Fondly, Pennsylvania

HomeBlogsFondly, Pennsylvania

Fondly, Pennsylvania

Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog.  Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection.  Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!

HSP Blog

So Many Cartoons, So Little Time

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.

Political cartoon: The Siege of Zion, 1787 [Zion Besieged and Attacked]

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.

No matter what the level of encoding, all cartoons in the final exhibit will have zones drawn on them and can be explored using the enhanced features of the new HSP Image Viewer.

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.

A Pinch of History: They Ate What?

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!
 

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, it is because he hears a different drummer."

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.”

 

 

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: June 1865

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.
                                      Rode into
Macon[,] called on Dan'l Losey and
found him much better.  Visited
Cemetery not much.  Called on
Carlton Davis.
                                    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
severely.
Warm day.
                                Received a
Appointment as 1st Lieut in the 137
United States Colored Troop with
Orders to report at once.
                                               did not
report = my position as Veterinary Surgeon
much better.

*****

Monday, June 5

Nothin new in camp -- bought
some eggs, Flour, Fish, &c.
                                    After Supper
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]
Horses.

*****

Monday, June 19
Mothing new to Day[,] all
quiet in camp.
                    Lt. Frazier in
Camp.    Lucy took dinner with
me.
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
and Americus.
                        Montana left for
Eufalia [Eufaula].
                        Walked out in the
evening and visited mellon[sic]
pach[sic].

*****

A Grand Adventure: My First Experience in HSP's Library

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.

"Dear Old Sweetheart:" The Gibbon Family and World War I (part 2)

Part II: Marjorie Gibbon

For part one of this post which provides a background of the Gibbon family correspondence (Collection 3272) and discusses the World War I experiences of Dr. John Gibbon, click here.

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

A Pinch of History: Culinary Commotion at HSP

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.

“It was like the police were vampires and Barbara’s ACLU card was the crucifix.”

“What is the birth of a movement? What is the movement before we know what it is?”

Playwright Ain Gordon began HSP's program, Before Stonewall: The Gay Pride Movement in Philadelphia, by posing this question to the audience.

A part of HSP's An Artist Embedded project, the program turned out to be an intimate evening wherein the audience felt free to interject and share their own experiences. Many in the audience were individuals active in LGBTQ advocacy in Philadelphia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ain Gordon and the audience share a pre-show laugh.

 

Joining Ain were Bob Skiba, archivist of the John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives at the William Way LGBT Community Center, and Ada Bello, one of the founding members of the Philadelphia chapters of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Homophile Action League.

Skiba, who is also the curator of the new Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court exhibit at the National Constitution Center (NCC), got the ball rolling with a look at the history of gay activism and advocacy from the 1950s onward.

He focused on the Reminder Day picket, an LGBTQ demonstration that began here in Philadelphia just outside Independence Hall on July 4, 1965. Considered the first organized, recurring gay rights demonstration in the country, Reminder Days were meant to remind heterosexual, mainstream Americans that LGBTQ citizens were not satisfied with their achingly limited civil rights.

(From left to right) Playwright Ain Gordon, Activist Ada Bello, Archivist Bob Skiba, Educator Beth Twiss Houting

 

Subsequent Reminder Days included demonstrations at the Liberty Bell, another poignant location in the landscape of American history. The new exhibit at the NCC commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the first Reminder Day picket, which will be celebrated city-wide on July 4, 2015.

“They knew Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, were the exact right symbols and venue to discuss the Constitution, and what we mean by rights, and what we mean by equality. All of those things are embedded in the symbols right here in Philadelphia, where our country, where our government, was born,” explained Skiba. He  argued that these Reminder Day pickets were one of the galvanizing events for the early LGBT rights movement.

Ada Bello, a founding member of the Daughters Of Bilitis Philadelphia Chapter, participated in the 1969 Reminder Day picket. Her firsthand account described the influence of the Reminder Day pickets and how they acted as watershed moments for LGBTQ activism.

Ain and Ada discuss the struggles of American gays and lesbians living during the 1960s.

 

“Seeing homosexuals demanding rights, [instead of] seeking to be cured, gave a lot of gay people the idea that they should be proud,” said Bello, who shared her insights and experiences with the audience on what it was like to be an immigrant lesbian in Philadelphia in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Bello recalled the constant danger of discovery and deportation, describing an experience in which prominent LGBTQ activist Barbara Gittings saved her from Philadelphia’s police. At the time Bello was still not an official U.S. citizen, making her especially vulnerable to bigots with badges.

“It was like the police were vampires and Barbara’s ACLU card was the crucifix,” she joked.

The evening ended with conversation between the panelists and the audience. Many shared their own experiences of being gay in Philadelphia in a time before Stonewall. One especially poignant observation came from an audience member who remembered the optimism and laissez-faire glee of the 1970’s, and the horrifying comedown when the AIDS crisis reared its ugly head in the 1980’s.

“The arc of history bends back and forth,” he observed. “And we are always forced to keep working.”

 

"Dear Old Sweetheart:" The Gibbon family and World War I (part 1)

Part I. Dr. John Gibbon

In my work as an archival processor at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, nothing brings history to life quite like a family collection. The majority of collections that I have worked on in the past have consisted of institutional or organizational records: a mind-numbing mountain of board minutes, receipts, form letters, invoices, etc. that comprise most such 20th century collections and have contributed considerably to HSP’s own processing backlog. While these collections certainly have their research value, they don’t necessarily inspire one’s imagination. By comparison, processing and arranging the Gibbon family correspondence (Collection 3272) was a breath of fresh air. In fact, I felt a little sheepish throughout the whole thing because for a history lover like me, working on this collection felt like the thrill of discovery that accompanies digging through my own grandparent’s attic and people aren’t supposed to have that much fun at work.

The Gibbon family correspondence collection consists of letters originating from the family of Dr. John Heysham Gibbon, Sr. (1871-1956), a Philadelphia surgeon and professor at Jefferson Medical College. The collection features a large number of letters between Dr. Gibbon and his wife, Marjorie Young Gibbon. Based on the evidence of the letters, theirs was a very happy and close marriage and in fact they both died in 1956, only a week apart from each other. When they were separated, they wrote to each other about once a day (and sometimes more). Nowhere in the collection is their relationship better illustrated and their separation more poignant than the series of letters dating from May 1917 through December 1918, when Dr. Gibbon served with the Pennsylvania Hospital Unit in France during World War I.

Dr. John H.Gibbon, Sr. (center) and two companions while stationed in France.

With the one hundredth anniversary of World War I occurring almost a year ago, HSP has seen increased interest in our collections pertaining to that time period. As such, it was determined that the Gibbon family collection comprises an important piece of those holdings. However, the collection was virtually inaccessible and unusable to our researchers since the letters were not arranged and stacked in boxes still in their original envelopes.

A sample envelope from the Gibbon family correspondence

And that’s where I came in. My job as processor was to remove the letters from their envelopes, unfold them, and try to wrangle some kind of meaningful arrangement from them so researchers might actually be able to use them. Opening each envelope was like unwrapping a Christmas present as I got to know and love the Gibbons though their letters, learning their nicknames for one another and their individual hopes, fears, and idiosyncrasies. Some envelopes even contained surprising little gems like photographs, postcards, pressed flowers, pencil drawings, and other pieces of ephemera. These treasures coupled with the personal nature and completeness of the letters vividly brings to life the family’s experience of World War I.

The Gibbon family, taken shortly before Dr. Gibbon left for France: (left to right) Samuel B. M. Young (Marjorie Young Gibbon's father), Robert Gibbon, Marjorie Gibbon, Marjorie Young Gibbon, Dr. John Gibbon, and Samuel Gibbon (John Gibbon, Jr. was the photographer for this shot)

Dr. Gibbon left Philadelphia for France in May 1917 aboard the USMS St. Paul with a medical unit from Pennsylvania Hospital. He and his wife Marjorie were both forty-six and had four children: Marjorie aged 15, John Jr. or “Jack” aged 14, Samuel or “Sammy” aged 12, and Robert or “Bobs” aged 9. Their correspondence began almost from the moment of departure, with Marjorie and the children sending along farewell letters for Dr. Gibbon to open while onboard ship. After a brief stay in England, the hospital unit arrived at what was to be their home for the next sixteen months, Base Hospital Number 10 at Le Tréport in northeastern France. The hospital was a temporary structure of huts and tents constructed on the high white cliffs or falaises above the town, which had been built by the British Army near the beginning of the war. Life at the hospital was rustic but relatively comfortable with the staff usually housed two or three to a tent where they slept on cots and shared a small stove.

Dr. Gibbon's pencil drawing of his living quarters at Le Tréport, sent to his young son, Robert

When the unit arrived at the end of June 1917, the hospital was overcrowded for its 2, 232 beds and would remain so throughout the summer months when fighting was at its peak. Work at the hospital could be grueling and exhausting with the surgical team required to work in twelve hour shifts at a time. But life at Le Tréport was not all grim. In an effort to keep up morale, the hospital organized its own band and several theatrical productions including a minstrel show. Holidays were still celebrated with as much festivity as could be mustered and were shared with Canadian and British units stationed nearby.

Dr. Gibbon attended the Dominion Day festivities of the nearby Canadian General Hospital No.2

Three months into his service, in October 1917, Dr. Gibbon was selected as part of a surgical team to relieve those who had been stationed at Casualty Clearing Station Number 61 since June. These Stations (abbreviated C.C.S.) were military medical facilities located immediately behind the front lines of battle. As such, they administered the first stage of treatment that wounded soldiers received after field dressing on the battlefield. Dr. Gibbon described his arrival in an article written after the war:

“The country was flat and the mud was ankle deep except on the macadam roads. The hospital was composed of a few Nissen huts and many tents. Creature comforts were notably absent and the environment was depressing. After dinner in the mess tent we paid a visit to the Nissen hut, which was known as ‘the operating theater,’ and which contained five operating teams at work with the floor covered with wounded men on stretchers awaiting their turn for an operating table. This view gave me for the first time in my life an impression of what the layman’s idea of surgery is. Never before had surgery seemed so unattractive to me.”

C.C.S. No. 61 was also the scene of frequent enemy bombings, which both frightened and frustrated the medical team:

“No. 61 was one of those unfortunate hospitals which was frequently the scene of the most distressing sight which human eye can witness, that is the re-wounding and killing of already wounded men by an enemy’s bomb dropped suddenly in the dead of night. There was hardly a moonlight night that the Hun did not visit our neighborhood and drop bombs, but only on one occasion during our stay was our hospital hit. Six patients and an orderly were killed. Two of the patients were Germans and all had been operated upon a few hours before. During the last few weeks of our stay, Newlin [another doctor] and I slept below the level of the ground in shallow graves, two by six feet by eighteen inches deep, which were dug through the floor of our tents, and when the anti-aircraft guns were shooting and particles of the exploded shells were falling, we partly closed over us a section of the floor of the tent which was hinged and which had a piece of sheet iron nailed on the underside. This does not sound like very comfortable sleeping quarters, but as a matter of fact it was much warmer and much safer than the floor of a tent.”

In letters to Marjorie, he was a bit less graphic and tried his best to maintain an upbeat and cheerful tone:

“To see an enemy aeroplane in the rays of the searchlight and hear the guns shooting at him and the shrapnel bursting all around him is thrilling but when the lights catch him immediately over head it is time to take to cover. I wish you could see Newlin and I in our ‘tin hats,’ we look like a pair of chinks! […] It is much better to have plenty work to do in a place like this –one has not so much time to think how much pleasanter it would be to be at home comfortably seated before a wood fire with one’s wife and kiddies about. […] Now that the horror of the work has passed to some extent, I have become quite interested in it and try to feel that I am doing some good but I am not sure the poor patients appreciate it when they wake up. Fortunately or unfortunately most do! (Wake up)”

Dr. Gibbon's letter to his wife Marjorie, October 16, 1917

It is telling of his experiences at C.C.S. No. 61 that Dr. Gibbon frequently reminded his wife not to expect too many letters while he was stationed there, since he had little free time and the environment was “not conducive to reading and writing.” By December 5, his surgical team had been relieved by a new one and was sent back to Le Tréport. He was even able to travel to Paris for the New Year, where he reported being able to take his first full bath in six months.

Dr. Gibbon's Christmas card sent to his family from Casualty Clearing Staion No. 61 (December 5, 1917)

After the war, Dr. Gibbon re-visited the site of C.C.S. No. 61 and received a souvenir piece of burlap taken from its sandbag fortifications.

According to a note found in the same envelope as the scrap of burlap, Dr. Gibbon had lunch with a Dr. Tuffier while visiting Paris in October 1919. Perhaps this man is who gave him the souvenir.

In the spring of 1918, it seems that Dr. Gibbon had more free time and was able to fill more of a supervisory role at the hospital. He was also able to take French lessons and make several day excursions to cities near the hospital including Nancy and Compiegne while visiting other Allied medical facilities for training sessions. He even befriended the extended family of his French teacher, Lucie Colin, and spent some of his time visiting with them.

Colin family photograph, included in one of Dr. Gibbon's letters

If at times life at Le Tréport seemed comfortable and civilized compared to the brutality of the trenches and Casualty Clearing Stations, there were still daily reminders that this was a war zone. In a letter to his daughter dated April 15, 1918 and written in French, Dr. Gibbon recounts an aerial battle he witnessed near the hospital:

[my rough translation] “Several days ago the American pilots returned to this sector and we are very excited because during two days they have brought down three German airplanes. I saw them this morning near our hospital. One of them was burning [and crashed?] but neither pilot was killed. I have attached here a piece of the wing of one of them, a souvenir for you.”

Piece of a German airplane wing sent by Dr. Gibbon to his daughter, Marjorie

By September 1918, Dr. Gibbon had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was transferred to the relative safety of the American Hospitals in London where he served as consulting surgeon. Near the end of October, it was clear that the Allies were winning the war and by November 9, Dr. Gibbon was able to confidently inform his wife that by the time his letter reached her, the fighting would be over.

He was not, however, able to secure passage home until the second week in December and despite his wish to be with his family for Christmas, had to celebrate the holiday onboard the RMS Saxonia. The ship arrived in New York the next day where he was presumably greeted by an eagerly waiting Marjorie.

Christmas 1918 program for the RMS Saxonia

While the Gibbon family certainly did not suffer the worst privations of World War I and were lucky enough to emerge from it intact, their letters are nevertheless valuable for their incredibly rich documentation and brings this period of American history immediately to life.

Look for another blog post discussing Marjorie Young Gibbon’s experiences on the home front at a future date. In the mean time, check out the other World War I collections that HSP has to offer.

Other sources cited for this post:

Gibbon, John H. "Two Months at Casualty Station No. 61." In History of the Pennsylvania Hospital Unit (Base Hospital no. 10, U.S.A.) in the Great War edited by Paul B. Hoeber, 147-152.  New York: 1921.

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: May 1865

Greetings, everyone! We're happy to be back with 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.

*****

Still ambling round the southern United States, May 1865 was a big month for Parry as he witnessed the capture of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States.  The official end of the war had been declared by President Andrew Johnson earlier in the month as well. But with all of this Parry wasn't automatically sent home. He and his regiment remained in Georgia, mostly on the outskirts of Macon, through the end of the month.


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, May 4

Negro arrived in Camp at Day light[,]
with heavy bar Iron band riveted on his
anckle[sic] weight 30 lbs – cut off by our Smith
said it was put on to keep him home[.]
He came thirty miles to join us.
                                                 200 Guns
fired to Day in honor of our great
Victorys.

*****

Tuesday, May 9

General Sounded at six O clock[,] moved
out at Seven after Jefferson Davis
and other marched about twenty-five
miles and camped about five O Clock
travelled  about south and over a Country
never before invested with Yankeys.

                                              Corn about
knee high. Wheat near about fit to Harvest
Oats out in head.

*****

Thursday, May 11-Friday, May 12

At two O'clock a portion of our
Command moved out in persuit[sic] of
Rebel Jeff Davis – who is reported to
be 48 hours ahead moving south West[.]

Reached Abbeville at sun Rise and received
news that the 4th Mich. Cavalry had
captured Jeff Davis & staff[,] Wife[,]and
three Children[,] five wagons[,] three  Ambulances
&c. at Irwinville at two O clock at night.
We halted till he came up. Our Band
played as he passed Yankey Doodle
We will hang Jeff Davis to Sour Apple
Tree. His Dress was in the Style of a
Planter and all very poorly dressed. He
looked much Younger than I expected – rode
with his Wife and Children in Ambulance.
Camped near Hawkensville.  took a walk
down to the Ocamulge River and along
its banks to Hawkinsville.  Found  several
northern men[,] one kept a Drug Store from
Connecticut.  Rebels and Ruffagers passing
through bound for their Homes.  We are
waiting for the rest of our command to come
up --
 

*****

Saturday, May 20

Moved out at Day Light abd marched
to Macon.  arrived at One O clock.

Found a mail in Camp.  Letters from
Home[,] Nellie Paff, Sallie C. Lukens
also many Newspapers.  Lt. George
Frazier received a dishonorable discharge
Major Dart in Camp – having been

Home on Furlough.  Fourth Mich.
Cav'l under marching order north.
 

*****

Friday, May 26
Warm and dull in camp[.] rode
out in Country after dinner[.]
two Citizens arrested for buying
Horses – tied up in our camp.

Cherries & Baked beans for dinner.

*****

7/1/15
Author: Rachel Moloshok

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.

Comments: 0

6/25/15
Author: Olivia D'Aiutolo

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. 

Comments: 3

6/24/15
Author: Tyler Antoine

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.

Comments: 5

6/24/15
Author: Cary Hutto

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.

Comments: 0

6/19/15
Author: mlastowka

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.

Comments: 0

6/19/15
Author: Megan Evans

Part II: Marjorie Gibbon

For part one of this post which provides a background of the Gibbon family correspondence (Collection 3272) and discusses the World War I experiences of Dr. John Gibbon, click here.

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.

Topics : World War I
Comments: 0

6/16/15
Author: Olivia D'Aiutolo

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. 

Comments: 4

6/9/15
Author: Tyler Antoine

“What is the birth of a movement? What is the movement before we know what it is?”

Playwright Ain Gordon began HSP's program, Before Stonewall: The Gay Pride Movement in Philadelphia, by posing this question to the audience.

A part of HSP's An Artist Embedded project, the program turned out to be an intimate evening wherein the audience felt free to interject and share their own experiences. Many in the audience were individuals active in LGBTQ advocacy in Philadelphia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Comments: 0

6/4/15
Author: Megan Evans

Part I. Dr. John Gibbon

In my work as an archival processor at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, nothing brings history to life quite like a family collection. The majority of collections that I have worked on in the past have consisted of institutional or organizational records: a mind-numbing mountain of board minutes, receipts, form letters, invoices, etc. that comprise most such 20th century collections and have contributed considerably to HSP’s own processing backlog. While these collections certainly have their research value, they don’t necessarily inspire one’s imagination. By comparison, processing and arranging the Gibbon family correspondence (Collection 3272) was a breath of fresh air. In fact, I felt a little sheepish throughout the whole thing because for a history lover like me, working on this collection felt like the thrill of discovery that accompanies digging through my own grandparent’s attic and people aren’t supposed to have that much fun at work.

Topics : World War I
Comments: 4

5/28/15
Author: Cary Hutto

Greetings, everyone! We're happy to be back with 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.

Comments: 0