Daniel Rolph

This Author's Posts

For a number of years now, many historians–including myself–have worked with the National Park Service to discover more information concerning the life and times of James Oronoko Dexter, a former enslaved person owned by the Pemberton family While with the family, Dexter mainly worked as a coachman.  He eventually gained his freedom and resided on North Fifth Street in Philadelphia, his home lying within the boundaries of the present-day Independence National Park.


This month, the anticipated film In the Heart of the Sea will portray one of America’s most well-known tragedies. The film’s title is taken from Nathaniel Philbrick’s acclaimed historical narrative of the same title, whose subtitle, The Tragedy of the Whale ship Essex,” reveals the full account and tantalizing subject matter of what truly transpired to both ship and crew during those fateful years between 1819 to 1821. Most Americans today are acquainted with the story through Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby Dick.

Comments: 1

Around the year 1678, Thomas Norris, a Quaker and merchant from London, emigrated to Jamaica to escape religious persecution. To add insult to injury, he was killed during the earthquake which sank the famed pirate city of Port Royal, on June 7th, 1692.  Thomas’ son Isaac, who lived in Jamaica as a small child, was residing in Philadelphia at the time, acting as his father’s business agent.

Comments: 2

The Philadelphia area of the Delaware Valley, like other parts of the country, has its own archaeological  or paleontological mysteries.  Peter Kalm, the famous Swedish botanist, in his Travels Into North America, visited Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and parts of Canada in 1748 & 1749, wherein he recorded a number of enigmatic discoveries. He noted everything from copper tools, mines, to that of wells, walls, and burnt bricks, found many feet below the surface of the earth, antedating the arrival of Europeans.


Historians generally agree that French aid was instrumental to the American victory during the Revolutionary war. Officers such as the famous Marquis de Lafayette and Viscount Francois-Louis Teissedre de Fleury to the countless numbers of enlisted men, all helped the Colonies gain their independence.

Comments: 2

A recent issue of Philadelphia Weekly (Feb.4-11, 2015) posed the question, “What figure in Black history inspires you?” Of course the answer could easily be found, by drawing from a variety of categories, as many African-Americans played major roles in numerous aspects of our national history from Martin Luther King to Malcolm X.  As this year wraps up the 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Civil War, most people are familiar with such heroic military organizations as the 54th Massachusetts,as portrayed in the movie Glory, or with famed Black personalities as nava


Last month, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania highlighted our Japanese Internment manuscript materials of WWII with “The Truth Behind Hold These Truths,” a program featuring Penn professor Dr. Franklin Odo, a performance by Makato Hirano, and a discussion with Sumiko Kobayashi, a former internee whose records are housed at the Society.


The American Frontier has made a considerable contribution to our Nation’s history and literature, from Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” to the quasi-historical novels of James Fennimore Cooper, Walter Edmonds, and Conrad Richter. The frontier experience also aided in creating the American character: one of rugged-individualism and self-reliance.


Out of over 500,000 graphic images, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is rich in various holiday illustrations, lithographs, watercolors, and photographs. A sampling of which is presented here in this holiday edition of History Hits.

Comments: 1

For centuries, soldiers serving in various battles have believed and stated to their comrades-in-arms that they were about to die, or would within the near future. Hundreds of such accounts exist for the Civil War era of United States history.  For the most part, such statements are common to men in battle, but enough well-documented and detailed narratives exist to convince any skeptic that such beliefs are not always figments of imagination or products of irrational fears.