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!
When William Penn established Philadelphia in 1682, he and his settlers no doubt sailed around several islands in the southern part of the Delaware River. Today a few islands still exist in this region, such as Petty's Island and Pea Patch Island, the site of Fort Delaware. But this expansive waterway between southern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey also once included several islands where the Delaware and Schuylkill River met – Mud Island, Little Mud Island, Hog Island, and League Island. Located just off League Island were once sandbars known as the Horseshoe Shoals.
The landscape of the Delaware River has certainly changed over time. Its ebb and flow has washed away some landmasses, such as small islands called Gibbet and Bush, while creating others. The shorelines of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been affected as well. Two former islands, Carpenter's and Province, naturally evolved into the mainland. But some of the change was promoted and produced by man. Mud and Hog islands were eventually backfilled, Mud Island being the home of Fort Mifflin and Hog Island now the site of the Philadelphia International Airport. League Island is now the site of the Navy Yard, but it wasn't always the Navy Yard. Its transformation from island to industry occurred in the early 1830s.
While doing some research in HSP's collections, I came across a fascinating booklet attesting to League Island's (and Philadelphia's other islands) interesting history: Letters and Documents relative to the Application to Connect League Island with the Main Land (1837). It contains transcribed and printed letters between Charles Wharton Jr. and Richard Delafield, Captain of U. S. Engineers, and others, concerning Wharton's desire to build a causeway to connect League Island to Philadelphia at Broad Street, which, back then, terminated at the Delaware River.
Wharton was a businessman with interests in the iron industry, so why did he care to have League Island connected to Philadelphia? In one of his letters he stated he would "build piers on the south side of League Island, at the termination of Broad Street, for the particular accommodation of the coal and western trade of the state." (6 January, 1837, p. 6). He was very concerned about how the piers, as well as direct connection from mainland to island would affect shipping and navigation, and he wrote to Delafield for advice. Delafield offered wonderfully detailed letters to Wharton about the history of the river and its islands and noted several acts that would allow Wharton erect a causeway and piers. By 1837, there was very little water separating League Island from Philadelphia since the "narrow channel," Delafield noted, "was shoaling constantly." (20 December 1836, p. 4). Delafield supported Wharton's plans, as did Navy Commodore Charles Stewart, to whom Wharton also wrote. Stewart eagerly supported the causeway, noting "it may finally prove beneficial to that of the Schuylkill," and that the piers and wharves would help shippers secure "commerce from ice in the winter" and would accommodate "vessels with a good harbor in all violent north and easterly gales." (7 January 1837, p. 10). The state eventually approved Wharton's plan, and so began League Island's industrialization.
League Island's history changed once again in the 1860s when the U. S. Navy, which had been based in a yard on Front Street of the Delaware, sought new land for a new yard. According to the booklet League Island Navy Yard: Its advantages as a naval station, dock-yards and shelter for the United States Navy, League Island was chosen as one of the possible sites, and was accepted by the Navy in 1868. A few years later, in 1871, the new Navy Yard was erected. The eastern portion of the small channel that still separated the island from the mainland was eventually filled in order to make room for a new airfield, Mustin Field, while a western portion of the channel was kept as a reserve basin for ships. Views of the yard, even with the coming and going of two world wars, remained largely unchanged until the 1960s. The construction of a new interstate highway, I-95, forever changed the site of southern Philadelphia on the Delaware.
The U. S. Navy ceased operations at the yard in the mid 1990s, and by 2000, the land was once again owned by the city of Philadelphia. Today, gatekeepers at the Navy Yard continue to salute the patrons that enter the yard, no matter if they're heading to the Tasty Baking Company, Urban Outfitters, GlaxoSmithKline, or another of the many business that currently reside there.
A couple months ago, HSP lauched a new blog, Roots and Branches, to help highlight HSP's genealogy and family history resources. I just wrote a post for the blog on a new collection we receivedly received, the Vauclain family papers and genealogical research materials (Collection 3666). This collection is a fantastic resource for genealogists as well as those researching Philadelphia's Vauclain family.
Roots and Branches already has some great posts and new content will be uploaded monthly, so be sure to check back in for more genealogical stories from HSP!
As an intern for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I’m spending this summer researching people connected to the story of Bankers Trust Company, the first large Philadelphia bank to default during the Great Depression. I’m currently writing a brief biography about George Wharton Pepper (1867-1961), a lawyer, law professor, author, and Republican senator. Although he was seeking re-election in 1926, the assorted quotations printed in his promotional pamphlets (“His Convictions Based on Truths”) still read like sound bites from this election year, and he had good one-liners, for example:
“Talk not based on facts is moral filibustering.”
He also had some pretty strong convictions about the filibuster, which he writes about at length in a chapter in his book Men and Issues called “Kill the Filibuster.” Pepper wrote with an impressive command of language and a witty sense of humor. He once delivered a self-deprecating defense of the Senate that was reviewed in The New York Times with the headline: “Places Senators Among Best Hated: George W. Pepper Says He Once Thought That Lawyers Were Most Unpopular.” In his autobiography, Philadelphia Lawyer, Pepper also humorously reflects on his political positions (a former Democrat who joined the Republican Party): “Having voted for [Grover] Cleveland in 1888 when he lost, I now found myself backing a losing candidate [Benjamin Harrison] on the other side of the fence. So far my batting average was not high.”
From left to right: J.P. Morgan, George Wharton Pepper, Teddy Roosevelt, and Flavel Sweeten Luther, recipients of honorary degrees from Trinity College in 1918 with Trinity College president, Luther (Record photo morgue)
Despite his jokes, Pepper was a versatile, multifaceted man with an actually decent batting average. An accomplished scholar-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, he also provided counsel for the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs in the Federal League Baseball case in 1922. Thanks to Pepper, the United States Supreme Court held that professional baseball was not considered interstate commerce under the Sherman Antitrust Act—saving the defendants $240,000 in damages (over $3.1 million today).
Beyond baseball, Pepper was also very invested in religious matters and wrote lectures on preaching in addition to legal subjects. He was a prominent leader within the Protestant Episcopal Church and the first layman ever chosen as Lyman Beecher lecturer at Yale Divinity School. He also played an important role in financing and constructing the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The man even has his own theme song:
So how does Pepper relate to Bankers Trust? In November 1931, after the bank had closed, Pepper sat in the jury box to hear Bankers Trust’s double liability case, where depositors petitioned to bar stockholders from sharing in liquidation proceeds. Pepper attended on behalf of a group of attorneys representing stockholders in various trust companies in other double liability cases. In the case of Bankers Trust, such liability was not found, and the petition was refused.
Because Pepper was a senator and an extremely accomplished Philadelphian, more is known about him today than some of the other people connected with Bankers Trust. Still, I’ve had a fantastic time researching all of these figures, attempting to ascertain each person’s unique character, and connecting them to the larger national narrative of the Great Depression.
Alternately, how you should spend your summer vacation, according to Pastorius.
- Rise early and walk in the fields and eat & drink betimes in the morning.
- Sage and sweet butter for breakfast.
- Geld sheep and cattle.
- Use green whey against choler.
- About full moon sow lettuce.
- Kill rattlesnakes. Keep their fat.
- Wash sheep for to shear, they may now go bare.
- Avoid two Ws: wine and women.
- If meadows be grown, let meadows be mown.
- Pull off the superfluous leaves from your hops.
- Gather your flowers & herbs to last for the whole year.
- This month and January of all twelve mostly vary.
- Abstain from aspick [sic].
- Beware the burning beams of the sun.
- Dry flax get in for spinners to spin.
- Drink sage beer.
- Avoid too much care, sorrow, zeal, and study.
- Avoid physick and blood-letting in the dog days.
- Use moderate diet, and forbear to sleep in the afternoon.
- Shun victuals too well spiced; much of melons, and after these sink a glass of wine.
- Revive your fainting fruit trees by pouring blood or dunghill water about them.
- Dig wells.
All of this advice is from Pastorius’s “A monthly monitor briefly showing when our works ought to be done in gardens, orchards, vineyards, fields, meadows, and woods,” written in 1701. This entire collection, the Francis Daniel Pastorius papers, is currently being digitized as part Phase II of the Digital Center of Americana Project and all of it will be viewable online. The finding aid for the collection can be found here. Aside from these monthly checklists, this volume also includes a detailed log of sunrise and sunset times, weather prognostication, astronomy charts, a guide to fishing, and transcriptions from the works of authorities on farming, vineyards, beekeeping, and other agrarian subjects.
It's nearly the end of July. I sincerely hope no one has eaten any aspic or studied too much.
The summer is in full swing at HSP, and in archives that means we have welcomed two new interns into the ranks: Arek and Allison. Both have been working hard on numerous projects, including updating our free space inventory and assisting Project Archivist Willhem Echevarria on collections he's processing for the NHPRC Civic Engagement Collections project. They've also been hard at work inventorying and processing collections of their own. Here's a rundown of those collections. Links to the finding aids will be posted once their work is complete, but all these collections are currently open for research and can be found through our online catalog Discover.
Philadelphia Bureau of Unemployment Relief records, 1930-1933 (Collection 1585)
Allison recently finished doing a box-level inventory for this interesting collection from an organization that was founded to help local folks during the Great Depression. The Bureau was formed in 1931 after the re-organization of another city committee, the Committee for Unemployment Relief. Many in the city were extensively in need during this time, and the bureau resources were exhausted after only a few months. Its work of providing financial relief was carried on, however, through charitable donations. Ultimately though, due its inability to meet the demands of unemployed residents, the bureau permanently closed in 1932. This collection contains mostly financial records of the bureau, but it also contains a few records from other organizations, such as the Clearing House for Homeless Men, Temporary Shelter for Homeless Men, and Emergency Aid.
Museum Council of Philadelphia records, 1939-1994 (Collection 2083)
The Museum Council of Philadelphia was founded in 1939 when a group of museum professionals got together with the idea of promoting Philadelphia and its cultural institutions. They took their notions to the New York's World Fair, and they built upon them in the following decades. In addition to serving as an umbrella organization dealing with promotion and cooperation among area museums, the council has also focused their efforts elsewhere, such as with artifact preservation during World War II. Our intern Arek inventoried this medium-sized collection of the council's records, which dates back to its founding. Among the papers, researchers will find meeting minutes, correspondence, programs, directories, calendars, financial records, and information on the council's history.
Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia records, 1869-1971 (Collection 1997)
A couple years back, we had another intern work up a shelf list for this collection, which proved useful to staff and pagers. This time round, Arek transcribed that shelflist into our database, arranged the collections volumes and boxes on the shelves, and added new box labels and volume numbers, to help make this collection a little more accessible. The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia was established in 1915 with the merger of the Trades League of Philadelphia and the Merchants and Manufacturers Association. The Trades League of Philadelphia was incorporated in 1891 to promote trade and commerce in the city. Later, in 1942, the chamber merged with the Philadelphia Board of Trade. This collection contains minutes from the Trades League, the Chamber of Commerce, and several special committees of the chamber. There is also correspondence, financial records, memoranda and other miscellaneous documents related to the chamber's work up to 1971.
Harrison family papers, 1789-1964 (Collection 2048)
The Harrison family Papers consists mainly of the papers of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Curtis Harrison Jr., and much of it relates to Mrs. Charles C. Harrison (Marie Louise Lemoine). In particular, the collection contains Marie Lemoine Harrison's correspondence from 1894 to 1964 – a remarkable span. It also contains incoming and outgoing letters from other family members, newspapers clippings (loose and in scrapbooks), diaries, photographs, papers from related families, and miscellaneous ephemera. There already existed a box-level inventory and description on paper for this collection, which Allison checked against the current boxes. She entered this list into our database and is in the process of merging two sets of description for the collection.
The projects that we give to our interns vary depending on their needs and the needs of our collection. These four collections are examples of those that just needed a little more work to make them much more accessible. We value the work our interns provide – they help us as much as we help them. The finding aids produced by Arek and Allison will be made available on our website and in our library later this summer.
It's certainly the dog days of summer in Philadelphia right now, making all of us at HSP yearn for a little sun, sand, and ocean breeze. Thankfully, those of us who aren't lucky enough to be on vacation can find escape in the Digital Library and images of inviting beach vistas and boardwalks. Looking for something to liven up your stay-cation? Check out these gems:
One of HSP's most noteworthy collections, the David J. Kennedy watercolors offer beautiful representations of Philadelphia between 1840 and 1890. From the buildings of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition to churches, taverns, and private residences, Kennedy captured Philadelphia's architecture and landscapes, including many buildings that are no longer standing today. But Kennedy's brush strokes weren't confined to Philadelphia street scenes; he also painted a multitude of views of Atlantic City and Brigantine. The Atlantic City depicted in Kennedy's watercolors is much more bucolic than the contemporary casino-laden landscape and evocative of the old-fashioned Victorian resort town it once was.
About half a century later, the transformation of Atlantic City into something more familiar to our modern sensibilities is evident in an advertisement for the Hotel Madison from the Gondos family papers.
Built by Gondos and Gondos, an architectural firm headquartered in Philadelphia, the Hotel Madison was a luxury high-rise located on Illinois Aveue. Boasting a roof-deck and solarium, as well as "French phones" and a "Dutch Bar," the Hotel Madison was a far cry from the house-like hotels that David Kennedy captured in his watercolors just fifty years earlier.
Of course, no vacation, digital or otherwise, would be complete without some family photos, courtesy of the Wannemacher family papers. Chronicling the Wannemacher family of Philadelphia, this collection includes papers and photo albums that highlight the family's activities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Of particular interest are photographs of the Wannemacher's vacations to New England, the Jersey Shore, Niagra, and New York City, as well as historic landmarks like the graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. I particularly love this photograph of patriarch Edward H. Wannemacher hamming it up on the beach in June 1922.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief excursion through the "beaches" of HSP - check out the Digital Library for more summery images and build your own digital vacation. And if you need something more to tide you over until your next getaway, all of our digital images are now available for purchase as high-quality archival prints. Just register a free Digital Library account to create image galleries and place an order for your own piece of historical paradise.
It's tough being a holiday in June. Just ask Flag Day. Between Memorial Day and July 4th, people are out and about, vacationing, ending classes, and celebrating the beginning of summer. Nobody has time to pay the ol' Red, White, and Blue any mind.
June 14th marks more than just the middle of June. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag. They “resolved, that the Flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.” This is the flag that was reportedly sewn by Betsy Ross in Philadelphia. The well known naval lieutenant John Paul Jones was the first to display the new American flag overseas in France in 1778.
However Flag Day didn’t become a holiday overnight. It took well over one hundred years before Flag Day was formally recognized.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing Flag Day on June 14. (This same year Wilson also declared, by executive order, that the Star Spangled Banner be played at military and other official ceremonies.) But it wasn't until 1949 that Congressional legislation designating a national Flag Day was passed and was recognized by President Harry Truman.
Bernard J. Cigrand, a Wisconsin grade school teacher, is often credited with the first Flag Day celebration in 1885. William T. Kerr, of Pittsburgh, formed an American Flag Day Association of Western Pennsylvania in 1888, and was a leader in establishing the National American Flag Day Association in 1898. Kerr served as president of the association for more than fifty years and he participated in the August 3, 1949 ceremony with President Truman.
So as you're enjoying your summer vacation, or waiting impatiently for it to start, take a moment on the 14th to remember the flag. It has changed as over the years, but its symbolism and importance remain the same.
(This blog post was co-authored by Digital Center of Americana II archives intern, Kyriakoula Micha.)
Athena Tacha is a Greek American sculptor, photographer, and conceptual artist who frequently works on large, public sculptures and spaces -- including Connections, at Franklin Town Park at 18th and Spring Garden in Philadelphia (seen below).
Her papers can be found in three different repositories: the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., the Oberlin College Archives in Oberlin, Ohio, and here at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The collection of her papers at HSP includes correspondence, early artwork, notes from college and graduate school classes, and photographs. Although the collection was created by Tacha, who settled in the United States in the 1960s, it is a valuable resource for an anthropological study of Greece from the 1940s to the present day.
The correspondence communicates an intimate view of the social and family relationships and the reality of the professional environment permeating the arts in the country. Aside from state jobs, there are limited career choices in Greece, especially for women artists – something Tacha elaborates on in her letters. It’s also important to note that part of the correspondence was written during a turbulent period of Greek history, the junta years, 1967-74. And because Tacha grew up in the aftermath of World War II and the civil war that followed, some letters serve as personal testimony to an obscure part of Greek history. Furthermore, the collection includes a lot of paperwork from her studies and scholarship which by itself gives information about institutional policies and culture.
The collection houses a copy of the weekly youth magazine of the early 1950s titled “The Treasure of the Children: the Little Greek.” Athena Tacha was a representative of the magazine in her hometown Larisa. Youths from various places in Greece contributed their poems and other writings to the magazine under pseudonyms (Tacha’s was “Red Arrow”). They also communicated with each other, writing letters and notes using their pseudonyms. The letters from these pen pals to a young Tacha paint a portrait of the youth culture of that era – the children’s values, code of contact, and thoughts about the adult world. Another interesting item in the collection is Athena Tacha’s mother’s year book from 1923. Pieced together and handwritten, it contains questions that people at that age often ponder about: what is love, what are you going to name your children, etc. (It seems like a combination of writing in a yearbook and the modern American game M.A.S.H.). Her schoolmates wrote down their answers, revealing in the process their thoughts and observations.
Since the letters trace Ms. Tacha’s life from childhood, they offer a panoramic view of her life and work as both were unfolding. To the foreground are the close family and social ties, so unique and particular to Greek culture: the intensity of the bonds formed between parents and children, siblings, and relatives close and distant, and life-long friendships. The letters also demonstrate the social rules of Greek culture, like gift giving, honoring name days and births -- all social “musts” which one has to uphold. Another cultural value present in the letters is the expectation that children will stay close to home mentally and emotionally, no matter how geographically distant they are. And on the other side of this value is the urge to break free from the firm hold of the family, although this urge is fed by guilt and fear. This collection also shows the drive and dedication of Tacha as a young artist to get established and furthermore to see her pieces realized. She met and forged friendships with important figures on Modern Art, many of whom are represented in the correspondence. These letters are an especially valuable source about the lives of Ellen Johnson and Pavlos Mylonas in particular.
Due to the intimate nature of the correspondence there are some deeply personal details of her life, which will be of interest to a future biographer. Throughout the letters her personality and character is vividly revealed, which is what – to those of us who worked with this collection – makes it so valuable.
As an intern for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I have been reading through the Albert M. Greenfield papers and researching the key figures connected with the Bankers Trust Company – a large Philadelphia-based bank associated with Greenfield which closed in December 1930. A couple of weeks ago, I came across some documents of Bryn Mawr College sent to Edna Greenfield (née Edna Florence Kraus), Albert’s wife from 1914 to 1935 and BMC alumna from the class of 1915. These artifacts provide a glimpse into the defunct Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, which was of particular interest to me as an alumnus of Haverford College who will soon be marrying a Bryn Mawr graduate myself.
The Summer School program, established in 1921, emerged as an important opportunity for working women during an era of progressive reform in education, labor, and feminism. The school permitted female industrial workers to take classes at Bryn Mawr in a variety of liberal arts subjects, with required courses in economics and English and secondary courses in science, psychology, and history. Students accepted into the program were given a $250 scholarship and, in addition to the traditional courses offered in the classroom, they were also tutored in artistic and athletic activities as well.
The women who participated in the Summer School were 20-35 years old, came from different educational and social backgrounds, and they worked in a variety of industrial trades such as garment and textile production, millinery (hat-making), watch-making, and laundry. They comprised an ethnically diverse student body – nearly half of the 105 students in the 1929 Summer School session emigrated from European countries. The Summer School was also notable for its devotion to improving educational opportunities for African-American women. One of the Summer School’s founders, dean of the college Hilda Worthington Smith, was a passionate activist for integration who operated a similar educational program for black campus employees. In fact, the Summer School predated the college in integration, admitting its first black student during the summer session of 1926 before the college did the same one year later.
The guiding progressive mission of the Summer School was frequently at odds with that of its more conservative donors. Some women who took courses at the Summer School became actively involved in union organizing and took on greater roles in the labor rights movement. The 1935 session was canceled following a controversy when members of the faculty participated in a strike at Seabrook Farms the previous year, and in 1938, the Summer School was closed when, according to former student Sophie Schmidt Rodolfo, “the novelty wore thin and the money ran out.” The school and its mission became the subject of a short documentary in 1985 entitled “The Women of Summer.”
A letter written by Emily Read Cheston (BMC class of 1916) to Edna Greenfield in February 1930 gives a brief report on the 1929 Summer School session. Greenfield contributed an undisclosed amount to the program which benefited a diverse group of 23 students who worked in clothing factories and other industrial trades.
Letter from the Bryn Mawr Summer School to Edna Greenfield, February 6, 1930.
As part of its solicitation for donations, the Summer School sent Greenfield an informational leaflet about the program and enclosed some photographs of students participating in economics, science, and poetry courses.
Left: A poetry hour on the campus. Right: A science class.
Left: An economics class in the Cloisters. Right: Another view of the Cloisters.
Observers will note that the students in the photographs are attending their classes not inside a classroom, but outdoors around Bryn Mawr’s scenic campus, an educational method that was likely not previously available to many of the women who worked for long hours inside factories and plants.
Despite its relatively short life, the Summer School had a significant educational impact on the lives of working women. As the former student Malvina Brooks wrote about its value in 1931: “We read, we study in the classroom, we express our opinions, and we discuss our industrial conditions. We are taught something about this universe. We learn that the world is not made up of just a mass of good and bad people. We find out that different conditions have made different classes of people, and that conditions can be changed. It is up to us, the working people, to change these conditions for a better world.”
For any current or former BMC students who happen to read this blog post, it would appear that the school was just as vibrant and intellectually stimulating – and the campus was just as beautiful – in 1929 as it is in 2012.
You can see a copy of a 1915 Bryn Mawr College yearbook, including a photograph of the class of 1915 (Edna Greenfield’s class), at this link here.
1. The Albert M. Greenfield Papers, 1921-1969 (1959 Collection), Series 4: Edna Kraus Greenfield, Box 1030, Folder 4, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
3. Suzanne Bauman and Rita Heller, The Women of Summer: An Unknown Chapter of American Social History, review of a documentary by Mary Frederickson in The American Historical Review, Vol. 92 No. 1 (1987), p. 232-234.
Coffee is such a normal, frequent occurence both inside and outside the walls of HSP that we often don't think twice about it beyond our daily morning pilgrimage. It ensures that those who drink it stay awake, functional, and most of all, pleasant enough to conquer the day, so much so that among the Folgers and Nescafé commercials and the Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks bus ads, marketers have tapped into our need of coffee to make it commonplace, routine, and universal.
A few days ago I came upon an amusing pamphlet from the Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising Collection, titled "How to Ask for a Cup of Coffee in 32 Languages." Printed in 1905, this illustrated promotional booklet from Fischer's Coffees translates the phrase "Please give me a cup of coffee" into 32 different languages, emphasizing that "among the teeming thousands that are rushing into the United States every week... from every country of the globe, speaking no other language than their own... the word coffee is pronounced very much the same in all languages."
Using New York's diversity to speak to coffee drinkers across immigrant communities, the booklet features ethnic images and stereotypical representations that were used widely in advertising and merchandising in the early to mid twentieth century. Benedickt Fischer himself, of B. Fischer & Co., was a German immigrant who came to New York in 1855 and set up his own coffee roasting business around 1861.
While most of the drawings are fairly innocuous and refrain from becoming caricatural, archaic terms like "deaf and dumb" used in the representation for sign language still reflects its time.
Also of note is a page at the end dedicated to "The Art of Telling Fortune with Coffee Grounds," which gives directions on how to read the different forms coffee particles take and the meanings they indicate.