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‘An Addams Family Holiday’: How An Original Charles Addams Painting Ended Up In Paterno Library

If you head into the Paterno Library, chances are you’re headed in for some studying…and to Starbucks for a caramel macchiato and a croissant — nothing more, nothing less.

You probably wouldn’t notice the massive painting along the back wall of the Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross Global News Center, the lounge that sits directly next to Starbucks.

The painting, which is more than four feet high and nearly 14 feet long, depicts members of a family on the beach. If you look a bit closer, though, you might recognize some of those family members as Gomez and Morticia Addams, their daughter Wednesday, and more.

With a bit more investigation, one can find that the signature in the corner reads, “Charles Addams.”

Though the Addams family did not appear on television (or even have names) until 1964, cartoonist Charles Addams had been creating cartoon strips featuring the family for The New Yorker since 1937.

His cartoons largely featured the Addams family the way we know them best — doing strange things in the presence of ordinary people.

The painting that hangs in Paterno Library is no different. In the far right corner, Grandmama sits by a picnic basket with a bottle of poison. In the center of the frame, Gomez holds a fishing rod and appears to be in the process of reeling something in. Uncle Fester stands behind him, holding a net in one hand and a spiked club in the other.

All the while, innocent beach-goers look on in confusion, dismay, and worry. Several are even depicted running off of the beach entirely.

So, with absolutely no Penn State ties, how did a massive original Charles Addams painting end up in the library?

Charles Addams originally painted this piece to be hung at the Dune Deck hotel bar in the Hamptons in 1952. The hotel still operates today, but with one less iconic cartoon to its name. Several years later, the Dune Deck Hotel was bought by Walter Goldstein.

Goldstein was a 1947 civil engineering graduate of Penn State and a member of the Air Force during World War II. Following his graduation from Penn State, Goldstein founded Underhill Industries, Inc. The company was one of the most notable concrete construction companies in New York City and even had a hand in the construction of the World Trade Center.

Goldstein continued his work in concrete throughout his career, becoming the owner of Certified Industries, which served as one of New York City’s largest concrete suppliers in the late 1900s.

He was a proud Penn State alum, which you can tell just by taking a quick walk through the library. The second floor of Pattee houses the Walter and Doris Goldstein Music and Media Center, which is home to DVDs, CDs, music scores, and more.

Following Goldstein’s purchase of the Dune Deck hotel, he removed Addams’ painting from the hotel bar and donated it to Penn State.

After this, things get pretty cloudy. A plaque that sits next to the painting states that it was donated to the University Libraries in the 1990s, but other sources state that it was donated to the Palmer Museum of Art at an unspecified time.

Following the donation, it appears Penn State practically lost the painting or failed to recognize what it actually had on its hands. It’s nearly impossible to trace the path of Addams’ painting from the time it was donated to the time it appeared in the Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross Global News Center, where it resides today.

Most accounts agree that the artwork hung in Lending Services for the majority of the 1990s. In 2000, it migrated again, but it’s unclear where. However, the best guess is that it was housed in the Special Collections Library.

When the library staff was cataloging some comic art for the Special Collections Library, the staff realized the significance of the massive painting. Though it had been there all along, it was as if the piece had been “found.”

Along the way, throughout its various transfers, the piece picked up an unofficial name that has stuck: “An Addams Family Holiday.”

Addams’ work finally found a permanent home following the 2018 expansion and renovation of Paterno Library. For the past five years, it has been displayed in the Global News Center. An “Addams Family Holiday” remains the largest work of art by a cartoonist from The New Yorker.

If you get bored with your homework in the library, don’t pull out your phone…just look around. You never know what you might find.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a junior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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