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Which 18th century ship was commanded by both John Paul Jones and John Barry?

Answer: The USS Alliance 

The USS Alliance was a 36-gun frigate built in 1777.  The ship, one of the stars of the American Navy during the Revolution, captured a number of prizes during the war and was involved in several battles. Initially under the command of Pierre Landais, her subsequent commanders included John Paul Jones and John Barry.

In September 1782 the Alliance, now under the command of Barry, captured four British merchant vessels: Britannia, Anna, Commerce, and Kingston.  The ship and its prizes reached France in mid-October, then returned to the West Indies.  In March of 1783, Barry encountered a number of British ships in West Indian waters.  After the ensuing battle, Alliance sailed for Newport, Rhode Island, where most of the crew was released so that the ship could be overhauled.

In 1785, the Alliance was sold to John Coburn in Philadelphia.  She was subsequently sold to Robert Morris, who converted her to a merchant ship and made her ready for sailing to the Orient.  The ship arrived in Canton in 1787.  Little is known of the subsequent voyages of the Alliance. She was eventually abandoned on Petty Island in the Delaware River, and the last of her hulk was destroyed in 1901.

HSP possesses a ledger of the USS Alliance (#3033), which chronicles prize money distributed to the crew of the USS Alliance in the wake of the capture of Britannia, Anna, Commerce, and Kingston. The volume dates from October 1782 to March 1783, and each member has an account and each account is numbered.  There were a total of 237 men, but the first twelve accounts became detached from the volume at some point and are now absent.

Liberty in the Library: Playwright, HSP Join Together

PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will collaborate with playwright and artist Ain Gordon to explore the intersections of history and contemporary life. Titled An Artist Embedded, Gordon will take the traditional “artist in residence” to the next level by becoming part of HSP’s programs development team over the next two years. Major support for An Artist Embedded has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from HSP.

2014-15 Fellows Announced!

HSP is pleased to announce the 2014-15 fellowship recipients. These scholars research the collections of HSP and LCP to further study their varied areas of interest.

Balch Fellowship

Dr. Hidetaka Hirota, Columbia University: An Anti-Alien Tradition: The History of American Nativism

Julia Lange, PhD Candidate in American Studies, University of Hamburg: Contested Histories: German-American Politics of Memory and the Holocaust

WWII Stage Door Canteen Party

Join the Young Friends for an evening of hors d’oeuvres and drinks from our friends at Tria Café and Narragansett Brewing Company on June 13 from 6 – 8 pm as we pay homage to Philadelphia’s own WWII Stage Door Canteen! Get in the spirit with a performance from the renowned Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, then enjoy our collection of photos from the Stage Door Canteen, and purchase raffle tickets for $5 each - or $20 for 5 - for a chance to win prizes provided by local businesses and cultural attractions.

HSP Launches Podcast Series For Teachers

HSP has launched a new podcast series based on Preserving American Freedom. The series allows teachers to hear from the historians themselves in how they use primary documents in their own respective classrooms and on the importance of engaging students with primary documents. 

Listen to historians talk about the importance of primary sources in relation to their own essays on the website, hear how the website fulfills Common Core Standards, and discover how a high school teacher has already made use of the website in his classroom.

The website Preserving American Freedom was unveiled by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania,  earlier in the year.  It explores how Americans viewed and fought for history from the 17th century to the present.  Preserving American Freedom also provides tools for students and teachers to use the 50 primary documents available on the site and the contextual scholarly articles that go with them to learn more about freedom throughout American history.

Good Times Roll at the Philadelphia Stage Door Canteen

Sifting through the photographs of the Philadelphia Stage Door Canteen, an entertainment center for members of the armed forces during World War II, one can almost forget there was a war going on. Though the outside world dealt with destruction and fear, there was a small haven in the basement of the Academy of Music building where men could forget their troubles and enjoy themselves.

The Stage Door Canteen first opened its doors in June of 1943, and reportedly served 2,500,000 members of the military before it closed in October of 1945. Though it remained open for only three years, the raucous good times that were had at the Canteen are not forgotten, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Collection of World War II Papers features quite a few photographs of the Canteen.

Young men in uniform can be seen posing next to celebrities and enjoying a variety of entertainers. Faces of celebrities crop up with frequency; one photograph features a moment with Duke Ellington playing alongside an orchestra while the next photograph depicts Ethel Merman in the midst of an energetic performance. The entertainment offered by the Canteen was quite diverse. Dancers, opera singers, actors, ventriloquists, and instrumentalists alike all seemed eager to perform for the boys at the Canteen. The photographs of these performances, while varied, are not altogether unexpected. Once in a while, however, the collection provides an opportunity for surprise and even amusement.


One such surprise appears in a folder full of photographs concerning theatre and vocal performances. After images of singers, mouths wide open in mid-song, and actors caught up in their dramatic performances, the last photograph shows a boxing match. Another folder includes a photograph of a performing seal. The Canteen was clearly dedicated to entertaining its guests with all sorts of events, never mind the unusual nature.


Another opportunity for amusement is found in a folder that documents a show entitled This is the Army, a musical based on the 1943 motion picture. One of the last photographs depicts a group of men wearing frilly skirts, the main subject smiling in a pained way and daintily bending his knees. An inscription informs the reader that the picture is from a show cheekily called This is the Navy.


Yet another entertaining photograph appears in a folder full of dance performances. The first few photographs capture the performance of an exotic, scantily-clad dancer. She appears to be completely immersed in her performance. The next photograph reveals that the audience, or at least one specific member of the audience, is similarly immersed in her performance.

Eyebrows raised in interest, a young man in uniform tips his chair backward. Perhaps he was just trying to make sure the dancer had enough space to execute her dance, which apparently calls for her to be sprawled out on the floor at this moment. From his new angle, however, the young man certainly has an improved view up the loose skirt of the dancer. Whether this was an intentional result or merely a happy accident we may never know. The reactions of the rest of the audience to this vignette, ranging from uncertain horror to absolute amusement, are also worth noticing.


There are plenty more opportunities to witness the good times at the Philadelphia Stage Door Canteen in HSP’s Collection of World War II papers. Though the viewer may not completely forget the dark and serious events of World War II, he or she can certainly appreciate the small moments of happiness in an otherwise troubling time.

From the archives: LGBT materials

In the wake of the historic Supreme Court decision on the Defence of Marriage Act and on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, now seems like an appropriate time to highlight some of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's collections related to LGBT movements and history. This is not, of course, an exhaustive list. One of the wonderful and infuriating things about working in archives is never really being sure what's in every folder and on every page of every volume. This can be an exciting part of research -- will the next folder contain a love letter? A recipe for soup? Queen Victoria's wedding cake? But when you're looking for materials about repressed groups of people, this uncertainty can be daunting, as many scholars know. Evidence of these lives can be hidden or lurking in the margins of other texts, requiring some intellectual digging from a researcher and sometimes actual digging (sans-shovel) from your friendly archivist or librarian.

This is a growing area of our collections, which nonetheless contains some important documents. The most impressive, to me, is the entire John Fryer collection (3465). You can read more about Dr. Fryer and his work in a blog post by my colleague, Willhem Echevarria, but here's a quick overview:

Dr. Fryer was a practicing psychiatrist and a homosexual. His 1972 anonymous speech (conducted through a mask and a voice-distoring microphone) to the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association was one of the first steps in getting homosexuality removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Although it took until the 1980s for all mentions of homsexuality to be removed from the DSM, Dr Fryer's speech is still considered a turning point. The collection also contains personal and professional documents and correspondence, his diary, and photographs.

The archives of HSP also contain a pamphlet about Reminder Day (collection 3682), a series of yearly demonstrations held at Independence Hall in the 1960s. Although the Reminder Day protests stopped in the aftermath of Stonewall, they represent some of the first gay rights protests in the United States and laid the groundwork for future movements. The demonstrations were designed to both raise awareness about the rights denied to lesbian and gay people, and to present them as conforming to a certain middle class ideal (and thus being employable). The former was accomplished through picket signs, and the latter through a strict dress code for protesters and an enforcement by protest organizers of quiet, docile behavior.

We also have a typescript of West Chester State Teachers College student Donald Vining's diary (Am.137452). Vining was a student at WCSTC in the 1920s and 30s, and his diary records his experiences there, including being a gay college student in the early 20th century.

In the library, we have a wide variety of materials, including (but of course not limited to):

The John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives at the William Way Community Center is the place to go for a more comprehensive look at LGBT life in Philadelphia from the 1960s through the present. Finding aids for some of the Wilcox Archives materials are available online.


Marbled Papers in the Bank of North America collection

The project conservation team has been busy photographing each of the hundreds of volumes in the Bank of North America collection. In the process we have created a sizeable collection of decorated papers present in these volumes, either as endsheets or exterior covering. Most of these were created using a process known as marbling, although some books contain paste papers as well.

Forms of marbling have been documented in China, Japan and the Middle East prior to the 12th century. Japanese Suminagashi involves the use of sumi inks and it is still a popular paper marbling style. The Turkish Ebru style was first introduced to France, Italy and Germany and craftsmen continued to introduce a wide range of materials and techniques. A Western marbled paper was created by floating a sizing such as carageenan on the surface of a water bath, followed by pigments in the desired sequence and a surfactant such as ox gall. This layer could be manipulated with a variety of tools and motions as well as added chemicals. An alum treated paper was laid on top and gently pulled away to create an impression.

Marbled paper styles may be roughly classified by technique although the variety of the practice ensures dispute. To identify these I relied mostly on the nomenclature established by Richard J. Wolfe in Marbled paper: Its history, techniques, and patterns. With special reference to the relationship of marbling to bookbinding in Europe and the Western world . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

Below is an example of the Nonpareil pattern ("unparalleled" in French), formed with the use of an evenly spaced comb dragged through the pigment layer.



The Shell pattern below was created by mixing the last color to be added to the bath with oil, producinng the characteristic dark centered and white outlined color spots.



This Schrottel pattern's pebbly look was achieved by the addition of an oil and ox gall mixture to a Turkish color base.



The Italian pattern is meant to resemble actual marble stone and the thin veins of color between wide open spaces are created by adding a disperant to the bath after the initial colors. This may have been a combination of soap, spirits and ox gall. In addition, the bath was physically manipulated to create the gradated waves characteristic of the Spanish style,  an innovation that may or may not have originated with the shaky hands of a marbling craftsman nursing a hangover.



The Spanish moiré pattern is a variation that involved folding the paper diagonally first before laying it on the bath and rocking it with repeated motions. This particular paper was possibly double printed, with a gold vein pattern followed by the final Spanish moiré.



The open white lacing of the Stormont pattern below was achieved with the final addition of turpentine or some other dispersant to the bath.



Marbling on printed text occured occasionally as the craftsman reached for whatever paper was available and several volumes in the Bank of North America collection sport such endsheets. This one is a portion of the biography of De Witt Clinton, 1769-1828, the New York politician known as "the father of the Erie Canal".

HSP holds a copy of this 1829 publication: Memoir of De Witt Clinton: with an appendix, containing numerous documents, illustrative of the principal events of his life by David Hosack

More images of the marbled and paste papers of the Bank of North America collection can be seen in this set on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's flickr page.


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