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Denouncing the “traffick of men-body”

Nearly 175 years before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, four Germantown Friends launched the first formal protest against human bondage in North America.

Penned in 1688 by Francis Daniel Pastorius – the founder of Germantown – the protest is peculiar among Quaker texts in its lack of direct references to God. Instead, Pastorius denounces the “traffick of men-body” with practical arguments and appeals to empathy. Unlike Lincoln’s later proclamation, it is simple, human.

These are the reasons why we are against the traffik of men-body, as followeth: Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearful & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vassel. being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be tacken, and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done, as Turcks doe? yea, rather is it worse for them wch say they are Christians, for we hear that ye most part of such negers are brought heither against their will & consent and that many of them are stollen. Now tho they are black, we can not conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying that we shall doe to all men licke as we will be done ourselves; macking no difference of what generation, descent or Colour they are.

(A transcribed and printed copy of the protest can be found in HSP’s broadside collection, call number Ab n.d. 149.)

Many Germantown Friends, producers of the finest linen in the region without forced labor, were aghast at their fellow slave-owning Friends – including William Penn.

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C. 1912 photograph of “Toleration,” the marble statue depicting William Penn along the Wissahickon Creek. From the Thomas H. Shoemaker Germantown and Philadelphia portraits and views collection [V86]

The fledgling colony didn’t need slaves, Pastorius argued, but it certainly needed more settlers to grow and prosper. Slavery’s odium would discourage Friends in Holland and Germany from making the trip, threatening the very livelihood of the so-called Holy Experiment. Marble Statue of William Penn on Wissahickon Creek, “Toleration.”

He wrote, “This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear of, that ye Quakers doe here handel men as they handel there ye cattle. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither.”

The fear of being captured and sold into slavery had coursed through Quakers, themselves, as they crossed the Atlantic. Barbary corsairs often raided vessels and sold Christian captives into the Ottoman slave trade. Pastorius reminded Friends of this shared memory of dread:

“How fearful & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vassel. being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be tacken, and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done, as Turcks doe? yea, rather is it worse for them wch say they are Christians.”

Pastorius even questioned Friends’ commitment to nonviolence should an armed insurrection occur, writing, “If once these slaves . . . should join themselves – fight for their freedom – and handel their masters and mastrisses as they did handel them before; will these masters and mastrisses take the sword at hand and warr against these poor slaves?”

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C. 1937 photograph of Pastorius’ house at 25 High Street, Germantown, Pa. From the Philadelphia Department of Public Transit historic Philadelphia sites photograph collection [V51]

Pastorius’ protest was considered by Friends at the local and regional levels, but – put plainly – they dithered. Nearly a century would pass before the Society of Friends barred members from owning slaves.

The original document has twice been considered lost. A Friend “rediscovered” it in 1844, but the document soon slipped back into the archival abyss. It “reappeared” in 2005 at the Arch Street Meeting House, and is now at Haverford College Special Collections Library.

Black History Month: Family Ties on the Underground Railroad

During its annual gala last year, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania honored historian Eric Foner with the 2016 Founder’s Award. In his most recent book, Gateway to Freedom, Foner explores the hidden history of the Underground Railroad. Excerpts are included below with entries from Journal C of Station No. 2, compiled by one of Philadelphia’s most prominent conductors: William Still.

“In 1858, a correspondent for the New York Tribune identified Philadelphia and New York as ‘the great central stations of that glorious humanitarian institution of modern times, the Underground Railroad.’ And the effectiveness of the Underground Railroad in New York City… stemmed in considerable measure from the revitalization of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee under the leadership of William Still.

“It is impossible to say how many slaves escaped to freedom in the decades before the Civil War. Contemporary sources are often of little help. Estimates – guesses, really – suggest somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 per year between 1830 and 1860.

“All fugitive slaves faced daunting odds and demonstrated remarkable courage. Slave patrols and armed private groups dedicated to apprehending fugitives could be found throughout the South… Most slaves had little knowledge of geography or how to locate sympathetic persons outside their immediate neighborhoods, although many seem to have been aware that there were people, black and white, willing to help them.

“Soon after the Civil War, a number of abolitionists published their reminisces, hoping to remind readers of their accomplishments and to reinforce the national commitment to protecting the freedom slaves had acquired during the Civil War… Although these memories included much information about slaves’ determination to be free, they tended to make white abolitionists the central actors of the story.

“One notable exception was William Still’s The Underground Railroad, a compilation of material about fugitive slaves who passed through Philadelphia … [Still] kept a journal… with a detailed account of hundreds of fugitive slaves.

“Still was born in Medford, NJ, in 1821. He moved to Philadelphia in 1844, where he worked as a handyman until the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a ‘clerk’ and janitor at its office in 1847. These titles belied his wide-ranging responsibilities. Still ran the society’s headquarters and was Philadelphia’s key operative in assisting fugitives, sometimes hiding them in his own home. He kept detailed records of their stories and destinations and how he aided them, which became the basis for his 1872 book, The Underground Railroad. The most detailed record now extant of how the railroad operated, Stills journal lists well over 400 fugitives he received and sent on their way between 1853 and early 1857.

“Arrived. William Nelson and Susan his wife, and his son William Thomas…William is about 40, dark chestnut, medium size, very intelligent, member of the Methodist Church…His owner's name was Turner & Whitehead with whom he had served for 20 years in the capacity of "Packer". He had been treated with mildness in some respects, though had been very tightly worked… Had been sold once one sister had been sold also. He was prompted to escape because he wanted his liberty—was not satisfied with not having the privilege of providing for his family.

“Arrived. Mrs. Maria Joiner per Capt. F., is 33 years of age… a fine hearty looking, and intelligent woman. Left her husband, and one Sister. Had not been badly treated until lately, after the death of the old Master when she fell into the hands of his daughter who drank and was very abuseful using great violence. For this she was induced to leave. For 8 months she was kept in private quarters where she suffered severely from Cold & Owner.

“Arrived. David Bennett, new name Henry Washington, and wife Martha, & their two children… youngest 1 month old without a name... The wife's master was the owner of only two, but a most brutal man. Flogging Females when stripped naked was common with him. Martha had been stripped and flogged … after her marriage.

“Arrived. Henry Washington new name Anthony Henley, safely arrived from Norfolk where he had been held by Seth March, a mild tempered man. Was excessively close, in money matters however, allowing Henry only $1.50 a week to pay his board and find his clothes for his wife therefore he could do nothing... Henry is turned of 50, dark, intelligent well made & Left a wife named Polly. Henry left to purely because he was allowed no privilege to do anything for his wife.


"Family Ties on the Underground Railroad" is a grant-funded digital history prototype project by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) that tells the story of selected enslaved individuals and families who passed through Philadelphia between 1855 and 1857 and the covert networks that aided their escape. This project is part of a larger digital effort to weave new connections between William Still's manuscript, "Journal C," and his published book, The Underground Rail Road. For more information about this digital history project, please contact Rachel Moloshok, Managing Editor of Publications and Scholarly Programs Associate, at rmoloshok@hsp.org

HSP’s collections document the experiences and representations of African Americans from the colonial era to the present. HSP's archivists created a subject guide to these materials - including manuscripts, books, pamphlets, serials, prints, broadsides, other graphics, and microfilm - to help researchers navigate the collections.

Join HSP for a free workshop on March 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. exploring new resources available for genealogists researching African American ancestors.

Stay tuned as we share more stories throughout this year's Black History Month.

Black History Month: The Civil War Letters of Tillman Valentine

Tillman Valentine was twenty-seven years old when he enlisted with the Third US Colored Infantry on June 30, 1863. Standing five feet four inches tall, with black hair, gray eyes, and a yellow complexion, the mulatto laborer from Chester County, Pennsylvania, bade farewell to his wife of seven years, Annie, and his children, Elijah (born February 13, 1858), Clara (born February 4, 1860), and Ida (born August 11, 1861).

Tillman gave Annie “an affectionate good bye” that morning, as one longtime family friend remembered. The couple did not know it yet, but Annie was pregnant with their fourth child, Samuel, who would be born on March 3, 1864.1 Valentine’s enlistment was part of a wave of recruitment of black soldiers in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1863. Prominent public figures such as Pennsylvania’s Republican governor Andrew G. Curtin, abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Anna Dickinson, and Congressman William D. Kelley all made broad appeals to the black men of the Keystone State to enlist. On July 6, 1863, Frederick Douglass proclaimed: “Young men of Philadelphia, you are without excuse. The hour has arrived, and your place is in the Union Army. Remember that the musket—the United States musket with its bayonet of steel—is better than all mere parchment guarantees of liberty.”

Learn more in "The Civil War Letters of Tillman Valentine, Third US Colored Troops" by Jonathan W. White, Katie Fisher and Elizabeth Wall, originally appearing in the April 2015 issue of The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.


The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (PMHB), HSP's scholarly journal published since 1877, is one of the country's most prestigious state historical journals. PMHB is a benefit of membership and is also available to individual and institutional subscribers in print & digital formats.

HSP’s collections document the experiences and representations of African Americans from the colonial era to the present. HSP's archivists created a subject guide to these materials - including manuscripts, books, pamphlets, serials, prints, broadsides, other graphics, and microfilm - to help researchers navigate the collections.

Join HSP for a free workshop on March 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. exploring new resources available for genealogists researching African American ancestors.

Stay tuned as we share more stories throughout this year's Black History Month.

Black History Month: The "Ganges Incident"

As we celebrate Black History Month, consider one of the nation's first cases involving the violation of its incipient slave-trade laws: the "Ganges Incident."

The USS Ganges, originally built for trade in the West Indies, was purchased in 1798 by the federal government to deter French privateers from ransacking U.S. shipping. It left Philadelphia's port that year, the first warship to sail under the American flag since the Continental Navy's last ship, the Alliance, was decommissioned in 1785.

 

Schematic of a slave ship from "Remarks on the Slave Trade," a 1789 print.

Escorting American vessels en route to Havana in the summer of 1800, the Ganges spotted two U.S. merchant ships, the Prudent and the Phoebe, off the coast of Cuba. Between the two of them, more than 100 individuals from Guinea were found chained below deck.

While Northern states had gradually abolished slavery, it was still legal in 1800. However, to prevent New England ships from participating in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Congress passed the 1794 Federal Slave Trade Act, prohibiting American ships from transporting slaves.

Sailors in a similar position to the crew of the Ganges often took possession of the human cargo and sold them as "salvage" in Southern ports, such as Charleston and Savannah.

Not John Mullowny, the Ganges' captain. He ordered both ships to sail for Philadelphia, a city with an established reputation for abolitionist sympathies.

"Arrived at the Lazaretto yesterday, 118 Black People, without the least clothing, being taken on board the schooner Phoebe, prize to the United States ship Ganges," ran a call placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette, referring to the quarantine station in Essington, on the west bank of the Delaware River. "The humane citizens are requested to send to the Health-Office, at the State House, any kind of linen clothes for their accommodation, as well as to prevent the shock their decency will be exposed to by so many of both sexes being thus exposed naked."

A sympathetic federal judge ruled in favor of the illegally captured Guineans - with each given the legal surname of Ganges - and placed them in the care of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society to work as indentured servants.

Neither enslaved nor fully free, they worked with mostly Quaker shopkeepers and farmers for various lengths of time. Unlike many other indentured servants during this period, the terms of the Ganges' indentures specified the provision of an education. These records are held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, allowing descendants of those rescued by the Ganges to trace their family histories.

"This is a story that could really only have happened in Philadelphia," said V. Chapman-Smith, a special assistant at the National Archives. "You had a city with strong antislavery sentiment, a sympathetic federal judge, and a U.S. Navy warship in a position to go out and do something about it."


In the Pennsylvania Abolition Society records (#490) at HSP are the records of the Ganges Africans, including their original indentures.

HSP’s collections document the experiences and representations of African Americans from the colonial era to the present. HSP's archivists created a subject guide to these materials - including manuscripts, books, pamphlets, serials, prints, broadsides, other graphics, and microfilm - to help researchers navigate the collections.

Join HSP for a free workshop on March 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. exploring new resources available for genealogists researching African American ancestors.

Stay tuned as we share more stories throughout this year's Black History Month.

Black History Month: Henry "Box" Brown

Numerous organizations and individuals supported the Underground Railroad. The daring escape of Henry "Box" Brown relied on the help of an unlikely ally: the mail.

Born in the early 1800s at a plantation near Yanceyville, Va., Brown was sent to Richmond at age 15 to work on a tobacco farm. He married Nancy, a slave owned by a different master. The couple had three children and were expecting their fourth when Nancy was sent to work in North Carolina. Brown stood powerless as his pregnant wife and children shuffled past in a coffle gang. He never saw them again.

Portrait of Henry Box Brown, print from Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849).

Brown mourned for months before "the idea suddenly flashed across my mind of shutting myself up in a box, and getting myself conveyed . . . to a free state," he related in Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself. Free blacks, members of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, and other Philadelphia-based abolitionists discussed and resolved Brown's plan.

Having procured a wooden box from a friendly carpenter, Brown knocked off from work by pouring "oil of vitriol" (sulfuric acid) on his finger. Then Brown - 5-foot-10 and more than 200 pounds - squeezed into what he described as a wooden box 3 feet long, 2½ feet deep, and 2 feet wide. This side up with care was emblazoned on its side.

Labeled as "dry goods" and sent north by rail, steamboat, and wagon, Brown encountered the gentleness so often associated with mail carriers, then and now.

"The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia," print (undated).

"I felt my eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets; and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended with pressure of blood upon my head," Brown recalled of being placed wrong side up by porters.

Upon hearing "We are in port and at Philadelphia," Brown felt his spirits lift. "I was only 27 hours in the box, though traveling a distance of 350 miles."

Taking delivery of the box at the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society's office, William Still, a prominent Underground Railroad conductor, and others nervously gathered.

Cover of Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849).

Still later wrote: "All was quiet. The door had been safely locked. The proceedings commenced. . . The witnesses will never forget that moment. Saw and hatchet quickly had the lid off, and the marvelous resurrection of Brown ensued. Rising up in his box, he reached out his hand saying, 'How do you do, gentlemen?' The little assemblage hardly knew what to do or think at that moment. He was about as wet as if he had come up out of the Delaware."

The ordeal earned him the sobriquet "Box," which he used for the remainder of his life. Recounting his daring escape at antislavery rallies in New England before the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act risked his forcible return to Virginia, Brown set sail - as a passenger - to England, where he primarily worked as a performer and mesmerist.

In 1875, Brown returned to the United States, where he would often climb back into his original box during performances. He died in Toronto in 1897.


For researchers seeking to learn more about Henry Box Brown, HSP has a copy of the 1849 Narrative of Henry Box Brown (call number E 441 .A58 v.99 no.16), as well as other publications on him, such as Henry's Freedom Box (call number PZ 7 .L48 2007) and The Unboxing of Henry Brown (call number Biog E 450 .R84 2003).

HSP’s collections document the experiences and representations of African Americans from the colonial era to the present. HSP's archivists created a subject guide to these materials - including manuscripts, books, pamphlets, serials, prints, broadsides, other graphics, and microfilm - to help researchers navigate the collections.

Join HSP for a free workshop on March 9, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. exploring new resources available for genealogists researching African American ancestors.

Stay tuned as we share more stories throughout this year's Black History Month.

When pamphlets were media of choice

President Trump is not the first politician to enthusiastically embrace new communication technologies. Lincoln (telegraphy), FDR (radio), and JFK (television) precede the 45th president on that list.

In the 18th century, however, it was another medium that allowed partisans to (relatively) quickly and cheaply reach their supporters: the pamphlet. A grisly example of this is the 1763 Conestoga Massacre and ensuing "Paxton Pamphlet War."

Much is rightly made of William Penn's overtures to Native Americans. Unlike many of his colonial counterparts, Penn negotiated in good faith to create a "peaceable kingdom."

The Quaker's sentiments were far from universally shared. Settling on Native American lands in violation of established agreements, the deluge of Europeans soon sundered whatever goodwill remained. The French and Indian War and Pontiac's Rebellion didn't exactly improve relations, either.

On paper, the governor's writ extended throughout the colony. In reality, for those living along the Susquehanna Valley frontier, the Philadelphia-based government might as well have been on the moon.

Chiding the pacifist city-dwelling Quakers as weak, effete, and unsympathetic to their problems, a militia of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of the Paxtang settlement (today's Harrisburg suburbs) took matters into its own hands in 1763.

The "Paxton Boys," as the band of brigands came to be known, marched to the nearby settlement of the Conestoga tribe and murdered every man, woman, and child they encountered. The mob then broke into the Lancaster jailhouse - where many Conestoga had sought safety - to continue their brutal campaign. A vow to march on Philadelphia soon followed.

Massacre of the Indians of Lancaster by the Paxton Boys in 1763, lithograph (ca. 1764). From the David McNeely Stauffer collection on Westcott's History of Philadelphia [1095]

The 250-plus strong banditti were halted in Germantown by none other than Benjamin Franklin. With a promise to read the Paxton Boys' pamphlet of concerns in Philadelphia's legislative chamber, the "demonstrators" disbanded.

The incident, however, was far from over.

A heated debate between Paxton supporters and detractors kicked off in the era's media of choice: pamphlets, broadsides, and political cartoons. By the end of 1764, the "Paxton Pamphlet War" made up more than a fifth of all material printed in Pennsylvania.

"At its crux, the Paxton revolt presented a crisis of representation through which backcountry settlers rebelled against an authority that they held to be unfit, unresponsive, or simply indifferent to their needs," said Will Fenton, the Albert Greenfield fellow at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The fault lines were manifold: European vs. Native American, settler vs. city-dweller, "Presbyterian militancy" vs. "Quaker passivity."

Paxton supporters called attention to the greed and hypocrisy of "crooked" Quaker merchants and politicians, taking up arms to defend themselves against the Paxton Boys but opposing military aid for those on the frontier.

In one popular cartoon, prominent Quaker Abel James hands out tomahawks to the Conestoga while another member of the Society of Friends embraces a bare-chested Native American woman.

The Quakers and Benjamin Franklin, political cartoon ca. 1764. From the Historical Society of Pennsylvania large graphics collection [V65]

Anti-Paxton politicians, for their part, ridiculed the Scotch-Irish settlers for their vulgarity and lack of education. Racialized as "more savage than the Indians themselves," the frontiersmen are depicted as ignorant with a "backward" manner of speaking.

The Conestoga "would even have been safer among the Negroes of Africa, where at least one manly soul would have been found, with sense, spirit, and humanity enough, to stand in their defense," Franklin wrote, employing racist stereotypes in order to elevate the peaceful Conestoga and scold those sympathetic to the Paxton Boys.

In the end, none of the murderers was tried or convicted.

A Ph.D. candidate in English, Fenton worked over the past year to create the Digital Paxton project, a free resource featuring dozens of the pamphlets and cartoons, as well as accompanying essays and transcriptions.

For him, the contemporary parallels are clear.

"The term elite, weaponized in the 2016 election, figured heavily in the Paxton debate," said Fenton, while "many pamphleteers stoked debate anonymously, in much the same way that provocateurs hide behind Twitter handles."

"In the context of the Brexit vote and the rise of right-wing nationalist movements across the West, [we] would do well to study this incident and to critically engage pamphleteers' zero-sum views of race, class, and cosmopolitanism," he said.


This article originally appeared in the January 29, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer as part of HSP's weekly series, Memory Stream.

In 1913, another women's march for rights

As thousands gathered for the Women's March on Washington, they were treading in the footsteps of women who, more than a century ago, fought through violent crowds to demand the vote during the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession.

That year, the suffragists' struggle was in its sixth decade, and the worse for wear. Since 1869, supporters had hand-delivered signed petitions to the Capitol each year, to little effect.

Disagreement over tactics, emphasis, and strategy riled the movement. What was the best method for persuading male politicians and their XY voters? Quiet, behind-the-scenes lobbying or public demonstrations? Should reform efforts target the state or federal level?

While several Western states and territories successfully passed constitutional amendments giving women the vote, a faction strove for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Among them was Alice Paul. Arrested, imprisoned, and force-fed during her years spent marching with the more militant British suffragists, the 28-year-old New Jersey Quaker attended the Philadelphia gathering of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1912 to stake out a bold plan: an extravagant parade in the nation's capital.

Undated illustration of Alice Paul, a New Jersey-born Quaker and suffragist, who organized the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession. From the Caroline Katzenstein papers (#Am.8996)

March 3, the date selected, was intended to maximize the number of spectators and press already in town; Woodrow Wilson's first inaugural was slated for the following day.

Tasked with raising the necessary funds herself, Paul immediately set out to drum up support and raise awareness.

"Why you must march," ran a promotional broadside printed by Paul's National Woman's Party, is "because this is the most conspicuous and important demonstration that has ever been attempted by suffragists in this country."

In addition to her daily press bulletins, Paul also worked with 16 "suffrage pilgrims" to arrange their walk from New York to Washington in time for the procession.

Marching along Pennsylvania from the Capitol to the Treasury Building, conservative estimates cite 5,000 suffragists, including female delegates from countries that had enfranchised women.

Organized by state, profession, and - initially, at least - race, the march's ranks were bolstered by 24 floats, nine bands, four mounted brigades, and three heralds. The prominent labor lawyer Inez Milholland - bedecked in an all-white ensemble atop a white horse - led the charge, while a contingent of male supporters brought up the rear.

Cape-clad and dressed in all white, Inez Milholland led the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession atop a white horse. Milholland passed away three years later. From the Caroline Katzenstein papers (#Am.8996)

What started smoothly that Monday afternoon soon erupted into a near-riot. A crush of male humanity overcame the steel cable barricades and spilled into the street, violently interrupting the procession.

With police unable - and indeed, unwilling - to protect the marchers, women were subject to incidents ranging from barnyard heckling to outright assault. So dire was the situation that Secretary of War Henry Stimson authorized cavalry to quell the crowd.

The capital's ambulatory services "came and went constantly for six hours, always impeded and at times actually opposed, so that doctor and driver literally had to fight their way to give succor to the injured," reported the Washington Post the following day. More than 100 women had to be hospitalized.

Undaunted, the women successfully made it to the Treasury Building to stage the procession's capstone: an allegorical play featuring Justice, Charity, Liberty, Peace, and Hope.

With 500,000 estimated spectators - including press from across the country - the march generated national headlines for weeks. "Capital Mobs Made Converts to Suffrage," ran the New York Tribune. Or, as procession participant Nellie Bly pithily put it, "Suffragists Are Men's Superiors."

At a Senate hearing investigating the havoc, a police officer quipped, referring to the marchers, "There would be nothing like this happen if you would stay at home." His superintendent was soon scalped.

Many otherwise indifferent to women's enfranchisement were nonetheless shocked at the abridgement of their constitutional right of assembly and physical safety. While no legislation resulted - it would be seven more years before the passage of the 19th Amendment - the 1913 march injected a much-needed jolt into the suffrage campaign, reinvigorating women across the United States to press boldly for their equal civil rights, a tradition proudly continuing to this day.


This article originally appeared in the January 22, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer as part of HSP's weekly series, Memory Stream.

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