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!
Before Stonewall, and long before the Christopher Street Pride Parade, there was Annual Reminder Day – a Philadelphia-based demonstration where gay men and lesbians protested for the same civil rights granted to their fellow heterosexuals.
The 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder Day, which occurred every July 4 from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall, inspired “Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court,” the new exhibit at the National Constitution Center.
One cannot underestimate the bravery exhibited by the demonstrators at the first Annual Reminder back in 1965. Visibly exposing oneself as a homosexual risked disastrous consequences, both personal and professional. If you weren’t “passing” as an heterosexual American, you were inviting trouble.
And it’s no surprise that in light of how potentially dangerous this visibility could be for the demonstration’s activists, the way in which activists represented themselves during the Reminder picket became extremely important.
Surprising to those familiar with gay pride parades across the country, the Reminder Day picketers were bound to a strict dress code – ties and jackets for men, dresses for women. Organizer Frank Kameny also instructed demonstrators to picket in a single-file line.
“We didn’t want people to gawk at us,” explained Kameny, who aimed to give onlookers the impression that the demonstration’s participants were, in his words, “employable.” “We wanted them to gawk at the message on our signs and in our leaflets,” he continued.
A copy of Frank Kameny’s original dress code, courtesy of Bob Skiva at the John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives
Also important to Kameny was the time and place of the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations. The picketing occurred after the city’s Independence Day parade, right in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, places which Kameny knew had an enduring symbolic appeal as emblems of the struggle for freedom.
When the flag-bearing – one of the most salient and sacred portions of the Independence Day parade – occurred during the demonstration, protestors would lower their signs, stand still, and place their right hand over their hearts, all in an attempt to communicate that they, too, were first-class citizens, and not just marginal people.
One could argue that this presentation was effective – the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations carried on in an overall orderly manner for the next three years. Each year, several more LGTBQ citizens would show up, growing from an initial group of about a dozen demonstrators to totals in the range of forty and fifty.
Then, Stonewall happened. Everything changed.
Often cited as the “true” beginning of the gay civil rights movement, the Stonewall riots were a series of aggressive, spontaneous demonstrations against an early morning police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. These demonstrations were a sharp contrast to the orderly nature of the Annual Reminder Day; their participants seemed less interested in the idea of equality and more focused on the idea of liberation.
Less than a week later, a group of about forty or so gay men and lesbians from New York City chartered a bus to Philadelphia to participate in that year’s Annual Reminder Day. The changing tides of the gay civil rights movement increased the number of demonstrators at 1969’s Annual Reminder Day to nearly 150 participants, a number dwarfed by today’s standards, but thrilling for veterans of the protests, such as Barbara Gittings.
The precise, orderly nature of the demonstration, however, struck many of these justifiably angry New Yorkers as overly decorous and mild-mannered. Most annoying to them was the still-honored dress code.
A pivotal moment occurred when two women decided to hold hands while demonstrating, breaking the rule of picketing in a single-file fashion. Organizer Frank Kameny demanded that the two women walk separately; his angered reaction was met first with quiet rage, and then with a total disregard for the Annual Reminder Day policies, with many demonstrators holding hands with their same-sex partners while picketing.
Once these rules had been shirked, there was no looking back. The following November, at the East Coast Homophile Organization’s movement, Annual Reminder Day was phased out, and the Christopher Street Pride Parade was born.
The first Christopher Street Pride Parade in New York City in 1970 is now considered legendary, chockfull of confrontational activism, including dances, political meetings, a wild parade, and erotic art shows. Held on June 28, it visibly reflected the liberationist style of protest, with longhaired, shirtless protestors holding signs demanding GAY POWER and engaging in open drug use.
And while the precedent set by the first Christopher Street Pride Parade would go on to define the nature in which Pride functions nationwide were conducted to this day, it is important to remember not only the circumstances under which the first Annual Reminder Day took place, but the bravery it took these original demonstrators to flaunt their visibility as homosexuals.
As LGTBQ activist Barbara Gittings described in the documentary Gay Pioneers, “Coming out in a picket line in 1965 was downright revolutionary for that time. It took gumption, it really took gumption and the conviction that we were right [and] the world was wrong. We were just at the start of cracking that cocoon of invisibility.”
If George Washington can be considered the father of our nation, then his wife, Martha, could be considered its mother. Although Martha received the cookbook from the mother of her first husband, Daniel Custis, Martha undoubtedly cooked some of the recipes for Mr. Washington. The book was then inherited by her granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis. George Washington has no direct descendants.
This cookbook fascinated me from the moment I set eyes upon it during my first interview at HSP. I was even more intrigued—and occasionally slightly repulsed—after beginning to read it. Although most of the recipes are things that I would not consume (and I would say I am adventurous with my food tastes), I felt it was important to see just how differently our tastes have developed in only a few centuries. The colonial palette – just like today’s – was influenced by the availability of ingredients, prevailing ideas about health and nutrition, and new culinary methods resulting from changes in food preparation. Mrs. Washington would think I am so spoiled with my pre-ground spices and prepared sticks of butter… not to mention my food processor, indoor grill, and especially microwave.
Through my research, I’ve gained a newfound respect for of prior generations who were able to create intricate meals without the technology available to cooks today.
For this culinary adventure, I used a generic pie crust recipe from the Internet, as the 18th century recipes were very difficult to understand. Instead, I wanted the contents of this pie to be the highlight of the recipe. As I am breaking a sweat trying to cut the two sticks of butter into the flour and sugar for the crust, I could not help but realize that the women of Mrs. Washington’s time most likely churned their butter first before they went through the same process. I then rolled the dough & put it in the refrigerator to harden, the refrigerator being another innovation not yet available in the 18th century. Boiling the lettuce, chopping the prunes, and assembling the pie took almost an hour. Baking took close to an hour, as well. The time and effort women throughout history put into providing for their families is not nearly appreciated enough.
The eighteenth century diet may have contained many ingredients viewed as unhealthy today, like lard and copious amounts of eggs & butter, but they had an advantage over us: food then was not processed, chemically altered, infused with excess nutrients, or treated with pesticides in the growth process. Hannah Glasse and Amelia Simmons, who published their cookbooks in print, give extensive guidelines for choosing the best quality ingredients in accordance with seasonality and location. The dishes may not have been calorie-friendly, but they were of utmost quality and freshness.
This pie tasted much better than it sounds. Called a “lettis tart”, I was slightly confused when I saw the recipe also called for prunes. I wanted to try something completely weird by today’s tastes. I would not have been as successful with this recipe had Karen Hess not transcribed Mrs. Washington’s cookbook and provided important insight and details to help a modern cook recreate the same dishes.
Prunes taste much better baked in a lettuce pie than they smell out of the bag. This dish is almost like a salad pie… Except the thick, buttery crust defeats the purpose of the salad. The people of the 18th century were not as concerned with maintaining their waistlines. Or rather a thin waistline was not necessarily desirable in a woman – perceptions of beauty, like preferences of certain foods, are always changing.
For the crust (which Martha calls a “coffin”):
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and still cold
½ cup cold water + more as needed
1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl
2. Add the butter cubes to the dry ingredients and cut it using a pastry cutter (I did not have one on hand so I rubbed the cubes between my fingertips and it worked just as well) until the butter pieces are no larger than a dime
3. Drizzle in the water and work the mixture into a dough using a rubber spatula until it is cohesive
4. Knead your dough no more than 10 times to form a ball
5. Divide the ball in half, wrap each separately in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour so that the water can be absorbed, making the dough even more cohesive
For the pie:
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 bag of dried prunes
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Place prunes in a bowl, cover with water, and soak for at least one hour
3. Once the dough is chilled, roll each dough ball into a disk
4. Spray a pie plate with cooking spray; place one dough circle into the plate and press around into the bottom edge of the pie plate
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the lettuce leaves and stir until wilted
6. Roughly chop the prunes into bite-sized pieces
7. Brush melted butter on the bottom inside of the pie crust; sprinkle some ginger, cinnamon, and sugar
8. Fill with a layer of lettuce, all of the prunes, then another layer of lettuce
9. Sprinkle more cinnamon, ginger, and sugar
10. Cover with top pie crust and adhere the sides together using a fork; remove any excess dough hanging over the edge
11. Brush more melted butter across the top of the pie crust
12. Place a cookie sheet in one of the lower shelves to catch an liquids that are expelled during the baking process
13. Bake the pie for 45 minutes or until the crust is browned (mine took almost an hour)
14. Allow to fully cool before slicing
You may have read the recently posted project update regarding the HINT project written by my colleague, Rachel Moloshok, in which she described our decision to reduce our number of annotated cartoons from more than 500 to approximately 125 cartoons. Even with this reduction, we’re still generating a lot of metadata. So, what are we going to do with all of it?
The metadata we’re generating contains lots of information about entities (persons and businesses or corporations), symbols, ideas, and the relationships between these. As Rachel described in her post, cartoons are encoded with publication dates; titles; artists, engravers, or other creators; persons or other entities depicted or mentioned; publishers; symbols; and more. You can imagine, this is a lot of information!
"Coney Island and the Crowned Heads," 1882 (Balch Broadsides: Satirical Cartoons [PG278])
One of the goals of the HINT project was to harness the linked data possibilities of the semantic web. We want our metadata to be more readable by search engines, like Google and Yahoo, etc., and our images easier to locate via web search tools. Since graphics are notoriously hard for search engines to find, this will help those researchers looking for more information about political cartoons discover our images and the HINT project. The beauty of the semantic web is that it allows for data to be shared across platforms and more easily processed by machines.
The first step in this goal was disseminating our metadata. We hoped to find a data-sharing forum by which to do this. Initially, we investigated SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context), which is a prototype research tool from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia. SNAC is a project intended to gather and distribute archival metadata. Unfortunately, SNAC is unable to accept our metadata at this time, but the lovely folks running the project have expressed an interest in collecting our information at a later date.
However, we still need to find a way to get our metadata out there before the end of the grant period. We’re using TEI to encode our cartoons, so the TAPAS Project (TEI Archive, Publishing, and Access Service Project) seems like a good possibility. TAPAS is a platform from the TEI Consortium that will allow generators of TEI to share their data, as well as store and publish it, in such a way that it will be accessible for the foreseeable future. We are currently exploring contributing our metadata to TAPAS, along with some other alternatives.
"Emancipation," 1865 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania large graphics collection [V65])
Another prong of our efforts to make our data more easily accessible is utilizing RDF (Resource Descriptive Framework), another aspect of the semantic web. RDF is a particular descriptive data format which describes a relationship in triplicate form: subject-predicate-object. For example, “Thomas Nast drew ‘Emancipation.’” But rather than being a human-readable sentence, RDF is formatted in XML to make the metadata more easily machine-readable. In addition to the other modifications we’ve made to our DAMS (Digital Asset Management System), Collective Access (CA), we’re currently working to modify CA to output our data in RDF for easier sharing and finding. Please see our previous blog posts on the image viewer upgrades and utilizing TEI for more detail on some of our other CA modifications.
Even though the HINT grant period is winding down, we’re still busily working on the project. We hope you’ll continue to follow our progress. And don’t forget to check out the exhibit when Politics in Graphic Detail goes live on September 1. Keep your eye on HSP communications for links to the exhibit site and more information about HINT in the coming weeks!
With less than three months left on the Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) project, we’ve more or less wrapped up our TEI encoding of political cartoons and are concentrating on getting our exhibit website working and on writing biographies and descriptions of the people, organizations, and symbols associated with our cartoons.
At the outset of this project, we set ourselves the lofty goal of digitizing, researching, and richly encoding 500 political cartoons from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s collections. We did succeed in selecting, digitizing, and researching over 500 cartoons, but we found that the detail-intensive work that goes into encoding and annotating political cartoons took longer than we anticipated.
Some cartoons are more complicated than others.
To give you an idea of the work involved, for each digitized cartoon we:
- Encode all relevant metadata (title, date, publication information, collection/citation info, etc.)
- Write a description of the image
- Identify all people, organizations, and symbols associated with the cartoon
- Transcribe all text in the cartoon and, when appropriate, write additional annotations to explain or illuminate significant non-textual details
- Draw zones on the image that connect visual details with pop-up text boxes (see this blog post for an explanation of how this works).
It became clear to us that we could either produce an exhibit with more cartoons but less detail, or we could scale back the number of cartoons to encode and devote more time and attention to each. We decided on the latter option.
All cartoons that have been used in the educational unit and lesson plans devised by HSP’s education manager, Alicia Parks (see links on project homepage) as well as a subset of 30 “featured” cartoons selected from across major chronological eras have received particularly rich description and annotation—in addition to transcribing all text in the image, providing an image description that explains the historical context and meaning of each cartoon, and highlighting all identifiable symbols, we are linking to biographies and descriptions of all people and organizations that are associated with these cartoons, whether artists, publishers, or historic figures who are depicted or mentioned in the cartoon itself.
The rest of the cartoons in the exhibit, encoded to what we are calling “basic” level, contain slightly less contextual detail, but still provide image descriptions, transcription of all text, and identifications of all people, organizations, or obvious symbols that appear in the cartoon.
In all, we’re looking at an exhibit featuring more than 125 richly annotated and interactive political cartoons from 1754 through the early 20th century. And the remaining cartoons we selected but won’t have time to richly encode? They are still digitized and viewable right now at HSP’s Digital Library.
Olivia D'Aiutolo, HSP's summer 2015 Communications Intern, explores the library's cookbook collections as part of her new blog series, A Pinch of History: Culinary Commotion at HSP.
In my blog series, I will be profiling several recipes from colonial cookbooks in HSP’s collections. However, I’d like to begin with one of the largest obstacles I’ve encountered so far on my journey outside of the kitchen: the strangeness and scarcity of many recipes’ ingredients.
When asked, my friends predicted that these older dishes would be extremely simple to prepare. They would be surprised to learn that most of the dishes these women made regularly featured an extensive list of ingredients, some of which are no longer available. Other ingredients required a significant amount of additional work. Instead of a “teaspoon of nutmeg”, many of these recipes call for “one nutmeg” which would have to be ground into a powder.
Other ingredients I had never heard of before. Here’s my running list of the obscurities so far, which I’m keeping to further understand these older culinary practices.
• Marrow- flexible tissue inside bones (I looked this up because I didn’t believe anyone would cook with marrow… I soon learned it’s common practice today for bone broth)
• Fricassee- when meat is cut, sautéed, braised, served in sauce it was cooked in
• Sweetmeat- candy covered in sugar; “meat” just meant food, something to eat
• Mace- covering of nutmeg shell
• Collop- slice of meat
• Pippin- red/yellow dessert apple
• Lamprey- jawless fish with tunnel-like sucking mouth (looks unappetizing… take my word for it)
• Sack- fortified wine
• Florentine- usually when spinach is included in a recipe
• Syllabub- dairy dessert made from cream & wine; served cold
• Posset- frothy custard made from cream, wine, eggs; served hot
• Treacle- uncrystallized syrup made during sugar refinement
• Suet- raw beef or mutton fat
• Tansy- flowering herbaceous plant (several books had recipes featuring flowers)
• Indian meal- cornmeal
• Pearl ash- first chemical leavening used in baking
• Emptins- yeast from the remnants of the beer brewing process
• Quinces- fruit in the apple & pear family
• Musk- aromatic substance from animal glands like deer
• Rusk- hard and dry biscuit or twice-baked bread
• Rosewater- rose petals steeped in water, used to flavor food
Have any of you come across these ingredients in your culinary adventures, past or present?
I am going to do my best to obtain mace and rosewater, as a lot of the baking and dessert recipes I’ve selected call for them. I’m trying my hardest not to compromise the integrity of the recipe, hoping to convey utmost authenticity of colonial cuisine through my blog.
Most of the dishes consumed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in America had a European taste, with the majority brought over from the Old World. Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains recipes dating back to Elizabethan England. As time went on, recipes began evolving, incorporating the different materials and foodstuffs available in the New World that Europeans did not previously have access to.
Many items now considered staples would have looked unfamiliar to the Old World’s emigrants. Europe didn’t have corn, potatoes, squash, tomatoes or turkey.
I would also like to comment on the cookbooks themselves, as physical objects. Martha Washington’s and Mary Plumstead’s recipe books are handwritten; they seem more like personal family artifacts meant to be passed down through generations than something stuffed away in a kitchen. In the case of Martha’s cookbook, it was in fact an heirloom passed down to her by the mother-in-law of her first husband (George was her second husband). While reading through these cookbooks, I had the feeling of being a part of their family.
Hannah Glasse’s and Amelia Simmons’s books, on the other hand, are printed books with forwards and introductions. Glasse said she wrote the book to simplify the cooking process for the servile class while Simmons is known for the first cookbook published in America featuring exclusively American ingredients in several of the recipes. These were easier to read but were still written in a style entirely different from any common cookbook. Glasse and Simmons both devoted a significant amount of time explaining how to choose the best ingredients and cook with respect for seasonality.
I couldn’t help but feel connected to these women as I paged through their work. I know how difficult it can be to run a kitchen, as I normally cook every night in my house. I also began, over the last few months, developing my own recipes rather than using ones I have found. It is difficult to get recipes right the first time. I wasn’t concerned with the lack of specific measurements of most ingredients, as that is how I would cook. It is so much more enjoyable when you are not concerned with measuring this or that, but rather just working through the process and experiencing it. Throw in however much is needed to make the food taste good!
HSP's Tyler Antoine explores one of the earliest gay magazines in the US, Drum, as part of a new blog series: "Beats of the Drum." Published here in Philadelphia in 1964, Drum represented a radical break from the past through its stark portrayals of homosexuals in mid-century America. For his inaugural post, Tyler discusses the immediate cultural milieu into which Drum emerged.
One of the more colorful items to be found in HSP’s Digital Library is the first issue of Drum, an early gay pride magazine first published by Clark Polak in Philadelphia in 1964. In this series, entitled “Beats of the Drum,” we aim to explore some of the more fascinating facets of this important document of LGBT history.
If you haven’t heard of Drum, you might be surprised at how much of a landmark magazine it was within mid-century gay American culture. First published in 1964, the climate in which the magazine appeared was hardly hospitable to homosexuals. Only six years had passed since the striking down of the Comstock laws forbidding the postage of homosexual materials.
In the early 1960s, homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder. The American Psychology Association listed homosexuality as a form of psychosis, recommended electric shock therapy, lobotomy, and other “treatments.” Far from the Equal Opportunity Employers of today, federal agencies were firing any employees suspected of being homosexual. Public LGBT demonstrations were few and far between, with the first Christopher Street Pride Parade still years away.
Put plainly, it was very dangerous to be gay at the time Drum appeared. There was a serious lack of visibility due to the threat of being outed. In this time of ubiquitous gay pride events – everything from parades to dance parties – it’s easy to forget how these traditions are steeped in a longtime struggle from near invisibility to visibility and an appreciation for the public figures and unsung heroes who paved the way for these traditions to become so accepted.
The cover of Drum's inaugural issue in October, 1964
This is why Drum magazine represents such a revolutionary break. Unlike preceding LGBT publications – such as lesbian publication The Ladder, which relied on innocuous covers without any visual hint as to what could be found inside – the cover for the first issue of Drum displays the back-end of a man wearing only his swim trunks. Despite its frank appearance, Drum boasted a monthly circulation of about 10,000 at its peak – the largest circulation number for any magazine of its kind at that time.
More salacious photos and spreads would follow in subsequent issues. In 1965, it became the first American magazine to feature a full-frontal male pictorial. Polak's fearless approach to sexuality would ultimately be his downfall, however. The magazine ended in 1969 after a raid of Clark Polak's offices, resulting in Polak being brought up on 18 counts of publishing and distributing obscene material via his Trojan Book Service -- particularly obscene films. His business destroyed, Clark Polak would leave Philadelphia the following year.
A note from editor Clark Polak & Thoreau's quote that inspired the magazine's title.
A seriously unsung hero, Polak was the founder of the Janus Society, an early homophile organization. After relocating to Los Angeles following his conviction, Polak continued a life of activism, founding a gay chapter at his local ACLU before ultimately taking his life in 1980. The alienation he and his homosexual brethren felt can be observed from the Thoreau quote from which Drum takes its namesake – “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer.”
Hello again, and thank for returning for more 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.
This was a rather quiet month for Parry, and he frequently noted as such in his diary entries. With the capture of Jefferson David last month, the war was all but over. Parry remained with his regiment in camp outside of Macon, Georgia. And it was a month of downtime that he spent the visiting with folks and traveling the countryside.
Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets [ ]. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.
Thursday, June 1
Examined by a Board of Examiners
for position in regular Army.
Macon[,] called on Dan'l Losey and
found him much better. Visited
Cemetery not much. Called on
This day is set
apart for fasting and Prayer
on account of death of Abraham
Lincoln[,] Pres. Of U. S.
Friday, June 2
Quiet in Camp. My servant Charley
under arrest and being punished
Appointment as 1st Lieut in the 137
United States Colored Troop with
Orders to report at once.
report = my position as Veterinary Surgeon
Monday, June 5
Nothin new in camp -- bought
some eggs, Flour, Fish, &c.
rode into the city[.] Called on Lucy(?).
Spent the evening with him and the
Misses Jones. had a very nice time[,]
plenty of music – Piano and vocal[.]
returned to camp at midnight. Refre-
shments of many kinds. R____ Figs, &c.
Wednesday, June 14
In camp all Day[,] no news
all quiet. Mail Arrived, no
letters for me.
Some words with
Dr. McKay about his company['s]
Monday, June 19
Mothing new to Day[,] all
quiet in camp.
Lt. Frazier in
Camp. Lucy took dinner with
Thunder Storm after dinner.
Well and in good Health[.]
Friday June, 23
Wrote a Letter to Miss
Julia V. Taylor.
Very nice Day[.]
living at the top of the
heap. Peaches, Pages(?), Mellons[sic]
Berries &c in abundance.
Thursday, June 29
Dull in Camp. Some reading
matter on hand.
Officers being exam-
ined. [illegible] left for Andersonville
Montana left for
Walked out in the
evening and visited mellon[sic]
One of the first things that I observed upon first entering the Special Collections Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, was the number visitors studying documents from the collection boxes. Each visitor was carefully and thoughtfully conducting research on a theme of their interest.
As an intern in the Programs and Services department of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I had heard that the Special Collections Library at HSP houses over 21 million original documents, spanning over 350 years. I was personally very excited to perform research in this collection for the first time. Even though I had a general idea of what I intended to research, I still was unsure of the specifics of my topic. I knew that I wanted to concentrate on early Irish Immigration into the United States, but was debating in which direction I should commence my research.
While determining which potential areas to direct this work, I decided to take a brief look around the Historical Society’s Special Collections Library. With just a quick walk around the Library’s “Pennsylvania Room”, I was able to locate numerous fascinating articles of the past, including newspaper notices, church records, picture collections, marriage records, directories, genealogy documents, county histories and much more. Although I was amazed at the depth of materials in the Pennsylvania Room, these records were just a fraction of what is included in the Library’s five floors of historical documents.
After my brief walk around the Pennsylvania Room, I brought my desired topic to the reference desk of the Library, located just outside of the reading room. The Librarian at the reference desk assisted me with locating materials relating to Irish immigration and helped me to determine the direction of my research. This gentleman was eager to help make my first experience in the Library as delightful as possible.
The Librarian’s name was Lee Arnold, he has been involved with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for over twenty years. Mr. Arnold suggested some ideas on where would be a good starting point for my research. For instance, he mentioned that it might be useful if I focused my attention, not solely on Irish immigration, but more specifically, on the importance of the contributions of the Irish immigrants in Philadelphia.
To help me get started, Mr. Arnold provided me with a “Finding Aid”. This document was a starting point for me to uncover the contributions of Irish Immigrants in Philadelphia. At first I was unsure of what a “Finding Aid” entailed, but Mr. Arnold explained that the Historical Society provides Finding Aids for many collections in the Library.
The particular Finding Aid that I received contained both an introductory abstract, as well as a highly detailed background note about the Lea and Febiger records at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Finding Aid also indicated that the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's library collections contain over 200 boxes of original documents from Lea and Febiger and its ancestors. The Finding Aid was vital for my research because it revealed that Lea and Febiger was a Publishing Company made possible by an Irish Immigrant named Mathew Carey, a native of Dublin, who came to Philadelphia in 1784.
The Finding Aid also provided that within a year of Carey’s arrival to Philadelphia, he started one of the first publishing houses in the city. Most notably, the Finding Aid provided that this Publishing House contributed to medical and scientific publishing and that Carey’s company produced works by several famous authors including Edgar Allen Poe, James Fenimore Cooper and Sir Walter Scott. Another Librarian named Willhem Echevarria, who has been with HSP for nearly seven years, assisted me in my research by helping me access HSPs online digital collections. Willhem showed me several items in the online archives of the Historical Society including digital photographs, subject guides, and online editions of several of HSP’s finding aids, one of which was the online finding aid for the Lea and Febiger records.
After I returned the original Finding Aid to Mr. Arnold, I requested a box of Mr. Carey’s manuscripts, which was quickly made available to me by one of the Librarians. Since these letters were written in the late 1700s, I was very nervous to touch the pages of these manuscripts as they appeared to be quite fragile. Yet, after expressing my concern to the Librarian, she she carefully explained to me the best way to handle these historical documents. I read through twenty of Mathew Carey’s original letters and learned a great deal about the origins of the Lea and Febiger Company and the contributions of Mathew Carey to the City of Philadelphia.
Next, I located a book in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection about early Irish immigrants in the United States. The book, in specific, had a focus on Irish Immigration into Philadelphia. This work entitled, Irish America, was written by Richard Demeter and serves as a “historical travel guide.” Some of the information presented in Irish America revealed historical information in which I was not familiar.
For instance, the book informs that three signers of the Declaration of Independence were natives of Ireland (p.313), and that the first printed copies of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were published by John Dunlap, a native of Ireland (p.405). Furthermore, the book mentions that Dunlap published The Pennsylvania Packet, which was the first daily newspaper of the United States of America (p.405). Even after reading only a few chapters of this book, I gained a great understanding of the monumental contributions of the early Irish immigrants who came to Philadelphia.
In summary, my first research experience at the Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was both inspiring and educational. I started with a research topic that I originally pursued just for my own enjoyment and decided to turn the project into a 20-page research thesis, which I am excited to be submitting as my senior paper at my university. With the outstanding records and references in the Historical Society’s Library, along with the friendliness and helpfulness of the Librarians, my first experience in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania library was both productive and gratifying.
Part II: Marjorie Gibbon
While Dr. Gibbon was operating on wounded soldiers in northern France, his wife, Marjorie Young Gibbon, remained in Philadelphia with their four children. Marjorie was the daughter of Civil War veteran and friend of Theodore Roosevelt, General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young. As a child and young adult, she and her four sisters lived at many different military locations throughout the United States, following the various appointments of her father. It was while her father was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri during the Spanish-American War that she first met a young Army doctor, John Heysham Gibbon. The pair immediately began a lively and affectionate correspondence. When she married Dr. Gibbon in 1901, they settled in Philadelphia which was in all likelihood the first permanent home that Marjorie had known. As such, when Dr. Gibbon volunteered to serve as surgeon with the Pennsylvania Hospital Unit at the United States' entry into World War I, her experiences in her father’s household most likely prepared her for the long separation.
Like most women of her social status in the early twentieth century, Marjorie did not hold a career outside of the home but spent her time raising her four children and supervising their education in addition to managing the family’s two houses and domestic staff; one near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and one at Lynfield Farm in Media, Pennsylvania. As the wife of a professor of surgery and a naturally outgoing person, she also maintained an active social calendar of visits, lunches, outings, and occasional parties with many of Philadelphia’s elite families of the day.
Marjorie Young Gibbon and her four children, circa 1919: (left to right) Robert, Samuel, Marjorie, Marjorie the younger, and John, Jr.
When Dr. Gibbon left for France in May 1917, they began what was to be the longest separation of their marriage. Marjorie and the children (Marjorie aged 15, John Jr. “Jack” aged 14, Samuel “Sammy” aged 12, and Robert “Bobs” aged 9 in 1917) were prolific correspondents, sending several letters per week. Throughout the war, one of the constant frustrations of their separation was the delays and inefficiencies of the mail system, with letters sometimes arriving up to six weeks after their posted date. When letters from France did arrive in Philadelphia, they were a source of excitement which was anxiously anticipated and often read aloud to one another. Letters written by the children reveal that Marjorie did not always share the entire content of Dr. Gibbon’s letters to her, especially where they were of a more personal nature between husband and wife or "love letters," according to Marjorie the younger. Some of Marjorie’s letters quite candidly reveal the closeness of their marriage and illustrate the pain of their separation:
“Do you remember Sept. 1/1901? I remember it. And the 2nd? From one angle it seems aeons ago, from another but yesterday. From my point it is pleasant to look back because of what lies between[…] I like to think that for ages past as well as for all time to come--the starred past and the eternal future-- you and I are one--indissolubly (and that 'one' you--my better part). A very ‘nice’ person you are, Dr. Gibbon and I’m a little hungry for you just now and yet I seem never to be very far away from you excepting in very rare moments. Generally, I visualize you and your surroundings from your postal cards and descriptions until I can almost touch you. You never seem to me to be among strange scenes, but among scenes as familiar to me as Providence Road[…] ‘There is nothing between us but the sea!’ Did I tell you how I loved this little child’s thought, so wonderfully expounded, that you sent me a few days ago? There is more than a world dividing us from Germany. I feel like smashing all my German china on the hearth. What do you think I am doing to celebrate my wedding anniversary? […]”
Marjorie’s letters to Dr. Gibbon written on their wedding anniversary September 1, 1918.
Yet Marjorie did not pine away idly. She volunteered much of her time with the Philadelphia Red Cross, knitting and sewing items for soldiers overseas, and with the auxillary Home Unit of Base Hospital No. 10, which assisted in forwarding packages and surgical supplies to those stationed at Le Tréport. Additionally, she oversaw the agricultural production at Lynfield Farm, where she and the children helped cultivate a large vegetable garden. Much of the farm’s produce was sold to the Red Cross to support the war effort, including milk, butter, eggs, peas, and spinach.
Account book of Lynfield Farm butter sold during the summer of 1917.
The family also participated in the U.S. Food Administration’s rationing campaigns, observing “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” in effort to conserve those items for soldiers that were easy to preserve and transport in bulk. Marjorie the younger observed in a letter to her father that the family was eating only brown [rye] bread as of August 1917, doing their part to help feed the soldiers overseas. Additionally, as part of the effort to conserve gasoline, Marjorie sold one of the family’s cars, a Studebaker, in the summer of 1917. During the coal shortage of the winter of 1917-1918, the schools in Philadelphia closed for several weeks and the Gibbon children had to complete their lessons at home until warmer weather returned. The children also did their part to support the war effort by selling liberty bonds with the Boys Scouts and raising money for the YMCA. The two eldest boys, Jack and Sammy, competed to see who could raise the most money.
Samuel Gibbon's letter to his father, describing how he raised money for the Y.M.C.A.
The eighteen months in which the United States was involved in the war also saw other significant national changes and events. A letter written by Marjorie the younger to her father describes her uncle’s reaction to the first nationally imposed daylight saving time:
“[…] Uncle Sam was taking as gloomy a view of life as usual. I wish you could have heard him; it would have been such a good chance for one of your time-honored arguments with him. I suppose you know from the papers that we are going, at last, to adopt the day-light saving scheme and advance the clock an hour on the 31st of March. Uncle Sam says ‘it’s the last straw in idiocy’ and as far as he is concerned he is going to pay absolutely no attention to it. It is the most utter rot. If the clock says 10:30 and he knows it is really only 9:30 he will stay up another hour. When I suggested that he would get an hour’s less sleep as he would have to get up at the usual time the next morning, he angrily declared that he would stay in bed as long as he pleased and that no one should tell him what time to get up. Can’t you just see him arriving an hour late for trains, meetings, etc.?”
Letter from Marjorie Gibbon (the younger) to her father, March 17, 1918
Other developments on the home front were of a much more sinister nature. Beginning in the summer of 1918, reports of Spanish influenza began to emerge within Philadelphia. By the end of September, the number of cases had reached epidemic proportions, shutting down the city’s schools, churches, theatres, and other public places. Conditions were made worse by the fact that great numbers of the city’s medical professionals and hospital staff were serving overseas. The impact of the outbreak was thus much worse than it otherwise might have been since many victims did not receive adequate medical attention. Hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia citizens had fallen ill and roughly 13,000 had died by the time the epidemic waned in late November. The Gibbon family was fortunate enough to emerge without any illness. From September through early November, Marjorie and the children stayed sequestered in the relative safety of the farm in Media. The children did not attend school for the month of October and they even avoided the train and other public transportation as much as possible, only using the car for necessary trips into town. Their letters from this time recount the almost daily news of deaths of friends and relatives.
Letter from Marjorie Gibbon (the younger) describing her experience of the Spanish influenza epidemic in Philadelphia, October 12, 1918
The epidemic trickled to an end in Philadelphia with the colder months of November and December. By then, much of the news from home recounted rumors of decisive Allied victories in Europe and finally, an approaching end to the war.
Just as Dr. Gibbon’s letters are valuable for their rich documentation of the experiences of Allied medical personnel during World War I, Marjorie Gibbon’s letters provide valuable insight about the Philadelphia home front. While American women and children faced less disruption to their daily lives in comparison to their European counterparts, they nevertheless experienced significant cultural and social change over the eighteen months the United States was involved in the war. As such, the Gibbon family papers prove valuable primary sources for their documentation of both Philadelphia history and World War I.
John and Marjorie Gibbon later in life, circa 1946
Olivia D'Aiutolo, HSP's summer 2015 Communications Intern, explores the library's cookbook collections as part of her new blog series, A Pinch of History: Culinary Commotion at HSP.
As a brand-new communications intern at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I was immediately faced with the challenge of choosing an historical topic to profile in a series of blog posts. How was I to select just one?; With over 21 million items covering 350 years of history here at HSP, there are just too many amazing options!
During my interview for this position, I was shown Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and I quickly became emotional holding it in my hands. In this one item, two of my interests coalesced: my focus on colonial America in my studies at Temple and my most prominent hobby: cooking. So I decided to channel my love of cooking to help myself learn more about the lifestyles of those living in colonial America and the early United States.
For this blog series, I have selected recipes from four different cookbooks in use during the 18th century.
• Martha Washington’s, of course (although it does contain a few recipes dating from the Elizabethan era)),
• Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind Yet Published,
• Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery
• The cookery books of Mrs. Mary Plumstead
My own cooking experiences from these colonial-era cookbooks will be featured in addition to research I’ve done along the way at HSP and in my studies at Temple. As a devoted foodie, I am eager to compare the things that I like to do with those of the foodies of eighteenth-century Philadelphia.
I’m especially interested in Philadelphia’s marketplaces and taverns.
To say that preparing this blog was easy would be a lie. Going “behind the scenes” into HSP’s closed stacks and collection vaults, I paged these fragile sources from among the 21 million items here at HSP, while having to learn the archive’s organization system at the same time. Then came the hard-to-decipher cursive handwriting, obscure ingredients, and strange names for common dishes.
The importance of food in history is often overlooked, but is important to remember that in the past – as now - a majority of our social experiences are based around food or feature food in some way. This was especially true in Colonial Philadelphia, where tavern-going was a common practice among men of all social classes. It was to a tavern that the Founders most likely retired to following the First & Second Continental Congress meetings and the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
I know what my Italian family likes to eat together, so I was interested to learn what Philadelphians of the colonial era chose to gather around. It would be impossible to compare, as Italian-American cuisine is very different from the Western European cuisines that were prominent in the city in the eighteenth century. However, the foods themselves are important in their own unique respect.