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Closing the Loop: Creative Reuse in the Bindings of the Bank of North America Collection

In the age of e-readers and mass paperbacks, it is easy to forget that books were once a very scarce and expensive commodity made by hand from materials equally costly and difficult to acquire.  In the distant past, before the prevalence of paper, book pages were most often cut from vellum, a parchment made from calfskin; depending on the size of the book and number of pages, a single volume could require the laboriously prepared skins of several, even dozens, of animals.  It was therefore not unheard of for such pages and books to be scraped down and reused, the new words written over the place of the old, and the contents of one book being obscured by another. 

Twice-written manuscripts of this kind are known as palimpsests, and hold a special fascination for historians and archivists.  The inks and pigments of the original text leave their trace deep in the parchment, and while often invisible to the naked eye, can now be revealed through multispectral imaging.  In this way many texts that were previously lost might be recovered, but even if the original text is known and has survived in other manuscripts, the existence of a palimpsest tells a story of its own and points to the circumstances of its making: perhaps the original text was commonplace, perhaps it was deemed heretical, or perhaps the scribe was simply desperate for a clean page on which to work.


Fragments of a vellum manuscript repurposed as support tapes
in the binding of volume 39 of the BNA collection (#1543).


Whatever the circumstances, the practices of recycling and creative reuse in the making of books continue to this day.  In our world of mechanized production, we most commonly see this in the form of recycled paper, in which case any trace of the previous life of a material is all but completely obliterated – but if we travel back two hundred years or so, to the time when many of the ledgers and account books of the Bank of North America Collection (#1543) were being made, we find many charming and illuminating instances of salvaged and repurposed materials.  Some, like the ones pictured directly above and below, are hidden, and only come to light when we take these books apart in order to mend them.  Others are self-evident, and remain visible to be enjoyed by conservators and researchers alike.


Fragment of an engraving repurposed in the spine
of a springback binding the BNA collection (#1543, vol. 187).


Often these glimpses are fragmentary, and inspire a certain curiosity and desire to identify the original source of the repurposed material.  It presents a challenge to research and see what information can be gleaned, what minor and possibly untold story might be revealed, and a wondering whether the search will culminate in historical fact or conjecture.

In a previous blog post, on the subject of marbled endpapers in the Bank of North America Collection, conservation technician Alina Josan briefly mentioned a special case where the marbled paper had previously been printed with pages from a book.  Since 2013 when Alina wrote this post, we have encountered several other instances within the BNA Collection of marbling over pages printed with text.  Many are marbled pages from the same book identified by Alina, but there is one volume that is especially curious, featuring marbled text papers from two distinctly different books – one apparently on Poland, the other on feminine health.


BNA vol. 14: front endpapers featuring repurposed
text pages from the American Quarterly Review.  


The searchable text features on Google Books and Archive.org made it possible for me to identify the sources for each of these printed pages, and soon after to discover that editions of both - contemporary to this specific BNA ledger (vol. 14) - could be found in the collections at HSP and next door, at the Library Company of Philadelphia. 


Original sources for the marbled texts of BNA volume 14 (col. #1543): Page 472 from an AQR article on Poland, and Page 590 from Dewees' Treatise on the Diseases of Females.


A detail of the marbled pattern applied over page 472
from the AQR article on Poland (June 1831: vol. IX, no. XVIII).


The marbled endpapers at the front of this ledger, with the text about Poland, contained portions of pages 471 through 475 of the 18th issue of the 9th volume of the American Quarterly Review, dating from June of 1831. The AQR at this time was printed and published in Philadelphia, by Carey & Lea.


The marbled text endpapers at the back of BNA volume 14.  
The text is barely visible along the edge of the page.


The endpapers at the back of the ledger were marbled over fragments of what appeared to be an index or table of contents. It took some digging, but I eventually matched it to a book printed in 1831: A treatise on the diseases of females, by William Potts Dewees (1768-1841).  This book was also published in Philadelphia, by Carey & Lea – as it happens, the very same year and publisher as the article on Poland from the American Quarterly Review.


A detail of the marbled pattern applied over a fragment of text
from page 590 of Dewees' Treatise on the Diseases of Females (1831).


Given that both books were published in 1831, it is a safe assumption that the BNA ledger was bound sometime thereafter.  While the ledger itself did not have a binders' ticket, indicating when or where it had been made, browsing through the BNA Collection as a whole, I was able to find at least five other ledgers of a nearly identical style and proportion; four of which had binder’s tickets for Hogan & Thompson, of no. 108 Chestnut Street, and no. 50 North Fourth Street, Philadelphia.  Looking at the titles and contents of each ledger, it was interesting to see that they are all minute books, and that the dates of their contents line up nearly perfectly, spanning from July 1st of 1837 to August 28th of 1879 – over 40 years!  Gauging by the uniform appearance and signs of age, it would seem that these ledgers were all made and purchased around the same time, the blank ones stowed away for later use; a minor but interesting glimpse into the more practical operations of the bank. 


The binders' ticket of Philadelphia's Hogan & Thompson,
as can be seen in BNA volume 228 (col. #1543).


The exact story of how the printed pages came to be repurposed and eventually used in the binding of a bank ledger remains a mystery for another day.  Given that the pages were likely printed in 1831 and that the ledger was not put to use until 1837, there is a five to six-year gap in which the extra pages were marbled and found their way to the Hogan and Thompson Stationers – or perhaps were marbled at/by Hogan and Thompson.  HSP actually holds the Lea and Febiger records (Collection 227B) - which spans over 200 years of publishing, including the Carey & Lea period -and might possibly shed some light on the question of how the marbled texts came to be.  It is easy to imagine the existence of an accounts page or letter in the Lea & Febiger collection that gives evidence of a relationship between the two binderies – a holy grail of little consequence, but one that nevertheless inspires further questing.  Perhaps there will someday be a part two to this entry; for now please enjoy the related links and resources given below. 

HSP Encounters: A Boon to Genealogists and Family Historians

The recent public launching of our genealogical and biographical database, HSP Encounters, is an exciting event. HSP Encounters is now available remotely to HSP members and to onsite researchers, and is a part of Discover, HSP's online catalog. The database is based upon making accessible unique HSP collections that are rich in personal information, assisting family researchers in both establishing their family trees and learning about the lives of their ancestors. The project has just begun its fourth year, funded by a generous grant from the McFarland Foundation.

One great resource in the database are the index cards for the Oliver Bair funeral home records, with the names of the deceased and of the person, usually a family member, responsible for paying the funeral home bills. The researcher has the option of purchasing a copy of the funeral file, which contains a plethora of valuable information about the deceased, often including their former occupation, name of spouse, date of birth, names of parents, cause of death, and (for those who are interested) the type of casket and assorted funeral expenses. The hair and eye color, and weight, of the deceased person are usually included, and many files contain additional documents, usually newspaper obituaries or correspondence relating to the payment (or non-payment) of funeral home bills.

There are two other large sets of index cards in HSP Encounters that had been assembled over the years by library staff and volunteers, to the Pennsylvania Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia muster rolls and to the Genealogical Scrapbooks and Research Folders collection.  We’ve gotten a steady number of requests for copies of the muster rolls (as transcribed in the Pennsylvania Archives) which we send along with any descriptive information in the Pennsylvania Archives about the military activities of the company. The genealogy cards refer to research that is not apt to be found any other way, since the information on the noted family is usually contained in research primarily (and hence cataloged as) about another family. It is but one example of how much information lurks in the nooks and crannies of the HSP.

Most exciting, due to the depth of documentation, are the record descriptions provided  in HSP Encounters from the registers of the Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Home for Infants, and the Philadelphia Placement Office, all late 19th Century charitable organizations.  The register of the Home Missionary Society records 4,891 visits by representatives (three energetic individuals, working solo) to poor families in Philadelphia over a six year period.  The society generally dealt with the female head of household, providing her name but also noting the number of family members, street address, religious denomination, race, and the relief granted (coal, clothing, groceries, or cash). A brief remark is often made about the reason for the family’s predicament, such as “Husband drinks, wife sickly” and “Husband a wounded soldier, disabled.”  The combination of the specific relief granted and the note on the family situation creates vivid images of families in distress. 

The records of the Philadelphia Home for Infants are, if anything, even more interesting. The register records the name of the infant and (in most cases) of the parents or guardians. Many infants were sent to the Home by another charitable organization or a governmental authority, but most frequently infants were brought there by their mother or other family members. The child’s mother was often hired by the Home to work there, usually as a wet nurse, an employment that ended when the child was released, usually “taken away” by the mother.  The Home functioned in part as an early form of day care for working class mothers. The Philadelphia Placement Office was an employment agency, and its register reveals a world where child labor was widespread and widely accepted, and prospective employers stated their preferences and prejudices freely.  The brief comments on people looking for work, or of people looking for workers, provide sharp images of the people—Rose Heenan sought a position “scrubbing and cleaning”; Charles Curlett was “a Girard College boy, wants to drive a milk wagon”; R. Howell “wants a half grown girl [for domestic service], will not send her to school” whereas Bella Pepper “wants a girl of 12 to educate and train.”

Some of these records will be essential in resolving “brick walls”—since there is often scant documentation for poor people, the family relationships revealed in the Home for Infants and Home Missionary records may not available from other sources. There are still “brick walls” out there to be resolved, and one goal of this project is to help demolish such walls. At the same time, it is true that bare bones genealogical research is becoming easier.  With more and more genealogical records becoming available, on ancestry.com and familysearch.org and other web sites and in countless libraries and archives, there are going to be fewer family researchers who say, “I have been looking for thirty years to know who the parents of [a particular ancestor] are.” If establishing the family tree is easier, why not use some of excess energy to learn more about the lives of your ancestors? That’s why we named the new genealogical database “HSP Encounters”—researchers can have an encounter of sorts with their ancestors through records that are rich in personal detail. A narrative can be built about one’s family, an ever evolving story of many individuals.
And to understand this narrative, to make sense of it, means learning more about history.

We need to know the ways in which society was different than it is today to gain a deeper understanding of the records. That’s why we have included historical essays on the collections in HSP Encounters—and asked questions like:  What were the goals of an institution like the Philadelphia Home for Infants? Who founded it?  Why did infants end up there? What kinds of family backgrounds did the infants come from? How many suffered from diseases?  Were the children well-treated? How successful was the institution in bettering the lives of the infants? Learning more about the Philadelphia Home for Infants will enrich one’s understanding of the records of one’s ancestor’s specific involvement with that institution. The historical essays provide a bridge to history, for those willing to cross it. 

Members: To access HSP Encounters remotely, click here or visit pal.hsp.org. Please login with your HSP website/PAL (Patron Access Link) username and password and select HSP Encounters from the database list


Facial Hair at The Historical Society of Frankford

Over the past few years, mustaches and beards have made a comeback as the must-have facial hair accessory. Handlebar, English, Walrus, and Imperial mustaches, to name a few, grace the faces of men young and old on today’s streets and screens. However, many of these facial accessories pale in comparison to the hirsute men of the Historical Society of Frankford. Within their collections, one can find some truly inspiring mustachioed and bearded men. Organized in 1905 and chartered in 1920, The Historical Society of Frankford is located in the Frankford neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia. Their mission is to “collect, preserve, and present the history of Northeast Philadelphia and the region.”



Take, for example, this gentleman. In addition to the stylish length, the streak of grey hair shows a level of confidence in his appearance and compliments his balding head.



He can be found in one of the many family photograph albums from the late 18th and early 19th centuries held by the Historical Society of Frankford. Although many of the individuals in these albums are not identified by name, their noble beards and mustaches make them stand out as fashionable men of their time. Here are a few more notable facial accessories from the family photograph albums:






The Historical Society of Frankford’s collections also include several photograph collections such as the Lincoln Cartledge photograph collection, the T. Comly Hunter photograph collection, the Guernsey Hallowell photograph collection, and collections of cabinet cards and daguerreotypes, to name a few. The gentleman below can be found in the Society’s cabinet card collection.




This oversized photograph found in the records of Frankford Hospital captures a moment on one of the floors of the hospital. Unfortunately, the lighting made it difficult for the photographer to capture the gentleman in the wheelchair – resulting in an artistic interpretation of the missing man, mustache included. Although he may not have sported such a fine mustache, it clearly adds to the image. 




Nearly half of the Frankford Cricket Club Cricket Team boasts bushy mustaches, most likely to help them become more aerodynamic as they run between wickets. Here, they are photographed at the Halifax Cup, a Cricket tournament that still takes place today in Philadelphia. Even though they lost (beat by Germantown Cricket Club), Team Captain William W. Foulkrod (front row, center) had the highest batting average for the team and fourth highest overall for the Cup. It must have been the mustache! 




Special mention must be made for the beard of Abraham Lincoln, found in multiple states throughout the J. Friend Lodge Collection.  Donated to the Historical Society of Frankford upon the death of John Friend Lodge, it is an extensive collection of books, articles, manuscripts, photographs, and autograph books relating to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and Americana.  



In addition to serving as an excellent collection documenting the state of Abraham Lincoln’s facial hair, it offers an extensive source of published material about the life of Lincoln. The impressive autograph collection also includes the signatures of notable military figures, politicians (including presidents), and authors such as Ulysses Grant, General George Meade, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Theodore Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Walt Whitman.  



The Tomlinson, Peters, and Foehr Papers contain a variety of materials, a majority of which document the Tomlinson family, the Peters and Foehrs having married into the Tomlinson family. Dr. Jonas T. Peters, photographed here with an amazing French fork beard, was the younger brother of Mary R. Peters, who married Thomas Pierson Tomlinson.



Dr. Peters worked as a dentist in Norristown, PA. Surely, his patients must have appreciated his robust facial hair!



Of course, moustaches were not only found in late 18th century and early 19th century photographs at Frankford. The News Gleaner records at the Historical Society of Frankford include a large collection of photographs from the newspaper’s run, including this great shot of Lou Tilley, anchor at KYW TV3 in the 1980s and 90s.



Unfortunately, he no longer has this marvelous moustache.



Of course, there is much more to the Historical Society of Frankford than just beards and mustaches. In addition to preserving examples of glorious facial hair, the Historical Society of Frankford documents significant people, places, and organizations of the Northeast.  Noteworthy collections not mentioned here include the Wright’s Industrial and Beneficial Institute records, the Magarie Andrews Smith papers, the Yellow Jackets football team (precursor to the Philadelphia Eagles) collection, and an extensive collection of deeds, to name a few.

Take a visit to the Historical Society of Frankford to learn more about the history of Philadelphia, the Northeast, and Frankford!


HSP Launches New Digital History Exhibit Exploring Political Cartoons

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is pleased to announce today’s launch of Politics in Graphic Detail: Exploring History through Political Cartoons, an exciting and innovative digital history exhibit featuring more than 125 richly annotated political cartoons. Spanning American history from the colonial period through the Progressive Era, these cartoons represent a diversity of topic, issues, and events befitting our raucous democratic process.

The Service & Tragic Death of French Officer Major William Galvan of the Revolutionary War

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.

However, another patriot from France, Major William Galvan, has been all but forgotten in most published accounts of the Revolution. He is a man of mystery in many ways as revealed by his death in Philadelphia during the summer of 1782.  He received a commission in the Continental Army on January 12, 1780, eventually serving in General Lafayette’s personal command.

Orders were eventually issued to Galvan on May 16, 1780, directing him to Cape Henry, Virginia where he’d deliver dispatches to the Admiral of the French fleet. Thomas Jefferson was asked by George Washington to provide Galvan with lodging and boats, and to keep the French volunteer apprised of military operations within the Southern colonies.

Throughout his service, Galvan would rub shoulders with many famous Revolutionary officers – including General von Steuben and Mad Anthony Wayne. At times, he was not particularly in favor with the troops placed under his command, and on occasion, a suggestion was made to relieve him of his duties since he was said to be very unpopular with certain officers. However, he appears to have redeemed himself by his actions during the battle of Green Spring, Virginia, on July 6th, 1781.  During a brief but seminal skirmish, British forces – which included such famed officers as Lord Cornwallis and Banastre Tarleton - met American units near Jamestown Island and Powhatan Creek. Though not an outstanding military victory for America, it nonetheless boosted morale for the cause and revealed the fact that the infamous British dragoons were not invincible as many believed.

Galvan’s detailed account of the skirmish and his involvement (no doubt somewhat inflated), is contained within a lengthy letter dated July 8th, 1781, to Richard Peters, as found within the Anthony Wayne Papers  housed here at the Society. Gen. Anthony Wayne gave Galvan permission to attempt the capture of a British field-piece (or cannon) during the outset of the skirmish with a battalion of Continental infantry, which brought the Frenchman and his forces in the direct fire of the enemy for fifteen minutes. Though Lafayette and Wayne’s later accounts cast their blunder as a victory, no blame was attached to Galvan. Rather he and his unit were praised. As the Pennsylvania Journal , Pennsylvania Gazette, along with Gen. Lafayette himself would state: “The brilliant conduct of Major Galvan and the Continental detachment under his command entitle them to applause.”

By July 24th, 1782, Major William Galvan was dead. Not by a British bullet, but by his own hand. Famed Quaker Elizabeth Drinker, speaking of the death of an individual by suicide in a diary entry for July 26th, also remarked how, “on the 24th. Instant a French Officer at the Indian-Queen, was guilty of the same crime, disappointed in Love, and Money Matters.”  Jacob Hiltzheimer, a German immigrant who later became a Representative in the Philadelphia Assembly, gave more details in his diary entry for July 25th, stating, “Returning from a ride with my wife, saw the burial of Major Galvan in the Potter’s Field.  The Major shot himself last night through the head.”

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania possesses Major Galvan’s suicide note. addressed to Lt. Col. Brockholst Livingston, Major Matthew Clarkson and William Bingham.  Galvan states how, “…life has become a burthen {burden} too heavy for me: I shake it off. Men who do not reflect will accuse me of weakness: they will be mistaken. That same courage which enables me to meet death, would have also supported me in bearing any degree of pain…” The natural question arises: why did a famed officer kill himself?

Within Galvan’s suicide note, he asked that a picture of himself be presented  “to Miss Sally Shippen: Tell her my gratitude for her friendship will be one of the last sentiments that dies in me.”  Sally was no doubt Sarah Shippen (1756-1831), the daughter of Judge Edward Shippen and Sarah Plumley of Philadelphia, whose home, during the occupation of the city by British troops, was frequently visited by various English officers. No doubt similar visits transpired by American military officials like Galvan after the departure of the British. Sarah would eventually marry Thomas Lea on September 21st, 1787. Galvan certainly had money troubles, and though he asks to be “buried decently,” he ended up in Potter’s Field, now Washington Square. He also asked for all his debts to be paid, and a copy of his will to be sent to his mother, Madam Henry de Fadat at Dominica, and one to his brother, Francois Louis Galvan De Bernoux, living at Bayonne. Yet no will appears to have survived, at least in Philadelphia probate records, nor were his wishes carried out, perhaps for lack of funds.

One would naturally think that Lafayette or some other French or even American official would have been willing to pay the young Frenchman’s debts, yet many native-born Americans soldiers, even several signers of the Declaration of Independence, were never reimbursed for their acts of service. Therefore, sadly, it may not be too surprising that Galvan’s last wishes went unfulfilled.

The mystery surrounding Galvan's death also extended to the War Department as late as 1795. In the Statement on the account of William Galvan it's recorded that his exact date of death could not be determined. It's interesting to note that the answer to that question lies in other sources at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. One wonders what else may be found in the archives.

The Wilma Theater

The Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia is exactly what its name suggests: a home to the arts. From theater and film to music and dance to museums and galleries, some of the city's and state’s finest art organizations call Broad Street home. Included in these organizations is the Wilma Theater, a non-profit theater with the mission to create living, adventurous art.

The Wilma Theater began 1973 as the Wilma Project, a feminist collective named after an invented sister of William Shakespeare, inspired by Virginia Wolf’s In a Room of One’s Own.  While the Wilma Project, the Wilma presented numerous works with renowned avante garde theater artists such as the Bread & Puppet Theater, The Wooster Group, and Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Blanka and Jiri Zizka began working with the Wilma Project in 1979, and in 1981, the Czechoslovakian-born couple assumed artistic leadership.

Under the Zizkas, the Wilma Theater continued to grow and expanded. The Zizkas moved the Wilma Theater to a small, converted theater space in 1981 but they quickly outgrew this space. To support their growing audience, the Wilma Theater created their current facility at Broad and Spruce Streets, designed by renowned theater architect Hugh Hardy. In this space, the Zizkas further expanded the Wilma, establishing a national reputation for the provocative works they created and the unique theater experience they cultivated. Productions by the Wilma include works by both national and international writers, including Bertolt Brecht (Mother Courage), Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead), Stephen Sondheim (Passion), Paula Vogel (Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq), Tony Kushner (Angels in America), and Athol Fugard (My Children! My Africa!). Their success is illustrated by the multiple Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater (also known as Philadelphia’s equivalent of the Tony).


A selection of playbills from Wilma Theater productions. 

The Wilma Theater's archives are a magnificent place to experience the exceptional nature of the Wilma, through playbills, photographs, production notes, and various other materials. One of the more fascinating aspects of the Wilma’s records are the production binders, the active working files kept by the director during a production. While surveying, we explored the contents of one set of production binders from 1986 for the Wilma’s production of 1984. The Wilma presented 1984 not only in Philadelphia, but also at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the American National Theater. Based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel, the plot was adapted by Czech playwright Pavel Kohot, translated by Jiri Zizka and Michael Ladenson, and directed by Jiri Zizka. The production binders associated with 1984 (of which there are many!) provide a record of Jiri’s process of bringing the play from the paper to the stage. There are notes, design sketches, casting information, lighting cues, photographs, and staging information, among other things. It is a fascinating look at the artistic process of bringing 1984 to the stage.


If you’re looking to learn more about theater in Philadelphia, the Wilma Theater is a great place to start. Check out their archives to learn more about the works they’ve brought to the Philadelphia stage!



New Digital Exhibit Explores Two Centuries of American Political Cartoons

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is nearing the conclusion of Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT), a two-year project to enhance the description and discovery of its graphic materials and promote the linking and sharing of content among institutions and scholars.

The project’s overall objective is to make archival graphics more accessible for online users and to encourage other repositories to adopt the new tools and practices. As such, HINT involves several complementary parts.

September Slots Now Available For Genealogy Consultations

Every year, millions of people around the world comb through books, scour newspapers, and thumb through manuscripts searching for information about their family’s history.

What starts small often becomes enormous. Many now-avid genealogists recall their humble beginnings – the discovery of a trunk full of photographs in the attic, or a question about a great grandparent’s country of origin.

For many, these humble questions blossom into a lifelong pursuit connecting them to a growing community around the world.


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