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!
The following article was written by HSP volunteer Randi Kamine and is being posted on her behalf. Many thanks to Archival Processor Megan Evans for helping prepare these articles for publication.
One of the interesting things about processing a collection at HSP is that one never knows when a significant document might unexpectedly show up. For instance, four letters in Benjamin Franklin’s hand were brought to light when a finding aid was recently written for the Read family letters (Collection 0537). All four were written to John Ross, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and frequent correspondent of Franklin’s. Ross was half-sister to Gertrude Ross Read, the wife of George Read of this collection who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Ross and Franklin had a political relationship as well as a friendship. Both were active in the politics of the time, especially in the rivalry between the Quaker and Proprietary parties that were fighting for control of the Pennsylvania assembly. Both Ross and Franklin were in support of the Quaker party and in opposition to the Proprietary party.
Franklin is well known as being a prodigious correspondent. However, “running into” these letters, without expecting to made processing the George Read papers a bit of an adventure. The four Franklin letters were written from London. They are dated February 14, 1765; June 8, 1765; April 11, 1767; and May 14, 1768. Valerie Lutz, Head of Manuscripts Processing at the American Philosophical Society is familiar with Ben Franklin’s handwriting and believes them to be authentic. In addition, the Franklin Papers’ Project at Yale has attributed these letters to Franklin. Although the Yale Project notes that these letters are in the possession of HSP, until the Read Family Papers were processed, it was not generally known where they were located.
Fortunately for the researcher, there is a plethora of information on Benjamin Franklin that is owned by HSP. In 1965, the Society entered into an agreement with The Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP) by which LCP administers the Society’s pre-1820 imprints. Many of HSP’s Franklin-related materials are housed right next door at The Library Company. A bibliography at the end of this essay will point interested readers to some of our extensive Benjamin Franklin and early Pennsylvania history documents.
Benjamin Franklin to John Ross, February 14, 1765
In the letters found in the Read family letters, Franklin addresses events happening in Philadelphia during his time away in London -- and the years 1765 to 1768 were dynamic ones for the city. Although he writes in the February 14 letter, “We have been of late so much engag’d in our general American Affairs, that it was necessary to let wait what related particularly to our Province sleep a little…,” Franklin nonetheless expressed his insights and opinions on the political machinations that directly affected Philadelphia.
In December 1764, Franklin was sent by the Pennsylvania assembly to England with a petition for King George III. The petition, penned by Franklin, asked that Pennsylvania be made a Royal colony rather than remain a proprietary province. It is this petition that Franklin refers to in the first letter of the four.
The Quakers had dominated the Pennsylvania Assembly since the 1701 Charter of Privileges. However, the mid-1750s saw power shifting away from the Quakers. By 1764 the Assembly had many non-Quaker leaders, was only nominally associated with the Society of Friends, and no longer predominately pacifist. This was in part due to the Proprietary party which primarily represented the special privileges of the proprietors as landlords and was the political rival of the Quaker party. Franklin, although not a Quaker, was aligned with the Quaker party. He therefore writes about the desire for a “happy Event to the Petition,” and the “dread of the Friends in Pensilvania falling under the domination of the Presbyterians” (the Proprietary party was sometimes referred to as the Presbyterian party). Although Franklin continues to report on the petition in all four of the letters in this group, in the end, both the Proprietary and Quaker parties disappeared as the Revolutionary struggle manifested, making the petition moot.
Many of us are familiar with the Stamp Act as a catalyst of the American Revolution. In March 1765 the English Parliament imposed a stamp duty on written documents that included newspapers, deeds, contracts and many other legal documents, as wells as ships’ manifests. Franklin was correct when he predicted in his February 14, 1765 letter above, “The Stamp Act, notwithstanding all the Opposition …will pass.” While in London, Franklin used his social connections and the English press to try to influence the government to repeal the tax. And the Stamp Act was, in fact, repealed in March 1766. Shortly before the repeal, Franklin went before the House of Commons to argue against the tax.
HSP has a copy of a transcript of Franklin’s testimony before the British House of Commons (see bibliography below). It is a must read for those interested in getting a feel for the experience. There is an interesting insert with the HSP transcript that is undated and not attributed:
"The appearance of Franklin before the House of Commons was the highpoint in the parade of English merchants, colonial agents and visiting Americans advocating the appeal of the Stamp Act. Hoping to achieve immediate repeal, Franklin minimized American opposition and conveyed the idea that external taxation would be accepted."
One must read the transcript personally to determine if Franklin succeeded in minimizing American opposition to the tax, and to determine how much influence Franklin might have had in the decision to repeal the tax.
Benjamin Franklin to John Ross, June 8, 1765
On a more personal level, in his second letter dated June 8, 1765, Franklin discusses gout, a malady from which both he and John Ross suffered. Franklin was one of its most famous sufferers, having written a dialogue between himself and “the Gout” in his well known satirical style. That essay was written in 1780, well after the letter in the Read family letters was written. However, Franklin’s sardonic humor shows through in this earlier letter to his friend. At the time this letter was written, pain caused by the condition was thought to increase resistance to the disease. Thus, Franklin made light of the obvious discomfort he was enduring. Franklin then discussed more serious matters. In the decades before the American Revolution there was great unrest in the western frontier of Pennsylvania between settlers and Native Americans. The massacre of twenty Conestoga Indians (also known as the Susquehannock) near Lancaster by the Paxton Boys in December 1763 is one of the more well known actions perpetrated by a vigilante group in American history. The Paxton Boys were never identified or punished for their murders. By 1765, the frontier in Pennsylvania was close to anarchy. There was an intense battle between the Scots-Irish immigrants and the Native Americans over land. In a letter to Franklin dated May 20, 1765, John Ross wrote, “…Another affair has happen’d of a very Extraordinary Nature, Even His Majestys troops have been attack’d and fired upon… .” Quakers, with whom Franklin was aligned, condemned the continuing violence, although little could be done to prevent it. Franklin writes in his June 8, 1765 letter (perhaps in answer to the letter Ross wrote to him on May 20), “The Outrages committed by the Frontier People are really amazing! But Impunity for former Riots has emboldened them.”
Franklin notes that the petition to end the proprietorship, written about in his February 14 letter, “has been becalm’d,” no doubt due to the preoccupation of colonial agents with the impending Stamp Act, the illness of the King during the first months of 1765, and other important business that the King’s government was attending to. The note at the bottom of the letter is in Ross’s hand, and appears on an otherwise blank page of Franklin’s letter. Apparently Ross included an extract from “governor F” and discussed further negotiations concerning the Proprietors.
Join us next week for Randi's analysis of the third and fourth Benjamin Franklin letters from the George Read family letters.
It’s true that many documents mentioned in this essay can be read online. I posit, however, that it is enlightening to read original or contemporaneous documents. Seeing the handwriting of the author, or a transcript printed shortly after an event, gives the reader a sharper sense of the time the document was written. And for some of us, it’s just plain fun.
Ralph L. Ketcham, “Benjamin Franklin and William Smith: New Light on an Old Philadelphia Quarrel,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 88 No. 2 (April, 1964), pp 142-163. [Call number: UPA F 146 .P65]
HSP documents at the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP):
Great Britain Parliament, 1766 House of Commons. The examination of Doctor Benjamin Franklin: before an august assembly, relating to the repeal of the Stamp-act &c, Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, 1766. Call number: Rare/AM 1766 FRA 51952.0.3.
For information on the Proprietary party v. the Quaker party:
Galloway, Joseph. The speech of Joseph Galloway, esq, one of the members for Philadelphia County…, Philadelphia: W. Dunlap, 1764. Call number: Rare/AM 1764 Gallo 8605.0.10.
Hunt, Isaac. Looking-glass for Presbyterians: or a brief examination of their loyalty, merit and other qualifications for government…, Philadelphia: Armbruster, 1764. Call number: HSP in LCP/AM 1764 Hun Ar64 L87.
Williamson, Hugh. The Plain-dealer or a few remarks upon Quaker-politicks, and their attempts to change the government of Pennsylvania:…, Philadelphia: A. Stewart, 1764. Call number: Rare/AM 1764 Wil.66 984.0.1.
For information on Franklin’s letters:
The American Philosophical Society and Yale University. Digital Edition by the Packard Humanities Institute. http://franklinpapers.org/franklin//
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin Project at Yale University. http://franklinpapers.yale.edu
The National Archives: Founders Online: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-12-02-0083 [This site is very helpful in interpreting Benjamin Franklin’s letters. It is easily searchable and includes letters written to and from Franklin.]
John Ross to Benjamin Franklin 5/20/1765: http://smithrebellion1765.com/?page_id=393
For information on gout at the time of the letters:
Copland, James, A Dictionary of Practical Medicine, Volume 4 (Longman, Brown, Green:1858)
Lucas Galante is the winter 2016 Bennington College intern at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). Tune-in as he explores Philadelphia's music history on Fondly, PA as part of Memories & Melodies, HSP's multi-program series.
Like any city, the social fabric of Philadelphia interweaves innumerable families, individuals, experiences, and cultural movements throughout more than 300 years. Yet Philadelphia's rich political and cultural past distinguishes it from many other cities, even those of comparable size and reputation. Its historical position as a cornerstone of the United States has given Philadelphia an energy and momentum, a resonance that has manifested in each aspect of the city’s culture in unique ways.
Lesser known than its colonial contributions, a salient feature of Philadelphia’s complex and layered culture is the city’s music. The prominence and national significance of Philadelphia’s songwriters, vocalists, composers, and musicians have reverberated throughout the three centuries of the city’s history.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) holds materials documenting this musical past, revealing the interconnectedness of Philadelphia’s music scene with other elements of the city’s ongoing development and social structuring, and many interesting anecdotes besides.
The recorded history of music in Philadelphia began with the 1694 arrival of Johannes Kelpius and his small group of co-religionists. Kelpius and his followers played music on European instruments and sang original compositions, many of which survive in his personal journals held at HSP.
On the eve of the American Revolution, Philadelphia hosted its first public concert, held at the Freemason’s Lodge. And not so long ago, in the mid 20th century, Philadelphia set the stage for a variety of well-known and well-loved Jazz clubs and musicians. In this as in other cultural contributions, Philadelphia has contributed not only to the cultural experience of its own denizens, but citizens nationwide.
Music’s integral role in Philadelphia’s history (and the role Philadelphia has played in the development of American music) cannot be sung in so few words. For those fascinated by the history of music as it developed alongside the city of Philadelphia, check out this sample of musical resources available at HSP:
Balch Institute Sheet Music Collection (#3141)
- The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies generously donated an abundance of resources to the HSP in 2002. The materials in the Balch collection contain information about a variety of ethnic groups. The Balch Institute Sheet Music Collection contains sheet music that has been produced by these groups, or, in some cases, like the minstrel songs it contains, with stereotypes of these groups in mind. Most of the music is African American, Jewish, Greek, Italian, Irish and Scandinavian.
HSP Collection of Academy of Music Programs, Playbills, and Scrapbooks (#3150)
- This enormous collection contains a variety of materials relating to shows at Philadelphia’s Academy of music, from 1857 to 1972. Organizations represented in the collection include the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphian opera companies and other companies from out-of-state. Not strictly limited to music, this collection also has a variety of interdisciplinary resources, with examples of contemporary visual art styles present in flyers from each time period in the collection, and advertisements for events held at the Academy of Music performance hall, including political rallies and public lectures. See its database listing for a more comprehensive description.
HSP Playbill Collection (#3131)
- The HSP Playbill Collection, approaching the Academy of Music program collection in size, contains 53 feet of playbills and programs from a number of theaters and music halls in Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Though its primary focus is on play performances, the collection contains assorted information and records on musical events from 1754-1989.
HSP Music Collection (#0948)
- The HSP Music collection is a great opportunity to get a comprehensive look at the musical tastes of previous centuries. The collection consists primarily of sheet music from the 19th century, though earlier parts of the 20th century are represented as well. It contains a number of musical programs, too, from the Opera House of Philadelphia and the Robin Hood Dell, scrapbooks, and a large, 7-volume manuscript of “Grand Opera in Philadelphia,” by John Curtis.
Charles Kelly Collection of Orchestra Related Materials (#D0182)
- The Charles Kelly Collection is small compared to some of HSP’s larger collections, but in contrast to their sometimes daunting expanses, the CKC is a concise gem of a resource. It has mid-20th century programs from the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and Carnegie Hall. There are several smaller treats tucked in with these programs: see the database entry to learn more about them.
Miscellaneous Philadelphia Programs and Music Books
- This small, yet rich collection contains programs dating 1886-1889 for the Academy of Music, the Chestnut street Opera house, a music hall in Norristown, Pennsylvania, the Grand Opera House at Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue and the Chestnut Street Theater. It also has several music books from 1896, and a music book titled “Peace,” which was produced by John Wanamaker to celebrate the end of WWI.
Johannes Kelpius collection of German Hymns (#Am.088)
- This single-volume collection contains a book of hymns authored by the previously-mentioned Johannes Kelpius, and some of his friends. It is just one of the fascinating resources about Johannes Kelpius held by the HSP: his name yields a variety of interesting results in the HSP database, including an portrait of him executed by Christopher Witt, believed to be the oldest oil portrait completed in the New World.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania Theater Poster Collection (#V06)
- This impressive collection contains over 1300 posters for a variety of shows, musical and theatrical, in Philadelphia and elsewhere from mid-to-late-19th century, with a few from the early 20th. The types of shows advertised are minstrel, wild west, operas, burlesques, comedies, circuses and plays: but there are others, too. It is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to visually represent American entertainment culture from this era.
In my previous blog post, I introduced the watermarks of several English papermakers and their forgers. In this post, I would like to share some of the watermarks of the pioneers of American paper manufacturing found in ledgers from the Bank of North America collection.
The earliest American paper mills were established in the 1690s near Germantown, Pennsylvania by William Rittenhouse -- a German who emigrated from Holland where his family might have been engaged in papermaking. Most of the early mills in colonial America were started by immigrant papermakers who modeled their mills after those in Europe. These mills required a constant supply of fresh water to wash fibers and also to turn the beating machine, as well as a reliable supply of rags, the main raw material at that time. Pennsylvania, with its city of Philadelphia as the epicenter of American literacy, was the ideal place for paper mills with a high population that could supply enough rags and a sufficient flow of water from the creeks and rivers around the city.
One thing that I could not just pass over during my short research was the name Nathan Sellers who was a mould maker in Pennsylvania. He used his wire drawing skill to manufacture paper moulds. Nathan Sellers supplied moulds for hundreds of American papermakers around 1776 to 1820. According to Thomas L. Gravell and George Miller in A Catalog of American Watermarks, 1690 – 1835, “Although William and Nicholas Rittenhouse were making paper as early as 1690, it was not until 1775 that American-made paper of fine quality began to be widely produced and used. It was only when the supply of foreign paper was cut off with the passage of non-importation agreements following the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767 that the industry really began to develop in this country. Its growth was greatly promoted by a single man – Nathan Sellers. . . Paper was in extremely short supply during the Revolution; the war meant that foreign supplies of paper and paper moulds were virtually cut off. . . Although [Sellers] was called into military service in 1776, a special petition was presented to and passed by Congress on August 26 to order him home 'to make and prepare suitable moulds, washers & utensils for carrying on the paper manufactory.'”
Nathan Sellers kept a journal with elaborate records of his mould making and his association with many paper makers which have been a great resource for historians to learn about watermarks, papermakers and mills, etc. He recorded which mill or manufacturer ordered which pattern of watermarks in each specific year or duration besides the dimension and wood type that he used for the mould. For example, Thomas L. Gravell and George Miller often referenced Nathan Seller’s journal in A Catalog of American Watermarks, 1690 – 1835, published in 1979, which contains many image samples of watermarks that can be found in the BNA collection.
Based on what the watermarks indicate, most of the papers used for the ledgers in the Bank of North America collection were from local paper mills, except those English papers. (Although papers with English watermarks had also been produced in America because of the popularity of English papers, the moulds from England were frequently imported with their watermarks intact.) Although there have been hundreds of mills located near Philadelphia, the world of the papermaking industry seemed to be small. Many paper makers had been somehow connected or engaged to each other as business partners or an employee/employer, a lender/leaser or a seller/purchaser of the mills or the properties, or family relations.
These watermarks, ‘MW’ and the “Post horn,” possibly belong to Mark Willcox (1744 ~ 1827) the son of Thomas M. Willcox from Ivy Mill (1729 ~ 1866) in Aston, Concord Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Thomas Willcox, originally from England, started a paper mill in 1729 with Thomas Brown and formed a partnership to operate the mill. Thomas Willcox is known to have made some paper for Benjamin Franklin and for colonial currency. His son Mark Willcox took over operation of the mill by 1767 and inherited it after his father’s death. The name Ivy Mill was adopted around 1828 while the mill was under the management of James M. one of Mark Willcox’s grandsons.
Watermarks of Mark Willcox
Although we couldn’t find many of his watermarks in the BNA ledgers, Mark Willcox is a significant name for the collection. He made the paper for the first issued bank note of the National Bank of North America. Below is the sample of the original paper used for bank currency and the receipt of order issued in 1781 can be found in the BNA’s Extra Illustrated volume.
The ‘Dove bearing an olive branch’ and ‘AMIES PHILAD’ are known as the watermarks of Thomas Amies (d 1849), who started and operated Dove Mill at Mill Creek, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The mill started from 1798 and was named “Dove Mill” because of the dove and olive branch watermark that Amies used. It is unknown when Amies started papermaking and under whom he learned the papermaking trade. The fact that the dove watermark was also used by Willcox at Ivy Mill supports the theory that Amies had once worked for Ivy mill as a superintendent and probably learned his trade from Willcox. This possibility is explored by Historian Lyman Horace Weeks in his book History of Paper-manufacturing in the United States, 1690-1916. As a renowned supplier of quality printing paper in Philadelphia, Amies manufactured paper for the Second Bank of the United States and in 1817 he produced paper for a special printing of the Declaration of Independence.
Watermarks of Thomas Amies
The ‘R AMIES & Co’ and ‘Lamb’ watermarks below indicate that the papers were made by Richard Amies, assumed to be one of Thomas Amies’ sons from Dove Mill. Richard Amies worked at or managed Dove Mill in 1834. According to John Bidwell, in his book American Paper Mills, 1690-1832, “Although Richard Amies adopted ‘Dove’ water mark associated with the family mill, he also used ‘Lamb’ water mark which suggests that he might have been associated with ‘William Amies & Company’ in the Lamb Mill.”
Watermarks of Richard Amies
These watermarks were used by Gilpin Paper Mill on Brandywine. Gilpin Mill is the first paper mill in Delaware established by two brothers, Joshua Gilpin and Thomas Gilpin in 1787. From A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690 – 1835, by Thomas L. Gravell, George Miller, Garland Publishing, Inc. 1979 “They purchased moulds from Nathan Sellers for the first in November 1788. They were watermarked “J GILPIN & CO” with “BRANDYWINE” underneath. They regularly purchased moulds from Sellers until 1802. After 1800, Joshua’s initials are replaced by Thomas’s and after 1805, the “J G &CO” watermark no longer appears.”
Joshua Gilpin traveled to Europe in1795 and in 1811 to visit factories and papermakers and he acquired information for his brother to build America’s first machine that produced paper in an endless roll. By inventing and patenting this machine in 1816, Thomas Gilpin revolutionized the paper industry.
Gilpin’s mills were severely damaged by a flood in 1822 and then a massive fire in 1825. In 1837, there was a second flood which halted production and the mill was sold.
Watermarks of Joshua Gilpin and Thomas Gilpin
The “FB” in this watermark might be the initial of Frederick Bicking. From A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690 – 1835, “Frederick Bicking first ordered a mould from Nathan Sellers in Feb. 1783. On March 28 1783, He ordered a mould watermarked “F B”.” He is a native of Germany and might have learned the paper trade from William Rittenhouse. In 1762, he bought property for a mill of his own in Mill Creek, in Lower Merion Township. Three of his sons were also papermakers and established their own mills. Frederick Jr., the one who worked with his father, inherited Frederick Bicking’s original mill at his father’s death in 1809. This mill was apparently sold in the 1830’s.
Watermark of Frederick Bicking
These watermarks “I B” and the "bell" might belong to John Bicking, one of Frederick Bicking’s sons, who established his own mill on Beaver creek, East Caln Township (now East Brandywine). His first mould order from Nathan Sellers in 1804, was watermarked “I BICKING”. His mill was inherited by his son John and produced paper until 1822. His other watermarks were known to be “I B”, “bell with handle” and “post horn”.
Watermarks of John Bicking
The Levis family had built and operated paper mills for about five generations. They had used watermarks such as “S L”, “S &WL”, “SPRING HILL”, and “W L” as well as images of “post horn”, “eagle” and this image below. Each watermark might have belonged to different family members. Samuel Levis III was the first person (or generation) known to establish paper mills in Levis family. It is not clear how many mills he established but the Tuscarora mill and Glenwood mills and Lamb mills on Darby Creek in Upper Darby Township were among those which had been established before or during the Revolutionary War and were passed down to his descendents.
More information can be found in American Paper Mills, 1690 – 1832, by John Bidwell.
Watermarks of Samuel Levis
Here are some of very beautiful watermarks from BNA collection about which I haven't been able to find any information. Many manufacturers have been known to use very similar types of watermarks, which makes positive identification understandably difficult.
These are only a few examples of American watermarks that I have collected but there are many more watermarks in the BNA collection which have yet to be identified and can offer further insight into their history.
Dear fans and followers, this is it! We've reached the final set of transcriptions from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). A huge thank you goes out to everyone who took a few moments to check out Parry's life through these transcriptions. Hopefully they were as interesting to read as they were to write!
For anyone just joining us, in 2012 HSP 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 dating from 1863 to 1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I've provided monthly posts on Fondly, PA of transcripts of entries 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 examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.
In December 1865, Parry only made a few diary entries. Interestingly, he noted having Thanksgiving on December 7th. Beyond that, we can only presume that Parry worked towards resuming his veterinary practice in Bucks County and continued his life of farming with his family.
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 December 4
Sent ten dolls. to Geo
Ashmead, Druggist, 663 Marshall
Thursday December 7
Col. Andress in Newtown
Friday December 8
Bought a Bay Mare – three
years Old of Isaac Reeder
Wednesday December 13
Bought a Sulkey of George
Blackfan for $25.00 Paid
Thursday December 14
Bought a Wagon of Isaac
Reeder for 210.00 Paid
The following article was written by HSP volunteer Randi Kamine and is being posted on her behalf. Many thanks to Archival Processor Megan Evans for helping prepare these articles for publication. To read the first part of this article, please click here or on the article's title in the right sidebar.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s all of Philadelphia was keenly interested in those inhabitants who were in sympathy with the Nazi regime. Local associations were looked at closely. News clippings, some of which are shown below, give the researcher a glimpse into how the citizens of Philadelphia reacted to what was a significant movement. A large collection of the news clippings at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania come from the Philadelphia Record, although there are also articles from the Philadelphia Bulletin and Daily News.
The German Society of Pennsylvania had a significant presence among American born and immigrant Germans. Founded in Philadelphia in 1764, it is the oldest and most prominent organization of its kind in the country today. In the 1940s, the society was located at Marshall and Spring Garden Streets. HSP has several documents that give the researcher an understanding of that organization during the 1930s and 1940s. A pamphlet produced by the German Society in February 1941 touts the society’s good works and emphasizes its patriotism toward the United States. The first page of this four page item declares, “Our America – So May It Ever Be,” and lists, “Some of the most prominent members of the German Society of Pennsylvania who have faithfully served their beloved City, State and the United States.”
"A Brief Historic Sketch of the German Society of Pennsylvania"
In 1964 Harry W. Pfund, head of the events committee at the Society, published a history of the Society that included the pre-World War II and war years. As presented in that report: “The epoch from 1914, when the German Society of Pennsylvania became 150 years old, to the end of World War II will stand forth as the most eventful one in the whole history of the organization. There is little doubt that it will appear to be the most tragic one.” Very little is told about the Second World War years. In fact, other than mentioning the decline in membership, and a line of succession of the presidency, there is no mention of society activities. At the end of World War II membership stood at 350 members, down from 624 in 1914.
The GSP tried its best to demonstrate its American patriotism during the war. In 1938 the society publicly condemned Hitler for his military aggression. But it was put on the defensive when in 1944 the society came under federal investigation. Officials claimed that the GSP had not contributed enough to charitable causes to qualify for tax-exempt status. This was despite the fact that members had contributed to five war bond drives in less than three years and in fact had given more than any other ethnic group in Philadelphia.
Attention was drawn to the society in part because some leading American Nazi sympathizers were influential society members. One board member who had an apparent connection to Nazi Germany was Kurt Molzahn, pastor of St. Michael’s and Old Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. In 1931 he was elected to the GSP board of directors and served until his conviction, in 1942, for conspiracy to commit espionage. Molzahn was accused of being a propagandist of the Nazi regime. He often praised Hitler on his radio show as being a “good man,” although he denied being a follower of Hitler’s regime. According to trial transcripts, he became a German secret agent when he became involved with Gerhard Kunze, a Philadelphia Bund member who was also convicted in 1942 with violating the 1917 Espionage Act. Upon his arrest, Molzahn and his wife’s name disappeared from the records of the German Society of Pennsylvania. At the same time, the society did all it could to publicize its American patriotism. In 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave Molzahn a pardon for his espionage conviction.
The Philadelphia Record news clippings morgue (collection 3344) is a large collection dating from 1918 to when the paper ceased publication in 1947. The clippings are housed in about 30 filing cabinets. Each cabinet contains small envelopes with clippings inside. At the present time, there is no finding aid for this collection. However, the envelopes are marked by subject. Fortunately, there are ten envelopes notated as “German-American Bund.” It is here we are able to read contemporary news articles about Nazi activity in Philadelphia in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Coverage of the development of a Nazi presence in Philadelphia starts in July 1937. A Philadelphia Record article quotes Gerhard Wilhelm Kunzer, 31, head of the Bund’s Philadelphia “local” and editor of its weekly paper -- located at 3718 N. 5th Street, as saying, “At our meeting we “heil” our new country, the United States, our old country, Germany [and] the spiritual leader of the German people, Adolph Hitler.” Kunzer was born in Camden and lived in Philadelphia. He calls the German resorts/camps about to gain significant coverage in Philadelphia newspapers as “America’s white men’s camps.” He invites all “white gentlemen” to Bund meetings in the Liedertafel Hall at 6th Street and Erie Avenue.
The movement met Philadelphia residents’ resistance almost immediately. A February 21, 1938 article is headlined, “Shell Wrecks Philadelphia Nazi Bund. Homes Spattered with Shrapnel, Children Shell Shocked.” A bomb exploded in the early morning at Liedertafel Hall. Nazis drilled once a week at the Hall and leaders in the American Nazi movement often spoke there. Images below show reports on happenings around American Bund activity in Philadelphia in the year 1938.
In 1940, 1941, and 1942 reports of “aliens” being “rounded up” along with their military and spying equipment dominated the news. On September 24, 1941, for example, an article is headed: “G-Men Rounding Up Many Aliens Here. Drive Started Following Disclosure of Gestapo Activity in City.” It goes on to say, “The most intensive drive against subversive aliens since the World War is being conducted by the Justice Department here following disclosure that a Gestapo organization has been in operation from Philadelphia.” According to this article, 150 aliens had been picked up each month in eastern Pennsylvania and southern Jersey since mid-summer. Some were held on immigration charges and some on anti-American activity.
A camp in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, approximately 40 miles from Philadelphia, played a prominent part in news coverage of Nazi activity. There are over forty-five clippings describing the camp. It was at the Deutschhorst Country Club in Sellersville that Fritz Kuhn, head of the German-American Bund, made a famous “Hitler can lick the world” speech in 1938. Two thousand people attended, mostly Philadelphians. It was reported that the camp at Sellersville was owned by a known German spy.
In 1939 a woman at the resort passed out leaflets with the heading, “The Dies Jew-Controlled Committee is an Anti-Gentile Inquisition.” In fact, attacks on Jews became more pronounced as the movement picked up steam. A report identified a printing plant in north central Philadelphia where pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda intended for national circulation was printed and stored. At a rally at an Andover, New Jersey camp, The New York Post reported in August 1940 that a proposal to tar and feather all Jews “brought a long, hearty demonstration.” Fritz Kuhn and Col. Charles Lindbergh were hailed as martyrs. Bund meetings were quite open about saluting the swastika, heiling German leaders, and singing Nazi songs.
The camps’ primary objective was to recruit German-American youths between the ages of eight and eighteen to Nazi ideals. Rifle practices were held, and the children routinely sang the Nazi national anthem with shouts of “ Sieg Heil.” Sellersville and Andover were not the only local rustic locations of Bund activity. On September 24, 1941 a news article states, “A spokesman said he could locate three or four Bund camps no more than 15 minutes drive from my Chestnut Street office over the Delaware River Bridge.” There were approximately nineteen children’s camps throughout the United States. The New York Times, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the New York Post are also represented in the Philadelphia Records collection. There are also clippings from the Philadelphia Daily News. Then, as now, the Daily News had the most dramatic headlines and the most colorful descriptions of the goings on in Fascist communities, such as the article below:
Anyone interested in researching the history of the German-American Bund, Philadelphia during World War II, or Philadelphia 20th century immigration will find this collection a valuable resource. This collection of original documents adds to an understanding of an important part of World War II history. In addition, researchers interested in the House Un-American Activities Committee will find copies of the famous reports. And for many, the Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue (Collection V07), as well as the Philadelphia news clippings collection will contain not a few surprises about Philadelphia history.
The following article was written by HSP volunteer Randi Kamine and is being posted on her behalf. Part two of the article will be posted next Wednesday. Many thanks to Archival Processor Megan Evans for helping prepare these articles for publication.
A slice of Philadelphia history may surprise those of us who live in and love our city. In the late 1930s and the early 1940s, Nazi party affiliates were active in several venues in and around the city. The German-American Bund, in particular, represented those whose sympathies lay with Hitler and Hitler’s Nazi movement. Formed in 1933, the Bund’s membership consisted of American citizens of German descent. Its main goal was to promote a favorable view of Nazi Germany, although documents below show that their mission went beyond propagandizing to enlisting young sympathizers and even preparing for armed conflict. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania archives has photos and documents that trace the appearance and demise of this National Socialist movement throughout the Philadelphia region.
The Philadelphia Record Photograph Morgue (Collection V07) that resides at HSP presents a record of how journalists investigated and covered American Nazi activity from before the Second World War to the American Bund’s demise in the early 1940s. Among the photos are images showing items seized in raids by the FBI in homes purported to be local Nazi headquarters.
One photo, dated October 5, 1942, displays rifles, radios, and photo enlargers, “seized in raids in alien homes” according to contemporaneous notes attached to the photo.
"Seized in alien raids"
In another photo, dated August 13, 1942, Nazi uniforms, guns, and a Nazi flag are shown after they were “seized in yesterday’s raids.”
"Item[s] seized by FBI agents early yesterday in a raid on the North Philadelphia home of an enemy (German) alien"
An August 8, 1942 report showing another photo is entitled Symptoms of Fifth Column in Chester. The author writes, “The contraband above, including rifles, revolvers, ammunition, cameras, radios and pictures of Hitler, was seized yesterday by FBI agents in extensive raids on the homes of enemy aliens in Chester and Marcus Hook.” The radios seen in the photos were no doubt used to be in contact with the Transocean News Service which the Commission declared had over 70,000 people on its mailing list. The news service was a wireless German news agency headquartered in Berlin designed by the German Foreign Office and operated by the Propaganda Ministry.
"Seized yesterday [August 7, 1942] by FBI agents"
The photographs in the collection also depict the gatherings and activities of the Bund in and around Philadelphia prior to the war.
Boys at the Deutschorst Country Club, a recreational gathering place of the Bund, outside of Sellersville, Pennsylvania (July 26, 1937)
Nazi demonstration at Reyburn Plaza, adjacent to City Hall, Philadelphia (1937)
In addition to contemporaneous photographs, HSP has several items that document the tenor of the times, particularly the fear that there existed a “fifth column” ambitiously at work to undermine the United States government. The reports of the famous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) give the reader an insight into this mindset. In the popular imagination the Dies Commission is associated with the rooting out of Communist sympathizers. However, the Committee was originally created in 1938 to uncover citizens with Nazi ties within the United States. HSP has a copy of this initial report. Among its claims, the committee states that the official newspapers of the German-American Bund had advance information on what was about to transpire militarily in Germany. Editions of the paper, Weckruf und Beobachter (Wake-up-call and Observer), appeared in Philadelphia.
A commission report dated January 3, 1941 outlined what the committee perceived as National Socialism’s plans for the United States: “Both Stalin and Hitler have made it plain that their strategy in achieving their objectives in the United States includes the use of Trojan Horses or ‘fifth columns.’ ” The report quotes a statement Hitler made in 1934, “[Nazism] is destined to liberate the American people from their ruling clique and give them back the means of becoming a great nation. … I shall undertake this task simultaneously with the restoration of Germany to her leading position.” The report claims that German-American Bunds had 100,000 members. (This figure is widely believed to be exaggerated. Historians have put membership as low as 25,000. However, mailing lists for newspapers and other propaganda are believed to have been closer to the 100,000 figure.)
Philadelphia figures prominently in the report when discussing the Kyffhauserbund. The Kyffauserbund was a national veterans’ organization in Germany. According to the commission report, a branch affiliated with the German organization was formed in the summer of 1937 in Philadelphia. It appears that its primary function was to promote rifle and pistol practice. From Philadelphia, the Bund spread to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, and Texas. A leader of the Texas Kyffhauserbund is quoted in the 1941 Commission Report: “We did not need to unlearn anything when Hitler came to power. We were already Nazis when he took the reins of the Reich.”
Exterior of a home purported to be the headquarters of the Kyffhauser Bund, 1802 W. Erie Avenue in Philadelphia
The extent to which the United States government was actually in danger is a subject for scholarly debate. It is clear, however, that the Dies reports as early as 1938 saw such a danger and that Philadelphia’s German-American Bund and related organizations were objects of investigation. The reports reflect what was to be written, or had been written, in Philadelphia newspaper reports mentioned above.
Political cartoons from the Philadelphia Record depict the conflict between anti-war groups and those people who had a clear impulse to join in the war on the side of the Allies -- first with financial help, and in the end with military involvement. Among those against the war, it was hard to discern the line between Nazi sympathizers and other anti-war activists.
"Man the Guns, Here Come the Chutists!," cries William Penn, which sport the labels "Lindy" and "Bundists" among other threats to American solidarity
Charles Lindbergh was often an object of scorn in Jerry Doyle’s repertoire of political cartoons written for the Philadelphia Record. Lindbergh gave voice to Nazi fellow travelers and anti-Semites within the America First Committee -- where few members denounced him, and which in 1940-41 called for the United States to stay out of the war. Lindbergh drew overflow crowds, and increased American First chapter membership wherever he spoke. Several of Doyle’s cartoons lambast Charles Lindberg’s anti-war speech given in Philadelphia on May 29 1941. In one cartoon, a smiling Hitler is sitting on a couch holding hands with a fellow Nazi. Joeseph Goebbels is standing by a radio. The words “Lindbergh’s Philadelphia Speech” is coming out the speaker. The cartoon is entitled “An Appreciative Audience.”
This first segment of two of “Nazi Sympathizers in Philadelphia Before the War,” highlighted photographs and political cartoons that are held at HSP. This is but a sampling. Those interested in Nazism in America, citizen reactions to this movement, and generally, Philadephia before the war, will find a wealth of information in these collections. The second segment will look at some of the Philadelphia Record newspaper clippings that are in our collection.
Where’s Washington? Judging by the number of search results when using the terms “George Washington” in HSP’s online catalog, Discover, the answer is: Everywhere!
For college students such as myself, search “George Washington” and prepare to be overwhelmed by several thousand results. Granted, not all of them refer to the Virginia planter-turned-President, George Washington (1732-1799), son of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. Many mothers and fathers found it fit to name their sons after the former Commander-in-Chief (George Washington Carver, George Washington Bartram, the list goes on.)
Narrowing the search to the Washington in question, however, there are still thousands of results. HSP holds materials ranging from Washington's pocket diary, letters in his own hand, artwork, published materials, accounting records, ephemera, to even a locket of his hair! While the bulk of Washington’s papers and other records are now scattered across several institutions, HSP holds several items offering a unique insight into Washington, the man and his legacy.
Upon performing my own quick search of Washingtoniana, or papers, books, letters, and relics relating to George Washington, I too was overwhelmed. To help other students and those interested in the first POTUS, I’ve compiled a list – by no means comprehensive! – of several materials I’ve found particularly revealing of Washington’s time as a general, president, and private citizen.
HSP collection of Washington family papers (#Am.001)
- This is the first place anyone looking to do Washington research at HSP should begin. In this collection you will find a volume of hand-written letters by Washington’s parents, his father’s will, and letters in Washington’s own hand. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery is also a part of this collection, along with Washington’s 1796 diary - which he kept when the family was living in Philadelphia during his presidency.
Tobias Lear diary (#Am.09238)
- Lear was the personal secretary to the Washington family at Mount Vernon, a position he dutifully served during Washington’s final moments, caring for his every need. Lear recorded these experiences in his diary, the only handwritten account of Washington’s death. In moving passages Lear recounts Washington’s stoic poise until the end, and Martha’s reaction. In later life, Lear – after a political scandal and unrequited love – committed suicide, leaving no note.
Clement Biddle (1810-1879) papers (#0049)
- Clement Biddle served as Quartermaster General of the Pennsylvania Militia as well as United States Marshal for Pennsylvania. Biddle frequently corresponded with Washington during and after the Revolution, with letters covering matters from issues related to Biddle’s time as Commissary General of Forage, to business dealings with Washington after the general had retired to Mt. Vernon. General orders and warrants signed by Washington are also included. Miscellaneous letters and documents from other familiar names appear in the collection as well: John Quincy Adams, Aaron Burr, Nathanael Greene, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Timothy Pickering. Colonial paper money and samples of cloth also make cameos in the collection.
Christopher Marshall papers (#0395)
- Christopher Marshall, a Philadelphia druggist during the Revolution, kept several detailed diaries with observations on the political life of the Early Republic as well as daily life in the bustling then-capital of the country. Marshall’s diaries offer a glimpse into how ordinary folks viewed Washington during the Revolution.
Washingtoniana case (#Am.00151)
- This is perhaps HSP's most intriguing piece. Assembled by Howard Edwards, it is more of a shrine to George Washington than a simple case. Included are a personal letter signed by Washington written to his brother-in-law, Burwell Bassett, two images of Washington – one a watercolor – and much more. There is even a locket of Washington’s hair, alleged to have been “Presented by John Perrie, son of Martin Perrie, Washington’s Hair Dresser, in 1781, to my Relative, the late Anthony M. Buckley.” Now, Edwards is someone whose Washington passion might parallel my own!
Cadwalader family papers
- The Cadwalader family, “Old Philadelphians” in the truest sense, is extremely influential in Pennsylvania history. This is a massive collection, with five family members receiving their own series: General John Cadwalader (1742-1786), Thomas Cadwalader (1779-1841), John Cadwalader (1805-1879), George Cadwalader (1806-1879), and Charles E. Cadwalader (1839-1907). Gen. John Cadwalader is our focus in terms of connections to Washington. His papers contain important materials on the Trenton-Princeton campaign and letters of George Washington dated 1776-1778.
- One item in particular caught my eye, a letter from Washington to Gen. John Cadwalader dated Christmas Day, 1776. The letter concerns Washington's plans to lead his troops across the Delaware River and commence an attack on Trenton, with the beleaguered Washington asking Cadwalader to create a diversion while the Continentals crossed the river. The Battle of Trenton was the army’s first military victory in the Revolutionary war.
William Spohn Baker collection of Washingtonania (#V67)
- Baker was another collector of Washingtoniana. Contained in the collection are images of Washington, mostly engravings. There are volumes written and annotated by Baker discussing how Washington was represented in art, handwritten copies of Washington's diaries (now, that’s some dedication!), and a steel engraving of the bust of Washington.
George Washington’s Account book, 1793-1797
- Select pages from Washington’s account book are published on HSP’s Digital Library. These accounts cover Washington's second presidential term,written by Tobias Lear and Bartholomew Dandridge, another of Washington’s secretaries during his presidency.
George Washington to Thomas Mifflin, October 2nd, 1789
- You may recognize the name Mifflin from Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River, a Revolutionary battlefield and fort. In the letter, Washington refers to the "amendments proposed to be added to the Constitution of the United States," which were originally enclosed. These amendments would become known as the "Bill of Rights.
George Washington to Christopher Ludwick
- Here’s a little-known fact I discovered in researching this letter: Christopher Ludwick was Baker-General for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This German immigrant attempted to persuade Hessians to abandon the British army and join the Continentals. In his role as Baker-General, Congress instructed Ludwick to return one pound of bread for every one pound of flour. He was frequently invited to dine with Washington. After Yorktown, Ludwick promptly baked 6,000 loaves for Cornwallis’s men, as per Washington’s request.
Like most passions, I have trouble explaining exactly where my Washington-mania comes from. It may be as simple as the Liberty’s Kids program I watched every day growing up, featuring three teenage journalists working for Benjamin Franklin. I viewed Washington at a young age as most of his contemporaries seem to have viewed him: as a dashing yet earnest figure. Washington continues to fascinate me, making his way into my college studies as a history major at Temple University. In my courses as well as through my internship at HSP, I’ve had the privilege of learning about the Washington that textbooks minimize, or forget to include altogether: Washington as a man, in all his complexities and contradictions. Through his letters, I’ve been privy to Washington's thoughts and feelings, his anxieties and his principles. HSP puts a world of Washington at the fingertips of researchers and students like me, with this brief survey serving as a helpful port of call as you explore one of the most important figures behind the founding of our country.
If you’ve stumbled upon a piece of Washingtoniana that has impacted you, please feel free to comment below - I'd love to hear about it!
Hello, everyone! We've reached the penultimate post of transcriptions from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). If you're just joining us, in 2012 HSP 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 dating from 1863 to 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 transcripts of entries 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 examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.
George F. Parry spent the first half of November 1865 at home and the second half of the month in the Midwest. On November 14th, he began a grand trip to Illinois to see freinds. He stayed there, visiting locations in the state, including Chicago, until the 22nd. He returned to Newtown at the end of the month and resumed regular life once again.
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.
Saturday November 4
Home all Day – very stormy
Aaron Rose sold his Hotel
Property to Joseph Willard for
Friday November 10
Wertz (Wirz) of Andersonville Hung
Sent a Note
to Nellie Paff.
Eve’g at Rose
with Joseph Willard and Roses’
Crowd at Esq. Barnleys
Tuesday November 14
Bid good by to Newtown
Arrived in Phila. Called on Paxson
Spent the Eve’g at Barley
Sheaf with Tom. Janney [and] Sam. Phillips.
Bought ticket for Rock Island in
Chicago $30.15 – started at 11 P. M.
Friday November 17
Took walk around [Chicago]
Called on Dr. Dodd who took me
around and introduced me to number
Oscar Thornall of New Jersey[,] a
young man who I got acquainted with
on the Cars – Started his journey
to Belvidere, Ill.
Tuesday November 21
Walked from Bradshaws to
Rock Island and crossed over into
Davenport, Iowa – took a view
of the City and recrossed to
Rock Island. Very tired – walked
over 30 miles.
wroe Letter Home
Davenport and Rock Island both
Monday November 27
Rode over back of Addisville to
see a Horse
Ordered a new
set f Harnesses to be made by
Harding[,] to be done by Christmas
Received a Letter from
Pay Master at Washington about my
back pay. answered it.
Set up all night
with Harry Eyre [and] with Dr. Trego.
Guest editors Brian C. Black and Donna J. Rilling introduce "Energy in Pennsylvania History," a special issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
"Fracking Means Jobs"; "New Well Severance Tax Would Stifle Job Growth and Economic Benefits of Pennsylvania's Energy Development"; "Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Sector Found to be Much Greater Than Expected." What newspaper reader in Pennsylvania today hasn't regularly encountered such headlines? From developing new pipelines and cracker plants that break down petrochemical and fracking residue to defining standards for the allowable toxicity of fluids used or created in the conversion of shale into natural gas, Pennsylvania remains one of the nation's hot spots for energy development as it continues its historical practice of extraction and expansion into other forms of energy.
For more than a century, fossil fuels have defined the lives of every American, and few states have contributed more to this bounty than Pennsylvania. The commonwealth’s diverse energy resources have been repeatedly connected to markets and converted into power and commodities. Pennsylvania has been a place where innovators attempted pioneering techniques and developed new technologies. Although its energy history has exerted a significant toll on Pennsylvania’s environment and citizens, it has also enabled the state to lead the nation into and through the industrial age. Today, as yet another energy frontier emerges—natural gas mined from shale—investigating ways that various energy forms were developed in Pennsylvania is especially compelling. Thus, a special issue of Pennsylvnia Magazine of History and Biography on Energy in Pennsylvania is timely.
The special issue offers some historical context for our gas boom as well as for other energy opportunities that will emerge in the 21st century. The flexible nature with which energy winds its way through everyday human life has inspired the editors to choose essays that represent various stops on the lifecycle of energy use. Frederick Quivik examines Philadelphia’s Point Breeze Petroleum Refinery and storage site to reveal the tensions between oil production and hazards to humans and the environment. Louis Carlat and Daniel Weeks show how Thomas Edison and his managers and partners approached technological, structural, financial, and human barriers to bring electrification to residents of towns in middle Pennsylvania in the late 19th century. Joel Tarr and Karen Clay find early natural gas development in Pittsburgh a precursor for much of what we see unfolding today, though the experiences and environmental consequences of 19th- and early 20th-century gas drilling have been largely ignored by today’s producers and regulators.
A review essay by Brian Black, Ann Greene, and Marcy Ladson surveys exciting new literature on energy history while noting opportunities for further investigation. Allen Dietrich-Ward provides a review of recent books in the field. Finally, the “Hidden Gems” spotlight energy sources such as wood, charcoal, water, and coal that were critical to colonial Pennsylvanians and its early industrialists. The gems also point to some of energy’s cultural dimensions, be it in singular creations of models of automobile America or in ideas about abundance that supported profligate use of the region’s vast sylvan lands.
Whether it is gathered from turbines atop our ridges or layers of shale buried deep below, there can be little doubt that energy will continue to play an important role in life in Pennsylvania. While the historical stories are full of personal drama and fascinating technical innovations, the true imperative for historians derives from the need for us to draw from past patterns and practices to inform this current and future development. We hope this special issue contributes to an informed energy future in the commonwealth.
BRIAN C. BLACK is professor of history and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona, where he currently serves as head of arts and humanities. He is the author of several books, including Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom (Johns Hopkins, 2003) and Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) and edited Nature’s Entrepôt: Philadelphia’s Urban Sphere and its Environmental Thresholds (University of Pittsburgh, 2012), and Climate Change, a four-volume encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2012), among other titles. He is the author of the Energy and Society book series with West Virginia University Press.
DONNA J. RILLING is associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she focuses on the history of the early American republic. She completed her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania and is author of Making Houses, Crafting Capitalism: Builders in Philadelphia, 1790–1850 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). Her current book project examines the metamorphosis of a waterway in 19th-century Philadelphia that was at the heart of political, social, and environmental conflict.
During the course of the Howard Lewis Project in our Archives department, the John Wanamaker collection  received some much-needed attention in order to make the collection more accessible and easier to use for our researchers. As one of our larger collections (approximately 190 feet of material) that documents a very prominent Philadelphia citizen and the store he founded, the collection sees a great deal of use in our research library. It was determined that one of the things we could do to make the collection easier to use would be to take a detailed inventory of all the volumes in the collection and number them consecutively. Previously, the volumes had been numbered rather confusingly and were further obscured by the fact that some were housed in boxes with other materials and not listed separately in the finding aid. All volumes were removed from the boxes (except where they were fragile and in need of extra support) and given labels with their new numbers and titles that accurately reflect their contents.
It was in the course of these tasks that I began to notice that some of these volumes were very poorly or confusingly described. I realized that researchers looking at the finding aid (since the collection is located in our closed stacks and not directly accessible to our patrons) would likely have no idea as to their contents or any indication that they could be potentially useful. One of the most interesting results of this re-labeling of volumes was the discovery (or re-discovery) of material within the collection, especially former volume 20-24. On the shelf, this volume was labeled as “20-24 Mary Brown Wanamaker Europe trip, 1909.” The finding aid description was only slightly more helpful: “Scrapbooks and photo albums: Mary Brown Wanamaker: photo album, European Trip, 1909.” Seems fairly lackluster, right? Based on these titles, one could only surmise that the album contained photographs that maybe depicted members of the Wanamaker family somewhere in Europe. As with the other scrapbooks and albums, I had to open up the volume and sift through its contents to get a more specific and accurate title.
Cover of the Mary Brown (Wanamaker) Warburton photo album
It became obvious fairly quickly, thanks to the captions under the photographs, that this album was not assembled by John Wanamaker’s wife, Mary Brown Wanamaker, but rather by his daughter, also named Mary Brown but known as “Minnie” and who had married Major Barclay Warburton in 1895. The album features Minnie, her husband, and her three children, as well as her mother and other unidentified family members and travelling companions. As I reached the end of the album however, I surprisingly began to see some very familiar faces:
(left to right) Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, and Grand Duchesses Xenia Alexandrovna, Tatiana Nikolaevna, and Olga Nikolaevna
(left to right) unkown Russian officer, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and unknown Russian cavlaryman
Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and Tsar Nicholas II
For students of history, those faces should be quite familiar since they often appear in textbooks and scholarly works around the world.
My initial reaction was to assume that these images were clipped from newspapers or magazines. But closer inspection revealed that they were authentic. First, many of the photographs are quite informal and are not of the sort that would have been published in the media at that time due to strict rules of etiquette. Second, Minnie Wanamaker Warburton and her husband Barclay appear in several photographs with members of the tsar’s extended family. And third, one of the photographs of Grand Duchess Xenia and her daughter, Princess Irina appear to be authentically autographed.
Assuming all of the above to be true, the only question remaining was: why in the world would the daughter of a Philadelphia department store magnate have such photographs in her possession?
It is known that both the Wanamakers and members of the Romanov family owned property in the south of France at Biarritz however, the true answer may lie in the relationship with one member of the imperial family in particular.
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich at Biarritz
It is Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, brother-in-law and second cousin to Tsar Nicholas, who appears over and over again in the album. Alexander was married to the tsar’s sister, Grand Duchess Xenia, and served as an admiral in the Imperial Navy as well as an advisor to the throne.
Sometime before 1913, the Grand Duke appears to have made the acquaintance of Major Warburton, either through military circles or through close proximity while vacationing in Biarritz. An article from the New York Tribune dated September 4, 1914 discloses the following:
There are very few materials relating to Minnie and Barclay Warburton in our Wanamaker collection, none of which seem to provide any additional information about their international connections or activities while abroad.
(left to right) Grand Duchess Xenia, Barclay Warburton, and Minnie Wanamaker Warburton
The last dated photograph in the album depicting Grand Duke Alexander and members of the imperial family is from 1914, an ominous date for those who know that World War I began in that year and would bring with it the eventual bloody overthrow of the tsarist regime. Alexander, his wife, and seven children were some of the lucky few members of the Tsar’s inner circle to escape Russia with their lives. They were placed under house arrest at their estate in Crimea by the Bolsheviks for over a year until the German occupation of Yalta freed them (Alexander’s niece was married to Kaiser Wilhelm’s son and heir, the Crown Prince). Several months later, after the armistice was declared and the Germans were forced to evacuate Russian territory, the family was rescued by the British Navy (thanks again to their extended family connections since Alexander’s mother-in-law, the Dowager Tsarina, was the aunt of King George V) and escaped the Bolsheviks for good.
Grand Duke Alexander made his way to the peace talks then taking place at Versailles, in the hopes of gaining support for the anti-communist forces in Russia as well as initiating the rescue of members of the imperial family still threatened by the communist regime. While his pleas ultimately fell on deaf ears, he may have had the chance to be reunited with Barclay Warburton who was serving as a military attaché with the American delegation.
Afterwards, the family split up with Alexander settling in the south of France while Xenia and most of their children settled in England (living on the charity of George V) or immigrated to America. With the loss of his social and political stationnot to mention most of his money, the former grand duke took up amateur archaeology and became a prolific author in his later years. I was unable to find any evidence that he maintained his relationship with the Warburtons of Philadelphia after the end of the war, although it is certainly possible that they stayed in touch.
Grand Duchess Xenia, Tsar Nicholas II, and Grand Duke Alexander posing for the camera with friends in better times
And so this tantalizing piece of evidence from the Wanamaker collection remains shrouded in mystery, for now. There is still a great wealth of material within the collection to comb through that perhaps may shed some light on the rest of the story. But without the benefits of archival processing, arrangement, and description this obscure connection might have remained hidden for many more years. Additional processing of the collection, accompanied by use from researchers, may very well one day uncover more information.