Events and People

Up, Up and Away

Before there were space shuttles or airplanes, men experimented with other options of ascending into the heavens. Some means were less successful than others, contraptions attached to the body imitating the wings of birds being but one example. In the late 18th century, men experimented with another possible method of flight, the hot air balloon. At first the balloons were launched with no passengers, then with various animal riders, and finally carrying men.


The first recorded manned flight in a balloon left from Paris on November 21, 1783. This 22 minute flight was piloted by Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis François-Laurent d’Arlandes. Many others pilots followed them into the skies, including Jean Pierre Blanchard who led the first balloon flight in America on January 9, 1793. His ascent is believed to be depicted in the woodcarving shown above.

Blanchard had flown many times before. This particular balloon flight was his 45th ascension. The French aeronaut planned a demonstration of his art in Philadelphia at the Walnut Street Jail, located near the site of what is now Independence Square. After marketing the flight ahead of time, Blanchard intended to charge onlookers $5 to see his balloon take off. This price was later lowered to $2 as he discovered fewer people were buying tickets because they reasoned that they could just as easily see the balloon fly from outside the prison walls.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among a number of other notable figures were present for the take off. Washington sent along with Blanchard a note explaining the demonstration and imploring that people aid him whenever and wherever he eventually landed. (When the first unmanned hot air balloon experiment landed in Europe, it is said that farmers attacked the balloon with a pitchfork, not understanding what it was). In addition to the letter, Blanchard also brought along a bottle of wine to present to any unsuspecting landowners he might encounter at the end of his flight. Around 10 am on that day he took off from the grounds of the Walnut Street Jail. While in the air he performed many experiments. In addition to the expected meteorological experiments (recording the pressure, temperature, and other general weather conditions), he also filled several bottles with air to be studied later, took his pulse (which, on average, he found to be higher while he was in the air than when he was on the ground), and weighed a stone. He later landed in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Blanchard had hoped to make enough money from selling tickets to view the flight to cover his expenses. When he fell rather short of this goal, Blanchard remained in Philadelphia experimenting and inventing other forms of transportation. He remained here until moving on in 1795 when yellow fever epidemics in the city caused people to be cautious about gathering together in groups to witness his experiments.


Historic Sites

Eastern State Penitentiary

In the early 19th century, a system of punishment was created that could be traced back to the Quakers. Called the Pennsylvania system because it was first used here, this method involved the use of solitary confinement to rehabilitate criminals sent to prison. The underlying belief of the Pennsylvania System was that solitary confinement would give prisoners time to reflect on their lives and change the wrongs within it. In other words, if prisoners were forced to think about their crimes, they would become penitent (this is also the origin of the word “penitentiary”).

By 1821, the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons (founded in 1787 by Benjamin Rush) had successfully lobbied the state legislature for funding to build Eastern State Penitentiary, where this Pennsylvania System of treatment could be tried. Here mingling among prisoners was avoided, so much so that inmates were hooded when they went outside their cells. The Pennsylvania System as it was enacted had some opponents however, who believed this method of punishment caused mental illness among the prisoners. One such opponent, Charles Dickens, wrote: “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 to architect John Haviland’s design. As it was originally built, the prison would hold 250 inmates. Haviland chose a radial layout, finding inspiration in criminologist Jeremy Bentham’s 1791 circular prism plan. He included many details that made Eastern State one of the more secure prisons of its time. It was the first to use a central rotunda as the prison’s “communications hub and nerve center” (Haviland 8). By the time the prison closed in 1970, ESP had expanded to provide for as many as 900 prisoners.

Finally, on October 23 1829, prisoner number one was admitted. Charles Williams was sentenced to two years with labor for the crime of burglary. Several infamous criminals would follow him to becoming inmates at ESP, including Al Capone, bank robber Willie Sutton, and Pep “the Cat-Murdering Dog.” Pep was allegedly sentenced to life in prison in August of 1924 by then-governor Gifford Pinchot. The dog, inmate number C2559, was in for murdering Pinchot’s wife’s cat.

After its closure in 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary sat largely as a ruin. However, in 1988 efforts to preserve the site began. The site was also used as a set for movies such as “12 Monkeys.” Since 1996, efforts to stabilize the site have been made to preserve the site as a ruin and to ensure it may continue to be open for public tours.


Historic Sites

Corridor of Commerce


…”if Philadelphia is indebted to England for the name High Street, which undoubtedly is the case, nearly every American city or town founded since 1700 is, in turn, indebted to Philadelphia for its Market Street, which is particularly Philadelphian in nomenclature. This…was due to the plan of Penn, who, long before his city was laid out or settled, had provided a wide High street, where markets could be held on regular days of the week under certain restrictions and rules.”

-Joseph Jackson

Market Street, known as High Street until just before the consolidation of the city with its surrounding districts in 1854, has long been an important street in Philadelphia. For much of its existence, this street has been a corridor of both transportation and commerce. As was the case with most walking cities, in the beginning this street was an area that served functions of both residence and commerce. The famed John Wanamaker, for example, opened his first store here on the corner of 6th and Market Streets in 1861. Many more changes were to follow. The development of one section of the street, that which runs from 7th to 12thStreets, has been particularly notable in the past two centuries. Not only was this section of Market Street an important center for progressive era shoppers, but it has also been a site of simultaneous change and continuity since that time.


One of the early department stores in Philadelphia, Strawbridge and Clothier, was opened in 1868 at the corner of 8th and Market. This three-story brick building was soon replaced with a larger five-story structure. As a wholesaler, Strawbridge’s was particularly popular among shoppers for offering quality goods at low prices. They were also known for taking orders and making deliveries. It would eventually become one of the anchor stores of the Gallery at Market East, an urban shopping mall. In addition to Strawbridge’s, several other stores lined the street. These included Gimbel’s dry goods store, Sharpless Brothers, and Hood, Foullerod, and Company.

It was not until 1910, however, that rapid transit was added to the mix of services offered in the area. Philadelphia was the last of the major metropolitan areas on the east coast to offer such services. Bromley’s 1910 atlas of the city showed two subway stops here: one at 8th Street, the other at 11th. The lines of the Market Elevated, completed in 1907 by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company, paralleled those of the older trolley lines. This original section of the elevated extended from 69th Street to 15th Street. By 1908, the Market Elevated system also included service to 2nd, Chestnut, and South Streets (the lines to Chestnut and South were discontinued in 1939).

Particularly important for the commercial activities of the section of Market Street discussed here were the special plans for the 8th Street Station of the Market Street Subway. In 1910, three of Philadelphia’s major department stores were found at the intersection of 8th and Market Streets. At this time, Strawbridge and Clothier was located on the northwest corner, Lit Brothers on the northeast, and Gimbel Brothers on the southwest. As a tactic for drawing in more shoppers, supposing that just as they preferred to avoid congestion in the street while driving or riding the trolley, people would prefer to avoid the traffic while shopping, the underground section at 8th and Market was created so that patrons could access all three department stores from underground. This way, shoppers never had to go outside onto the busy, polluted street if they did not desire to do so. The underground department store connection opened at last in August 1908. In 1915, work began on the Frankford Elevated line, which then went into service in 1922. Eventually the two rapid-transit lines were combined to create the Market-Frankford Elevated.


After a downswing in retail business due to suburbanization after World War II (people, it seemed, preferred to shop in branch stores in the suburbs where they could park their cars and shop in clean, relatively crime-free surroundings), the city engaged in a venture to attract shoppers to Center City Philadelphia once again. With funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority planned and implemented changes meant to revitalize the Market East area. One of the main developments of their renewal plan was the construction of the Gallery at Market East, a passenger railroad tunnel, and transportation concourse. The Gallery I (8th to 10th Streets) opened for business in 1977. Gallery II, which extended the mall west to 11th Street, was completed by 1984. The gallery had a successful first year, and since then has remained moderately successful. However, it was not as successful at attracting suburban shoppers as it had been hoped. Instead, the Gallery became a mall most often patronized by residents of the city itself.

Market Street, in the area from 7th to 12th Streets, has since the beginnings of the streetcar city been a center of commerce in the city of Philadelphia. If its past is to be trusted, it may be assumed that Market Street will still be lined with retail shops in the future. However, the character of the establishments that may be found there are susceptible to changes which reflect changes in society as a whole. Market Street went from being the site of multiple department stores known for the quality of their products and fairness of their prices to the site of an innovatively designed urban mall and other smaller retail establishments. In the time between the streetcar city and the present day, these changes can be attributed largely to the movement of people with disposable income out of the city and their propensity for automobile travel.


  • The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. 2007 (accessed 12 April 2007).
  • Bromley, George Washington. Atlas of the City of Philadelphia: Complete in One Volume from Official Surveys and Plans. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1895.
  • Bromley, George Washington.Atlas of the City of Philadelphia: Complete in One Volume from Official Surveys and Plans. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1910.
  • Ed Bacon Foundation.”Site Description and History.” Connecting Market East: A national student design competition. 2006. (accessed 13 April 2007).
  • Isenberg, Alison.Downtown America: A history of the place and the people who made it. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  • Jackson, Joseph.America’s Most Historic Highway: Market Street, Philadelphia. Philadelphia: John Wanamaker, 1926.
  • Leif, Alfred.Family Business: A Century in the Life and Times of Strawbridge and Clothier. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.
  • Philadelphia City Planning Commission.Philadelphia Shops: A Citywide Study of Retail Center Conditions, Issues, and Opportunities. 1989.
  • Philadelphia City Planning Commission.Philadelphia Shops: A Citywide Study of Retail Center Conditions, Issues, and Opportunities. 1996.
  • Schoenherr, Steven E.Evolution of the Department Store. 11 Feb 2006. (accessed 13 April 2007).
  • Sechler, Robert P.Speed Lines to City and Suburbs: A Summary of Mass Transit Development in Metropolitan Philadelphia From 1879 to 1974. Drexel Hill, PA: Robert P. Sechler, 1974.
  • SEPTA. ” The Market-Frankford Line Celebrates 100 Years. “SEPTA News.8 March 2007. Accessed online: (accessed 6 April 2007).

  • SEPTA. Market-Frankford Subway-Elevated Line. 2007. (accessed 12 April 2007).

Historic Sites

A Walk to Die For: Laurel Hill Cemetery


Remember me as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now you soon must be
Prepare for death and follow me.

–Jackson (56)

In the colonial period and for some time after that, the purpose of the cemetery for the living was to serve as a grim reminder of the fate that would one day befall every person. Traditionally, corpses were buried in churchyards. However, as the 18th century neared, beliefs about the nature of death began to change. This change was most evident on tombstones which began to reflect a more optimistic view of the afterlife than the one quoted above. Additionally, public health concerns surrounding cemeteries began to change. They were increasingly viewed as unsanitary and disease ridden. People were concerned about the unhealthy “miasmas” or fumes, which could emanate from the many bodies buried in these spots within the city. With the onset of the industrial revolution, the land housing the burial grounds were in demand. In the city “rapid industrialization and population growth commonly led to the disinterment of burial grounds to make way for roads and buildings” (“History” 1). These issues led to the rural cemetery movement in America.

The rural cemetery movement sought to ease the pain of death by providing a country landscape in which to experience an appreciation for history and a sense of community. At the same time, focusing the cemetery outside of the city would help, it was thought, to make life in the city healthier. A forerunner of urban parks such as New York City’s Central Park and Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, Laurel Hill cemetery was founded by John J. Smith and approved by an act of Pennsylvania legislature in 1836.

Laurel Hill cemetery was the second major rural cemetery to be built in the United States. (Wikipedia) John J. Smith decided to open it after a bad experience in trying to bury his young daughter in one of the city’s churchyards. The first interment, that of 67 year-old Mercy Carlisle, occurred soon later on October 19, 1836 (Guide 15). The cemetery quickly became a popular recreation destination for Philadelphia residents. The trip to the cemetery, which was outside of the city at the time, took one and a half to two hours to complete. Because of its length, visitors were encouraged to see the trip as a sort of pilgrimage.


At the time “many early visitors and funeral-goers traveled to Laurel Hill in a steamboat; once the vehicles started plying the Schuylkill River on a regular basis in the 1840s. Steam boats Washington, Mount Vernon, and Frederick Graff embarked hourly on a descent between Fairmount and the Falls of Schuylkill, emptying a stream of lot holders and sightseers at Laurel Hill” (“History” 1). Once there, they could stroll, keeping to the walkways; admiring the plant life, statues and other parts of the scenery.

Laurel Hill, since its opening, has been the final resting place for a number of notable individuals. The people buried here include Thomas McKean (signer of the Declaration of Independence), David Rittenhouse, and Henry Disston. In addition, six Titanic passengers are buried here. The cemetery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998, one of the only cemeteries to be honored with the distinction. It continues to draw visitors today, for both the scenery and for the educational programs funded by the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, which was founded in 1978.


  • Guide to Laurel Hill Cemetery, Near Philadelphia, With Illustrations. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, Printer, 1847.
  • “History.” The Laurel Hill Cemetery. (accessed 2 May 2007).
  • Jackson, Charles O. Passing: The Vision of Death in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Mc Dannell, Colleen. Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.
  • “Laurel Hill Cemetery.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 22 April 2007. (accessed 2 May 2007).
  • “Laurel Hill Cemetery at Risk. ” Places. 11 April 2000.(accessed 2 May 2007).
  • Sloane, David C. The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Historic Sites

The Divine Lorraine Hotel


Standing at the corner of Broad and Fairmount Streets in North Philadelphia is a building that is historically significant on a number of different levels. The Divine Lorraine Hotel, formerly known as both Lorraine Apartments and the Lorraine Hotel, was designed by architect Willis G. Hale and built between 1892 and 1894. The building originally functioned as apartments, housing some of Philadelphia’s wealthy residents.

Both the location of the building and the architecture itself reflect the changes that were occurring rapidly in the city of Philadelphia and in the country at the time. North Philadelphia of the 1880s attracted many of the city’s nouveau-riche, those individuals who became wealthy as a result of the industrial revolution. The Lorraine was a place of luxurious living, providing apartments with new amenities such as electricity. In addition, the building boasted its own staff, eliminating the need for residents to have private servants. There was also a central kitchen from which meals were delivered to residents.

The Lorraine Apartments were also an architectural feat. Prior to this period, the majority of Philadelphia’s buildings were low rise, generally being no more than three or four stories tall. Not only were construction materials and techniques not capable of supporting taller buildings, but also imagine the inconvenience of the many flights of stairs one would have to ascend in order to get to higher floors in the absence of an elevator. However, around the time of the industrial revolution, improvements in building materials made taller buildings possible. The Lorraine, at ten stories tall, was one of the first high rise apartment buildings in the city. An earlier high rise apartment building was also designed by Hale, which was built at 22nd and Chestnut Streets in 1889 and stood until demolished in 1945.


In 1948 the building was sold to Father Divine (aka George Baker or Reverend Major Jealous Divine). Father Divine was the leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement. After purchasing the building, Father Divine renamed it the Divine Lorraine Hotel. His hotel was the first of its class in Philadelphia to be fully racially integrated. The Divine Lorraine was open to all who were willing to follow the rules of the movement. Among other things, these rules included no smoking, no drinking, no profanity, and no undue mixing of the sexes. Men and women therefore resided on different floors of the building. Also, guests and residents were expected to uphold a certain level of modesty, meaning that women were expected to wear long skirts – no pants. Believing that all people were equal in the sight of God, Father Divine was involved in many social welfare activities as well. For example, after purchasing the hotel, several parts of it were transformed for public use. The 10th floor auditorium was converted to a place of worship. The movement also opened the kitchen on the first floor as a public dining room where persons from the community were able to purchase and eat low cost meals for 25 cents each.

Divine’s followers ran the hotel after his death until its sale in 2000. The Universal Peace Mission Movement still exists in the form of a network of independent churches, businesses, and religious orders. Its followers also run another hotel, the Divine Tracy in West Philadelphia. The Divine Lorraine received a historical marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1994 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 as a site significant in terms of both architectural and civil rights history. After its most recent purchase in 2006, future plans for the hotel included converting it into condominiums.


  • ARCH: Pennsylvania’s Historic Architecture and Archaeology. (accessed 29 March 2007).
  • Hotes, Robert J., et al. “Divine Lorraine Hotel Honored with Landmark Building Award.” Preservation News. (accessed 26 March 2007).
  • Newall, Mike. “Left Behind: A rare look inside North Broad’s Divine Lorraine, a hotel with a heavenly past on the cusp of (commercial) resurrection.” Philadelphia City Paper. 13-19 January 2005. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • Rohrer, Willa. “Noble Savage: Selling the guts of a Philly landmark.” Philadelphia Weekly. 18 October 2006. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • “The Universal Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine.”16 June 1997. (accessed 28 March 2007).
  • Wikipedia. “North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”,_Pennsylvania. (accessed 28 March 2007).

Public Services

Photography: A Mini-History


1839 was an important year in the history of record-keeping. It was in this year that the first practical form of photography, the Daguerreotype, was invented. Without this invention almost 170 years ago, would not have been possible. Most of the images on this website come from one of three photographic types: the negative, the print, and the digital photograph. The majority of these, however, come from the incredibly large collection of negatives in the city’s possession.

Not all photographic negatives, however, were created the same. Over the short history of this medium, there have many different types of both negatives and photographs, especially in the first few decades after 1839 when photography was in its infancy. The first of these forms that could be used in a practical manner, the Daguerreotype, was introduced by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre.

Although Daguerre’s was the first practical method of photography developed, there were successful earlier attempts. For example, in 1826 Nicephore Niepce invented what he called a “heliograph.” He took a photograph of his courtyard by exposing a sheet of pewter covered in light sensitive materials, using sunlight as his only light source. However, this process took over 8 hours to complete, making it much less practical to use as a method of record keeping than the much faster Daguerre method. (To read more about Niepce’s first photograph, see the Nicephore Niepce website link in the references section of this blog).

Like Niepce’s process, the daguerreotype also consisted of an image created on a sheet of metal. In this case the medium was a copper plate coated with silver iodide. Unlike Niepce’s process, however, the photograph created was a direct positive image. These photos were the predecessors of the types of images added to PhillyHistory today.

The first negative/positive process was patented the same year as the daguerreotype by William Talbot. This process, or the Calbotype process, created a paper negative which could then produce a positive image (or multiple positive images) by placing the negative in direct contact with light-sensitive paper and exposing the paper to daylight. Slightly less than 20 years later, in 1855, glass negatives were introduced to the United States. These glass negatives were preferable to paper negatives as the image produced was of a much better quality. It was only with the introduction of the glass negative that the negative/positive process of making photographs began to replace direct positive processes such as the daguerreotype.

The earliest glass plate negatives were “wet plate” negatives. They were called “wet plate” because this process required the photographer to coat a plate of glass with light sensitive materials, expose, and develop the photograph all before the coating dried. There was continued experimentation using various materials for emulsions (the emulsion is the layer of light sensitive material that is coated onto a base, for example glass, in which an image is formed when it is exposed to light). Some of the types of emulsions that were tried included albumen (a combination of sodium or ammonium chloride mixed with egg whites) and gelatin.

In the Philadelphia City Archives, the earliest forms of negative we scan for the PhillyHistory website are glass plate negatives. The above photograph, taken in 1894, is an image from one of these glass plate negatives. However, as is evidenced by the cracks visible in some of the other photographs on PhillyHistory, the glass negatives were found to be problematic, mainly because they are so incredibly fragile.

To help alleviate this problem, in 1887 George Eastman introduced cellulose nitrate film. This form of negative consisted of a nitrocellulose base and a gelatin emulsion. It was in use between 1913 and 1950. At the time, this was seen as an improvement over the glass negative, as it was much less fragile than its glass counterparts. However, today archivists have found this negative to be itself fragile as it ages. The nitrocellulose base is notoriously unstable as well as flammable, making it important to transfer the images on these to another medium (as, for example, scanning would accomplish) in order to preserve the information they contain.


Between 1937 and 1956 another film created by the Kodak company, safety film, was widely used. This film was made of cellulose diacetate and was found to be much less of a fire hazard. However, this film too has been found to be somewhat unstable. Over time, the cellulose diacetate shrinks as it deteriorates, causing wrinkles in the layer of emulsion, which does not shrink at the same rate. The photograph to the left is an example of this type of deterioration. In1947, Kodak introduced another type of safety film which is still in use today, which is made of a more stable material, cellulose triacetate.


Urban Planning

The Broad Street Subway

Providing around 1 million rides a day, SEPTA is an important resource in the city of Philadelphia. The man pictured in one of the accompanying photos was just one of the many involved in building a part of that transportation system, the Broad Street Subway. The photograph was taken December 14, 1925 as the unidentified man worked on the subway at Broad and Master Streets.

Work began on the line in 1924. In the four years it took to build the initial section of the subway, enough dirt was excavated to theoretically create, as another photo (also pictured) illustrated, a column 220 feet square and 2280 feet high. The Broad Street line eventually opened for service on September 1, 1928. On this new subway, riders could travel between City Hall and Olney Avenue. Round trip fare, at this time, was only 15 cents.

Several years later, service on the Broad Street Subway was extended farther south. By 1930, riders could travel as far south as South Street, and by 1938 this was extended to Snyder Avenue. Expansion then continued to the north, with the Fern Rock stop being added in the 1950s. Finally, in 1973 the line was extended again to the south to run to Pattison Avenue, completing the line that exists today.


Public Services

Photographic Firsts


Philadelphia is famous for many things, including its inventors. Perhaps most famous of these is Ben Franklin. However, another Philadelphia inventor, Joseph Saxton, was responsible for creating one of the first photographs made in America. That photograph was taken in 1839 from the United States Mint (pictured above), where Saxton worked. In it he captured Central High School and a portion of the State Arsenal.

In 1839, photography was in its infancy. The first practical form of photography, the Daguerreotype, had been introduced to the world on January 7 of that same year. Created by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, the Daguerreotype photograph was made when a copper plate coated with silver iodide was exposed to light. The silver iodide darkened when exposed to the light, forming an image after the photograph was developed in mercury vapors.

Saxton made his photograph following Daguerre’s published instructions that October. He built a camera using a cigar box and a glass lens, and heated the mercury to develop the picture in an iron spoon. A Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker at Juniper and Chestnut Streets stands at the location at which the photograph was taken. The daguerreotype itself is in the possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The Daguerreotype, however was a direct positive image. The image it produced was similar to the reflection a person would see when looking into a mirror. Because photography was still in its experimental stages at the time, many other methods for producing photographic images followed the introduction of Daguerre’s process. Most notably was the invention of a negative-positive process for making photographs which was first patented by William Talbot in 1841. This invention led to other negative-positive processes which created the glass plate negatives, lantern slides, and film negatives which were used by the City of Philadelphia to make the photographs that are digitized and displayed on PhillyHistory today.



The Snow Piled Six Feet High


This year, local meteorologists are predicting a very snowy winter for Philadelphia. With such a forecast looming in the future, snow is probably the last thing that residents of this city want to think about. It is likely that Philadelphians did not want to think about the prospect of snow in 1914 either, especially as spring was nearing.

However, March 2 and into the early morning of March 3, 1914, the snow was practically all people were talking about. On that night, a storm blew in from the Atlantic Coast, causing great troubles in New York and Camden. It did not spare Philadelphia from the problems of frozen precipitation either.

In New York, winds of up to 72 miles per hour were reported to accompany the storm as it made its way through the region. By the end, it dropped only 7 inches of snow in the Philadelphia area, however combined with the wind and the snow remaining from a snowstorm the previous week, drifts of 6 to 10 feet in some areas occurred. These conditions shut down the city, cutting off communications with neighboring areas as well as the influx of food from nearby farms. The blizzard was particularly destructive across the river in Camden, where it was reported that:

‘fierce winds from the northwest whipped through the street, tearing off roofs, blowing down chimneys, sending signs clattering away into the darkness, and punishing pedestrians with cutting, stinging, particles of ice-laden snow. Electric lights were torn from their fastenings in all sections of the city. Poles gave way under the best of the winds and collapsed, falling into the street or upon the roofs and sides of houses. Twisted masses of live wires emitted sparks which set the poles blazing and the snake-like shattering imperiled the people struggling through the blinding storm.’ (“Winds Tear Off Roofs”, p. 1).

The snow also caused problems for travelers. Several trains stalled on the way to Philadelphia from New York, not being able to plow through the snow drifts. The Philadelphia Inquirer told stories of people who had become stranded on the trains overnight, some not making it to Broad Street Station until 20 hours after they were expected. Travelers told of being hungry, cold, and tired while imprisoned on the train by snow and ice. One traveler in particular spoke of sending out an expedition to ask for food at a nearby farmhouse he and fellow train riders spotted through the windows of their car. He was quoted in the Inquirer:

‘We fought our way to it [the farmhouse], at times through drifts above our waist. I obtained the name of the kindly lady who opened the door for us, when we had finally swept her deeply-covered porch free.She had little enough in the house, but what she had she gave freely. She supplied us with bread, butter, bacon and a great steaming pot of tea. We carried these things back to the train, and mighty welcome they were. Many of the day coach passengers had not had a thing to eat since noon of the day before and they were half starved.’ (“Passengers Tell Stories of Snow-Bound Trains,” p.2)

Philadelphia spent the next few days digging out from the storm. A 600 man team worked to clear the streets in the central business district by the morning of March 3. Life in the city was beginning to get back to normal at that point, with many of the trolley lines clear and running on schedule and churches and schools reopening.


  • “600 Men and 300 Teams Clearing City Streets.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 3 March 1914. 3.
  • “Deserting City Storm Travels Off Into Ocean.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 3 March 1914. 1.
  • “New York Isolated by New and Severe Blizzard.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 2 March 1914. 1.
  • “Passengers Tell Stories of Snow-Bound Trains.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 3 March 1914. 2.
  • “Traffic Tied Up Under Seven Inches of Snow-Houses Unroofed by Forty-three-Mile Gale-Worst Storm Since 1909.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 3 March 1914. 1.
  • “Trains Arrive After 24-Hour Fight With Snow.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 3 March 1914. 1.
  • “Winds Tear Off Roofs, Sections in Darkness, Trains Tied Up.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 2 March 1914. 1.

Public Services

Learning for the Real World


Late in the 19th century and early in the 20th, child labor reformers were busy trying to devise a plan for keeping the nations children out of the factories and in the schools for as long as possible. However, the things they were doing to extend the amount of time a child spent in the school system failed to keep all children in school. They wondered why, until the idea was presented that perhaps the children continually left school early because they did not understand the value an education in traditional academic disciplines (writing, math, or foreign language, for example) would have in their everyday lives after they graduated. What good did learning French do for the child who, after all, would be spending his days constructing buildings? From this idea, school administrators devised a plan. Perhaps the way to keep children in school until their teenage years was to offer vocational education, or more classes that prepared students to be successful in the work they would actually face after finishing school.


The idea of vocational, or industrial, education was introduced to Philadelphia by Murrel Dobbins, a member of the Board of Public Education. Soon after his introduction, an investigation was conducted in the city to discover what the most popular trades in the city were and to find a location for a new school. The Philadelphia Trades School then opened in 1906 in an abandoned elementary school at the corner of 12th and Locust Streets. The goal of the school was to create intelligent, skilled young men who were well prepared to enter the workforce upon their graduation.

Originally the school offered 13 trades, ranging from sign painting to sheet metal working. However, due to a lack of enrollment, only seven were offered in the day school. The trades offered to students during the day included: carpentry, architectural drawing, mechanical drawing, electrical construction, pattern making, and printing. Students spent half of their time studying these trades in the shop. The other half was spent studying academic subjects such as English and Mathematics, however these too were taught with the trades in mind. In these courses, teachers attempted to relate the skills being learned to their application in the work of the various trades. In the third year, the students participated in an internship program, working at various locations throughout the city.


Night classes were also offered by the school, and these became more popular than the daytime classes. The demand for the evening classes was so great that the city opened another school, the Northeast Manual Training School, to handle some of the overflow. Many other prospective students remained on a waiting list. In the evening school only the trades were taught. There were no classes for the academic subjects. However, the evening school did offer more trades than were taught during the day

Eventually, the Trades School was abandoned as the workforce continued to change. The courses offered by the Philadelphia Trades School were replaced by mechanical arts courses in Central High School and others.


  • Ash, William C. “The Philadelphia Trade School.” Annals of the American Academy of Political Science 33(1), Industrial Education. (January, 1909) 85-88.
  • Cohen, Sol. “The Industrial Education Movement, 1906-1917.” American Quarterly. 20(1). (Spring, 1968) 95-110.
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