When people think of the melding of faith and business, companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A usually come to mind. However, like all things, the history of this type of partnership has a deeper history. Host John Fea reaches into early America to discuss the complicated integration of faith and business among Philadelphia’s Quakers. They are joined by historian Nicole Kirk (@Prof_in_Chicago), author of Wanamaker’s Temple: The Business of Religion in an Iconic Department Store.
For the past decade I have been teaching a course on Pennsylvania History at Messiah College. The class meets several requirements. Some history majors take it for a 300-level American history elective. Other history majors take it as part of their concentration in public history. Non-history majors take the course to fulfill their general education pluralism requirement.
I have to make this course work for all of these students. For the public history students, we do a lot of work on the relationship between “history,” “heritage,” and “memory.” We also feature some training in oral history. Each student is required to do an oral history project in which they interview and interpret someone who can shed light on a particular moment in Pennsylvania history. As a pluralism course, Pennsylvania History must address questions of religion, race, ethnicity, and social class in some meaningful way.
This year, I split the class into four units:
- “History, memory, and the social history of early American Philadelphia.” We read Gary Nash’s book First City and students took a field trip to the city.
- “The Conestoga Massacre (Paxton Boys riots).” We read Kevin Kenny’s excellent history of the Paxton Boys and students were required to write an essay on a document at the Digital Paxton website.
- “History and memory at Gettysburg.” We read Jim Weeks’s book Gettysburg: History, Memory, and an American Shrine. I put together a “memory” field trip of Gettysburg that focused on race, reunion, and the post July 3, 1863 history of the battlefield.
- “Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Movement and the fate of the Old 8th Ward.” We read multiple articles and utilized the amazing resources at the Digital Harrisburg Project. Students took a field trip to the Capitol Complex, the site of the Old 8th Ward.
After several tries, I think I have finally found a pedagogical formula that works. The students take their two-hour final exam on Friday. Here are the questions they are preparing:
In preparation for the exam, please prepare an answer to one of the following questions:
In each of our four units this semester, we spend considerable time talking about the idea of race and race relations in Pennsylvania History. How do issues related to race play out in the following periods and places in state history:
- Early 19th-century Philadelphia
- The Pennsylvania frontier in the 1750s and 1760s.
- The way the Civil War has been interpreted at Gettysburg
- The City Beautiful movement in Harrisburg
- The Centennial celebration in Philadelphia (1876)
- The Paxton Boys Riots
- Gettysburg as a “sacred” site
- The portrayal of Harrisburg’s Old 8th Ward by reformers affiliated with the City Beautiful movement.
Good luck! Or as I like to say to my Calvinist students: “May God providential give you the grade you deserve on this exam.”
“They are dying on our right hand and on our Left; we have it opposite us, in fact, all around us, great are the number that are called to the grave…To see the hearse go by is now so common that we hardly take notice of it;…we live in the midst of death.” While Isaac Heston penned these words to his brother on September 19, 1793, yellow fever claimed the lives of about 70 Philadelphians each day. “When I see the Metropolis of the United States depopulated,” the 22-year-old moaned, “it is too distressing and affecting a scene for a person young in Life to bear.” A mosquito carrying the virus bit Heston about the time he wrote the letter; he died 10 days later.
It all started in late July 1793 in a brothel near a pier in the northern part of the city. Two mariners, mostly likely from the ship Hankey or one of the other vessels that had arrived a few days earlier from the West Indies, had rented a room at the “disorderly house.” A violent fever quickly killed one of the sailors. An English boarder in the house shivered with an elevated temperature, vomited a black substance, and died a few days later. Mrs. Parkinson, an Irish lodger (or prostitute), suffered with sunken eyes, jaundiced skin, and blood trickling from her nose and mouth for a week before she expired. Both brothel owners died, as did the second mariner and several next-door neighbors.
All these fatalities in such a brief time attracted the attention of Dr. Benjamin Rush, the most distinguished physician in the new nation. After visiting a few of the sick people in the neighborhood, he announced in late August that yellow fever now stalked the city’s streets. During the next three months, the disease killed more than 5,000 people—one out of every 10 Philadelphia residents. Not until the late 19th century did physicians understand that infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were the source of all this human misery.
Back in October 2017 I wrote a post about the skeletons found on the site of the First Baptist Church burial ground. In the last couple of years this story has been a staple of my tour of colonial-era Philadelphia. A luxury residential building now sits on the old Baptist graveyard, but the examination of the bones found by the workers continues.
Here is a taste of Laurel Geggel’s piece at LiveScience:
Thousands of people were buried at the First Baptist Church’s burial ground from about 1702 until 1860, when the cemetery was allegedly relocated. However, when the church moved its cemetery because it was turning into a local garbage dump, the Philadelphia Board of Health gave it only three months that year — from Jan. 1 to April 1 — to move the graves.
This was a tremendous undertaking, and although some of the graves were relocated, the majority were not, Moran said. The fact that the church left behind so many bodies wasn’t publicized, and it wasn’t until 2017 that the extent of the burials was realized, she said.
In all, the remains of at least 3,000 people were still buried there, according to historical records. Moran and her colleagues have since found about 500 of them where the luxury condominium now sits, at 218 Arch Street.
After visiting the site with Anna Dhody, a forensic anthropologist at the Mütter Museum of Philadelphia, Moran was given a box holding 113 bones, mostly long bones from people’s arms and legs. Dhody and Moran offered to help excavate or oversee the project, but they were politely brushed aside, Moran said.
But six weeks later, in February 2017, the developer, PMC Property Group, had a change of heart. Construction workers continued to find bones, and they didn’t know what to do with them. “We came back to the site, and we found very obvious voids in the soil that had wood sticking out of them,” Moran said. “It was obvious that this was a coffin that had been disturbed by the heavy machinery. And someone’s legs were sticking out.”
So, Moran, Dhody and Ani Hatza, a forensic anthropologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, struck a deal with the developer. The scientists would supervise the backhoe work, and if they saw any bones, the backhoe would stop so the scientists could excavate the spot. “It was pretty rough and ready,” Moran said. “They didn’t let us do a meticulous job or anything.”
Read the entire piece here.
Two new street names in Philadelphia. Here is a taste of a piece at Philly.com:
Two dozen people gathered outside the Independence Visitor Center for a ceremony christening Market Street between Front Street and Eighth Street as “Avenue of Our Founders,” in honor of the country’s founding fathers. At the same time Sixth between Race Street and Lombard Streets was renamed “Avenue of Freedom” to mark key sites of black American history.
Read the entire piece here.
I spent the last two Saturdays touring colonial Philadelphia with the students in my Colonial America course at Messiah College.
One of my favorite places to visit on these tours is Christ Church–the flagship Anglican Church in 18th-century Philly. And one of my favorite historians of Christ Church is Neil Ronk, Senior Guide and Historian at the church. Neil is not only an intense and inspiring speaker, but he speaks as if there is really something at stake in the preservation and interpretation of the past.
Here is Neil at work (watch the first 6 minutes):
On Saturday I took some of the students in my Colonial America course at Messiah College on a field trip to colonial Philadelphia. (I am taking the rest of the class this coming Saturday).
Here are some pics:
Today the 2018 Princeton Seminar hit the road. We spent the day in Philadelphia with George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia. George is fixture of the Philadelphia public history world and probably knows more about colonial Philadelphia than anyone else alive. The teachers got a real treat today!
This is very cool:
I first learned about Octavius Catto about ten years ago when we took our daughters to Philadelphia for a short vacation. During our visit we took full advantage of the city’s “Once Upon a Nation” storytelling benches. Professional storytellers at each bench–there are fifteen scattered around the Independence Hall area–tell stories about famous Philadelphians. I don’t know if the program has changed over the years, but when my kids were young they could get a free carousel ride and an ice cream cone in Franklin Square if they visited all fifteen benches.
I vividly remember one of the “Once Upon a Nation” story tellers (I think it was outside the National Constitution Center) telling my girls the story of Catto’s civil rights activism in Civil War-era Philadelphia
I was thus pleased to see that Philadelphia will be erecting a statue near City Hall to commemorate Catto’s contribution to the city’s history.
Over at Philly.Com, writer Jonathan Lai reports on a recent program for teachers on Catto’s life and his contribution to Philadelphia’s African American history.
Here is a taste:
Catto was murdered in 1871, at just 32 years old. He sought to protect fellow African Americans who were trying to exercise their right to vote, which had just been ratified by the states the year before. But his name had been largely missing from the modern discussion of civil rights, organizers have said.
As he has been brought back into popular consciousness — a sculpture is set to be placed next month on the southern apron of City Hall — the School District of Philadelphia, the Catto Memorial Fund, and the National Archives partnered for Thursday’s event, the first in a yearlong series aimed at helping teachers include Catto in their curricula, the educational counterpart to the physical memorial.
The statue is the first of a named African American on public ground in the city. The work, titled Quest for Parity, will feature the 12-foot-tall bronze statue, a stainless-steel ballot box, and five granite pillars symbolizing streetcars.
“The Catto story is the national story. It is part of the story of our Constitution. It is the story of how ordinary citizens work, some every day, to make the Constitution live,” said V. Chapman Smith, an organizer of Thursday’s event who works at the National Archives and who is on the board of the Catto Memorial Fund.
Read the entire article here.
Yesterday the 2017 Princeton Seminar spent the day in Philadelphia. Our host for the day was the legendary George Boudreau, the man who I consider to be the greatest Philadelphia history tour guide of all time!!
George gave us a phenomenal introduction to the colonial city. We made several stops along the way:
- Welcome Park: George oriented us to the layout of William Penn’s city.
- Christ Church: The teachers got their photos taken in George Washington’s pew and we paused at the gravestone of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson where George told us about her life and taught us about the vulnerability of women in colonial America.
- Betsy Ross House: George told us about George Washington’s visit to “Mr. Griscom’s upholstery shop.”
- Arch Street Quaker Meetinghouse: George told some gruesome tales of Philadelphia Quakers building this meetinghouse atop the meeting’s graveyard.
- Benjamin Franklin’s Court: The teachers spent some time in the museum, George signed copies of his book, and George and Ben Franklin sang us a song.
- First National Bank: This was not part of our “colonial” tour, but all the teachers are obsessed with “Hamilton” so we had to make a quick visit here.
- Carpenter’s Hall
- The site of Anthony Benezet’s school for women and African Americans,
- The American Philosophical Society: George rattled off several dozen collections held by the society.
We ended the day at the Pennsylvania State House. In the early 19th-century people started calling this place “Independence Hall.”
We are back in the lecture hall today.
What happens when you put a historian on flight #1793 heading to Philadelphia for a history conference on the early American republic.
The Philadelphia Voice has it covered, but this tweet explains everything:
— Caleb McDaniel (@wcaleb) July 20, 2017
I am in Philadelphia today. This morning I was interviewed for a documentary film on women, religion, and anti-slavery in the early American Republic (1789-1848) titled “The Daring Women of Philadelphia.” The Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmakers at History Making Productions are producing the film.
I don’t pretend to be a historian of women in the early republic. There will be many other historians in the film who will speak authoritatively on this topic. I was asked to participate for the purpose of providing general background information about the Second Great Awakening, benevolent societies, and the religious impetus behind moral reforms movements in the early 1800s. I have no idea if anything I said was useful or will make the cut, but it was fun talking about Charles Finney’s visit to Philadelphia, the Orthodox-Hicksite Quaker schism, Lucretia Mott, “moral suasion,” and the American Bible Society (of course).
We discussed this in my Pennsylvania History class today. This kind of nativism was very strong in Philadelphia in the 1840s and 1850s. We did our best to stay in the 19th century.
I am afraid that this series is no longer “short” (at least by blog standards). If you want to get up to speed click here for earlier installments.
As we have noted before, the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 was very democratic in nature. This is what I wrote in Part 1 of this series:
The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 was the most democratic state constitution in the newly established United States. It had a unicameral legislature and a plural executive. Power rested in the legislature. While there were other states (Vermont and Georgia) that had unicameral legislatures, the Pennsylvania government was unique because it gave the right to vote and the right to hold office to all males, regardless of wealth or land ownership. This meant that the one-house legislature was virtually unchecked by a governor or an upper-house. Members of the legislature had to swear an oath of loyalty to this new government. Proceedings were open to the public and published in newspapers in both English and German. This was democracy at work. Several historians and political scientists have pointed to the influence of Thomas Paine on its framers.
Historians of the American Revolution, especially those from the Neo-Progressive historiographical school, like to point to the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 as an early experiment in democracy.
For example, here is historian Gary Nash:
…the ideas embedded in the radical constitution of 1776 lived on. Reflecting the full flowering of democratic thought in the Revolutionary Era and standing as a prime example of the revolution within the Revolution, it inspired lawmakers around the world. Unicameralism, with its insistence that a true democracy should make no distinction between the haves and have-nots as represented in upper and lower legislative houses, spread around the world. It was acclaimed and implemented in revolutionary France and is how law is made today in Nebraska, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Hong Kong; in all of Australia and Canada’s provinces: in the legislative bodies of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; in Italy and Spain; and in almost all socialist states. Most important, the broadening franchise, in which land ownership is not required for first-class citizenship, in time became the gold standard nationwide and gradually spread aborad as the most important legacy of the sparks from Pennsylvania’s altar of ’76. Philadelphia’s radical caucus had changed Pennsylvania’s position on independence at a crucial moment in the summer of 1776, and in the process had turned Pennsylvania into a people’s republic. —Gary Nash, “Philadelphia’s Radical Cause That Propelled Pennsylvania to Independence and Democracy,” in Ray Raphael, Alfred Young, and Gary Nash, ed., Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation.
Nash is correct. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 was radical. But what he fails to mention is that for many of these members of the convention this kind of progressive democracy had its limits.
Here is Section 10:
A quorum of the house of representatives shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of members elected; and having met and chosen their speaker, shall each of them before they proceed to business take and subscribe, as well the oath or affirmation of fidelity and allegiance hereinafter directed, as the following oath or affirmation, viz:
I do swear (or affirm) that as a member of this assembly, I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote, or resolution, which stall appear to free injurious to the people; nor do or consent to any act or thing whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared in the constitution of this state; but will in all things conduct myself as a faithful honest representative and guardian of the people, according to the best of only judgment and abilities.
And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz:
I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.
And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State.
Yes, the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 established a “people’s republic,” but the only people permitted to govern in this “people’s republic” were those who could uphold a belief in the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. In other words, the framers only wanted Christians running their commonwealth.
Pennsylvania Jews were not very happy about this. In 1783, the Council of Censors, a body that met every seven years to suggest amendments to the constitution so that the government would function more efficiently, received a letter from the leaders of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel congregation.
Here is a taste of that letter:
That by the tenth section of the Frame of Government of this Commonwealth, it is ordered that each member of the general assembly of representatives of the freemen of Pennsylvania, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe a declaration, which ends in these words, “I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the old and new Testament to be given by divine inspiration,” to which is added an assurance, that “no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this state.”
Your memorialists beg leave to observe, that this clause seems to limit the civil rights of your citizens to one very special article of the creed; whereas by the second paragraph of the declaration of the rights of the inhabitants, it is asserted without any other limitation than the professing the existence of God, in plain words, “that no man who acknowledges the being of a God can be justly deprived or abridged of any civil rights as a citizen on account of his religious sentiments.” But certainly this religious test deprives the Jews of the most eminent rights of freemen, solemnly ascertained to all men who are not professed Atheists.
They asked the Council of Censors to amend the Constitution:
Your memorialists beg further leave to represent, that in the religious books of the Jews, which are or may be in every man’s hands, there are no such doctrines or principles established as are inconsistent with the safety and happiness of the people of Pennsylvania, and that the conduct and behaviour of the Jews in this and the neighbouring States, has always tallied with the great design of the Revolution; that the Jews of Charlestown, New York, New-Port and other posts, occupied by the British troops, have distinguishedly suffered for their attachment to the Revolution principles; and their brethren at St. Eustatius, for the same cause, experienced the most severe resentments of the British commanders. The Jews of Pennsylvania in proportion to the number of their members, can count with any religious society whatsoever, the Whigs among either of them; they have served some of them in the Continental army; some went out in the militia to fight the common enemy; all of them have cheerfully contributed to the support of the militia, and of the government of this State; they have no inconsiderable property in lands and tenements, but particularly in the way of trade, some more, some less, for which they pay taxes; they have, upon every plan formed for public utility, been forward to contribute as much as their circumstances would admit of; and as a nation or a religious society, they stand unimpeached of any matter whatsoever, against the safety and happiness of the people.
And your memorialists humbly pray, that if your honours, from any consideration than the subject of this address, should think proper to call a convention for revising the constitution, you would be pleased to recommend this to the notice of that convention.
In the 18th-century world democracy had its limits.
Stay tuned. One or two more posts left in this series.
Bonus feature: We covered the Mikveh Israel letter in a recent episode of the Virtual Office Hours:
For earlier installments in this series click here.
On September 25, 1776, after the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention crafted a bill of rights and were nearly completed with a frame of government, it received this letter from two Philadelphia Presbyterian ministers:
A letter from the Rev. Messrs. Duffield and Marshall, praying that the clergy of this state may be exempted from the burthen of civil offices, and setting forth their reasons for such an exemption, was read, and ordered to lie on the table for consideration.
I am assuming the first person listed as George Duffield, the pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church (Pine Street) in Philadelphia. He would later serve alongside Anglican/Episcopalian William White as a chaplain to the Continental Congress. (William Duffield represented Cumberland County at the convention, but he was not a clergyman). The reference to “Marshall” is probably William Marshall, Duffield’s associate pastor at Pine Street.
I wish I knew the “reasons” why Duffield and Marshall asked for an exemption. The best I can do is speculate in light of other state constitutions that forbade clergy from holding public office. I wrote about some of these constitutions here and here.
It is interesting to note that Duffield and Marshall saw participation in “civil offices” as a “burthen” (burden) to their calling as ministers of the Gospel. In other words, political activity got in the way of their religious duties to the church and they did not want this to happen. Apparently the members of the convention disagreed or at least didn’t think such an amendment was important.
In the end, the proposal was never considered again and the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 did not forbid clergy from civil officers.
For earlier installments in this series click here.
In our last installment we discussed the religious oath that needed to be affirmed by the members of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.
In this post I want to call your attention to the religious practices of the convention itself.
On Wednesday, July 17, 1776, the records of the convention note:
Resolved, That the Rev. Mr. William White, be requested to perform divine service tomorrow before this convention, that we may jointly offer up our prayers to Almighty God, to afford us his divine grace and assistance in the important and arduous task committed to us, and to offer up our praises and thanksgivings for the manifold mercies and the peculiar interposition of his special providence, in behalf of these injured, oppressed, and insulted United States. Col. Matlack and Mr. Clymer are appointed to wait on the Rev. Mr. White, and furnish him with a copy of the foregoing resolve.
On Thursday, July 17, 1776, the records of the convention note: “The Rev. Mr. White attending, agreeably to the request of yesterday, and having performed divine service, and being withdrawn, it was Ordered, on motion, that Mr. Matlack and Mr. Clymer wait upon that gentleman, with the thanks of the convention for his services.”
The reference here is to Rev. William White. He was the twenty-eight-year old assistant minister of Philadelphia’s Christ Church. White was an Anglican who supported the American Revolution. He would later serve as Chaplain of the Continental Congress and the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
These were the only two times that White’s name is mentioned in the records of the convention. It was obviously important to the members of the convention that the proceedings be opened with prayer and a “divine service.”
Here is the post from the blog of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia:
The editors of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia seek to make 50 additional assignments to complete our current phase of expansion. Now is the time to add your expertise to a resource used daily by teachers and students, journalists, scholars, and general readers.
To view the list of available assignments, link here:
To join more than 350 leading and emerging scholars who have already contributed to this peer-reviewed, digital-first project, let us know your choice of topics. Authors will have the opportunity to select feasible deadlines between January and March 2017 and will have the option of volunteering or receiving modest stipends. Prospective authors must have expertise in their chosen subjects demonstrated by previous publications and/or advanced training in historical research. To express interest, please send an email describing your qualifications and specifying topics of interest to the editor-in-chief, Charlene Mires, email@example.com. No attachments, please. Graduate students, please include the name and email address of an academic reference.
The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia‘s expansion is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust. The scope of the project includes the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding region of southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and northern Delaware.
Guidelines for writers:
Roster of authors:
Editors and staff:
One of the great joys of teaching the American Revolution in Pennsylvania is taking my students to Philadelphia. On a good traffic day we can get to Philly from Mechanicsburg, in less than two hours.
Today ten students from my Revolutionary America class (HIST 342) joined me on a tour of the City of Brotherly Love. Our time was limited, and we thus had to move quickly, but we still managed to see Welcome Park, City Tavern, the Powell House (outside only), the Kosciuszko National Memorial (outside only), St. Peter’s Church, the First National Bank (outside only, after a brief stop at the location of Alexander Hamilton’s Philadelphia home), the location of the Museum of the American Revolution (opening in April 2017), Carpenter’s Hall, Ben Franklin Court, the American Philosophical Society, Independence Hall (we also got a tour of the second floor!), and Congress Hall. (And I am sure I missed a few things).
Here are some pics:
Yesterday I spent the day in Philadelphia with thirty-six history teachers from around the country. These teachers were chosen by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History to join me and Nate McAlister, the 2010 National History Teacher of the Year, to participate in a six day summer seminar at Princeton University. This is the third year we have conducted this seminar. We call it The Princeton Seminar. You can see what we are up to by following us @princetonsemnr
This year our day-trip to Philadelphia coincided with the Democratic National Convention. We took a lot of pictures. Here are some of them: