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Patrick W. (PW) Costello (1866-1935)

Master Penman, Designer, Engrosser & Illustrator

Click images to enlarge
P. W. Costello 1906
P.W. Costello portrait published in 1906 in Stoddard's book, Prominent Men of Scranton & Vicinity PW Costello Business Ad
PW Costello Business Card PW Costello Portrait from the 1920s
Image source: Atty. Barry Beemer, grandson of the artist.

P. W. Costello, a remarkable penman, was born to poor Irish immigrant parents, William Costello and Bridget Langan, in Minooka, now a part of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Anthracite Coal Fields.

As a young boy he discovered an innate talent for art. Following exhausting days picking slate in a coal breaker, he spent his free time at home practicing penmanship and drawing. With formal art training out of reach, he relied on his own motivation and creativity to develop foundational skills in design, lettering, and illustration. After two decades trying to balance art and politics, he focused on art and went on to become one of the pre-eminent American engrossers and portrait artists of the early 20th Century.

Mr. Costello's engrossed resolutions are elaborately lettered and decorated documents that chronicle individual achievement in business, politics, labor unions, fraternal organizations, education, religion and sports. Among his honored subjects were five U. S. presidents, visiting heads of state and Hall of Fame baseball players.

Reflecting his personal interest in theatre, sports and literature, Mr. Costello created hundreds of masterful portraits that he gave to his family and friends, or hung in his restaurant in downtown Scranton. His illustrations of costumed stage stars were often autographed by the subjects when they performed in Scranton's playhouses.

For many years, Mr. Costello, his wife, Mary Agnes Mahon, and their eight children, lived in the Bellevue section of West Scranton and, later, near Nay Aug Park in East Scranton. Like their father, three sons, William, Jerry and Joseph Costello, became accomplished artists in their own right, choosing careers in commercial sign painting, editorial cartooning and engrossing, respectively.

Today, calligraphers, engrossers, illustrators and art historians study and emulate P.W. Costello's impressive body of work. They refer to him as a Master Penman, a title of respect reserved for a select few.

- Written by Thomas W. Costello, great-grandson of P.W. Costello

Links to more works by P. W. Costello:
www.zanerian.com (The Master Penmen Archives > P.W. Costello)
www.iampeth.com (Artwork > Alphabetical List by Artist > P.W. Costello)
P. W. Costello, Marriage Certificate, 1908

In September 1890, P.W. Costello married Mary Agnes Mahon, also a Bellevue resident, and the daughter of Patrick J. Mahon, a former Scranton City Treasurer and Alderman. Together they raised eight children, unusual among married penmen of the era who, due to the profession’s enormous time constraints, often did not have children. In 1908, the youngest Costello child was born, and the family moved from Bellevue to a newly built home near Nay Aug Park in East Scranton. Inspired by these events to honor his marriage and his family, Costello created a stunning Marriage Engrossing, only 6” x 10” in size, with Ornate Medial lettering and a colorful grapevine border with gold-leafed background. It was mounted in a simple metal frame and displayed in the family’s “new” home on Wheeler Avenue for thirty-five years. The artist used flowers to symbolically represent his and his wife’s nine children. The flowers were sized and positioned according to the children’s birth order.  The large flower along the right border, just below center, represented Anna, the oldest, born in 1892.  Moving clockwise, additional flowers represented William, Thomas, Gerald, John, Joseph, Marian, Agnes, and Rose, the newborn, at top right. All flowers were connected to the vine except for the one that represented John, who died in July 1900 at the age of seven months.  His father positioned this flower to the left of the red capital letter “P” in his own name, to keep him close.

(Image source: Atty. Barry Beemer, artist’s grandson. Originally published in Art Catalog Essays, 2009 P. W. Costello Exhibition, Hope Horn Gallery, University of Scranton, by Thomas W. Costello.)

[The full size image is 3.2 MB]


The Eynon Engrossing is significant because it is one of his first, done in 1886, when P.W. was only 20 years old. He was probably paid about $25. I'm quite sure that the town of Eynon is named after Thomas Eynon, a Welsh mine foreman and businessman. Notice the back-slanted, "bay shaded" lettering. At this early date, he was experimenting with layouts, letter forms, filigree, ribbons, branched borders with thistle and recessed illustrations, like the miner's lamp.

The original is owned by the Anthracite Heritage Museum.

[The full size image is 2.36 MB]
Testimonial

to THOMAS EYNON, ESQ. of the

City of Scranton, Pa.

Whereas; We the undersigned Committee representing the employees of
the Bellevue Slope of the D. L. & W. R. R. Co., have learned with regret, that our
esteemed foreman, Thomas Eynon, Esq., who was one of
the first to have charge in opening the D. L. & W. R. R. Company’s mines
in the year 1849, is about to retire from active life, to enjoy the well earn-
ed rest and comfort to which he is entitled in the winter of his well-spent years.

WHEREAS

We, the employees under the supervision of our esteemed foreman, Thomas
Eynon Esq
., although regretting his retirement, fully appreciate that
one so consistent in his duties, both to the company that he represented, and
the care and sympathy exercised towards those under his charge, has fully
earned the well-deserved rest, contemplated through his retirement from active duties.

Be it Resolved that

We, the employees under his supervision for the past
eight years, extend to him our heartfelt gratitude for the

kindness and care exercised by him over us during his foremanship, and
pray that he and his esteemed consort may live long to enjoy the respect
and gratitude felt towards them by all with they came in contact dur-
ing their christian and useful career.

Thomas Eynon was born in Ystrade, Glanmorganshire, Wales, on July 21, 1821,
and emigrated to America in 1832
.

Committee,

Thomas W. Davis, Chairman; Michael Gilbride, Treasurer;
Sam Seville, Secretary;
Joseph Weichel; George Price

COL. FREDERICK L. HITCHCOCK ENGROSSING – 1888 – by P.W. COSTELLO

Frederick L. Hitchcock (1837-1924) was a Civil War officer, business owner, city treasurer and Lt. Col. of the 13th Regiment of the PA National Guard. He also authored the definitive two-volume “History of Scranton and Its People” in 1914.

In November 1888, as Col. Hitchcock neared retirement from the national guard, the Line Officers of the 13th Regiment adopted resolutions commending him as a man of character, a soldier with a “brilliant and heroic” military record, and an important figure in the formation of the regiment.

P. W. Costello engrossed this document early in his career. The design, lettering and ornamentation show the influence of Daniel Ames, a pioneer in American engrossing. This also offers a glimpse of a young illustrator capable of drawing whatever a piece required.

Image used courtesy of the Lackawanna Historical Society, Scranton.

[The full size image is 1.5 MB]


For many years, PW Costello created the templates and filled diplomas for most of Scranton's high schools and colleges. Click Here to see one he did for Holy Rosary Academy (ca 1892).


From 1885-1895, PW worked as a clerk in City Hall. At one time he worked for Edward F. Blewitt, the City Engineer (Vice President Joe Biden's great-grandfather), later for Joseph Phillips, illustrating and lettering blue print plans for city infrastructure projects (everything from bridges to handrails to manhole covers). City plans for sewer construction never looked so good!


Above: Handrail Plan for Linden Street and Roaring Brook Bridges, Feb. 1895

Left: Scranton Catch Basin Blueprint, Oct. 17, 1895

RESOLUTIONS HONORING WILLIAM F. HALLSTEAD, GENERAL MANAGER - D. L. & W. RAILROAD – 1899

William F. Hallstead (1836-1910) began his long career in the railroad industry as a water boy, construction worker, brakeman, conductor and yard dispatcher. When presented with these engrossed resolutions at his home on Wyoming Ave. in August 1899, he had just retired as General Manager of the D. L. & W. and one of the most respected, accomplished railroad men in the country.

Resolutions adopted by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers express regret over Mr. Hallstead’s retirement and praise his “friendly nature” and “considerate…impartial treatment” of their members.

This print is from a scan of the original document, part of the collection of the Lackawanna Historical Society in Scranton, a gift from the Hallstead Family.

Hallstead, PA, a borough located in Susquehanna County along Route 81 near Great Bend, is named in honor of William F. Hallstead.

P. W. Costello’s engrossing is expertly lettered and illustrated. The centerpiece is a detailed drawing of a D. L. & W. locomotive; at bottom right is an illustration of a caboose, flanked by two laurel branches. Both are drawn in his characteristic cross-hatched style.


PRES. THEODORE ROOSEVELT – ABSTINENCE UNION ENGROSSING – 1905
- by P.W. COSTELLO

On August 10, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Wilkes-Barre and addressed a crowd of 50,000, comprised mostly of members of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America who were attending their 35th annual convention.

The organization commissioned P. W. Costello to engross these resolutions for Roosevelt “as a token of appreciation for the good that he has done our cause.” The document is beautifully designed and lettered. Note the layered initial letter “C” in “Catholic,” exquisitely flourished with filigree to form the entire left border.

In January 1906, a delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to present the framed document to Roosevelt. According to The Scranton Republican, when the president saw the resolutions, he enthusiastically exclaimed: “It’s the best I’ve ever seen; compliment Mr. Costello with my thanks and give him this [autographed] photo for me.”

Engrossing reproduced in E. A. Lupfer, The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing, Columbus: Zaner-Bloser Company, 1910.
Whereas, THE PRESENCE AND ADDRESS of

HIS EXCELLENCY THEODORE ROOSEVELT
President of the United States
AT WILKES-BARRE, PA, Aug 10, 1905

CATHOLIC TOTAL ABSTINENCE UNION OF AMERICA

Have imparted strength and efficacy to the
Cause of Temperance throughout the land: and

Whereas, This organization aims at the development of true manhood, good citizenship and practical Christianity whereby our fellow citizens may be taught to enjoy the material blessings of a resourceful country, and to appreciate the spiritual and temporal opportunities of a free and enlightened Government; and

Whereas, The drink habit and liquor traffic, uncontrolled by right reason and the spirit of self-sacrifice, are calculated to offset these unparalleled blessings and golden opportunities among our gifted and favored people; therefore, BE IT

Resolved, That the unqualified and unbounded thanks of 100,000 men and women comprising the membership of this organization, be most heartily and filially tendered to our BELOVED AND REVERED PRESIDENT for his condescending presence and encouraging words on that occasion; and That we esteem him as a MODEL FATHER and LUMINOUS RULER whose private life is not less adorned with the jewels of honesty, probity and paternity than his public career abounds in consistency, fidelity and the practice of all fundamental virtues, BE IT

RESOLVED, That it is the sense of the organization that the daily exercise of these virtues has won for him the profound esteem and unswerving confidence of his fellow citizens at home, and gained the universal admiration of all good people abroad; and be it

Resolved, That this happy combination of providential circumstances has, as the reward of merit, raised our President in the eyes of the whole civilized world, a monument of fraternity, peace and prosperity among all peoples and all nations, and be it further

RESOLVED, that as  Total Abstainers and patriotic citizens of this grand and abiding Republic, we pledge him our love, our loyalty and earnest cooperation in all that he may undertake for the

Glory of God, the Happiness of Mankind, and the betterment of the World at large, and

Resolved, That these resolutions be engrossed, framed and presented to His Excellency at the WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, DC, as a token of appreciation for the good that he has done our cause on the memorable event of August 10, 1905.

Signed,

Regis Tanevin, President                                    John J. Curtain, Treasurer
Attest: J. Washington Coyne, Secretary
      M. J. Hoban, Bishop of Scranton
[Compiled by Thomas W. Costello, East Brunswick, NJ, great-grandson of the artist]

Continue to Page 2

Images and information contributed by: Thomas W. Costello, February 2013
P.W. Costello produced hundreds of engrossings and portraits throughout his 45-year career in Scranton. If you happen to have any of them in your family, Tom Costello, the artist's great-grandson, would appreciate the opportunity to photograph or scan them in support of his research. Tom can be reached at this e-mail address: 

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