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!
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in the Pennsylvania Room, these records were just a fraction of what is included in the Library’s five floors of historical documents.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.
“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.”
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.
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.
fired to Day in honor of our great
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.
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
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.
For HSP's June 3 event, “Their Story, Our Story: African American Women and the Fight for Freedom”, we invited historians, dramatists, and the public to discuss African-American female abolitionists and their place in history.
Reading from his play If She Stood..., playwright Ain Gordon described the experience of an abolitionist woman in the late nineteenth-century fighting for her social and political beliefs.
“She fidgets in her seat not knowing will she do this thing she feels she cannot but must. Will she pluck herself out from what has been this comforting mass of people, suddenly now she wants to overturn, or stay and play one of them, force them to suffer no matter how tiny, of this precipice moment?”
HSP was a perfect setting for this dramatic reading featuring actress Melanye Finister. It’s at HSP that Ain found the main inspiration for If She Stood..., buried within the minutes of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
Seal of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. With an inter-racial membership since its inception in 1833, the Society included African-American businessman James Forten's three daughters.
While the discussion began with the struggles of the African American female abolitionist movement, conversation soon broadened to include the ways in which American history, in its overarching narrative, has perhaps minimalized these important public figures and their contributions to the emancipation movement.
“Traditional history is a ruthless editing machine,” observed Ain while describing his craft as a playwright who seeks to re-examine the historical record through dramaturgy by giving voice to these lost – or muted – figures.
(For more about Ain’s work, see our An Artist Embedded page).
Villanova University history professor Judith Giesberg also shared in her experiences with these lost voices and perspectives.
Giesberg discussed the evidentiary silence that surrounds people of color in Philadelphia during the abolitionist movement within the historical record.
1866 handbill for the Female Anti-Slavery Society's "Festival of Freedom"
“They left very few personal papers, and it makes sense that they would, because on one hand, they’re very keenly interested in promoting the progress of their race, advocating for the end of slavery, and for civil rights, but they’re also actively protecting themselves and their families from everyday racism and violence in their everyday lives,” she explained.
“In order to protect themselves, they didn’t leave much of a paper trail.”
This silence, however, didn’t prevent audience members from palpably feeling the plight of these women nearly forgotten by history’s “Big Picture.”
Actress Melanye Finister performed a stirring, emotional monologue from If She Stood... based on the ideas of abolitionist Sarah Mapps Douglass. Following the reading, Giesburg proudly displayed digitized images from the recently recovered diary of Emilie Davis, an African-American woman who lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War.
The first of three diaries by Emilie Davis, a young African-American woman who lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War. Davis was likely in her late teens or early twenties when she began writing her diary in 1863.
Finister spoke to how learning these women’s stories from acting in If She Stood... had personally affected her. “I was completely ignorant to Sarah Mapps Douglass, and when Ain started talking to me about her, and the possibility of embodying her and acting her, I started trying to find out more about her, y’know, just going online first. And she – well, all of these women – were off the charts, brilliant,” she said.
“Getting the chance to stand up and be her, to walk in her shoes for a moment, was exhilarating.”
One of the members of the audience found Finister’s monologue especially moving and authentic. “You enabled us to go back to the moment,” she said. “You made us feel it.”
HSP aims to continue these thought-provoking and emotionally-stirring “retakes” on American history on Wednesday, June 3, with “Before Stonewall: The Gay Pride Movement in Philadelphia.”
Bob Skiba, archivist at the John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives, will be on hand to discuss the humble beginnings of Reminder Day in Philadelphia and the early Homophile movement with Ain Gordon and Ada Bello, a founding member of the Daughter’s Of Bilitis Philadelphia Chapter and the Homophile Action League.
These conversations are a part of An Artist Embedded, a two-year project in which HSP and playwright Ain Gordon seek to engage their audiences in an expansive discussion of individual rights in the contexts of historical events, examining the sometimes blurry line between historical fact and emotional truth.
The artistry on display in the political cartoons of the HINT project is breathtaking at times. Now that we HINT project associates are up to our elbows in encoding—carefully considering the details of each cartoon, transcribing every word, trying to identify every important person, organization, or symbol in the image, and doing our best to explain its message—the hard work the artists put into composing these often very complicated images is more and more apparent. How did they do it?
One unique document in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s collections, “The Silence of Matt Quay,” helps provide a few clues.
"The Silence of Matt Quay," original cartoon artwork by Thomas Nast, circa October 1890. Call no. Bb 61 N269
My colleague Sarah Newhouse and I were elated several months ago to come across original cartoon artwork by legendary political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This wasn't just another copy of a widely reproduced print—this was a hand-assembled, mixed-media composition bearing Nast’s original ink-strokes. While the bulk of the artwork consists of Nast’s pen-and-ink drawings on a gray-shaded, foam-like board, the image is a collage: the gray board has a cut-out opening framing a photograph of Pennsylvania political “kingmaker” Matthew S. Quay and another layer of white board, and there are several small pieces of thin paper, on which text has been inked, pasted on or over details of the scene. The entire composition consists of at least 4 layers of different material, meaning that this cartoon draft has a 3-D quality that is lost in reproduced printings.
A note on the back of the image, written on June 11, 1958, provides a little more detail on the image’s meaning, and how it was prepared:
Original Nast political cartoon
Drawn on a prepared benday(?) background
Inspired by his famous Boss Tweed conception of the 1870's. Tweed in true reptilian shape looks benignly down from his border perch upon his legitimate spiritual offspring “Boss” Quay.
The Ben-Day dots printing process dates from 1879, and so would have been an innovative technique in 1890, when this image was created. Named after printer Benjamin Day, it involves printing small colored dots in various hues and spacings to create shade and color effects. The gray board on which most of Nast’s pen and ink work is drawn is shaded with such dots.
“The Silence of Matt Quay” was eventually printed as the cover of the October 25, 1890, issue of The Illustrated American.
Inside this issue of the magazine is a story, titled “The Silence of Matt Quay: An Open Letter to the Electors of Pennsylvania,” featuring more accompanying illustrations by Nast. For those who are interested in reading this “powerful romance,” volume 4 of the Illustrated American is available in various places online, including Google Books.
The enhanced features of the HSP Image Viewer, including powerful zoom, pan, and rotate tools, will allow users to investigate and appreciate the details of complex compositions, such as this original Nast artwork. We’re looking forward to publishing this fabulous 3-D find on our exhibit website.
My past two blog entries chronicled the history behind the enchanting name of Isaac Hazlehurst, and hinted that there must be countless other histories awaiting discovery within the Bank of North America collection. With that said, I never expected to begin treatment on a bank-related volume and find a dramatic story lying within, its details already thoroughly chronicled, merely awaiting a reader to appreciate the rhetoric of the author.
John Rowlett, formerly an accountant for the Bank of North America, devised elaborate tables with pre-calculated sums of interest to assist with the daily tasks of the bank clerks. In an era before calculators and computers, these tables were first published as Rowlett’s Tables of Discount or Interest in 1802 and were utilized widely by those in banking and finance. Rowlett was so assured of the accuracy of his interest tables that in the preface of his book he offered an award of one hundred dollars, and then one hundred-fifty in the second edition, to anyone that could detect an inaccuracy in his calculations.
One of the many tables in the second edition, volume 666.
As I learned from the preface of the second edition of Rowlett’s Tables of Discount or Interest, published in 1826, Rowlett experienced a case of brazen Copyright infringement just prior to the publishing of the second volume. He thus wrote portions of the new preface with particular intent – it contains the first instance of public shaming we have discovered within the Bank of North America collection. In our era of social media, the immediacy of public shaming is commonplace, and we have grown to expect that no public figure’s actions go unnoticed or forgotten. But even with the acceptance of these instances in the digital era, there is still something about witnessing public shaming in print that shocks us with its permanence; and yet, I believe we can understand the complete, unabashed desire for revenge that John Rowlett must have felt in order to do so.
Below I have transcribed the accusatory portion of Rowlett’s preface complete with his chosen italics and emphasis. Being of a dramatic nature myself, and often prone to hyperbole and emphasis in my own rhetoric, I was incredibly pleased to be the one working on this particular volume. We often think of the bank clerks and others involved in the bank’s operations as being gentlemen educated in politeness, and that viewpoint still stands; but it is a comforting realization that these fellows faced their own professional frustrations, and that they too sought a platform for that expression. Rowlett’s outrage becomes almost tangible when read in a medium as permanent as print, bound in book form, for he identifies the insidious Copyright infringers by name! I cannot help but assume that Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Thayer lived to rue the day they ever crossed Mr. Rowlett.
The beginning of the transcribed portion of Rowlett's 1826 preface.
CAUTION TO THE PUBLIC.
After this second edition has been in the Press, more than five months and has at last arrived at its completion, it is my painful lot to relate, that information has lately been given me, of an attempt, by Timothy Fletcher and Abijah W. Thayer of Portland, State of Maine, to deprive me of the fruits of all my past, and present labors in this production, including all my accumulated expenses. These men knew from myself, by the special report of their own Agent, (independently of all my advertising at different intervals,) that I was about to republish my Interest Tables, with Additions, as soon as the Stereotype Plates should be examined; and yet, in defiance of all principle of honour or modesty, they have since presumptuously, without my authority or consent, published and advertised (not as taken or copies from Rowlett’s, but) even in my name, nearly one half of my Tables, falsely shewing likewise, by means of a District Clerk’s certificate (easily obtained for the fee) and copied on the back of the Title page of their book, that they have claim to the copyright! Their advertisement is in these words; “Rowlett’s Tables of Interest – a new and improved edition, for sale by &c.” thus deceiving people into a belief, that it is this second edition, which the public have, from my previous Advertisements, long expected! A more complete method to injure me, and in the most extensive and cruel manner also, could scarcely be contrived! For my own part, I should think there was no more dishonesty, in my entering into a field of Fletcher and Thayer’s, and reaping and carrying off their Harvest, after they had prepared the ground and sown the seed; or of picking their pockets, or robbing them on the highway, than to copy during their lives, any work of theirs, (arduous and costly, or otherwise,) written or designed for profit, without first obtaining their permission; whether they had ever had a Copyright, or not.
But whether after all, they have printed from my Tables correctly, or made mistakes, I cannot at present determine; yet certainly, the Work exhibits so much the appearance of being slovenly got up, even in the common way of printing, like an Almanac, &c. without any of those extraordinary examinations and checks, on which alone, dependence can be placed, and which the importance of Interest computations, for Banks and Public use demands, that as a Tradesman, I should be afraid to rely upon it, and as a Bank Officer, I would spurn at it: And as for expedition and general practical use, it is widely different from my original, theirs being merely an Abridgment, containing less than one half, and bound up in form like an octavo Bill Book, which makes twice the number of pages to turn over, than by a quarto, like this, in search of an amount, and is besides, without an Index to assist in the operation.
The price of their Abridgment, half bound, in octavo, is moreover three Dollars, without Index, and the price of this, my entire work, half bound in quarto is four Dollars, with Index; but if my Book (setting aside its superiority,) was to be charged as high as the Abridgment, the price of mine would be about seven Dollars! or if the Abridgment was to be charged as low as my Book, the price of the Abridgment would then be, only about one Dollar and fifty cents, instead of the three Dollars, at which the Publishers sell it! and yet forsooth! my name is used, as a tool to sanction and to recommend their diminutive, spurious Book, containing errors or no errors, price and all! and the only argument which they use to the public, for issuing their publication and demanding such a price, is in substance, that my work is of inestimable value ,and ten Dollars per Copy has in numerous instances been paid for it, when to be had!
These facts considered altogether, I feel it to be my duty to the Public, as well as to myself, to put individuals on their guard, lest the spurious Abridgment should be purchased unwarily, for this, my Stereotype Edition of the entire work, &c. and I do besides indulge a hope, that the Public will pointedly discountenance the outrageous plagiarism, or by degrees, in similar encroachments, society, will ‘ere long, become so demoralized and depraved, as to make the tenure of Property very precarious.
Philadelphia, 10th Mo. 1st, 1826
A few weeks back, we shared in the blog post Hail Columbia some political cartoons we've been researching for HSP's Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) project that feature Columbia and other female personifications of the United States. We’ve also found several cartoons that use male figures as our national symbol.
Did you know that before Uncle Sam, there was Brother Jonathan? At first, Brother Jonathan represented rural New England, but during the American Revolution he came to symbolize the colonies as well. In the cartoon below, A Boxing Match or Another Bloody Nose for John Bull, Brother Jonathan, made to look like American President James Madison, punches John Bull, the national symbol for Great Britain, and gives him a bloody nose.
A Boxing Matach or Another Bloody Nose for John Bull, 1813, Historical Society of Pennsylvania medium graphics collection
In this next political cartoon, Brother Jonathan gives Great Britain’s John Bull a dose of “salutary cordial.”
Brother Jonathan Administering a Salutary Cordial to John Bull, 1813.
Brother Jonathan wasn’t the only national emblem we found in our HINT early American political cartoons. Jack Downing, who later became a “Major,” was a folk character popularized by author Seba Smith in the 1830s. In the cartoon below The Downfall of Mother Bank, Jack Downing pats Andrew Jackson on the back. Downing wears a top hat and striped pants, symbols that would later become associated with Uncle Sam.
The Downfall of Mother Bank, 1833.
During the Civil War era the cartoonist John Tenniel of Punch drew Abraham Lincoln to look like Uncle Sam. In the cartoon below, The Great Cannon Game Lincoln looks quite fashionable playing pool in Uncle Sam’s striped pants and star-patterned shirt.
The Great "Cannon Game," 1863, Historical Society of Pennsylvania cartoons and caricatures collection (#3133)
In Coney Island and the Crowned Heads Uncle Sam opts for a casual look at the beach and wears a stars-and-stripes swimsuit. He graciously welcomes a group of European monarchs, including Marianne, the national emblem of France. Marianne is the slender woman wearing a Phrygian (or "liberty") cap, running next to Queen Victoria of Great Britain.
Coney Island and the Crowned Heads, 1882, Balch Broadsides: Satirical Cartoons (PG278)
Some of our favorite cartoons feature Columbia and Uncle Sam depicted as though they were America’s mom and dad. In the following cartoon, Columbia and Uncle Sam run a lodging house for immigrants. They unsuccessfully try to calm down a tenant who is disturbing the other sleeping lodgers.
Uncle Sam's Lodging House, 1882, Balch Broadsides: Satirical Cartoons (#3213)
The fictional character of Uncle Sam first appeared during the War of 1812. According to popular belief, he was named after Samuel Wilson, a government meat inspector during the War of 1812. Although the character of Uncle Sam has been around since the beginning of the 19th century, he didn’t begin to eclipse Columbia in popularity until the 20th century.
In Remember the Maine and Don’t Forget the Starving Cubans, Uncle Sam appeals to the American sense of justice and implores the nation to go to war against Spain to save the “starving Cubans” and to avenge the tragedy of the USS Maine.
Remember the Maine! And Don't Forget the Starving Cubans! 1898
In To Avoid the Horrors of War, Uncle Sam is portrayed as quite the “ladies man” as he places his arms around four beautiful ladies representing Cuba, Puerto Rico, Ladrones Islands, and the Philippines. Spain ceded most of its colonial territories in the Western Hemisphere to the US at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. In the background, a man representing Spain crosses his arms and gives a sour expression.
To Avoid the Horrors of War, 1898 J. Hampton Moore papers (#1541)
We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring our HINT cartoons which feature American national emblems. Be sure to check out our digital exhibit, Politics in Graphic Detail, when it becomes available later this year.