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A Challenge to Irish Music Aficionados

Calling all Irish music enthusiasts, here is a challenge for you!

PORTAL_CEILIThe archive of traditional Irish music in the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection in Villanova University’s Digital Library is growing steadily, now featuring over 200 recordings of Irish jigs, reels, and other tunes from performances at the annual Philadelphia Ceili Group Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival.

Growing alongside this list is….the list of unidentified titles. Listen to this excerpt of a 1977 performance by the group DeDanann, in which the title is obscured:

“We’re going to start with two jigs, the first is called ‘The Munster Buttermilk’, and the second is called….” (Huh?!)

Kudos to anyone who can discern the title of the second jig!

Even better, if you are able to listen to that jig and identify the tune by ear, here is a further challenge for you….

Check out this search of the Digital Library.

All of these recordings contain pieces unidentified by their performers. Can you help to name these tunes?

Please send any information to stephen.spatz@villanova.edu. Thank you!

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“Local News of the Week Condensed”: Ardmore Chronicle, April 13, 1907.

Post for: Susan Ottignon, Special Collections and Digital Library Team
Ardmore Chronicle - Volume XVII, No. 29, Saturday, April 13, 1907.

Ardmore Chronicle – Volume XVII, No. 29, Saturday, April 13, 1907.

Annotated and transcribed text from the digitized copy in the Historical Society of Montgomery County Collection.

 

LOCAL NEWS OF THE WEEK CONDENSED
————
Notes of General Interest Gathered Here and There Around Town.
————
BRIEF PERSONAL MENTION
————
Miss Harriet P. Cooper, of Philadelphia, addressed the Missionary Circle of the First Baptist Church Tuesday afternoon.

Secretary C. D. Bruckner, of the local Y. M. C. A., has been spending the last week in Pittsburg.

A cross-country run, open for all Lower Merion High School [1] boys, except last year’s track team, will be held on April 19. The winner will be awarded a gold medal.

The supper and bazaar given in Masonic Hall Tuesday evening by the ladies the Lutheran church was well attended.

Mr. Conrad Sheive, who comes up for renomination as District Attorney of this county at the June primaries, made a brief canvass of Ardmore on Tuesday.

Bert Simpson, of Narberth, who is traveling in the South with the U. P. [2] baseball team, has made a good showing in the pitchers’ box at several of the games.

The local office of the Lower Merion Directory has been established at No. 1 Colonial Block.

A runaway horse and cart belonging to Mr. Charles Frederick, of Ardmore, narrowly missed colliding with the team of Mr. Harry Bicking last Saturday at Wynnewood station.

Four new arc lights, supplied with electricity from the dynamo in the cellar, will be used in the gymnasium of the public school tonight during the musicale given by the High School.

Sam Lung has moved his laundry from the Y.M. C. A. Building to the location formerly Clinton’s barber shop.

Mrs. H. C. Franzen, who has been visiting Mr. Paul J. Kugler and Dr. Anna Kugler, left for her home in Hartford, Conn., this morning.

The members of the Lutheran church are getting ready for the production of “Who’s Next?” a comedy which promises barrels of fun.

The D. T. Society met last Saturday for their fortnightly assembly at the home of Miss Marguerite Goodman, on Simpson road.

Mr. and Mrs. William Mann entertained on Monday at their home, on Aubrey avenue, in honor of Mr. Mann’s birthday.

A Rummage Sale for the benefit of the Ardmore Free Library will be held April 27 to May 4, inclusive, at the old trolley station, Cricket avenue. Donations are solicited. Articles may be sent to the old trolley station during sale, or send a postal to Mrs. D. Bartlett, and they will be called for.

Miss Helen Morley, who has been visiting Miss Mary McGodlrick for the past month, leaves tonight for her home at Youngstown.

St. Denis’ I. C. B. U. [3] will give a euchre and dance in T. A. B. Hall on April 30.

Mr. Henry Kauffman, of Hackensack, N.J., has been the guest of his mother, Mrs. H. Kauffman, of Simpson road, during the week. On Tuesday evening he left for an extended trip to the Pacific Coast.

Miss Jane Cleaver has returned from a visit of several weeks at Huntingdon, Pa.

The seniors of the Lower Merion High School held their second reception last night in the gymnasium.

The Autocar [4] office team played a nine from the shops last Saturday in the first baseball game of the season. The office won, 11-5.

Mrs. F. Alison and family of, Lancaster avenue, removed yesterday to Chestnut Hill, where they will reside.

Mr. Clarence Piper, of Ardmore, after an absence of six months, has returned to work for his former employer, Mrs. John Cameron, of Bryn Mawr.

The prizes for the drawing to be held soon by St. Denis’ T. A. B. Society [5] are: First, $10; second, an umbrella; third, a suitcase; fourth, a pair of shoes made to order.

Dr. J. Howard Cloud has taken up permanent residence on Lancaster avenue, in the property recently purchased by him, and which was occupied by Mrs. Alison.

Miss Helen Condrick hasreturned [sic] from Pennsville, N. J., where she was visiting friends.

The baggage stand at the Ardmore station is being enlarged by a 20-foot extension.

The work of enlarging the store of the Elborn Hardware Company has been going on all week.

Rev. F. W. Staley spent part of the week in Harrisburg.

Don’t forget the lecture in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church next Thursday night, on “An Hour’s Ride With General Phil Sheridan.

The Christian Endeavor Society of the Baptist church of Ardmore held a business meeting and social at the residence of Mrs. J. E. Bourne on Tuesday evening.

Charley Cassell, of Ardmore, who was to have been tried out for the Ardmore baseball team, received an offer from Cornell University, and he left for Ithaca on Tuesday morning. He will try “pitching” his way through college.

The Hayloft of Blue Jacket Tribe, 395½, Imp. O. R. M. [6], full regalia, paid a visit to Manoa Tribe on Thursday evening. They had “a large time.”

A number of Ardmore people attended the T. A. B. dance at Rosemont on Thursday night.

————–
1. “Ruins of the Ardmore Public School (1900) — Photograph.” Collection: W. Robert Swartz. Lower Merion Historical Society Archives. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/photodb/web/html2/138-1.html>
2. University of Pennsylvania.
3. Irish Catholic Benevolent Association.
4. “Autocar in Lower Merion.” By David Schmidt, Special to Main Line Life. The Lower Merion History Society. Copyright © Lower Merion Historical Society. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://lowermerionhistory.org/dev/sample-page/full-text-resources/david-j-schmidt-collection/278-2>
5. Temperance — Societies, etc.
6. ” . . . The fraternity traces its origins back to 1765 and is descended from the Sons of Liberty. . . ” The Improved Order of Red Men. Content © 1998-2014 The Improved Order of Red Men. All rights reserved. Accessed 11 March 2014. <http://redmen.org/redmen/info/>

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“We cannot consecrate…”

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: November 19, 2013
  • Filed Under: Pennsylvaniana

Grounds

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the address of President Lincoln to formally dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, i.e. the Gettysburg Address. A report of the dedicatory speeches – Lincoln wasn’t the main speaking attraction at the event – was commissioned by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and appeared in 1864 along with maps of the cemetery and the plot of the fallen soldiers of Pennsylvania.

This rare item is housed in Special Collections and has been digitized for your viewing convenience as part of the Pennsylvaniana collection:
[http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:93686]

Lincoln’s address is on page 110…

Address

map

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Chaos Unveiled: New Exhibit on the Origins of Villanova University

Posted for: Karla Irwin, Villanova University.

When I was presented with the opportunity to curate an online exhibition as the Fall 2011 Digital Library Intern I jumped at the chance. Through the course of my internship I had grown more familiar with the wealth of materials in the Digital Library and I was eager to explore one area in particular: materials related to rioting that occurred in Philadelphia in 1844. Before seeing the items I knew nothing about the riots which was surprising to me because I had grown up in the area and lived in Philadelphia for a number of years. After conducting a little more research I was amazed at the history of the riots and wondered how many people in the area were like me and unaware that the riots had happened. I thought the story of the riots were an important one to share and now it is my pleasure to present to you Chaos in the Streets: The Philadelphia Riots of 1844.

Philadelphia in 1844 was a hotbed of religious and ethnic prejudice, most notably toward Catholics and the Irish. This was representative of a national sentiment and the exhibition looks at a group called the Nativists, who later became the Know Nothing Party, and their role in the rioting. In May and July of 1844 these issues came to a breaking point and the city of Philadelphia saw some of its most violent days in her history. The riots would ultimately have many lasting effects and it can be said that the Philadelphia you see today is partially a result of those violent days.

The Digital Library provides access to quite a large collection relating to the riots including a collection of letters from Morton McMichael who was the sheriff at the time. His letters and personal journal provide a first-hand account of what it was to be like on the streets of Philadelphia in the mid 1840’s. Only a small portion of his entire collection is utilized in the exhibit and so I recommend taking a longer look at the letters as they offer a fascinating window into policing in Philadelphia during that time.

There was no shortage of interesting material on the riots but one aspect that proved especially dramatic to me was the role the Catholic Churches had in the rioting, particularly St. Augustine’s Church. I had visited the church many years ago in the Old City section of Philadelphia and walked by it countless times. What I did not know is that the St. Augustine’s I saw today was rebuilt from the one that had burned down during the rioting. Sadly, along with the burning of the church, a library containing an invaluable collection of theological materials was also destroyed. Imagine my amazement when I found out some of the books from that library ended up in Special Collections in Falvey Library! You will find in the exhibition how the Augustinian community in Philadelphia put major roots down in both center city Philadelphia and, of course, Villanova University. I hope you find the connection, and how it relates to the riots, as interesting as I do.

Finally, I would like to thank Michael Foight and Laura Bang for their valuable guidance, Joanne Quinn for the graphics, Susan Connor, Susan Ottignon, and Chelsea Payne for their informative transcription work, and David Lacy for his work on technical details. Without them the exhibition would never have come to fruition.

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A lost piece of Theater History

 

One of the most satisfying aspects of working in a digital library is the opportunity to expose people to a life or a story they may not have realized existed. A week ago I was presented with an archival box full of pieces of a puzzle. The pieces belonged to a man named Howard Merrill Shelley and the puzzle I am working on is how to put together the events that make up the life of this man. I have begun scanning in images and other assorted items from the box, and his story is slowly coming to light, possibly for the first time in fifty years.

Howard Shelley (1879-1956) was known primarily as a Philadelphia theater and opera personality. However, before I go into that, I would like to delve into his ancestors, an interesting topic of its own. Howard Merrill’s lineage plays like a who’s who of American history. Howard’s mother, Sophia Rittenhouse Shelley, is directly descended from the famous scientist and astronomer, David Rittenhouse. Howard’s grandmother, Amanda McClellan is related by marriage to none other than Benjamin Franklin and is directly related to the Civil War general, George B. McClellan.

 

 

George himself was the grandson of General Samuel McClellan of the Revolutionary War. Samuel married Rachel Abbe, a direct descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

 

 

Howard also had a famous second cousin named Kate Shelley. While not a household name today, in her own time she was a famous poet and folk hero. As a young girl she risked her own life to save hundreds of lives by averting a potential train accident.

Not surprisingly, Howard Shelley thought his own family history quite interesting and wrote a successful play about it in 1914 called The Family Tree. At the time in Philadelphia, as well as other major cities, there was a craze to document and brag about one’s own family history in order to secure social prestige and Howard took advantage of this subject to write his satirical comedy. Prior to The Family Tree Howard co-wrote a popular musical called The Beauty Doctor in 1904. An article in the Geneva Daily Times described this production as a piece “based on the beauty culture craze, which is handled in a broadly humorous way and is said to afford ample opportunity for hearty fun”.

After writing two successful satires for the stage, Howard went on to become a theatrical press agent. He wrote an early form of gossip column about society under the name Barclay Beekman for the New York Daily Mirror and was also employed by stars of the stage, including Lillian Russell, an actress and singer, and Luisa Tetrazzini, an Italian opera soprano.

 

Digitizing the Howard Shelley Collection has been like working on a miniature time capsule of Philadelphia genealogy and theater history. I have only completed about a third of the collection and am eager to discover how the other pieces of the puzzle come together. What I find remarkable is that despite having two hit shows and an active life in theater and opera, Howard Shelley and his productions have managed to escape history’s grasp. It causes one to realize that the majority of popular culture today may not survive a hundred years, for better or worse. For my part, I am glad to have the opportunity to once again put Howard Shelley in the spotlight.

Posted for Karla Irwin, Fall 2011 Digital Library Intern.

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A View from Behind Bars: The Diary of Thomas Lloyd, Revolutionary and Father of American Shorthand, from Newgate Prison 1794-1796.

Thomas Lloyd

One of the more interesting and unique items in the Falvey Memorial Library Digital Collection is the diary of Thomas Lloyd (1756–1827) – teacher, stenographer, soldier in the American Revolutionary War and “Father of American Shorthand”. The diary covers the latter half of Lloyd’s incarceration time in London, first at Fleet Prison for debt and later at Newgate Prison for seditious libel against the British government. This item is part of the Lloyd Collection, a subcollection of the American Catholic Historical Society collection hosted at the Villanova University Digital Library.

Born August 14th, 1756 to William and Hannah Biddle Lloyd, Thomas Lloyd first studied shorthand in what is now modern day Belgium at the College of St. Omar. Shortly after, Lloyd immigrated to America right before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, where he joined the war effort as part of the Maryland Militia Fifth Independent Company. Later, as part of the Maryland Regiment Fourth Company, he was wounded and captured at the Battle of Brandywine (which took place a short drive from Villanova University’s campus). After the war (he was released in a prisoner exchange, recovered in a hospital in Lancaster, PA, and later discharged from the army in 1779), Lloyd used his shorthand skills to record the debates of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Starting in 1787, this work included recording and publishing the debates of the Pennsylvanian Convention to ratify the United States Constitution.

This job led to both note and notoriety, as Thomas Lloyd’s pro-ratification stance was well-known, and reports and rumors abounded of Lloyd taking bribes to help the pro-ratification side. Although Lloyd recorded both pro-ratification and anti-ratification stances, both for the Maryland and Pennsylvanian delegation, the bulk of the speeches that were published were almost always of the pro-ratification kind. Eventually, with the Constitution ratified, Thomas Lloyd attended the First Federal Congress with the goal of recording the entirety of the debates — this job became official when Lloyd was appointed official recorder of the second session of the House of Representatives. The works of Thomas Lloyd during this period, including his notes and published articles, are considered the most accurate representations of the goings-on of Congress during this historic portion of American history.

Visiting family members in London in 1791, he stayed on to help with his father’s business. During his time in London, his desire to familiarize Londoners with the new Republic and its systems led Lloyd to publish “The Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States of America, with the Constitution prefixt” in 1792. Unfortunately, Lloyd also ran into financial difficulties (his London agent failed to make good on his agreements), and Lloyd was arrested and incarcerated in Fleet Prison in London for debt.

While in Fleet Prison, Thomas Lloyd was charged with seditious libel against the British government for posting a placard containing a “declaration of republican principles” on a chapel door. Found guilty, he was sentenced to one hour in the pillory, fined five thousand dollars, and received a three year sentence in Newgate Prison. It was during his prison stay that Lloyd, along with Mathew Carey, a friend and prominent publisher/employee of the Pennsylvania Herald, published “The System of Shorthand Practiced by Thomas Lloyd in Taking Down the Debates of Congress and Now (With His Permission) Published for General Use”. It was this work that made Thomas Lloyd famous for his shorthand style.

Thomas Lloyd Diary Page 10-11 

Looking for a cure for an ulcer?

During his time in Newgate Prison, Lloyd kept a diary with near-daily entries on every topic from daily prison life to recipes for medicines to shipping manifests and prices of various goods. The diary reads less like a typical journal of events and thoughts and more like a batch of notes lying haphazard on a desk (or rather more like an engineer’s notepad). This gives the impression the diary wasn’t intended to be published, but rather used as a collection of random notes for things to be remembered in the short-term for later use. An example of this can be seen starting on page 9, where Lloyd, rather than using the space for daily events, lists several recipes in his diary, including some medicinal ones. An example on page 11 has a treatment for ulcers – Lloyd had complained of being ill on several previous pages, which might be the impetus for this entry. As well, entries are written both vertically and horizontally on the page, with numerous scratch-outs, inserts and margin notes. The haphazard style of the diary, while making the pages harder to read, gives the diary the advantage of authenticity – the chance to read the thoughts and notes of someone before they got too heavily filtered for the general public. In addition, the various topics and notes give a more complete picture of the time period and the daily comings-and-goings of both the prison and the outside world.

An interesting item from the diary to those unfamiliar with London prisons is the sheer amount of visitors who call on Thomas Lloyd during his incarceration — it seems like he gets at least one, if not two, visits a day, mostly on either business or legal reasons. These visitors often dine with Lloyd as well. Visits occur frequently enough that Lloyd often makes note of the days without visitors (as well as recording his tendency to get despondent on those days). This is due to the two-tier prison system common in 1790s London – commoners are housed in one section of the prison and have little rights and privileges, whereas more upscale citizens (or at least those with money) are housed in a separate section of the prison and given leeway to have visitors, conduct business, and on occasion even live outside the prison walls. According to the information contained in the diary, Thomas Lloyd is definitely in the latter group.

This of course isn’t to say Lloyd had an easy life in prison – on the contrary, as early as page one Lloyd complains of being assaulted by fellow prisoners as well as being very ill. Lloyd often records not being well over the two years covered in his diary, suggesting that prison sanitation may not be all that great, or that stress was getting the better of his immune system. My own hypothesis on this is that it’s a bit of both.

Thomas Lloyd Diary Page 97-98 

The 1790s version of drunk dialing…

For historians, lots of historical references are peppered throughout the diary. Two examples: page 171 of the diary notes that Friday, September 11th was the 18th anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine (where Lloyd was wounded and captured by the British) and page 93 has a note on receiving news of the death of Robespierre, the famous figure of the French Revolution (as well as some opinions on the man and his ideals). On a lighter note, head over to page 97, where Lloyd records taking 30 drops of Laudanum (read: opium) for his fever, which may have contributed to his declaration that a British officer “was afraid to kiss [his] posterior” later in the entry.

For those interested in shorthand, the diary has numerous examples of shorthand notation. A good example can be seen on page 107 where Lloyd shortens words that end in “-ought” with “ot”. Lloyd was also known to remove vowels from words in his shorthand, like the word “said” with “s.d”, also seen on page 107.

You can see the diary for yourself, as well as obtain a transcript here in the Digital Library.

Debtors’ PrisonWikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2 April 2011 Web. Apr 2011.

National Shorthand Reporters Association. “Unveiling the Lloyd Memorial Tablet” The National Shorthand Report Vol. 1 No. 9. Sept 1903. Google Books. Web. Apr 2011.

Newgate PrisonWikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 April 2011 Web. Apr 2011.

Thomas Lloyd (stenographer)Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 November 2010. Web. Mar 2010.

Thomas Lloyd commonplace book, 1789-1796 Notes” American Philosophical Society. Web. Mar 2010.

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Celebrating Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month in the United States, so here are a few interesting titles on the topic. These titles are part of an exhibit on the first floor of the library, on display until the end of the month, and they are all available online through our Digital Library or the Internet Archive.

Angelica Van Buren, from "The Ladies of the White House."

The ladies of the White House; or, In the home of the presidents: being a complete history of the social and domestic lives of the presidents from Washington to the present time—1789-1881 by Laura C. Holloway (Philadelphia: Bradley & Co., 1881) provides one of the first collective biographies of the First Ladies of the United States. “Without the effective and intelligent aid they rendered,” Holloway writes in her introduction, “no administration would have been satisfactory; and though the political historian may ignore such service, the right-thinking, honorable men or women of this country have a higher appreciation of the services rendered by these ladies, who were the power behind the throne, equal in social influence to the throne itself, and a historical work bearing upon their lives is a valuable contribution to the nation’s official history.” This work was published in several editions; the 1881 edition includes the First Ladies from Martha Washington through Lucretia Rudolph Garfield. For more information about the history of the First Ladies of the United States, see this article on Wikipedia or this up-to-date list of brief biographies on the White House website.

For an interesting look at nineteenth-century domestic life, be sure to check out The complete home: an encyclopedia of domestic life and affairs … by Mrs. Julia McNair Wright (Philadelphia: J. C. McCurdy & Co., 1879). These tips and tricks are narrated by “Aunt Sophronia” to her three young nieces. Be sure to check out the illustrations! (The Internet Archive scans do not do them justice, so we have included our own scans of the illustrations in our Image Collection.) In the years following the U.S. Civil War, domestic bliss was seen as the nation’s saving grace after the loss of so many lives. In addition, women’s active role in the abolitionist movement came to an end with the passing of the 15th Amendment and women themselves became the topic of debate, with some parties arguing that women belonged in traditional domestic roles and others arguing that women should be allowed to participate more freely in non-traditional arenas.

Modern Home, from "The Complete Home..."

On that note, the Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held in Washington, D.C., January 16, 17, 18, 19, 1893 edited by Harriet Taylor Upton (Washington, D.C.: The Association, 1893) gives a different perspective of nineteenth-century life, when women were still fighting for the right to vote. We often take our voting rights for granted these days, so it is important to look back at the history of women’s suffrage. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was formed in 1890 as a result of the merger of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, both of which were founded in 1869. It took 51 years from the initial creation of those two groups until women’s suffrage was finally achieved when the 19th Amendment became law in August of 1920, less than 100 years ago. For more on the history of the NAWSA and the path to women’s suffrage, check out this site, part of an online exhibit from the Bryn Mawr College Library.

Speaking of Bryn Mawr, another interesting book is A Book of Bryn Mawr stories edited by Margaretta Morris and Louise Buffum Congdon (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs and Company, 1901). I am a 2005 alumna of Bryn Mawr College, so I couldn’t resist giving them a mention during Women’s History Month. Founded in 1885, Bryn Mawr College was not the first women’s college in the United States, but it was the first to offer undergraduate education on par with that of the top men’s colleges. The College sought to provide women with intellectual challenges and give them the opportunity to conduct original research, “a European-style program that was then available only at a few elite institutions for men.” It was also the first institute of higher education to grant graduate degrees (including doctorates) to women. In 1892, Bryn Mawr founded the first self-government association, granting its students the right to make and enforce the rules governing their conduct. From its inception, Bryn Mawr College strove to overcome the nineteenth-century notion that women were not the intellectual equals of men. This collection of “Bryn Mawr stories” marked the first truly introspective look at the College. Although fictional, the stories provide early glimpses of the unique characteristics of Bryn Mawr.

From the Handbook for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

Interesting aspects of women’s history turn up in many areas of our Digital Library, so be sure to take a look around. In particular, check out the correspondence of the Sherman-Thackara families or the Barry-Hayes Papers for love letters and domestic matters, primarily from the 19th-century, or the Handbook for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Fort Des Moines, Iowa (1943).

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Philly and the Railroads of PA – A View From 1875

The Pennsylvaniana Collection in the Digital Library is the perfect place to go if you want a detailed look at the life and layout of 19th Century Philadelphia – in particular a very interesting old book entitled “Philadelphia and its Environs, and the Railroad Scenery of Pennsylvania.” This engaging little volume, published in 1875 by J. B. Lippincott and Co., catered richly to my penchant for poring over street maps, and taught me much about Philly’s geographical development over its multi-century history; and beyond the reports of long-gone former features of familiar locations within the original city bounds, throughout the districts consolidated in 1854, and even into the western and northern suburbs, the adventure stretches deep into the Pennsylvania countryside, illustrating the Keystone State’s unique place in the history of American railroads.

It’s fairly common knowledge that the famous Dock Street, site of William Penn’s original landing, was a winding creek before unsanitary conditions led the city to level and pave it over, but in this book I learned about several other lesser-known bygone landmarks that imparted names to prominent Center City streets: the creek running east to the Delaware which began at a spring at what is now the corner of 6th and Spring Garden; and the eastern terminus of Arch Street, which sunk into a ravine west of Front Street and was crossed at that junction by an arch. (Front Street, which once outlined a river bluff mandated for preservation by William Penn as a public promenade, of course now overlooks Interstate 95.) And did you know that Race Street used to be called Sassafras, and that South Street used to be Cedar?

fountain at Franklin Square

fountain at Franklin Square

Intended as a guide for tourists paying a visit to Philadelphia, the book leads the reader to a host of historical landmarks, buildings, and natural features, many of which – Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House, for example – are still kept alive in memory today as current attractions; but the perspective of 1875 also brings to life many sleeping giants within present-day Philly. Fairmount Park in particular must have been very beautiful, judging by the detailed descriptions of the parks and monuments at sites like Lemon Hill, and the woodcut illustrations of views from various bluffs above the Schuylkill. This was the eve of the Centennial Exposition, and especially noteworthy is the mention of ongoing construction of the permanent hall, the building that was “saved” in 2008 by the Please Touch Museum. Overall this virtual tour is very thorough; reading this section of the book one gets the sensation of systematically traversing the streets of Philadelphia and experiencing them as they must have appeared in 1875, buildings, parks, railroads and all.

on the grade

A Pleasure Tour on PA Railroads

Also very thorough, vivid, and exciting is the tour given in the second half of the book – an imaginary journey through the entirety of Pennsylvania’s unique and wonderful railways. This author takes you on a memorable ride through the dips and turns of the Delaware Water Gap and the Lehigh Valley, up and down the ingenious locomotive-free switchbacks of the “gravity railroad” at Mauch Chunk, and west into the coal country developed by Stephen Girard (namesake of Girard Avenue), where the grades were some of the steepest in the world, and where horseshoe curves existed such that “engineers going over the road with long coal-trains, on dark nights, have been signaled to stop by a red light on the track ahead, which, on investigation, proved to be the customary signal-lamp on the end of their own trains.” These descriptions held a special interest for me, as I had recently heard mention of these very same areas by Engineering professor Dr. Ronald Chadderton in the course of his lecture in Falvey Library on the 1889 Johnstown flood. And of course, roads closer to the source (Philly) are described in detail which illustrates how much of our surroundings in Southeast PA – the “Main Line”, and the riverside route down the Delaware toward Ridley Park and Chester – were already venerated fixtures of the region even as far back as 135 years ago.

Porcelain Teeth

Porcelain Teeth

And last but never least, a popular publication of the 19th century is always a great place to browse antique advertisements. In this volume, look for Samuel S. White’s Porcelain Teeth, Marcy’s Sciopticon (a primitive projector of some kind), W. J. Wilcox’s Lard Refinery, and Atmore’s Mince Meat (source of the cow on the Pennsylvaniana Collection’s banner image). Point your browser to http://digital.library.villanova.edu/Pennsylvaniana/Pennsylvaniana-00001.xml, and go back to 1875 for a fascinating trip around Philadelphia and Its Environs.

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William Tecumseh Sherman’s Civil War Uniform: a treasure returns

An important part of the Sherman Thackara Collection has been returned to Falvey Memorial Library from a long term loan to the Civil War Museum. General William Tecumseh Sherman’s U.S. Civil War frock coat had been reunited with the papers, photographs, and other items donated by the Sherman Thackara family, making this a unified collection once again. This specific coat was worn during the period when Sherman was a major general. Sherman was promoted to this rank officially on August 12, 1864, but it was likely he wore the uniform much earlier from 1862 when he was promoted to Major General of Volunteers just after Shiloh, so this coat was likely worn during the fateful Georgia Campaign and the subsequent Union army “March to the Sea”. One can almost smell the whiff of burning Atlanta!

Frock Coat

The physical coat is on prominent display on the 2nd floor of Falvey Memorial Library in the climate controlled and secure Special Collections Rare Book Room which houses other treasures of the University. A digital surrogate can be viewed online as part of the Digital Library’s Sherman Thackara Collection which documents Sherman’s family especially his favorite daughter Elly Sherman Thackara and her husband Alexander Thackara.

As can been seen in this photograph of the coat, the army’s regulations stipulated an organization of buttons to designate the rank of general officers. The buttons on a major general’s frock coat, like Sherman’s, were grouped in three sets of three; those on a brigadier general’s coat were arranged in four sets of two. This helps us date the garment to a specific date range.

Here is a detailed photograph of the buttons from the Sherman coat, which were specific to the General Staff, and worn on Union general’s coats:

General Staff buttons

Two period photographs from the Library of Congress’s Civil War Photograph Collection showing Sherman wearing his Major General’s coat follow:

Sherman on Horseback

Sherman leaning on cannon

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Philly’s Storied Past Celebrated at 1912 Pageant

  • Posted by: Stephen Spatz
  • Posted Date: October 16, 2009
  • Filed Under: Pennsylvaniana

Ye who would learn the glory of your past
And form a forecast of the things to be
Give heed to this, a city’s trumpet blast
And see her pictured life in pageantry

And so the citizens of Philadelphia did in October of 1912, when an ornate historical pageant was staged for the general public on the west bank of the Schuylkill River in what is now Fairmount Park. coverThis elaborate presentation, staged by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer on the model of the pageants that were then very popular throughout England and the continent, involved scores of players and dramatized the major events of centuries of our region’s history, from the first glimpse of the Delaware Bay by Henry Hudson to the 1854 consolidation of the old city proper with the 28 surrounding districts into the metropolis we know today. For an entertaining and thorough view back at this amazing event, look no further than the Pennsylvaniana collection of Villanova University’s Digital Library, where a digitized version of the Official Pictorial and Descriptive Souvenir Book of the Historical Pageant, October Seventh To Twelfth, 1912, is mounted in its entirety and available for public viewing.

The impressive historical scope of this fascinating event was faithfully detailed for the spectator in the extensive Historical Notes which accompany each scene of the script, which itself appears unabridged. quaker bluesHaving just spent the summer slogging through H. W. Brands’ sprawling Franklin biography The First American, I delighted in revisiting the famous scenes of colonial times, fleshed out by the notes and then dramatized in grand and often humorous fashion: the opulent Governor Johan Printz of New Sweden, living in splendor at Tinicum as his short-lived “empire” crumbled; the futile rivalry between the Dutch and Swedish as English dominance set in, where a Swedish explorer describes the Schuylkill River as “…This fine stream that empties itself into the great river like a flagon of wine down the throat of a Dutchman”; William Penn frolicking with the Lenapes at Dock Street; General Lafayette’s emotional 1824 homecoming; and the bizarrely baroque finale, in which heralding trumpeters beckon to the four corners as sprites symbolizing the 28 districts period(Manayunk and Germantown from the northwest, Kingsessing and West Philadelphia from the southwest, Tacony, Northern Liberties, and Bridesburg from the northeast, Passyunk from the southeast, etc.) appear, nobly gathering in supplication around a central matronly goddess figure—Philadelphia herself. Interspersed throughout the script are color plates of costumes designed for the production: British Redcoats, French Gentlemen, and Marie Antoinette, among others.

In addition to the script, notes, and ample supplemental historical essays which make up the bulk of the text, there is a wealth of incidental materials that paint a rich portrait of early 20th century Philadelphia society. Dozens of photos of dignitaries, planning committee members, benefactors, and other participants provide an intimate glance at period dress, hairstyles, and mustaches. Even more extensive is the advertising section, which covers over 100 pages at the back of the volume. Flip through page after page, and see what industries flourished in the Philadelphia of a century ago. From bankers and insurance companies to furriers and jewelers, from horseshoes and borax soap makers to coal suppliers and gas engine manufacturers, these were the merchants who saw fit to advertise at the biggest civic event of the year. horseshoesParticularly interesting are the many photos and drawings of the factory buildings used by these companies; considering the huge number of abandoned buildings in present-day Philadelphia, the ads in this book could provide valuable guidance for students of Philadelphia architectural history.

The Official Pictorial and Descriptive Souvenir Book of the Historical Pageant is unique for the view into pre-WWI Philadelphia that its printed historical content affords us. But even beyond this, a certain feature makes this particular copy one of a kind: penciled marginalia from the original owner. On page 11, roll was taken on the list of members of the Women’s Committee, and on page 51, the cast of the scene of Washington at Gray’s Ferry was heavily annotated by someone who evidently knew many of the cast members. These markings lift this volume off the bookshelf and place it in the hands of a spectator in the crowd at the actual event, 97 years ago this month!

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Last Modified: October 16, 2009