William Wagner, Lewis Miller made York, Pa. ‘one of the most highly depicted communities in the early nineteenth century United States’

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Noted York County, Pa., artist/engraver William Wagner’s drawings of York streetscapes and noteworthy buildings are available in this 1996 book, published by the York County Heritage Trust and still in print. Thirty-eight of Wagner’s colorful drawings (see example below) are available in this publication, available at the York County Heritage Trust bookstore. Wagner was the spotlight of a recent Heritage Trust event, “Treasures of the Trust.” Also of interest: Going to market a longtime York County pastime and Yo, Yoe never was Yohe and From squealing pigs to wireless, York, Pa., markethouses have changed.
William Wagner was an artist, engraver, banker, druggist, town office holder, postmaster and probably York’s first photographer, among many of vocations and avocations.
Yorkblogger and historian June Lloyd listed these many pursuits in a recent York County Heritage Trust talk about Wagner.
June has put forth two recent blog posts profiling this productive man: William Wagner – York’s Renaissance Man and York’s First Photographer – William Wagner, 1845.
Here are some of my thoughts:


In his day – the first three-quarters of the 1800s, everyone in York knew William Wagner.
But today, his life and handiwork is known to relatively few people who tune into York County history.
Part of this obscurity comes from the presence of the popularity today of a more visible Pennsylvania Dutch artist, Lewis Miller.
The lives of these two York countians overlapped. Wagner was the son of a German Reformed preacher, and Miller the son of a Lutheran teacher.
But Miller, also a carpenter, was prolific in covering both scenes and events with his drawings, which often were undertaken with memorable wit and humor.
Wagner, clearly occupied with many other duties, did not leave the quantity of documentary artwork, and people generally were not the focus of his artwork.
In a preface for a 1996 book on Wagner’s work, York County historian Jim Rudisill wrote:

“Whereas Lewis Miller’s emphasis was on personalities, William Wagner’s work centered on localities such as the 1821 Small and Wagner map and drawings in this book.”

Despite their differences, Wagner and Miller’s body of work give York a distinction, as outlined by Jim Rudisill:

“This remarkable collection of York architectural views in the 1830 pre-photography era, along with Lewis Miller’s individualistic chronicles, make York, PA, one of the most highly depicted communities in the early nineteenth century United States.”

Also of interest:
See additional samples of Wagner and Miller’s work at: York County Heritage Trust’s Web site gives virtual look at its vast holdings, activities.
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In a recent presentation on William Wagner, June Lloyd called this Wagner drawing a mystery. It’s a scene from 1830, but the then-demolished stone Christ Lutheran Church, forerunner to the 1814 structure that stands today, is drawn on its South George Street site. The Trust, holder of many Wagner artifacts, recently received another one: Wagner’s childhood desk.
Archives:
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and Lewis Miller, you get this.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.

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