Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog. Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection. Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!
Throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century, the Spiritualist movement saw a leap in popularity in the United States, including a large number of followers in Philadelphia. Spiritualism is the belief that spirits of the dead have the ability to communicate with the living, and that they willingly do so. During this period, Spiritualists regularly held séances, camp meetings, and other gatherings to reach out to the dead. They were primarily interested in what their spirit contacts could reveal about ethical issues, the afterlife, and the existence of God. The movement quickly became known for attracting radical socialists, anti-slavery activists, and women’s rights activists.
Initially unorganized, the movement had begun to coalesce around churches and more formal organizations by the latter half of the 19th century. Always subject to skepticism, formal accusations of fraud were growing, leading to a decrease in popularity. Nonetheless, spiritualism is still practiced today, primarily through organized spiritualist churches.
Several figureheads of the Spiritualist movement have connections to Philadelphia. Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, lived and worked in West Philadelphia beginning in 1875. Heavily influenced by occultism, she viewed contacting spirits as a way to gain specifically esoteric knowledge. She was unique in her approach, though, as most spiritualists were more interested in contacting human spirits, with little interest in her mystical theories.
Nelson and Jennie Holmes — more traditional spiritualists — were two of several hundred mediums working in Philadelphia in the 1870’s. They are best known for their manifestations of the spirits of John and Katie King, who claimed to be the pirate Henry Morgan and his daughter, respectively.
Katie King was noted for being rather attractive, and it was possible to purchase images of her spectre after the séance.
The manifestation of Katie King, however, was proved fraudulent. The accusations against the Holmeses were part of the growing wave of debunking Spiritualist mediums at the time.
A number of documents and ephemera from the period of Spiritualism’s greatest popularity can be found in HSP’s collections. Notably, the constitution of the First Association of Philadelphia Spiritualists (dated 1867) lays out the legal and financial structure of this association, which initially met in 1952. An illustration shows a woman sitting with several articles of spiritualist equipment, showing some of the many, many devices invented to help mediums physically show the results of their contact with the other side. And from 1850, A History of the Recent Developments in Spiritual Manifestations has been digitized. This book, written relatively early in the Spiritualist movement, records the practice of Spiritualism in Philadelphia, and provides a first-hand view into local theories and practices.
This August marks the 150th anniversary of the first public gay rights protest. It consisted of a single man taking the stage at a theater in Munich, Germany. Despite the small size of the protest, it would influence a movement, encouraging the use of science as a tool to explain the validity of queer identities.
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was born in 1825 in Aurich, in Lower Saxony. In 1862, he began writing under a pseudonym, defending the love between men as natural and arguing that such relationships possessed a biological basis. His essays established scientific categories and terms to denote different types of desires: men who loved men were urnings, men who loved women were dionings. There were terms for bisexual and heterosexual women, as well as intersex people. Ulrichs saw sexuality as defined by three axes: sexual orientation, preferred sexual behavior, and gender characteristics.
Above all, he defended the idea that there was nothing wrong with desiring a person of one’s own gender. By 1867, he was writing under his own name, advancing his theory that people were born with their sexuality already set and that it was completely natural. As such, he argued that queer sexuality should not be legislated against or treated as a disease or mental disorder.
1867 found him on the stage of the Grand Hall of Munich’s Odeon Theater. He had come to the Congress of German Jurists (Ulrichs had worked as a lawyer until being dismissed when his sexuality became known) to publicly protest anti-sodomy laws and continue his push for recognition and acceptance of queer identities.
Ulrichs was part of an early group of men who were fighting for the recognition of (primarily cis-male) homosexuality; as now, a variety of tactics were explored and tested. His contemporary Karl-Maria Kertbeny argued for the extension of rights as a matter of privacy. (In an interesting note, this basis would again appear many years later in the ruling Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated anti-sodomy laws in the United States in 2003.)
Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’ language and ideas were largely forgotten until recently, overshadowed by other theorists and activists who followed in his footsteps. His tactics and his belief in the validity of queer identity and the scientific basis of sexuality and gender expression was not forgotten, however. In a more recent parallel, Dr. John Fryer, in the guise of Dr. Henry Anonymous, also argued before his profession in 1972 for the recognition of homosexuality as a natural aspect of sexuality. Throughout the centuries, there is evidence of a reoccurring concept: marginalized sexualities are not anomalies or diseases; rather, they have a scientific basis.
In more recent years, Ulrichs’ memory has been resurrected, and he is honored with streets named after him in a number of countries. The International Lesbian and Gay Law Association presents an award bearing his name to individuals who have contributed to the advancement of sexual equality.
In 1994, the UN declared that International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples would be observed on August 9th every year. Bearing that declaration in mind, I decided to examine HSP’s collection and see what, if any, primary documentation of the voices of indigenous peoples to the area survives.
The area around Philadelphia was home to the Lenni Lenape, also called the Lenape or Delaware, when Europeans arrived. As was the case with other settlements, the indigenous peoples were forced into displacement relatively soon after the arrival of white settlers.
One of the primary documents in HSP’s collection specifically written by indigenous peoples is the Chiefs of the Delaware Indians at Allegaeening [Allegheny] letter to Patrick Gordon. Dated 1732, the letter is faint with spidery handwriting, but has clear pictographic signatures. Though difficult to discern, the text is a direct recording of Lenape voices and communications.
The majority of the documents and books in HSP’s collections are written by Europeans, however. One of the most well-known is William Penn’s peace treaty with the Lenape, made in what is now Penn Treaty Park. In addition to that, HSP holds the Indian Rights Association’s papers; the Association was founded by Europeans in the 19th century to “bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship.” The Association maintained close ties to indigenous populations as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but at its core the organization viewed indigenous culture through a colonizing European lens.
These ethnographies and anthropological works in HSP’s collection all rely on primary informants to varying degrees; it’s really only those documents from the twentieth century that focus on indigenous voices while regularly naming informants. One of the most interesting is Frank Speck’s A study of the Delaware Indian big house ceremony : in native text dictated by WitapanoÌxwe. The majority of the book is the transcribed oral account by a Delaware man describing a ceremony intended to fulfill obligations owed to a ‘pantheon of spiritual forces’, in Speck’s words. A student of Franz Boas - the father of American anthropology - Speck makes it clear that his informant was raised in the culture he is describing, and includes his original account in the Delaware language with the translation on the facing page. He also rather tactfully drops in that WitapanoÌxwe was compensated for his work and time.
Speck has strong opinions regarding those who do not work with indigenous informants:
“[Prior research and speculative writing not directly based on interviews] has been sufficient to cause hesitation on the part of ethnologists in using the record for the purpose of drawing culture conclusions since the accounts have all been fragmentary and recorded in the words of European observers instead of being based upon the expressions of the natives.”
A case study of this can be found in the analysis of the Walam Olum in anthropological and Native studies. The Walam Olum was presented by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (also styled as Rafinesque-Schmaltz) as a historical narrative of Lenape stories, including a creation myth, a record of the migration from west to east, and a brief historical account of the coming of Europeans.
Rafinesque claimed that his source was pictographs recorded on wooden tablets or sticks, and he reproduces these pictographs along with the accompanying ‘verse’ in the Delaware language, and provides his own translation. His source was given only as a Dr. Ward of Indiana.
From the start, historians were skeptical. Was the Walam Olum even real? Daniel Brinton, in The Lenape and their Legends goes into some depth on this question, citing linguistic analysis by native speakers which declares the language to be accurate. Brinton regularly notes that he consults on this or that point with a ‘well-educated’ native, but only rarely names his sources. And, although his respect and affection is clear, it is not Lenape voices that are centered in his writing. He redraws the pictographs of the Walam Olum (introducing errors) and provides his own translation from Delaware to English.
Jumping forward a century gives us a handsome volume released by the Indiana Historical Society that reproduces the pages of Rafinesque’s notebook, offering translations and glossaries provided by bilingual native speakers. The voices of the actual Lenape people are much more present, and reliance on their knowledge (both linguistic and historical) takes precedence.
The Walam Olum is now generally regarded as a fake. In his 1994 essay “Unmasking the Walum Olum: A 19th-Century Hoax,” David M. Oestreicher presented evidence to show that Rafinesque fabricated the stories, which he actually translated from English to the Delaware language using a series of dictionaries available at the time. As a result, the Delaware tribe of Indians (now in Oklahoma after forced relocation) withdrew their endorsement of the document in 1997.
While I found the story of the Walam Olum fascinating, taking a step back and looking at texts available in HSP’s collection shows the gradual movement towards recognizing the validity of indigenous voices. These voices have always been present, but it has been, and continues to be, a long journey still to bring them to the forefront within a wider culture.
Not unlike today, after an election, there is a need to try to reunite the country. After taking the oath of office on March 4, 1817, President James Monroe was hungry to repair the political disorder between Democratic-Republicans and Federalists. Though the War of 1812 had ended two years before Monroe’s inauguration, the Capitol in Washington D.C. still showed scars of the traumatic British invasion. The White House, having been severely damaged by fire due to British assault, was still under construction, and Monroe was nervous about America’s ability defend herself against foreign invasion. With the country feeling divided and vulnerable, Monroe was determined to show strength and unity and usher in a new era - an era that would become known as the “Era of Good Feelings.” To do this, however, he would have to see the country and more importantly, let the country see him.
On June 1, 1817, James Monroe ventured on his first procession of the northern states with the mission of both unifying the Republic and inspecting her defenses. Unlike today, with contemporary transportation, twenty-four-hour news coverage, and social media, rarely, if ever, did people in the 1800s get to see the President of the United States. Stopping in places like Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit, Monroe was greeted with parades and encountered great fanfare. During this procession, Monroe traveled by horse, carriage, and steamboat while inspecting military forts, reviewing troops, and making speeches to veteran groups.
On June 4, James Monroe visited Fort Mifflin, on Philadelphia’s outskirts, to inspect the structure and ensure it was ready should there be another British incursion. The next day, June 5h, Monroe entered the City and was welcomed by a large and fervent crowd of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the fifth president. Starting at the Market Street Bridge, the first permanent bridge over the Schuylkill River, the President paraded east down Market Street to cheers and jubilation. He ended the parade at the Washington Hall and Renshaw's Hotel where he would stay for the duration of his visit in Philadelphia. Arriving at the hotel, Monroe gave a speech to the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati that was full of gratitude and hope for the future. Over the next two days, he would also visit the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (the first building), the Pennsylvania Hospital, the State House, Peale’s Museum, Carpenter’ Hall, Bank of the United States, The Navy Yard, and the Walnut Street Jail. During his tour, Monroe visited a variety of municipal buildings where he met with the city’s leadership and elected officials.
Leaving Philadelphia on June 7, Monroe traveled north through the neighborhood of Germantown to visit a revolutionary war battlefield that was the scene of fierce fighting between Washington’s Continental Army and British regulars in an attempt to prevent the city from British occupation in 1777. After Monroe’s solemn visit to the battlefield and feeling satisfied with the readiness of the City to defend itself on the chance of another British invasion, Monroe left for New Jersey. He would continue to tour the northern states until finally coming back to Washington D.C. on September 17, 1817.
Curious for more? Want to know what else happened during this historic presidential tour? In 1820, Samual Waldo documented this journey by writing a book called The tour of James Monroe: president of the United States, through the northern and eastern states, in 1817. A copy of this book is in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and was used as a source of information for this blog. Also, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the James Monroe Museum and The Papers of James Monroe, is the exhibit called “In the Sprit of the People: James Monroe’s 1817 Presidental Tour.” This traveling exhibit details Monroe’s procession through the northern and western states using primary source material and engaging visuals. It is free and open to the public at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in downtown Philadephia during regular operating hours through July 14.
Pennsylvanian to Pennsylvania,
HSP Education Intern
“Philadelphia has the finest orchestra I have ever heard at any time or any place in my whole life. I don’t know that I would be exaggerating if I said that it is the finest orchestra the world has ever heard.”
Sergei Rachmaninoff, the great early 20th-century Russian pianist/composer/conductor, spent the last 25 years of his life exiled from his beloved homeland, but musically he found a home with the Philadelphia Orchestra. As shaped by its two longtime conductors, Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, the Philadelphia Orchestra was Rachmaninoff’s favorite musical ensemble, one that he and many of his contemporaries considered the world’s greatest orchestra. Rachmaninoff noted in his later years that when he composed for orchestra he had the renowned “Philadelphia Sound” in mind, and it was with the Philadelphia Orchestra that he gave the world or U.S. premieres of many of his compositions.
Rachmaninoff was born in northwestern Russia in 1873 and trained at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory. A rising star at the turn of the 20th-century, he first toured America in 1909, at which time he made his first appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra on November 26-27, 1909 in the Academy of Music. In these concerts, he was featured in the triple-threat role of pianist-composer-conductor that would be the hallmark of his long and successful career. Back in Russia in the 1910s, Rachmaninoff kept an active schedule of composing and concertizing and especially loved spending time at his family’s country estate, Ivanovka, some 300 miles southeast of Moscow. His world would be shattered forever, however, by the cataclysmic events of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
With his country in upheaval, Rachmaninoff accepted an offer to give a series of recitals in Scandinavia and in late 1917 he left Russia with his wife and two daughters. Little did he know at the time that he would never return and that he would spend the rest of his life yearning for his Russian homeland. Later, he learned that Ivanovka had been burned to the ground. These events and his longtime status as an exile would deeply influence his music, which is characterized by a distinct Russian flavor and an often yearning, melancholy spirit.
After living in Scandinavia for a while, Rachmaninoff and his family came to the U.S. to live in late 1918. For the rest of his life, when not touring, he split his time between his primary residence in the U.S. and a lakeside villa he kept in Switzerland. He appeared again with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1919, a number of times in the 1920s, and then very frequently from the mid-1930s through early 1940s. He also recorded extensively with the Philadelphia Orchestra in this period.
The high point of Rachmaninoff’s relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra was the 1939 Rachmaninoff Cycle, a series of all-Rachmaninoff concerts given by Eugene Ormandy and the Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in New York City in November and December of 1939, with similar concerts in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in the same period. Conceived and directed by Ormandy in consultation with the composer, these concerts featured the 66-year-old Rachmaninoff in various roles as pianist, conductor, and special guest. The Cycle was billed as “one of the outstanding musical events of all time” and was a great success, critically and commercially. Following the Cycle, Rachmaninoff performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra five more times in the early 1940s, until his death in March 1943 just prior to his 70th birthday. He had become a U.S. citizen a month earlier.
On April 27th-29th the Philadelphia Orchestra is presenting a Rachmaninoff Festival, a series of three concerts in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts under the direction of Principal Guest Conductor Stephane Deneve. The Festival will feature all four of Rachmaninoff piano concertos as well as his “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and “Symphonic Dances.” As part of the Festival, the Orchestra has commissioned Playwright Didi Balle to write The Rachmaninoff Trilogy, a series of three short plays based on Rachmaninoff’s relationship with the Orchestra. A play will be performed prior to each of the three Festival concerts. There will also be a display of original archival materials during the Festival.
On April 18th the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) and the Philadelphia Orchestra will present Rachmaninoff’s Philadelphia at HSP. This one-hour program will also focus on Rachmaninoff’s relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra. There will be a brief illustrated presentation on the subject by Archivist and Music Historian Jack McCarthy, followed by a discussion with Festival Conductor Stephane Deneve and Temple University music professor and Rachmaninoff scholar David Cannata. The discussion will be moderated by Jeremy Rothman, Vice President for Artistic Planning for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The following article was written by HSP volunteer Randi Kamine and is being posted on her behalf.
"My Dearest X.Y.Z. I want to tell you everything that has occurred lately and I want you to ask me questions which I am bound to answer.” So begins the first entry in the diary written by Selina Richards Schroeder in early 1889."
This diary is the first of three extant diaries in the possession of HSP in the Schroeder family papers (Collection 4054), which was recently processed. The second volume continues to May 1889; Selina was to turn fourteen later that year. The last of the three diaries ends in the year 1891 when Selina was sixteen.
Selina was the daughter of Louisa and Gilliat Schroeder. Gilliat uprooted from Mobile, Alabama, to New York where he developed a thriving business in the commerce of cotton. The family was upper middle class. Their home base was New York City. Selina, in her musings, did not aim to place herself in the context of social or economic class. However, class distinction is apparent in Selina’s excellent handwriting and grammar and the activities in which she participated, including painting lessons, music lessons, drawing lessons, and buying hats and dresses in up-scale shops in New York. She belonged to the economic class whose members were literate and had time and means to reflect, to the extent there is reflection in her writings.
The diaries give the reader an insight into the late 19th century adolescent world. Particularly, reading Selina’s entries casts some light on the function diaries had for Selina and girls of that era. She writes about friends, family, and herself in often candid prose, although friends and family are seldom introduced by name, which makes it difficult to figure out who is who (she uses initials and nicknames more often than full names). While much of the correspondence in the Schroeder family papers from which the diaries emerged is formal and stilted, the diary of the young girl is open and intimate. She was adamant, however, that her thoughts stay private between her and her written words. To provide secrecy she often wrote in code. [See example below – can you figure out the code?]
Selina writes about things teens today are concerned with (albeit in hand written form as opposed to digital). Indeed, one may observe that things have not changed much when it comes to the thoughts of teenage girls. There is little in the way of comments on current events and few political observations.
The last of the three diaries is filled with ephemera collected from dinners, concerts, and events Selina attended. In the three year period Selina wrote these diaries, she began to take her place in the society in which she is surrounded. It is perhaps in the third volume that readers can best capture the tone of upper middle class urban culture.
In the first volume there is a stern warning that, should the book be found, it should not be opened. Selina writes, “This book is absolutely private – except to S.R. S.[Selina herself] and her two friends E.L.S and X.Y.Z.” (Perhaps using a convention used by diarists in the nineteenth century of writing to an imaginary friend in the second person). She writes that she wants “to tell you everything that occurred lately.” This first page of the first volume has a photo of Selina and two of her friends [see photo below]. It seems that despite her warnings her secrets were not well guarded. She writes shortly after starting the diary that “Harry, and Jim and G. got hold of this book and read part of it. I was so mortified that I tore part of it up and put in the fire !!!” She will henceforth “carry the keys to my desk in my corset so nobody can get them.”
Selina’s cares revolve around who “stands up” for her and whose friendship disappoints her. In the first few pages, she gives written portraits of several of her friends. As she herself acknowledges, most of her comments are negative. She tries hard to be generous, but her compliments tend to be left handed and she quickly veers toward criticism even when starting out with a positive observation about the character, looks, or demeanor of her friends. She refers to her brothers as “the brats” throughout the diary.
Young men were at the top of Salina’s thoughts. Her descriptions of the boys in her dancing class tend to be caustic and not terribly kind. For example, “He looks as if he had swallowed a bayonet – so stiff.” Indeed, descriptions of boys, news of engagements, observations of male-female relationships predominate throughout this first volume. She wonders which of the women a boy named Basil has been pursuing for marriage—will she be the the one he loves or the one who has money? She appreciates praise given to her by her father. “Papa says I said two very clever things at dinner tonight” she writes. After a joke about grass and hay fever, (“I think that was very clever of me.”) her Aunt M. and Pa were talking about how “much darker and more Indian like” the Americans were getting , Selina quipped, “perhaps in another generation we would all be perfectly black – I think that was rather clever too, don’t you?”
There were, however, moments of serious news. “My Dear [speaking to her diary], is it not dreadful, we have just received a telegram saying Aunt F. has the Typhoid fever.” Family planned to be going to her side, in Washington, the day after hearing the news.
Comments on current events are few and far between. However, Selina does report that she was present at the New York City celebration of the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration on April 29 through May 1, 1889. She saw President Benjamin Harrison “as he went by on his boat as all the men-of-war saluted him. He was rather late and we thought perhaps that Baby McKee [Harrison’s grandson] had left his bottle behind and had to go back for it….” Later she saw the President drive by City Hall. “He stayed so long at his lunch we were afraid he had had an attack of indigestion because he had eaten so much.” Always the wisecracker.
Near the last pages of volume one, Selina has this to say about “Society.
"My Dear, there was such a delightful young beardless youth, Oh so handsome at The Wick’s. His name was Douglas Taylor. He was awfully jolly and clever. He was not a bit of a flirt and he and I looked out the window and had lots of fun. But he does not appear in Society like those ossified “beardless” idiots who do. I’m not going to let my children (particularly boys) make their appearance until they are twenty-five, as I think these youths or “cads” who go out in Society put on airs and are unbearable and detestable…. [T]hese youthful, idiots, beardless cads monopolize Society."
The second volume continues in 1889. “It is absolutely necessary no one shall open it [the diary] but myself and my chum Edith L. Speyers,” she writes. After writing, “I never get tired of writing in it and it affords me unlimited pleasure and fun,” the next twenty pages are taken up with the topics of love and romance. “Engaged: Miss Alice Jerone to Mr. Benjamin B. Lawrence (Uncle Ben) [she writes in large capital letters taking up two pages]. The most exciting thing that has happened in years !!!!!!!” This volume is replete with drawings depicting couples, women swooning over men, men swooning over women, and couples in various social activities such as rowing along a river. A drawing of said Uncle Ben and Miss Alice has the caption, “This is Aunt Alice and Uncle Ben out walking. He is so much in love with her that he can’t keep his eyes off her…This is so romantic.” Selina does not seem particularly aware of a larger meaning of events or of time passing in any historical sense. Selina’s identity as an urban, elite young woman is not explored very deeply in her day-to-day observations. She easily accepts the social order as natural.
Despite Selina’s desire for strict secrecy concerning her own diary, she was apparently not too shy about delving into others’ confidential papers. She writes, “We have just discovered a whole package of letters from Berkely MacCauly’s ten page letters !!!!” to her Aunt Julia. “Strictly private,” Selina warns above this confession, “Only S.R.S. and E.L.S. can see this.” Apparently, Selina and her friend were well aware they would get into trouble for snooping.
A description and accompanying drawing of the Schroeder family starting on a European trip, (“they are all going to Rome to study art!!!!!”) is indicative of the Schroeder family’s social and economic standing. Unfortunately, although it appears that Selina was among those going, there are no notes about the trip. (Not every page is dated so it’s difficult to say how much time passed between entries.) In this volume there are walks along Fifth Avenue, an East Hampton summer and other idle pastimes that speak to a life of leisure and at least moderate luxury. A trip to the dentist also attests to her economic standing. There are visits from friends from England who came bearing gifts and who returned from their European sojourn with seven pairs of gloves.
As in the first volume, not every entry is frivolous. Selina mentions a funeral of a friend’s mother. “Poor Mr. J. Van S … lost his mother a few weeks ago, and is in great danger of losing a good deal of his money.” Not exactly a sympathetic observation, but she does mention that the girl interested in poor Mr. Van S. went to the funeral and wept a great deal, went to bed and was “dissolved in tears almost the entire night.” A few pages later Selina shows a modicum of generosity when she notes that she participated in a fair for the Fresh Air Fund and helped raise $75.00.
There is one political reference. Selina pasted a printed copy of a poem:
"Why doth the little busy bee
And Blaine and Burchard too
Forever sing the G.O.P
It is their nature to."
The poem above is in reference to James G. Blaine and Rev. Dr. James Burchard. Rev. Burchard was a prominent Presbyterian New York minister and supporter of James G. Blaine. Burchard was accused of killing the chances of Blaine winning the Presidency in 1884 against Grover Cleveland by Burchard’s bigoted slurs against Roman Catholics.
There are more printed poems, stories, and vignettes in this second diary than the first. Selina’s drawings have improved and her world seems to have expanded a bit. She took up photography and photographed places she visited and her girlfriends. Her primary interest, however, is still with her social “set” and the romantic interactions that seem to be the center of her universe. (“Edith gave me a punch and shrieked, ‘Is that Archie?’ I turned around and spied a pair of legs and a very long nose swaying down 14th Street. I almost fainted…you see I am so excited I can hardly write!”) [Followed by dozens of exclamation marks.] Her adventures in book two include being locked in a closet for a spell and witnessing a runaway horse with an empty wagon.
The third volume starts on December 3, 1890, and has a somewhat different tone than the previous two. There are dozens of loose pages with appointment dates and descriptions of activities. It seems that Selina is busy every day of the week with social engagements. Among her mementoes is a program from her first dinner party at the Berkeley Lyceum on W. 44th Street in New York; playbills for plays at Madison Square Garden and other theaters; and concert programs. The many comments on these souvenirs include, “Grand,” “Splendid,” “Perfectly Divine,” and “Glorious.” It is clear that Selina embraces the time and place in which she lived. And no wonder—her material life is well taken care of. She records a list of Christmas gifts that would be the envy of any adolescent today. The catalogue of thirty-four gifts includes two clocks, a silver pin, a silk bag, stockings, and cash.
Potential romance is still uppermost in Selina’s mind. In speaking of a Mr. Atcheson, she says, “To tell you the truth I am dead gone on him !!!! He is very good looking and has the loveliest smile and a divine voice, and when he looks at me, such emotion thrills through every vein…He is a vision and a Dream.” Whew.
The several drawings of dresses and costumes in the diary are a portent of Selina’s future (see picture below).
In early July, 1891 Selina closes this third volume with:
"I must close with a fond farewell as I am going to Luzerne tomorrow morning… Farewell. S.R.S."
For those of us who remember those tender teenage years, and especially those of us who wrote in diaries, the intimate musings in these books will surely have us thinking, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” And yet, the reader might wonder, while reading about the familiar emotions that were expressed by Selina -- have things really stayed the same, or, with social media being the predominate mode of communication, is there no longer an outlet for this type of expression. Perhaps in studying these and other diaries historians can contribute to a subject that is being intensely discussed these days, that is, the diminished sense of privacy, and its implications.
Curious of what became of our carefree teenager? In her mid-twenties she opened a dress shop in Manhattan due to a turn in her father’s fortunes! She married Charles Lawrence in Westchester, New York, in 1900.
For more information on her and other working women see What Women can Earn: Occupations of Women and their Compensation, by Frederick A. Stokes (1899)
History is a mystery, especially for events that occurred more than 100 years ago. With no one around who was a witness, the evidence is often sketchy at best. A newspaper article, a photograph, a letter – each piece only whets the appetite by offering a tantalizing clue.
Historians, like real life Sherlock Holmeses, search out all the evidence they can find and then apply their honed skills of reasoning to create an interpretation of what happened. Even then, they don’t always have all the right information – and they may come to incorrect conclusions.
One example is the mystery of what happened to a statue built for the Liberty Loan parades in Philadelphia during World War I. In preparing materials for a program, I was looking at photographs in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s (HSP) Philadelphia War Photograph Committee collection. Liberty Loans were bonds sold to individuals by the U.S. Treasury to fund the War, rather than raising taxes. Parades helped to promote the sales through whipping up patriotic fervor. I noticed in photographs of a parade on South Broad Street in 1917 that there was a very large Statue of Liberty next to City Hall.
It certainly is not there now, so where did it go?
My interest piqued, I began an internet search. I read up on Liberty Loan parades in HSP’s collections, including the finding aid to the South Philadelphia Women’s Liberty Loan Committee Records. And then I went to newspapers of the day and looked for articles and photographs, figuring something so large would have occasioned mention. I also wrote to curators of local art museums and searched sculpture databases for Philadelphia.
I did learn something about the statue: It was unveiled on April 16, 1917 and sculpted by Max Voight, a German immigrant. It stood 51 feet high with the base, about one-third the height of the “real” Statue of Library. The choice of Voight as sculptor echoed the poem on the Statue’s base welcoming immigrants and showed how German Americans stood with their new home in the war movement. I even found a patent for Voight’s design, but I could not discover more information about Voight, despite going to genealogy sources.
In browsing more photographs from the War Committee Collection, I saw the Statue of Liberty one more time – this time in front of Independence Hall in 1919. The occasion was a homecoming parade for the 18th Infantry Division. But the case has gone cold. No source mentions and no living person knows where the sculpture went after that final parade nearly 100 years ago.
On February 23, come to HSP to learn about another Philadelphia history mystery. Like Christopher Boone and the letters in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or me with World War I photographs, try your hand at searching historical documents and piecing together a true, but forgotten, story.
This post is shared on behalf of Andrea (Ang) Reidell, Educational Specialist, National Archives.
Last night I had the pleasure of co-presenting at Intriguing Sources: How to Solve a Historical Mystery, A One City, One Philadelphia Book Program hosted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). Participants dove right into the documents we presented to them - all evidence or clues related to an important - but now little-known - story of slavery and freedom in Philadelphia. The room buzzed with conversation as attendees looked at copies of documents from the National Archives, the Philadelphia City Archives and of course HSP. Ship manifests, ledger book pages, old newspapers and indenture certificates helped participants connect to historical events and people in a new way. Primary sources help make those historical connections happen.
What historical mysteries are you intrigued by? What stories do you want to learn more about? Maybe they are family stories, or the history of your neighborhood.or town. The historical stories I am most drawn to usually involve people who worked for change - those who worked to make the world a better place in big or small ways. Examples of this abound at the National Archives. For example, did you know that Philadelphia was the location of a famous federal civil rights case - in 1876? Newspapers across the country covered the case Reverend Fields Cook of Virginia brought against Upton Newcomer, a clerk at the plush Bingham House hotel on Market Street. But somehow knowledge of that case dissipated over the years and it became a historical mystery, rediscovered again several years ago when someone was going through court case files at the National Archives at Philadelphia. Take a look at the document below and try to decipher the clerk’s handwriting that give an overview of the process and outcome of the case. What verdict did the jury find in this Reconstruction-Era civil rights case?
Image: Indictment of Upton Newcomer; U.S. v. Newcomer, 1876; Criminal Case Files; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia); Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives at Philadelphia.
Amid holiday tumult, Lee Arnold, HSP's Senior Director of the Library & Collections and Chief Operating Officer, takes a humorous look at hidden Thanksgiving "history."
The story we have all been told, about a happy confluence between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, really didn’t happen. In fact, the Wampanoag, on that crisp 4th Thursday of November, just wanted to have a nice quiet feast without all those foreigners peppering them with silly questions: Where are we again?; Is there any place to get a nice cuppa’ tea?; What do you think of Brexit?, etc. Every time one of the Pilgrims would come to the Indian village, hinting for an invitation (“Don’t have any T-day plans…” or “Sure would be nice to be with loved ones on the holiday…”), the Wampanoags would just close their windows, turn off the lights, and pretend they weren’t home—just like they had to do with the Pilgrims the month before on Halloween.
The only Wampanoag who actually set foot in Plymouth Plantation was a Native cat which the Pilgrims called Francine but her Indian name was Fri-Tṑ-Lay-Fḗt (which roughly translates to “She whose toes smell like corn chips”). She didn’t come to Plymouth because she liked the Pilgrims; she was usually just looking for voles. But this day a hungry Pilgrim named Vivica bribed Francine with two freshly shucked quahogs. Francine not only led them to the Wampanoag smokehouse where they found ample supplies of venison and wild turkey, but she also led them to the Wampanoag pantry where they found cases of canned cranberry sauce and enough Sam Adams Pale Ale to fend off the cold till at least the New Year.
In the end the Wampanoags did set extra plates at the table (but did not put out the good silver) and taught the Pilgrims how to make a wish using the, aptly named, turkey wishbones; the Pilgrims taught them how to belch and re-notch their belts after over-eating. [We all know what the Wampanoags really wished for.] Francine, ultimately, was felis-non-grata in both communities. The Wampanoag changed her name to Bi-Valv-Kit-Tḗ (which roughly means “Cat who sells soul for small shellfish”); the Pilgrims soon forgot her heroic service that fall day and kept yelling “scat” and clapping their hands whenever she was seen in the Plantation with a vole in her mouth. They also wouldn’t let her play with any yarn on the Sabbath and she had to sit still during 3-hour sermons at Wednesday evening services. And then there were the mandatory choir rehearsals on Thursdays, and…well, Francine had simply had it and moved to Rhode Island.
For my third and final blog post, I had originally planned to profile several individuals living in Philadelphia’s Chinatown at different points in its history. As I sifted through boxes of documents and folders of photos, however, I found this task nearly impossible.
Despite having gone through stacks of Christmas cards and business letters, newspaper clippings and various personal collections, I felt as if I barely understood these individuals better than those anonymous faces featured in black and white photographs published in period newspapers.
Rather than attempting to speak on behalf of the individuals contained in these collections, I have included some of their photos and items that struck a personal chord. It is my hope that these images will allow others to put faces and names to individuals from these historical eras and events, in an effort to make them come alive as much more than mere "history book facts."
An image of Henry Loo, a successful restaurateur in the Philadelphia area, as a young man. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
The letter above is addressed to Henry Loo from his brother and details the situation surrounding their mother’s sickness. With Loo in the United States and his brother in Singapore, the duty of taking care of their mother fell to their sisters. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
Amidst the rest of his papers, I found this document showing that Henry Loo had at one time been considered for deportation. The sentence was later overturned. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
This Alien Registration Certificate does not belong to Henry Loo, but I have included it as something to compare to the modern day equivalents (say, for example, a green card). From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
As I flipped through the folders containing the various items in Henry Loo's personal papers, I had to include his impressive menu collection. I've taken a photo of just a few of the more colorful menus here. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
Amid his many other accomplishments as a successful business owner, Henry Loo was also a skilled painter. I found this little sketch of bamboo, done on a paper towel, amidst his personal papers. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
A photograph of Henry Loo celebrating his 80th birthday. From the Henry Loo personal papers and business records (#MSS140).
From the Jung Family photographs (#PG084).
From the Jung Family photographs (#PG084).
As I mentioned in the introduction to this blog series, I’ve had quite a few firsts during my time here at HSP, but I’ve also seen quite a bit of change and growth, too. Over the course of a summer, I’ve gone from being terrified of handing in a call slip and causing irreparable damage to the documents, to being proud of my call slip collection and eager to see what the next box held in store (though, of course, I never stopped being careful with what I handled!). With my time as an intern at HSP drawing to a close, I am grateful for being able to have had the opportunity to see a community history so personal to me in a new light, and I look forward to carrying that perspective with me to whatever new journeys I embark upon next.