Lot 545
  • 545

Ferdinand A. Brader (1833-after 1895)

40,000 - 60,000 USD
37,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Ferdinand A. Brader
  • Pencil on paper


Mary Lesher, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Pennypacker Auction Center, Reading, Pennsylvania, June 1975, lot 307
Chris A. Machmer, Annville, Pennsylvania, 1975


"A Place for Us: Vernacular Architecture in American Folk Art," American Folk Art Museum, 1996-1997


American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, p. 91, fig. 57

Catalogue Note

This detailed pencil drawing depicting a prosperous, late-nineteenth century Pennsylvania German farmstead is typical of the work of Swiss immigrant Ferdinand A. Brader, an itinerant artist who traveled throughout Berks, Lebanon, and Lancaster Counties in Pennsylvania and later in eastern Ohio. While best known for his hundreds of carefully rendered farmstead pictures, he is also known to have recorded scenes of local rural industries, such as grist mills, potteries, mines, and quarries. Based upon the inscriptions and dates included in most of the surviving farm landscapes, Brader's most active period in Pennsylvania was from 1880 to 1883, and his travels suggest that late in 1883 he continued westward to Ohio.1

Daniel Leibelsperger Jr. was a member of a prominent fifth-generation Berks County family of farmers and orchardmen. He married Sarah Barndt in about 1870, and census records indicate that by 1880 the couple had three children, Liebelsperger's father, and two servants living with them. The senior Liebelsperger, also a farmer, is recorded earlier as living in Fleetwood, and it is possible that the farm depicted in this drawing was originally his property, which he passed on to his eldest surviving son when he became widowed and elderly.2

Commissioning a visual record of a successful farm and residence was apparently a popular demonstration of pride. Several are listed in surviving inventories for farms in the Berks County area.3 Brader's depiction of this farm, its numerous outbuildings, and the surrounding orderly fenced yards, orchards, and distant fields suggests the relative prosperity that established farming families such as the Leibelspergers enjoyed. The architectural details recorded are relatively accurate and include the typical large bank barn with its center ramp, forebay, multiple stables, and numerous traditional painted "hex" signs adorning its upper exterior walls. The main residence dates to the early nineteenth century and appears contemporary in date to the adjacent building to the rear containing a summer kitchen with a bake oven attached to the exterior. -J.L.L.

1 Brader typically inscribed his works with the name of the property's owner, the date, and, in many cases, its number in the chronology of his completed works. The highest number recorded among his surviving Ohio drawings suggests he completed as many as 980 works. One signature, on a drawing of the almshouse in Ravenna, Ohio, records the artist's birthday as Dec. 70 1833, while another, depicting the property of John and Mary Troxell of Berks County, Pa., documents his origins: it is signed "Ferdinand A. Brader of Switzerland 1882." See Beulah B. Fehr and M. Theodore Mason Jr., "Ferdinand A. Brader: Itinerant Folk Artist,” Historical Review of Berks County 52, no. 1 (winter 1986/87): 18-39.
2 This pattern of inheritance, with the main farm or valuable real estate passing to the eldest son, was common among Pennsylvania German families. The style of the main farmhouse and several of the outbuilding details also suggest that these buildings existed before the younger Leibelspergers marriage date and may, therefore, have been part of his parents' farm.
3 Fehr and Mason, "Ferdinand A. Brader," p. 19. This observation is also supported by thenumber of surviving farm views produced by Brader and other artists in the area during the late nineteenth century.