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Fondly, Pennsylvania

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!

HSP Blog

Marbled Papers in the Bank of North America collection

The project conservation team has been busy photographing each of the hundreds of volumes in the Bank of North America collection. In the process we have created a sizeable collection of decorated papers present in these volumes, either as endsheets or exterior covering. Most of these were created using a process known as marbling, although some books contain paste papers as well.

Forms of marbling have been documented in China, Japan and the Middle East prior to the 12th century. Japanese Suminagashi involves the use of sumi inks and it is still a popular paper marbling style. The Turkish Ebru style was first introduced to France, Italy and Germany and craftsmen continued to introduce a wide range of materials and techniques. A Western marbled paper was created by floating a sizing such as carageenan on the surface of a water bath, followed by pigments in the desired sequence and a surfactant such as ox gall. This layer could be manipulated with a variety of tools and motions as well as added chemicals. An alum treated paper was laid on top and gently pulled away to create an impression.

Marbled paper styles may be roughly classified by technique although the variety of the practice ensures dispute. To identify these I relied mostly on the nomenclature established by Richard J. Wolfe in Marbled paper: Its history, techniques, and patterns. With special reference to the relationship of marbling to bookbinding in Europe and the Western world . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

Below is an example of the Nonpareil pattern ("unparalleled" in French), formed with the use of an evenly spaced comb dragged through the pigment layer.

 

 

The Shell pattern below was created by mixing the last color to be added to the bath with oil, producinng the characteristic dark centered and white outlined color spots.

 

 

This Schrottel pattern's pebbly look was achieved by the addition of an oil and ox gall mixture to a Turkish color base.

 

 

The Italian pattern is meant to resemble actual marble stone and the thin veins of color between wide open spaces are created by adding a disperant to the bath after the initial colors. This may have been a combination of soap, spirits and ox gall. In addition, the bath was physically manipulated to create the gradated waves characteristic of the Spanish style,  an innovation that may or may not have originated with the shaky hands of a marbling craftsman nursing a hangover.

 

 

The Spanish moiré pattern is a variation that involved folding the paper diagonally first before laying it on the bath and rocking it with repeated motions. This particular paper was possibly double printed, with a gold vein pattern followed by the final Spanish moiré.

 

 

The open white lacing of the Stormont pattern below was achieved with the final addition of turpentine or some other dispersant to the bath.

 

 

Marbling on printed text occured occasionally as the craftsman reached for whatever paper was available and several volumes in the Bank of North America collection sport such endsheets. This one is a portion of the biography of De Witt Clinton, 1769-1828, the New York politician known as "the father of the Erie Canal".

HSP holds a copy of this 1829 publication: Memoir of De Witt Clinton: with an appendix, containing numerous documents, illustrative of the principal events of his life by David Hosack

More images of the marbled and paste papers of the Bank of North America collection can be seen in this set on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's flickr page.

Greenfield Digital Project Launched

Drum roll, please . . . the Greenfield Digital Project has made its official debut! Please take a minute to check it out:

Closed for Business: The Story of Bankers Trust Company during the Great Depression
hsp.org/bankers-trust

As you may recall, we've spent the last two and a half years developing a new web resource to tell the story of the 1930 failure of Bankers Trust Company, the first large bank to fail in Philadelphia during the Great Depression. The new web site includes:

* 320 primary source documents, including documents about the bank's operation, letters from depositors desperate to get access to their funds after the bank's failure, and newspaper clippings about the aftermath of the bank's failure;

* biographies of some of the people and organizations highlighted in the documents;

* contextual essays about the history of Bankers Trust Company, the Great Depression in Philadelphia, and the 1930s banking crisis in Philadelphia; and

* an educators page with ideas about how to use the resource in the classroom.

 

Image of home page of Greenfield Digital Project

A screen grab from "Closed for Business." Check it out at hsp.org/bankers-trust.

Thanks to all of our text encoding work, users can search and access the primary source documents, biographies, and other annotation in multiple ways. For instance, users can view the full list of documents in chronological order, search documents by keyword or date, or filter documents by genre (i.e. whether a document is correspondence or a newspaper clipping), creator name or recipient name.

Each primary source document includes a facsimile of the original (on the left), alongside a transcription of the text (on the right).

Image of Greenfield document and transcription

Clicking on the document facsimile opens up a viewer that allows users to zoom in further on the image.

Users can also click on linked text within the transcriptions to learn more about people and organizations mentioned in the documents, as well as see what other documents mention those entities. So for instance, you can quickly see which documents mention Moses Annenberg, the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1936 to 1942, by clicking through to his biography page (the documents are all listed at the bottom). Some documents also include footnotes, which provide more historical context for readers.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to explore the new site, which was part of a larger effort funded by the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation to draw attention to HSP's 20th-century collections.

And I hope you'll continue to follow our progress as we turn our attention to HSP's newest digital history effort: the William Still Digital History Project.

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: March 1863

Hello readers! Thanks for returning for another round of transcripts from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). Here's a quick recap of this project. HSP recently acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War, 1863-1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'm providing monthly posts on Fondly, PA of a few transcripts from his diaries.

To see other posts in the series, check out the links over on the right-hand side of this page.  Clicking on the diary images will take you to our Digital Library where you can exmaine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.

*****

In March 1863, we find Parry still enjoying the frequent company of friends. However, this time we get a small mix of the personal and the professional in his entries. But make no mistake; Parry was certainly something of a social butterfly!  Read on to find out just what he was doing and who he was seeing.


Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets []. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.


Monday, March 2
Sale at Amos Clayton's
called on by W. Connard

Joseph Hannum

spent the evening at|
Kinsey Tomlinson, Miss Taylor
Thompson Rose, Ned Hutchinson
Geo. C. Worstal

*****

Sunday, March 8
Joseph Hammer  [Sowell?]
Mare – died, congestion lungs
sick 18 hours ---
Quaker meeting [illegible] spoke
afternoon conference meeting

Eve. Took Julia V. Taylor
And Lizzie Barnsley up to
Silas Cary's  - met some friends
Barnsley V. Janney
very hard Thunder Storms
                          Miss Lenox

*****

Saturday, March 14
Jonathan Knights

James Anderson

J. S. Bule Jr.

                       got Dyed up
spent Eve. at Taylor's at
the Contraband meeting[,] had
very good time[.] went home with
Mary Bickman and got some
cider

*****

Friday, March 27
C. R. Scarborough

Jon. Knight
James Anderson

Hourse sale at the Buck|
by Silas Atkinson – Lewis
Roberts took me down – he
bought a pair of mules

 

New Digital History Project to Focus on the Underground Railroad

I'm excited to report that HSP has begun work on a new digital history project that will focus on the Underground Railroad.

Over the next year or so, my colleague Rachel Moloshok and I will be creating a prototype for a new web resource that will weave together the 19th-century manuscript journal and published book of William Still, who is known as the "Father of the Underground Railroad."

This effort will provide extraordinary insight into the experiences of enslaved individuals and families who passed through Philadelphia between 1852 and 1857 and the covert networks that aided their escape.

Philadelphia was an essential hub of anti-slavery activity, and Still served as chairman of Philadelphia’s Vigilance Committee. Still's "Journal C"— held in trust by HSP on behalf of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society papers—records the personal accounts of fugitives who arrived in the city and provides rich content for discussion about slavery and escape. Twenty years after he began work for the Vigilance Committee, Still published The Underground Rail Road (1872), the most extensive contemporary compendium of the Underground Railroad's workings in this region.

William Still portrait

Portrait of William Still from his 1872 book, The Underground Rail Road (call # E 441 A58 v. 125)

pages from William Still's Journal C

Pages from Still's "Journal C"

We're currently knee deep in the planning for this first prototype. We plan to present digital images and text transcriptions for both Still volumes, with the transcriptions encoded in XML to match the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines and allow for sophisticated searching and analysis. (Thanks to an earlier HSP effort, you can see images and text transcriptions of Journal C here.) We'll also be researching and writing biographies of some of the men and women featured in Still's works, as well as creating other contextual materials to help users better understand the significance of these volumes.

In late February, we met with members of our advisory committee of scholars, educators, genealogists, and public history professionals to discuss interpretive options and brainstorm possible web features. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll be getting feedback from our target audiences and testing out web site features to see what works best.

You can follow our progress on this blog, or on our project page, here.

Stay tuned!

 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Printing Plates from the Bank of North America Collection


I’ve written about the conservation of archival materials related to printmaking history in the past for this blog and I am excited to share a grouping of printing plates from the Bank of North America collection.


This image shows the copper printing plate, wrong-reading at top, and below, flipped horizontally to show how it would appear printed.

In addition to the nearly 700 volumes in the collection, there are boxes of archival materials. Among these materials, were two boxes labeled “Engraved Plates.”  


Nineteen printing plates of various sizes and condition were stacked upright in old non-archival document boxes with removable lid at top.   Many, but not all, of the plates were wrapped in paper and marked with identifying information.

There are three categories of plates in these boxes– portraits of Presidents of the Bank of North America, bank letterhead plates, and Bank Notes and Currency Plates.


At left, the image printed from the steel plate at right.

There are eight portrait plates of the Presidents from the inception of the bank in 1791 (Robert Morris) through 1860.  Prints from these plates can be found throughout the extra-illustrated version of the History of the Bank of North America (here is a sneak peak of these exquisite volumes – expect a full blog post in the coming months).

The treatment plan for these plates was to create customized housing for each plate and accompanying wrapper.  Hinged sink mat inset trays were constructed of acid-free corrugated board with lifts for the plates.  These boxes minimize handling of the archival materials and provide opportunity to better organize the plates.

Many, many more images of these plates are on our Flickr page - including stamps on the backside of the plates, extreme close-ups of engraved lines and more!

Women in Philadelphia History: The Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd papers

Erin DeFord is currently an intern in HSP's Digital Center for Americana (DCA).  As part of her Digital Collections and Humanities Internship, Erin recently digitized The Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd papers on the American Red Cross's Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service (Collection 3467).  Read Erin's thoughts on the collection and check out more images in HSP's Digital Library:

During World War II, Philadelphia set the precedence in helping allied prisoners of war in Germany and Japan. Philadelphia was the home of the nation's first American Red Cross Allied Prisoner's of War Food Packing Plant, which was located on 30th and Allegheny Avenue.

Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd, Eleanor, was a native of Ardmore, Pennsylvania and served the director of the plant from 1943 until the end of the war in 1945. In 1944, Mrs. Lloyd received the Gimbel Award for "America's outstanding woman" in recognition on her contributions to the war effort.

The Mrs. StacyPhotograph of Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd B. Lloyd papers on the American Red Cross's Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service (Collection 3467) contains letters and notes made by Mrs. Lloyd, notes received from prisoners of war, photographs, and newspaper clippings collected by Mrs. Lloyd.

What surprised me most when digitizing this collection is the organization and precision of the workers at the packing plant.  For example: about 12,000 boxes were packed each day, the boxes weighed 11 pounds, and had 16 articles in them (positioned the same in each box).  By August 1943 the millionth box had been sent out from Philadelphia. One of food packages sent to prisoners of war

The boxes contained powdered milk, prunes, canned corned beef, chocolate, biscuits, can of liver paste, Nescafe, tin of salmon, tins of orange concentrate, pressed ham, cheese, oleomargarine, sugar, soap, and cigarettes. 

Receiving packages at a POW camp

 

 

When they could, prisoners of war wrote to the women at the packing plant thanking them for their efforts and even gave some of their pay as a donation to the Red Cross. 

 

POWs performs a play at a prison camp in Germany

Life for the prisoners varied depending on what prisoner of war camp they were at.   Sadly, not much communication was allowed between the United States and camps located in the Pacific.  However, here is an interesting picture of a play some prisoners of war enacted while held in Germany.

This was a great collection to do as my first digitization project because I got to work with a time period in which I was familiar, but with an organization that is so large and complex it would be difficult to not learn something new.  Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd played a pivotal role in the Red Cross and Philadelphia during World War II.  Please browse the rest of her collection in HSP's Digital Library to discover the nature of prisoner of war camps in Germany and Japan during World War II.

Processing the Bank of North America collection

Philadelphia is a city of firsts, including both the first brick house and pianoforte built in the United States, as well as the first published treatise against slavery. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Philadelphia was also home to the first chartered, national bank. The Bank of North America was initially founded by the Second Continental Congress in 1781 to help fund the expensive Revolutionary War, which was badly in need of money and supplies. The BNA's records are on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and part of a massive conservation project which includes years of careful cleaning, mending, rebinding, and rehousing. These records span from 1723 through the 1920s and contain both what you'd expect from bank records (ledgers, cash books, day books, etc.) and a few surprises (wait until you see the poetry, the horse, and the hanged man, all coming in a later blog post).

The items in this collection came to HSP in 1939, deposited by the Pennsylvania Company, which at that point in time was the operating descendant of the Bank of North America. The collection has had varying levels of accessibility since then, with the condition of both the materials and the inventory limiting access for researchers. The first limiting factor is being addressed by the 3-year conservation project, which you can see photos of on HSP's revitalized Flickr page. (This page will be updated throughout the project so check back often or add it to your RSS reader.) As the project archivist, my job is to address the second factor that limited access -- the poor condition of the inventory -- by creating a new intellectual and physical arrangement so that researchers will have a better idea of what's in the collection.

green box from the Bank of North America collection

Improving access by creating a new physical arrangement means that all of the unbound materials (loose documents and artwork) in the collection need to come out of their old housing and into new folders and boxes. This is especially important because those green boxes aren't just old and unfashionable, they're...problematic for everyone who wants to access this collection. (But they were probably the height of archival science in the 30s, so we'll give past archivists a pass on this one.)

If you're researching in this collection, then a few different scenarios could greet you when you open one of those green boxes. The best case scenario for you and the collection materials is shown above: materials that are (believe it or not) in labeled folders, more or less kept flat by the folders and the way they're stored in the box. But you can't read the folder titles without removing the folders from the box, and you can't do that without turning the box on its side and dumping (well, carefully sliding) everything out onto the table. 

Your second best case scenario: sturdy, folded documents, not in folders, but not damaged either. The only way to get at these materials is by (again) dumping everything out and searching through a big pile of folded stuff that really doesn't want to be unfolded, one document at a time.

Here's your worst case scenario: unfoldered materials including very fragile newspaper, just rattling around in the box with no way to retrieve them without dumping everything out and pawing through it or shoving your hand in there and likely further damaging the materials. [Ok, actually I think a worst case scenario would involve organic materials, some bugs, and a humid storage environment, but thankfully this collection is free of most of those things.] 

Underneath the crumbling newsprint was this:

It's a rolled mass of documents that can't, in their present state, be identified, dated, or read because a) the documents are too fragile to pry apart and b) they've been rolled for probably 70 years and would like to stay that way. But thanks to a little conservation lab magic, these documents have now been safely flattened and foldered and will soon be accessible for the first time.

The unbound portion of the collection is now comfortably resting in labeled, dated, acid free folders, inside acid-free document and photograph boxes. Each folder has a title and the contents are arranged in a way that will make it easier for researchers to find what they're looking for. As archival processing progresses, I'll be able to digitize a few items to show off on the blog and in our Digital Library, including Revolutionary War figures who banked at BNA, portraits of bank presidents, and of course the poetry, the horse, and the hanged man.

The Tough Stuff of History: Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising

The Balch Ethnic Images in Advertising collection is intriguing if not problematic. It raises questions of definition, the transient nature of advertisements, and the nature of advertising in general. Much like Scarlet O’Hara— seen at right in what is perhaps the classiest Schlitz advertisement known to man— its existence depends on the kindness of strangers. First someone--in this case The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies--made the conscious decision to artificially create the collection. The Ethnic Images in Advertising collection is artificial in that it is not the culmination of documents from an individual’s or organization’s daily activities but an amalgamation of mostly unconnected objects.

Gone With the Wind inspired ad for Schlitz Beer

After making that initial decision, they defined the parameters of the collection, mainly in regards to topics and time period. This collection brings together ethnic images from the late 1890s through 1999, encompassing a variety of groups including Arab, Anglo, Latino/Hispanic, Pennsylvania Dutch, Scottish, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek. The bulk of the collection however consists of African American, Asian/ Asian American, and American Indian images. There are curious files on “Rural Dwellers,” “Immigrants,” and “Miscellaneous” demonstrating that images were collected but not always assigned to a specific group and unsurprisingly perhaps, that it is not always easy to determine what ethnicity someone is based on appearance alone. Not every advertisement includes such obvious cues as the River Maid crate label seen below. The girl’s bonnet, wooden shoes and the windmill still epitomize “Dutch" to many of us.

River Maid Bartlett Pears were packaged in California

Finding and then preserving a copy of every advertisement conceived and created over approximately one hundred years represents a challenge. It is estimated that by the end of the 19th century Americans could choose from nearly 100,000 magazines. While the sheer volume of print advertisements contributes to the potential survival of content, the ephemeral nature of magazines almost guarantees gaps in the historical record. Unlike family photos or business records magazines were consumable goods, generally meant to be purchased, perused and pitched. Aunt Jemima, 1924For example, there are approximately ten Aunt Jemima ads in the collection--the highest number for any single product--but even the most cursory internet search uncovers hundreds of different advertisements beginning in the 1890s with Nancy Green, the first woman to portray the fictitious Aunt Jemima all the way through the familiar smiling illustration used today.  It is safe to assume that the Balch Institute never intended to collect a copy of each advertisement ever made but rather to select iconic images like Aunt Jemima or Uncle Rastus as well as examples of specific stereotypes such as the Irish police officer, the Italian fruit cart vendor, or the Chinese laundry worker.

It would be easy to say that the advertisements are snapshots of American cultural beliefs and the public’s dedication to stereotyping the “other.” Even that poses a challenge, because of course advertisements do not necessarily represent reality, but an advertising agency’s assessment of reality. Historian Roland Marchand makes the persuasive argument that through their work ad men defined the American dream while informing the public on how to attain said dream; they sold the dream along with the products. Though his book, Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity 1920-1940 only deals with a portion of the years represented in the Ethnic Images in Advertising collection, it is important to be aware of intent when looking at the ads. A professional ad agent determined how best to sell goods by exploiting and magnifying consumer desires and fears, even if it meant defining those desires and fears for the consumer first.

Cai Lun (ca 50 AD- 121) is credited with creating the process that vastly improved paper qualityThe Balch Ethnic Images in Advertising is problematic for another much more visceral reason. A number of the advertisements rely on negative stereotypes to sell everything from breakfast food and alcohol to interstate travel. It is hard to look at negative images and write descriptions of what is now understood to be racist, derogatory, or at the very least demeaning. Complicating matters are the so-called positive stereotypes such as the scholarly Asian, the happy African American domestic or noble American Indian. Take for example the Container Corporation of America ad seen at left.  Here we see Ts’ai Lun (or Cai Lun) a Chinese eunuch during the Han Dynasty who is credited with improving the process of papermaking. Existing stylistically somewhere between a woodblock print and an ink wash, the ad exclaims “Darned clever...these Chinese!” On the surface the ad is complimentary maybe even flattering. Reading on however, we learn Ts’ai Lun had to endow his paper with "'mystic powers to raise the dead' to get it into use,” while America’s magic is "low-cost, light-weight packages of paperboard." According to the ad, improved technology was not sufficient to convince “darned clever” Chinese people to take up Ts’ai Lun’s invention; it was only through superstition that people were convinced. The presumably American viewers of the ad are assured they need no such superstitious contrivances. With a wink ad men tell consumers who is really clever.

Advertisement for Hiram Walker Ten High WhiskeyOne image for Hiram Walker High Ten Whiskey was a source of much consternation for this author. Formatted to resemble a comic strip, the first image shows a white man Ezra, talking to a wild-haired African man Zeke, who wears an animal print loincloth, horns and a ring through his nose. We come to learn that the men are cousins and that Zeke has recently landed a role in his first Hollywood film. In the last panel Zeke has removed the wild hair, horns and nose ring and is in the process of removing the dark make-up from his face revealing a white complexion and a shock of blonde hair. Clearly intended to elicit a laugh, the punchline now struggles under the heavy weight of over 150 years of blackface and the stereotypical image of Africans--if not African Americans--as savage and frightening.

Still, the Balch Ethnic Images in Advertising is intriguing survey of American advertisements in a variety of formats. There are a number of labels, primarily from crates and boxes, but also from canned fruits and vegetables. Maps, menus, placemats and even a few playbills help to round out the collection. The third box of the collection which constitutes additions taken in 2005 included two hand fans picturing African American children and women in various intellectual pursuits. Some of the imagery may prove an intellectual or ethical challenges, but they are worth undertaking as they help reveal a more nuanced understanding of American advertising.

This hand fan advertises various Delaware business on the back

Check out the link to the full collection below and tell us what you think.

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: February 1863

Welcome to the second installment of transcripts from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). In the event that you're just joining in, or have perhaps forgotten what this is about, HSP recently acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War, 1863-1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'm providing monthly posts on Fondly, PA of a few transcripts from his diaries.

To see other posts in the series, check out the links over on the right-hand side of this page.  Clicking on the diary images will take you to our Digital Library where you can exmaine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.

*****

This month we move onto February 1863. When we last left Parry, he was enjoying crisp winter evenings, outings with friends, and plenty of general merriment. Not so surprisingly, this trend continued into February. Let's take a glimpse into his daily whereabouts.


Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets []. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.


Thursday, February 5
Paxsons Store dancing

Chas. Leedoms drinking

cider

Presbyterian Church

Business very dull

snowy and rainy

*****

Tuesday, February 10
Came home.
                            Loaned Joseph
M. Scott a milk tube

attended a Party in Newtown
Hall. Managers John Linton
Geo. C. Worstal kept it
up till half past two
very nice time
John Linton a very nice young
man, his home is Sacramento, Calif.

*****

Thursday, February 19
Enos Tomlinson

Stephen Cornell

Party at Major Buckman's
spent the evening at Rose's
playing chicquards with
David Leedom Esq. Blaker
Ordered some medicine
                           Geo Ashmead

*****

Monday, February 23
Medicine arrived from
Ashmead
                  Eli Buckman

Henry Taylor
Took a number of Newtown
Ladies out to Barnsleys.
had a good time. Eliza Buckman
Dr. Smith letter from Holland

Pauses

I'm posting this entry on behalf of my intern, Ethan Fried, who performed extensive amounts of research and writing for the Preserving American Freedom digital history project, funded by Bank of America. For this project, Ethan described and annotated 50 documents that help trace the evolution of American liberties and composed biographies of related people and organizations. Ethan is a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University and holds degrees in History and Secondary Education. His previous work as an undergraduate writing tutoring and high school teacher has left him determined to relate the intrigue of history to young people.

Pictured: Barbara Gittings in 1994

Coming into work on the SEPTA rail line offers a unique perspective on Philadelphia. Sprawling and large, the cityscape proves a sharp relief from my own hometown of Langhorne. Each day as I commute, while the rails squeak and the murmur of passengers fills the car, I often feel like I'm traversing worlds. In truth, I’m not yet comfortable walking around the city, save for my own route to the Historical Society. But the city, a modern incarnation of the place countless documents I've studied described, becomes more and more familiar by the day.

One such experience came just a few weeks ago on my way to work. Taking my usual 11th street exit from Market East Station, turning rightward towards City Hall and making a left onto 13th street, I noticed the name Barbara Gittings above the street corner of 13th and Locust. While not explicitly described by name, Gittings, famous for her progressive stances and tactics promoting gay rights, was a direct inspiration (and indeed, architect) of the "Dr. Anonymous" speech in the Preserving American Freedom exhibit. Countless times, I have walked through that intersection and looked upon that faceless name with an unknown history. But now that I know who she is, I can't help but pause, if only for a moment, at the foot of her namesake's sign. Just as I was exploring the old Philadelphia through manuscripts, letters, and maps, so was I encountering modern Philadelphia for the first time.

Speech of "Dr. Henry Anonymous" [John Fryer] at the American Psychiatric Association 125th Annual Meeting [May 2, 1972]

Speech of "Dr. Henry Anonymous" [John Fryer] at the American Psychiatric Association 125th Annual Meeting [May 2, 1972], one of 50 documents featured in the Preserving American Freedom project

This may be the most important effect of what I do here at HSP: to make history too important not to pass signs like Gittings's without a pause of understanding. The results of her efforts, and the efforts of the gay rights community, are clear. The Philadelphia "Gayborhood" is lined with rainbow signs and bars with names that drip with clear and public double entendre. Across the nation, gay rights supporters march ahead with the legalization of gay marriage, most recently in Maryland and Washington. All of this is a far cry from the reality of someone like Barbara Gittings. In her adolescence, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. It took the courage of John Fryer, a gay psychiatrist that masked himself as he told his medical association that he could be both a productive psychiatrist and a homosexual to prompt the AMA to remove homosexuality from their list of disorders in 1973.

And although it's sometimes hard to dissociate the great movements of history from the people that sparked their creation and continued their sustenance, the past remains made by individuals like Barbara Gittings and John Fryer. The fact is, history can be so hard to connect with because it presents a place and time removed from our own. But when history is seen as a million intimate narratives, with a million voices, opinions, lives, and destinies, it becomes something else entirely. It becomes relatable. It becomes traceable. It becomes pause-worthy.

So the next time anyone asks why history can move and change us, and why it fills us with both wisdom and courage, I suggest bringing them to the corner of 13th and Locust and tell them the story of a man and woman who fought too hard for history to forget them. My guess is, they won't need to ask you that question anymore.

4/8/13
Author: Alina Josan

The project conservation team has been busy photographing each of the hundreds of volumes in the Bank of North America collection. In the process we have created a sizeable collection of decorated papers present in these volumes, either as endsheets or exterior covering. Most of these were created using a process known as marbling, although some books contain paste papers as well.

Comments: 1

4/3/13
Author: Dana Dorman

Drum roll, please . . . the Greenfield Digital Project has made its official debut! Please take a minute to check it out:

Closed for Business: The Story of Bankers Trust Company during the Great Depression
hsp.org/bankers-trust

Comments: 0

3/27/13
Author: Cary Hutto

Hello readers! Thanks for returning for another round of transcripts from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). Here's a quick recap of this project. HSP recently acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War, 1863-1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Comments: 0

3/22/13
Author: Dana Dorman

I'm excited to report that HSP has begun work on a new digital history project that will focus on the Underground Railroad.

Over the next year or so, my colleague Rachel Moloshok and I will be creating a prototype for a new web resource that will weave together the 19th-century manuscript journal and published book of William Still, who is known as the "Father of the Underground Railroad."

Comments: 3

3/20/13
Author: Leah Mackin


I’ve written about the conservation of archival materials related to printmaking history in the past for this blog and I am excited to share a grouping of printing plates from the Bank of North America collection.

Comments: 0

3/13/13
Author: Erin DeFord

Erin DeFord is currently an intern in HSP's Digital Center for Americana (DCA).  As part of her Digital Collections and Humanities Internship, Erin recently digitized The Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd papers on the American Red Cross's Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service (Collection 3467).  Read Erin's thoughts on the collection and check out more images in HSP's Digital Library:

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3/11/13
Author: Sarah Newhouse

Philadelphia is a city of firsts, including both the first brick house and pianoforte built in the United States, as well as the first published treatise against slavery. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Philadelphia was also home to the first chartered, national bank. The Bank of North America was initially founded by the Second Continental Congress in 1781 to help fund the expensive Revolutionary War, which was badly in need of money and supplies.

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3/6/13
Author: Mandi Magnuson-hung

The Balch Ethnic Images in Advertising collection is intriguing if not problematic. It raises questions of definition, the transient nature of advertisements, and the nature of advertising in general. Much like Scarlet O’Hara— seen at right in what is perhaps the classiest Schlitz advertisement known to man— its existence depends on the kindness of strangers. First someone--in this case The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies--made the conscious decision to artificially create the collection.

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2/27/13
Author: Cary Hutto

Welcome to the second installment of transcripts from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). In the event that you're just joining in, or have perhaps forgotten what this is about, HSP recently acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War, 1863-1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

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2/20/13
Author: Rachel Moloshok

I'm posting this entry on behalf of my intern, Ethan Fried, who performed extensive amounts of research and writing for the Preserving American Freedom digital history project, funded by Bank of America. For this project, Ethan described and annotated 50 documents that help trace the evolution of American liberties and composed biographies of related people and organizations. Ethan is a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University and holds degrees in History and Secondary Education.

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