Vincent Fraley

This Author's Posts

Before Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the Parkway on Sunday, guests may want to consider visiting some Philadelphia churches that acted as both spiritual and social lodestars for their communities.


As the papal visit looms and Philadelphia inspects its Catholic past, consider the life of John Nepomucene Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and the first canonized American male.

Born in Prachatitz, Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), in 1811, Neumann studied for the priesthood in Prague and looked forward to ordination. A gluttony of priests in Europe stalled his ambitions - there were simply no positions open. After writing to bishops across the continent, Neumann broadened his correspondence campaign to the New World.


In 2015, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) launched HSP Encounters, a new digital resource comprised of an ever-growing number of genealogical and biographical databases.

HSP Encounters is an ongoing project in which records and materials deemed of high research value are digitized and made available to HSP members online, in searchable form. Historical essays incorporated in the system describe each database as well as establish historical context for the records contained. 


The gallery of 2016 presidential hopefuls has swollen to 22 - not counting the possible late entry of Vice President Biden. Have American primary and caucus voters ever faced such a bewildering choice?

For some perspective, join Joseph Keppler for "An Unpleasant Ride Through the Presidential 'Haunted Forest.' " Originally published in the humor magazine Puck, Keppler's chromolithograph depicts Uncle Sam and Columbia coursing through an eerie wood en route to the 1884 presidential election.


Maritime disaster and lawn tennis have more in common than one might suppose. Consider the quiet confidence of Richard Norris Williams, Titanic survivor and tennis titlist.

A descendant of Benjamin Franklin, Williams was born to American parents in Switzerland. Acceptance to Harvard in 1912 readied the 21-year-old for his first trip to the United States. With first-class passage booked on the RMS Titanic, Williams and his father boarded in Cherbourg.


As anyone with a hangover on April 15 knows, taxes and whiskey have never mixed. George Washington learned this lesson the hard way when facing off against the largest organized resistance to federal authority between the Revolution and the Civil War: the Whiskey Rebellion.

In the years after Yankee victory at Yorktown, the nascent United States became shackled to a foe far more tyrannical than a British monarch: budgetary imbalance.


As students and parents prepare for the coming school year, consider the half-century career of educator Mary Anna Longstreth.

Born in Philadelphia, Longstreth (1811-1884) began her schooling at 2 years old, "according to the strictest traditions of the Society of Friends," as recorded by the Mary Anna Longstreth Alumnae Association. At 13, Longstreth was already instructing her younger sisters in Latin.

"Her early training made work the habit of her life," recounted a future colleague.


When it comes to Philadelphia's connection to the history of television, many believe it to stretch only as far as the hemlines and pegged pants of modish teens on American Bandstand. However, the city's pixilated past deserves a high-definition look.

It was at the Franklin Institute that inventor Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first electronic television set to the public. TV Guide launched its channel safaris from a small office in Center City, while the inventor of instant replay, Tony Verna, also called the city home.


As pro golfers head to the 97th PGA Championship in Wisconsin this month, local golfers can tee up with a look at Philadelphia's intimate connection to the game through Rodman Wanamaker, son of the department-store magnate John Wanamaker.


To Benjamin Franklin's successes in science, statecraft, and slyness, add a lesser-known exploit: postal service.

Among the many hardships of colonial life, lack of communication perhaps ranked right behind hunger and fear. In the absence of a service operated by the British crown, many fledgling colonies instituted private mail systems. In 1683, the Pennsylvania Assembly decreed "All justices of the peace, sheriffs or constables . . . empowered to press either man or horse" to deliver mail, allowing "two pence per mile to be paid out of the public stock" for any inconvenience.