Just kidding. Fake news.
But this is funny:
Just kidding. Fake news.
But this is funny:
During the 1770s and 1780s, City Tavern was a popular dining place for delegates of the Continental Congress and other founding fathers. The site of the 1773 building has served many purposes since that time, but twenty-six years ago restauranteur Walter Staib won congressional approval to operate the tavern and feature 18th century style cuisine.
Tourism made up a significant portion of Staib’s business at City Tavern. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to keep the establishment open.
Here is the Philadelphia Voice:
Staib told the Philadelphia Business Journal that City Tavern relied on overseas tourism for about 40% of its business. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Staib was already nearing the end of his lease with the National Park Service. With business grinding to a halt, he decided not to renew his lease as a concessionaire.
The building contains three floors of dining rooms that can hold up to 300 guests. The restaurant’s large staff had been pared down during the pandemic.
Staib, who received congressional approval to open the restaurant in 1994, said he expects the property will undergo major renovations before it is reopened. It’s unclear what the future holds for the historic site.
Read the entire piece here.
Great speech, but wasn’t Obama’s Democratic convention speech at the Museum of the American Revolution? (He said it was at the Constitution Center).
About a decade ago, I was working hard on a book titled “The Greenwich Tea Burning: History and Memory in an American Town.” I came close to signing a book contract, but I got distracted by other things and let things slip. Maybe one day I will finish it. I know that my students who participated in the Greenwich Tea Burning Project will be happy when its done.
One of the chapter of this manuscript deals with the 1874 centennial celebration of the tea burning. As part of my research I read a lot of secondary material on the United States Centennial of 1876. I use a lot of that research when I teach my Pennsylvania History course at Messiah University. I also wrote a bit about the Philadelphia Centennial in The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.
I thought about all that reading when I saw a recent post at the blog of the American Antiquarian Society titled “Centennial America: Celebrating the Fourth with the Great Buildings of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.” I amazed at how these kinds of celebrations transformed urban spaces.
Here is a taste:
This year, we wanted to go big! And it’s difficult to imagine a celebration bigger than the one honoring the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. (1876 also marks the unofficial cut-off year for our collections, although many of you already know that we have items that go well beyond that!) America is a diverse place, and every town and city has its own rich history celebrating this holiday. As readers might guess, in 1876, Philadelphia was the site of one of the biggest celebrations in the country.
Since this post falls between the start of summer and the Fourth of July holiday weekend, we also wanted to start off our summer the right way, too! While it’s too early to know what this season holds for us all, summers often bring in fairs, carnivals, and other community events. Is there an event bigger than the World’s Fair?
The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 was the first official World’s Fair to be held in the United States. Held in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, from May 10 to November 10, nearly 10 million visitors visited the Exposition! The opening ceremony was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia along with 186,272 people–110,000 entered with free passes.
Read the entire piece here.
Between August 1 and November 9, 1793, at least 5000 Philadelphians died of yellow fever. (The city had a population of 50,000).
I want to call your attention two short pieces on this front.
How then do 1793 and 2020 compare? Both then and now, political parties appear divided over the causes and solutions to the epidemics. The biggest difference between the two cases is the perspective on executive power. Today, disease prevention and public health are managed by executive agencies that report to the president. The heads of the departments sit on the National Security Council to ensure that global pandemics don’t threaten the nation’s security. The founders couldn’t have envisioned the current pandemic we face, but they understood that certain crises called for federal action. While they weren’t prepared to call for that action in 1793, we can today.
Simon Finger‘s piece at The Panorama is titled “Patients and Patience: The Long Career of Yellow Fever.” Here is a taste:
The lesson of a city saved by shared sacrifice and civic responsibility is an inspiring one for 2020, when so much hangs upon popular cooperation with calls for social distancing, home sheltering, and public masking. But while Carey’s story ends happily in 1793, that outbreak was only the beginning of a longer ordeal, and one that carried different lessons for the present. Yellow fever returned to North America every summer until 1805, claiming more than 12,000 lives in the process.
Read the entire piece here.
Check out Meagan Flynn’s piece at The Washington Post:
On the afternoon of Sept. 28, 1918, about 200,000 people crammed onto the sidewalks in Philadelphia to watch a two-mile parade snake through downtown in the midst of World War I. Billed as the city’s largest parade ever, it featured military planes and aggressive war-bond salesmen working the crowds, in scenes that graced the front pages of the evening papers.
But readers who flipped toward the back of the Evening Bulletin might have stumbled on an unsettling headline: In the last 24 hours, 118 people in Philadelphia had come down with a mysterious, deadly influenza, which was quickly spreading from military camps to civilians amid a worldwide pandemic.
“If the people are careless, thousands of cases may develop and the epidemic may get beyond control,” the city’s health commissioner, Wilmer Krusen, said in the 1918 article, according to the Philly Voice.
He was the same person who, just a day earlier, allowed to go forward what is now known as the deadliest parade in American history. In doing so, he ignored the advice of medical professionals who urged him to cancel the parade or risk an epidemic.
Within three days, every bed in the city’s 31 hospitals was filled. There were thousands of influenza patients.
A century later, as the novel coronavirus grips the nation with anxiety and disrupts everyday life, Philadelphia’s 1918 Liberty Loan parade “is a perfect historic example of how the misplaced priorities can become so dangerous,” historian Kenneth C. Davis told The Washington Post on Wednesday. This week, major cities including Philadelphia, New York and Chicago decided to cancel their St. Patrick’s Day parades amid fears of accelerating the spread of coronavirus.
Read the rest here.
I spent a lot of time in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) in the 1990s when I was writing my doctoral dissertation. I have also lectured there a few times. So needless to say I was saddened to learn that this venerable institution was having financial troubles.
Yesterday the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer called on the city to strengthen the HSP.
Here is a taste of the editorial:
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania realized $2.2 million last November by selling 1,102 commemorative medals from a collection bequeathed to it in 1897. The financial struggles of this nonprofit institution in Center City are worrisome but all too familiar. In 2018, the Philadelphia History Museum abruptly shut down. While it will be rebooted through a partnership with Drexel University, neither the Historical Society’s proposed affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania nor with Drexel has borne fruit.
HSP calls itself “Philadelphia’s Library of American History” with good reason: It is home to a printer’s proof of the Declaration of Independence, a first draft of the Constitution, a journal of the Underground Railroad, and millions of other handwritten, printed, and engraved materials.
Selling commemorative medals said by society officials to be of marginal scholarly and public interest was at best a stopgap measure. Last year, the Historical Society, founded in 1824, laid off one-third of the employees on a staff described as already bare-bones.
This suggests a broader, deeper, community-driven effort is needed to strengthen this institution. The society is part of an ecosystem of institutions, including the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, that support the city’s status as a global center for historical research. They are stewards of a legacy that belongs to us all.
Read the rest here.
Day 4 of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer seminar on colonial America is in the books. We spent the entire day in colonial Philadelphia with George Boudreau, author of Independence: A Guide to Historical Philadelphia.
George took us on a very informative tour of the site of William Penn’s house, Front Street (the site of the 17th and 18th-century wharfs), the site of the London Coffee Shop (where slave trading took place), the site where George Whitefield preached to tens of thousands of people (as described by Ben Franklin in his Autobiography), Franklin Square and the underground museum, the William White House, Carpenter’s Hall, and the site of Anthony Benezet’s school for women and free blacks. The teachers also toured the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) and some of them joined me for quick stops at the Free Quaker Meeting House, Franklin’s grave, Arch Street Meeting House, Betsy Ross House, and Christ Church).
Here are some pics:
PHILADELPHIA (July 3, 2019) – U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA-03) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) said Independence National Historical Park already has a multimillion-dollar backlog of repairs — and the Trump administration’s raiding $2.5 million of park maintenance funding for a partisan July Fourth event in Washington, D.C., will only make national parks’ conditions worse in Philadelphia and across the nation.
Congressman Evans said, “I have met with community groups in Philadelphia about the condition of Independence National Historical Park, and I share their concerns. I have co-sponsored the bipartisan Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act to dedicate a massive funding increase to address the repair backlog at Independence Park and across the country.
“Outrageously, the Trump administration is raiding $2.5 million in park maintenance funds for the Trump-centric July Fourth event in Washington, and the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have received VIP tickets to distribute to the July Fourth event. Our nation’s birthday is supposed to bring us together and instead President Trump is apparently using it for partisan political purposes. It’s disgusting.”
Senator Casey said, “After proposing steep cuts to the National Park Service, President Trump is now wasting their limited resources on what’s essentially a campaign rally on the government dime. Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is facing more than $51 million in deferred maintenance costs alone; we cannot afford any more of this President’s vanity projects.”
Evans represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Northwest and West Philadelphia and parts of North, South, Southwest and Center City Philadelphia.
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:
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:
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.
They just let go 30% of their work force. Here is a taste of Stephan Salisbury’s article at Philly.Com:
Citing operating deficits and a lack of financial stability, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania announced Monday that it would lay off about 30 percent of its staff, trim programming and services, and focus on its role as a library and archive.
In a statement, board chairman Bruce K. Fenton said the hope was that by eliminating jobs, the organization would buy time for “a period of financial recovery and careful planning for its future.”
The society, at 13th and Locust Streets, has been seeking to partner with an academic institution for about three years. Extensive talks with the University of Pennsylvania did not bear fruit, but over the last year and a half, the society has been discussing affiliation with Drexel University.
Read the rest here.
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.
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!
Philadelphia has a new window into its past as a bustling and important location during the during the Revolutionary War era. This weekend the Museum of the American Revolution’s (MoAR) new discovery center, Revolution Place, will open a lens to Old City during the 1700s — where the American Revolution took root.
Revolution Place features four key recreated historical environments for younger visitors from 5-12 years old — a military encampment, a tavern, a home and an 18th-century meeting house.
Visitors can partake in the space’s experiential elements, interactive touchscreens, reproduction objects, and special programming set against colorful murals that evoke scenes from 18th-century Philadelphia, including a marketplace and a residential alley.
“Revolution Place extends the immersive, hands-on experience of the Museum’s core exhibition to our younger visitors. The new center encourages playful discovery through a range of self-directed and facilitated experiences, all set within the historic spaces and places of the Museum’s own neighborhood,” said Dr. Elizabeth Grant, director of education at the museum.
Read the entire article here.
This is very cool:
Saturday Night Live nails it again: