Exhibit draws on newspaper relics

— Fifty newspaper illustrations from the days when bow ties and shirt garters were popular with pressmen and typesetters are on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

The drawings, on show through the end of this month, are from the private collection of the late newspaperwoman Judith Vance Weld Brown, whom many consider the grande dame of Connecticut newspapers.

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AP Photo

This 1890 photogravure by John George Brown, called "Extra!" is part of the Judith Vance Weld Brown collection on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art, in New Britain, Conn.

Brown was the third female editor and publisher of The Herald of New Britain, which was led by her family for four generations.

Museum director Douglas Hyland said he got the idea for the exhibit after seeing the collection during a visit with Brown's husband, Rod.

"I looked and saw that they were incredibly beautiful," Hyland said. "Some are hand-colored and some are lithographs."

Brown owned copies of almost all the works by Winslow Homer, he said.

The collection included "a hundred years of mementos," Hyland said. Some she collected herself, others she inherited from her mother and grandmother and other relatives who worked at the 122-year-old newspaper.

"She was able to collect images of American life and art that showed how newspapers affected people's lives," Hyland said.

Taken together, the illustrations represent what her job and her life were about, and what made Judy Brown tick.

"I think it gave her reason to go out," said Carol Miller, who has been with The Herald for 20 years and was secretary for Judy Brown for 10. "Not that she needed a reason."

One of the last pieces Miller remembers Brown acquiring is a pointillist pen-and-ink drawing by E.E. Markham. It is a portrait of a statue of a copyboy in knickers.

"She would just bring them in and say, 'Look what I got this weekend,"' Miller said.

Along with many newspaper-related pictures, Markham's drawing is still on the floor of Brown's New Britain Herald office, where she remained a presence until shortly before her death in September 2001.

The 50 works on display include framed newspaper and magazine clippings of hand-colored woodcuts, and an 1890 photogravure by John George Brown called "Extra!" from Harper's Weekly. They range from the early 19th century to mid-20th century.

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