questions of the day. In addition to intellectual stimulation, the societies gave the members a sense of fellowship and belonging. With formal education at Wake Forest still in its infancy, the societies emerged to slake “a thirst for intellectualism unquenched in the classroom,” wrote Timothy Joseph Williams in his history honors thesis.1 For a century, the societies guided students’ intellectual, moral and social development, and heavily influenced campus life, from governing student behavior to selecting Commencement speakers. The societies met weekly in separate ornate halls decorated with expensive carpets and draperies and portraits of distinguished alumni members. Each society stocked its bookshelves with periodicals and history and reference books. The society libraries merged to form the College library in the 1880s.
Reviewed by textile conservator Claudia Walpole, the banner needs extensive conservation.
Stabilize trim and tassels, consolidate the paint layer, construct and rehouse materials in archival mount.
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