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New Century Trust Honors HSP With 2015 Willing Hands Award

On Wednesday, March 25, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was honored to receive the 2015 Willing Hands Award for service in preserving the history of the women and girls of Philadelphia.

The annual award is bestowed by the New Century Trust, a 130-year old women’s non-profit that works to improve the educational, economic, and social status of women and girls. HSP’s President and CEO Dr. Page Talbott accepted the award at a ceremony held at the Trust’s historic location on Locust Street (directly across from HSP).

Genealogy Roadshow Films at HSP

Mon, 2015-02-16 16:04 -- Vincent Fraley

Don't forget to tune in! The Genealogy Roadshow: Historical Society of Pennsylvania episode premiers February 17 at 8 p.m. on PBS.

Genealogy Roadshow visits HSP during Season 2 and discovers fascinating Philadelphia family history. One woman’s ancestor may have sparked historic labor laws; a pastor may have an outlaw in her family tree; a woman learns about slave genealogy and – with the help of DNA testing – gets the answer she has waited for; and another woman learns her ancestor may have helped others escape the Holocaust.

Signature Image: 

HSP's 2014 Annual Report is now available for viewing, featuring the institution's activities and initiatives over the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year. Please click the image located to the left to view the report.   

Edward Biddle: A Forgotten Patriot & Member of the First Continental Congress of Philadelphia

While the end of October usually brings to mind images of ghosts, goblins, and trick-or-treaters, it’s fitting to remember that it also brought about the conclusion of a momentous event over 200 years ago. From September 5 through October 26, 1774, the First Continental Congress was held here in Philadelphia. It laid the foundation for the future War of Independence from Britain, as well as the beginnings of a separate American institution of government.  Among the list of Pennsylvania’s representatives are well known names such as  George Ross, Thomas Mifflin, and John Dickinson, however one influential representative, Edward Biddle, has often been overshadowed by more well-known attendees.

The Biddle Family of the Delaware Valley has played a major role in the history of the area and of the United States. From Commodore James Biddle who served in the war against the Barbary pirates, to Clement, Nicholas, Charles, and others, members of the Biddle family were involved in military, financial, and political circles throughout the American Civil War and beyond.

As early as 1757, Edward Biddle was in the Provincial army during the French & Indian War. He had a successful military career, advancing in rank from Ensign to Captain, and received five thousand acres of land after his retirement. He was present at the taking of both Fort DuQuesne and Fort Niagara. After leaving the military, Biddle became a lawyer in Reading and was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. He was elected to Speaker of the Assembly on October 15, 1774, replacing Joseph Galloway.  As Speaker, on October 19th, 1774, he wrote a “Message to the Governor from the Assembly” in regard to disbanding the Frontier Rangers. He goes on to note that to ensure the safety of the Province, he requested their arms and supplies be “deposited in some place of security.”

At the First Continental Congress, through the efforts of Edward Biddle, Pennsylvania received the credit for being the “first constitutional House of Representatives” in the Colonies to ratify the acts of the General Congress.  Biddle continued to serve the cause of liberty as a member of the Committee of Safety from June30, 1775, through July 22, 1776, and once again as a representative to the Assembly in 1778.

Regrettably Biddle suffered a debilitating accident on January 23, 1775, on his way from Reading to Congress, falling overboard into the Schuylkill River. Sleeping in wet clothes, he acquired a cold and a form of inflammatory rheumatism that aided in bringing about a deterioration of his health and the loss of sight in one of his eyes. Edward Biddle’s last act of service was that as a member of a committee of four, appointed on February 5, 1779, “to bring in a bill for abolishing slavery in Pennsylvania.” 

Ironically, Edward Biddle expired on September 5, 1779, five years to the day from when he had first begun serving as a delegate from Pennsylvania to the First Continental Congress.  James Read (or Reed), President of the Supreme Executive Council for Pennsylvania, would remark how, “As a public character very few were equal to him in talents or noble exertion of them…Love to his country, benevolence, and every manly virtue rendered him an object of esteem and admiration to all that knew him.”

Stories from the Archives: Politics of Cultural Institution Building in the Early Mid Atlantic Region

Mark Boonshoft, PhD candidate and a Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Fellow discusses Benjamin Chew and the Academy College and Charitable School of Philadelphia as part of his research in "Education, Civil Society, and State Formation from the Great Awakening to the Early Republic."

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Supports HSP's Hidden Collections Initiative

HSP is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Phase III of its Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). 

HCI-PSAR is a three-phase project to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of the numerous small, primarily volunteer-run archival and manuscript repositories in the Philadelphia area, including local historical societies, small museums, historic sites, and other institutions.

FamilySearch, HSP Partner to Publish Historical Documents Online

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania—The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, one of the largest and most comprehensive genealogical centers in the nation, and FamilySearch, a nonprofit premier family history and records preservation organization, announced a joint initiative to digitally preserve select collections of the historical society’s vast holdings, starting with compiled family histories online. The project is now underway, and the digitized documents will be freely accesible at FamilySearch.org. 

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