Here on our blog, we occasionally feature “matchups” that showcase relationships between different items in our collection. Today’s matchup? Illustrations in yearbooks from Salem Academy (Winston-Salem) and Elizabeth College (Charlotte).
An idle interest in the illustration below led to today’s rather extensive blog post.
It wasn’t the artwork that caught my eye, albeit the image is lovely, but the inscription of “copyrighted” at the bottom. This isn’t something I’ve ever noticed accompanying such an early hand-drawn yearbook illustration (and I’ve looked at a lot of them). So I began investigating this copyright-aware student artist… and discovered it wasn’t a student, but a faculty member. Using just the collection at DigitalNC, I was able to unfold a good bit more about this woman: Anna Magdelene Siedenburg.
Signed illustrations by Siedenburg can be found in the 1901 yearbook for Elizabeth College, from which the image above is taken, as well as yearbooks from Salem Academy and College in 1906 and 1907 (see right). There are a good number of unsigned illustrations that could be her work as well (as here), or perhaps they are by students emulating her style.
From these yearbooks, I was able to piece together that Siedenburg taught at the two institutions mentioned above from at least 1900 to 1912. She was president and faculty sponsor of art clubs at both schools, and is listed as an instructor in drawing and painting (especially on ceramic and glass), as well as French and German.
But where did she come from? The Salem catalog for 1906 states her accomplishments: exhibiting in large American cities like New York, and winning various medals of excellence as well as designing for “leading art journals.” For more information I had to move beyond items on our site.
Anna Siedenburg was born in Bremen, Germany on February 23, 1854*. I’m unsure when she arrived in the United States, but if she traveled to North Carolina around 1900 she would have been a seasoned artist in the mature part of her career at age 46. I was able to track down more information using what was hinted at in the 1906 Salem College catalog. Siedenburg’s name is peppered throughout The Art Amateur from 1892-1900. She is both subject and author, with reviews of her exhibitions along with articles she wrote about painting on glass and advertisements for her as an instructor. Through the Amateur I learned that she lived in Cinncinnati in 1892, Chicago in 1895, and New York in 1898**. During this same time period (late 1890s-1900), Siedenburg authored several books on painting as well as a curious little volume of Fairy Tales and Fancies, which she illustrated. (List of her authored publications on WorldCat.)
It’s hard not to try and imagine the personality of a moderately successful female artist of that time period who traveled widely and seemingly on her own, eventually making her way to North Carolina to devote time to instructing young women. She seems to have been a thoughtful woman who was well liked by her students; the 1906 Salem College yearbook includes a poem entitled “My Seniors,” in which she expresses especial affinity for the graduating class. She was creative. Her book of original Fairy Tales includes a good number of princesses but also strays beyond the stereotypical, as in “Just a Match” which is an allegorical tale about, well, a match.
The other pieces of personal information I could find are few, but include a reference to a friend visiting her at a cottage called “Galax,” in Blowing Rock***. I also know she died, single, in Winston-Salem on November 12, 1926*. She was buried in God’s Acre, the Moravian cemetery that’s now part of Old Salem.
My hope was to find a picture of her in one of the yearbooks on our site, but most of the faculty photos were unreliably labeled. Thankfully, I have something even better. It’s with pleasure that I can present this photo, cheerfully provided by the archives at Salem College, of Anna Siedenburg.
*Source: Ancestry.com. North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
** The Art Amateur (February 1898) p. 76.
***The Orange County Observer newspaper (June 25, 1908) p. 3.