George B. Tatum (1917-2008) was a nationally recognized architectural historian with special interest in the history of gardens and American architecture, particularly in the Philadelphia area.Tatum attended Princeton University before and after World War II, receiving his Ph.D. in Art History in 1950. As professor of the History of Art, Tatum taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1966, where he served as Vice-Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Chair of the Department of the History of Art. In 1966, Tatum joined the Art History faculty at the University of Delaware, where he was named H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Art History. Tatum remained at the University of Delaware until his retirement in 1978. After relocating to Chester, Connecticut, Tatum became an adjunct professor at Columbia University from 1979 to 1982. During the 1960s and 1970s, he chaired the advisory board of the Historic American Building Survey and served as President of the Society of Architectural Historians. Among his many accomplishments, Tatum wrote or co-authored several important books on Philadelphia architecture and landscape design, including Penn's Great Town: Two Hundred Fifty Years of Philadelphia Architecture in Prints and Drawings (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961), and Philadelphia Georgian: the City House of Samuel Powel and Some of Its Eighteenth-Century Neighbors (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1976).
Biographical information supplied by the University of Delaware, University Archives.
The George B. Tatum papers comprise the reference files of a noted American architectural historian who compiled and organized numerous architectural plans, diagrams, black-and-white illustrations, tear sheets, articles, and selected photographs of architecture from the period 1900 to 1940. The 6 linear feet of material is composed primarily of published articles and pictures from architectural magazines and journals such as American Architect, American Architect and Building News, American Architect and Architecture, Architecture, Architectural Forum, Architectural Record , Architectural Review, House Beautiful, and Pencil Points.
The materials are organized into five series. The first three series reflect the original order and arrangement established by Tatum, offering insight into his research and organization methods. Series I. Styles, brings together examples of a variety of architectural styles arranged roughly chronologically. Series II. Buildings, illustrates a variety of building types that Tatum arranged by function, such as residential, commercial, educational, industrial, and others. Series III. Architectural details, focuses on individual structural and decorative features from many different architectural styles. Tatum arranged these in alphabetical order by subject (such as corbels, fireplaces, fountains, keystones, organ cases, roofs, spires, urns, windows, etc.) and included a few broader categories, such as details of construction, engineering and equipment, and sketches and rendering.
The last two series do not represent Tatum's original arrangement. Although he gathered information about individual architects and historical properties, Tatum only loosely organized these materials. Series IV. Architects, brings together Tatum's clippings and articles about specific architects and architectural firms working in the United States during the 1920s-1930s. Arranged alphabetically by name, several of the firms and architects found here illustrate Tatum's special interest in American architecture and the Philadelphia region, including Day & Klauder; Edmund B. Gilchrist; Mellor & Meigs; R. Brognard Okie; and Verna Cook Salomonsky. Of particular note is Homsey Architects, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware, the architectural firm of Victorine and Samuel Homsey (F207). Their projects included the Wilmington Drama League Theater, a housing development in Seaford, Delaware, a shooting box at Cat Island Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina, the Robertson residence in Centerville, Delaware, and their own home in Hockessin, Dealware. Tatum also collected materials about architects of national and international acclaim, like McKim, Mead & White; Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson; Benno Janssen (Janssen & Abbott); John Russell Pope; Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens; and Eliel Saarinen.
Series V. Historic Properties, incorporates clippings and articles collected by Tatum about several individual works of architecture, including the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel in France, Williamsburg and Mount Vernon in Virginia, selected Louisiana plantations and architectural views of New Orleans. Notably, Tatum collected many installments of Records of Early American Architecture , a monographic series providing detailed research, measured drawings, and photographs of early American architecture, especially houses (F224 and F225). Tatum also kept several brochures, booklets, and trade catalogs pertaining to 1920s-1930s surburban housing developments, like Merion Park in Lower Merion Township and Forest Hills Gardens in Forest Hills, New York (F226).
While the George B. Tatum papers represent an important resource for the study of pre-World War II architecture, they also offer special insight into the research methods and organizational structure of an important American author and teacher of architectural and landscape design history.