Categories
Snapshots of History

A Most Exciting Discovery

On Monday, January 21, our nation observed and celebrated the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hundreds of volumes have been written about the beloved icon of the American Civil Rights Movement, also known as MLK. His heavily analyzed and eventful life has been chronicled with a thoroughness that gives the impression there is little else we can know or see about this man who played such a vital role in changing the course of American history and the lives of millions throughout the world. But artifacts that chronicle significant events and people still remain in archives, libraries, and other cultural institutions, waiting to be rediscovered. Such was the case with a series of photos housed in Philadelphia City Archives.

On October 10, 1966, City of Philadelphia photographer Ralph Carollo took a series of fourteen images to document Dr. King’s tour of Philadelphia neighborhoods with Mrs. Sigrid Craig, founder of the Better Philadelphia Committee.[1] These photos were in an original envelope from 1966 included in one of the hundreds of boxes of official City of Philadelphia photographs waiting to be scanned and uploaded to PhillyHistory.org. The envelope described the contents as “Streets Sanitation: 1800 Block N. Lambert St, Mrs. Craig.” It was with great excitement that I “discovered” these photos also included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.! Immediately, I wanted to know why this icon of the Civil Rights Movement was in Philadelphia  in 1966 on a streets sanitation tour.

Dr. King, as was his mission, traveled extensively around the country to speak at rallies and gatherings to promote the cause of civil rights. In the few days of October 1966 he was here, his presence bolstered at least three events. Dr. King was welcomed to Philadelphia by the Rev. William L. Bentley, pastor of the Emmanuel Institutional Baptist Church and president of the Interfaith Interracial Council.

Accompanied by Rev. Bentley, Dr. King’s first stop in Philadelphia was to speak Sunday, Oct. 9th at The Arena before a crowd of 1500 as part of a rally organized by Civil Rights activist James Meredith and sponsored by the Interfaith Interracial Council of the Clergy. Dubbed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “the lonesome traveler of the civil rights movement,” Meredith may be most remembered for his brush with death only four months before this rally.[2]

James Meredith was the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Persevering under intense opposition, he graduated in 1964, and in 1966 “began a one man protest against racial violence in Mississippi which he called a ‘March Against Fear.’” Originating in Memphis, Tennessee, the march was to end at Jackson, Mississippi, but shortly

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 1966

after he crossed into Mississippi, Meredith was shot by an unknown assailant. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, led by Stokely Carmichael, continued on the march, meeting the recovering Meredith the day before they reached the state capital.[3]

On Monday, October 10, Dr. King, accompanied by his good friend and fellow activist Ralph Abernathy, Rev. William Bentley and others toured African American neighborhoods in the city. Captured images show the entourage speaking to Mrs. Craig, meeting tradesmen working on some of the houses on the 1800 block of N. Lambert Street, and interacting with people on the street. Details of the images show Dr. King outfitted with a microphone and cord.[4] I’m sure the people of that neighborhood got a rare treat in hearing the words of Dr. King that day, although the exact topics of his speeches remain unknown.

Dr. King’s next engagement while in Philadelphia was to speak at a luncheon honoring Rev. William Bentley on his 25th anniversary as pastor of the Emmanuel Institutional Baptist Church. The luncheon, sponsored by the Greater Chamber of Commerce, took place at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and was attended by approximately 300 businessmen of Philadelphia.[5] Dr. King’s message at this gathering emphasized that “’There are two Americas in existence today.  One is white America, which is beautiful and prosperous. The other is the America of the Negroes which is ugly, brooding, defeated and disappointed.’” Dr. King went on to point out to the businessmen the wide salary gap between white and black workers, and said “This presents for our nation a problem which must be dealt with. To move ahead we must solve it. As long as nothing is done, it will only encourage the forces of extremism.”[6] Fifty-three years later, these words continue to encourage us to look for inequities in our current systems. Though Dr. King’s work ended too soon, there is still much to discover about his life and mission; and through that discovery, much to learn and teach to our children as leaders of tomorrow.

Discovering these images in an unobtrusively labeled envelope shows the importance of the photo organization and digitization completed via PhillyHistory.org. It is our task to properly catalog and scan the photos in the Philadelphia City Archives collection and store them in new, archival quality envelopes and boxes. Thousands of images have been scanned and uploaded, but many thousands still await scanning. As we go through each envelope, we know that not all are labeled accurately. This could be due to photographer error, changes in street names, architecture, or events. Images that now have historical importance perhaps were considered quite ordinary when the photographer took them. In 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King was not regarded in the same light that he is now. Perhaps that can account for the labeling of this archival envelope. Whatever the reason for this labeling, discovering a snippet of American history in the Philadelphia City Archives is greatly exciting, and has now added another facet to the noble story and life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the City of Philadelphia.

 

 

[1] Them That Do: Stories About Philadelphia’s Block Captains, Sigrid Craig – Mother of Philadelphia Block Captains. (7 May, 2015). http://themthatdo.net/2015/05/sigrid-craig-mother-of-philadelphia-block-captains/. The Better Philadelphia Committee evolved into the Clean-up, Paint-Up, Fix-Up campaign, eventually becoming the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee in 1965.

[2] The Philadelphia Inquirer. Monday Morning, October 10, 1966. pg 6.

[3] BlackPast.org, Remembered and Reclaimed: A Reference Guide to African American History. Meredith, James (1933- ). https://blackpast.org/aah/meredith-james-1933 (Accessed 22 Jan, 2019.)

[4] https://www.phillyhistory.org/PhotoArchive/Detail.aspx?assetId=156952

[5] The Philadelphia Inquirer. Tuesday Morning, October 11, 1966. pg. 6.

[6] Ibid. Dr. King noted that the “Average annual salary of white workers in the country is $6874 while that of Negro workers is $3662.”

 

 

Categories
Behind the Scenes Historic Sites Snapshots of History

The Mystery Church: St. Andrew’s Chapel of Spruce Hill

St. Andrew’s Chapel, 4201 Spruce Street, January 14, 1963.

St. Andrew’s Chapel, one of Philadelphia’s finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture, is the  only quiet place on its tree-shaded block.  The locked building is surrounded by the bustle of the children attending the Penn Alexander School and the Parent Infant Center.  From the 1924 to 1974, this church was the centerpiece of the now-closed Philadelphia Episcopal Seminary.

Alonzo Potter (1800-1865), Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania. Source: Wikipedia.

Founded in 1857 by Bishop Alonzo Potter of Pennsylvania, the seminary had a strong connection with the University of Pennsylvania — a strange irony since the Church of England had violently persecuted Quakers (the Penn mascot) back in Great Britain. In the early 1920s, the estate of financier Clarence Clark came on the market.  This five-acre “Chestnutwold” compound had once been one of the finest properties in West Philadelphia, boasting a brownstone Renaissance Revival mansion, and arboretum, and even a private zoo.   Looking for a new home, the Philadelphia Divinity School snapped up the Clark estate, razed all the buildings (only the iron gates remain) and made plans to build an elaborate new campus.  It hired an architectural firm with myriad Penn alumni connections: Zantzinger, Borie and Medary. The firm had made a name for itself as a designer of office buidings, museums, collegiate Gothic dormitories at Princeton, and suburban homes for Philadelphia’s upper class.  It helped that partner Clarence Clark Zantzinger was the grandson of Clarence Clark and an heir to the E.W. Clark & Company banking fortune. Zantzinger and his partners, all Penn alumni, frequently collaborated with Paul-Philippe Cret, distinguished professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. The Zantzinger firm’s most famous alumnus was a Jewish immigrant from Estonia named Louis Kahn, a 1922 graduate of Penn’s architecture school.

Rendering by Ray Hollis (circa 1922), of the Divinity School’s proposed 20 buildings. The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania.

The Zantzinger firm’s vision for the new Philadelphia Divinty School was ambitious: a complex of dormitories, dining halls, libraries, administrative buildings, and residences centered around the magnficient St. Andrew’s Chapel.  Completed in 1924, the grandeur of  St. Andrew’s Chapel reflected the booming economy of the Roaring Twenties.  The interior boasted ironwork by Samuel Yellin and stained glass windows by the studios of Nicola D’Ascenzo, and a carved limestone reredos echoing the famous one at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York.

The Dorrance Memorial Window (1924) from St. James the Greater Church in Bristol, PA. A fine example of the work of the D’Ascenzo studio. Wikipedia.com.

Yet the Great Depression slammed the brakes on the Philadelphia Divinity School’s grand plans.  Only six of of the planned twenty-two structures were built.  And unfortunately, in its badly reduced circumstances, the Episcopal Seminary could never quite match the prestige and drawing power of its counterparts in New York (General Theological Seminary) or Cambridge, Massachusetts (Episcopal Divinity School).  The school limped along until 1974, when it closed its doors and the University of Pennsylvania took possession of the property.

Today, St. Andrew’s Chapel, although sealed shut, is completely intact on the inside. The public gets a peak at one of the finest sacred spaces in Philadelphia only at an occassional concert or art installation.

 

Nave of St. Andrew’s Chapel, 4201 Spruce Street, 1980.

 

Choir stalls at St. Andrew’s Chapel, 4201 Spruce Street, 1980.

Sources: 

“At the Former Philadelphia Divinity School Site: Discovering Inspiration from the Past and Creating Spaces to Learn and Grow,” University of Pennsylvania Almanac, March 30, 2010, Volume 56, No. 27., accessed November 13, 2018.

https://almanac.upenn.edu/archive/volumes/v56/n27/divinity.html

Sandra Tatman, “Zantzinger, Borie & Medary (fl. 1910 – 1929),” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 2018, accessed November 13, 2018.

https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/23459

Arnold Lewis, James Turner, and Steven McQuillin, The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age (New York: Dover Publications, 1987), p.46.

“Magnificent  Structure in West Philadelphia Undergoing Demolition by Wrecking Crew,” The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, April 7, 1916. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1916-04-07/ed-1/seq-9/#date1=1836&index=19&rows=20&words=Clark+Park&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=Pennsylvania&date2=1922&proxtext=%22clark+park%22&y=-221&x=-932&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1, accessed December 9, 2015.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Historic Sites Snapshots of History

Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 2

Main Building, Germantown Friends School, 31 W. Coulter Street, 1964.

“In an age in which the individual is merely a number to his employer, his bank, his insurance company and his government, humanizing influences are sadly needed. It is our belief that books and the libraries that make them available constitute one of the most powerful of these influences.”

Germantown Friends Free Library Annual Report, 1963-1964

As the Friends Free Library bustled with activity, Germantown Friends School became one of Philadelphia’s leading independent school.  During the late 19th century, Philadelphia flourished as an industrial and financial center, and many other private schools were founded to educate the children of the burgeoning managerial class.  Northwest Philadelphia’s suburban communities supported a whole ecosystem of schools, social clubs, and retail shops.  Unlike its nearby competitors, Springside School and Chestnut Hill Academy, which were based on single-sex English models, GFS had been co-ed since it’s “refounding” in 1858.   As an educational institution, it had more in common with the co-ed, progressive “Hicksite” Swarthmore College than the all-male “Orthodox” Haverford College.

In an era of increasing affluence and luxury, GFS strove to maintain its founding Quaker principles of simplicity and equality.

Unlike the Gothic finery and Georgian grandeur of the era’s preparatory school campuses, the architecture of Germantown Friends School was deliberately restrained, almost austere.  The color palate was predominately tan, gray, and brown.  There were no soaring spires or stained glass windows in the Meeting House. It grew cautiously, constructing new buildings as needed but also freely adapting nearby older structures to meet its   social club on Coulter Street became a new classroom building (fragments of the original bowling alley survive in the basement) and a converted bank on Germantown Avenue housed staff offices (the steel bank vault still resides in the basement). The Main Building, originally dating from the 1860s, was expanded many times over the years. The present-day neo-classical façade, with its arched auditorium windows and Doric columns, was completed in 1925.  According to Tim Wood, present day archivist at Germantown Friends School, “The previous version of the front, from 1896-97 renovations, was thought by some to be too ostentatious.” Francis Cope, of the Cope shipping family, added “They had made quite a respectable looking building of it, somewhat marred by the addition of a prominent and incongruous porch.” The school’s student publication, The Pastorian, though, called it “a grand new building.”

 

The remains of the bowling alley in the basement of one of Germantown Friends School’s classroom buildings. Photo by Steven Ujifusa.
The foyer of the Germantown Friends School’s Meeting House. Photograph by Steven Ujifusa.

The Main Building’s entrance hall showcases a collection of plays and literature that once belonged to long-time teacher and administrator Irvin C. Poley, the man who brought the arts to Germantown Friends.  If kept out of the school’s main library, fiction flourished in Poley’s classroom.  Poley graduated from GFS in 1908, and after college returned to his alma mater to teach English. There, the Quaker instructor urged his students to dive into the classics of Western literature, especially Shakespeare. Poley helped Germantown Friends pivot toward rather than away from the arts, for, as he wrote, “the wise educator wants the arts prominent in general education not primarily for vocational use later.”

“Include in your capital of experience vicarious experience,” he urged GFS students in one speech, “what you learn from observing your parents and teachers, from friends, from first-class books, particularly fiction. Even if you ‘re the kind of person that people like to talk to intimately and if you thus know the inner life of a great many friends and acquaintances and chance contacts, you can still learn about people and about yourself from great literature, particularly from plays and poetry and essays and biography.”

Good fiction is, of course, experience minus the irrelevant,” he added, “the life of a person given unity and clarity.”

He also fostered the development of the school’s drama program. According to one yearbook, his “energetic” readings of Shakespeare’s Macbethand Julius Caesarheld students “spellbound.”

One of his students, Henry Scattergood (related to the famed cricketer Henry Scattergood) said that it was Poley who inspired him to go into teaching after graduating from Haverford College.  “Some of my clearest memories of my school life come from his classroom,” Scattergood recalled of his teacher. “I recall particularly a ninth-grade class when we acted scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and from Galsworthy’s The Silver Box,or his clever ways of putting across less glamorous subjects such as spelling. His sentence ‘Neither leisurely foreigner seized the weird height” straightened me out on the major exceptions to the ‘i before e except after c words.’ In all his teaching, Irvin Poley was always resourceful and always stretching his students. He knew and understood his students well, their weaknesses and strengths, and he continually played up the latter, so that all wanted to be their best to justify his belief in them. Even more important, he seemed every alert to seize the opportunity to relate whatever he was teaching to important issues — such as justice, fair play, decency, humility.”

 

Irvin C. Poley’s literature collection in the entrance hall of the main building of Germantown Friends School. Photograph by Steven Ujifusa.
Irvin C. Poley teaching an English class at Germantown Friends, c.1937. Collection of Germantown Friends School.
Irvin C. Poley leading the reading of a play at Germantown Friends School, 1963. Collection of Germantown Friends School.

 

 

Sources: 

Irvin C. Poley, “A Word in Parting,” June 11, 1958. Collection of Germantown Friends School.

Henry Scattergood, “From a Former Student,” undated. Collection of Germantown Friends School.

Timothy Wood, Archivist, Germantown Friends School.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Events and People Historic Sites Snapshots of History

A Cursed Mansion in Belmont: The Rise and Fall of the Rorkes (Part 2)

Franklin Rorke mansion, December 1872. Courtesy of H.R. Haas.

During the hot summer of July 1900, Franklin Rorke was faced with mounting bills and a failing construction business. His new mansion at 41st and Ogden, an extravagant gift from his late father, had every modern convenience, and boasted mosaics, hardwood floors, marble trim, and onyx fireplaces, as well as a fully equipped stable in the rear. Yet Rorke couldn’t afford to maintain or staff it. The $300 he had received from his late father’s estate almost certainly had run out.

Rorke’s wife Helen was terrified of the man once heralded as the scion of an “exceedingly clever” clan. “He had hallucinations of hearing and sight,” she alleged, “and thought persons were secreted about the house, and that detectives were following him in an effort to kill him.” Rorke then started making threats on his wife’s life, and drove her from the house in one of his rages.  Then, Rorke turned his fury on his own mother, attacking her with a razor blade.

The Rorke mansion, built as a glittering testament to the Rorke family’s wealth, had become a 7,000 square foot house of horrors.

Helen Rorke finally had her husband committed to a new West Philadelphia home: the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital at 49th and Market Street.

A year later, the Republican politician and former Philadelphia District Attorney George S. Graham successfully petitioned the Quarter Sessions Court to release Franklin Rorke from the insane asylum. Judge Stevenson signed off on the release. According to the Philadelphia Times, “Rorke had only been in the institution temporarily and was in his proper mind, and it would be manifestly wrong to keep him there any longer.” What Rorke’s mother and wife thought of Franklin’s release in unclear, but it may have been one last political favor by Graham for his late friend and fellow Union League member Allen B. Rorke.

In 1906, Barber, Hartman & Company listed the former Franklin Rorke mansion for sale.  “This property was built and owned by the famous Philadelphia contractor,” the advertisement stated, “and no expense was spared to erect one of the handsomest properties in West Philadelphia. The premises are in a first-class condition, and will be sold at a great sacrifice.”  That same year, Franklin Rorke was thrown in jail for “creat[ing] a scene with a pistol in a West Philadelphia Saloon.” He and his wife long-suffering wife Helen, who stated he had been “drinking excessively and abusing her,” were now residing in a modest dwelling at 4043 Baring Street.  An unnamed family friend bailed out the miscreant former construction heir for $1,000, or about $20,000 today. This was approximately the same amount Allen Rorke had left his children seven years earlier.

4000 block of Baring Street, looking west, March 27, 1961.

Franklin Rorke died in 1915, working as a bailiff for the Philadelphia Court of Common Please, a position that was almost certainly another favor from one his father’s friends. His brother Allen B. Rorke Jr. led a much quieter life, carrying on what was left of the family business and last appearing in the Philadelphia City Directory in 1926.

 

November 25, 1906 “West Philadelphia” real estate section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Franklin Rorke mansion still stands at the corner of 41st and Ogden Street, a boarded-up, vandalized shell.  It is a sad home of “might-have-beens.” The mansion never fulfilled its builder’s desire as a happy home for future generations of Rorkes, or as a glittering backdrop for balls and parties.  The cast-iron oriel window at the center of its main facade is gone, as are the elaborate railings. The lawn is completely overgrown. Yet the mansion’s stone walls and turrets are still sturdy, and the roof is still on, a testament to the care and attention Allen B. Rorke, once lauded as “the nation’s greatest builder,” put into this gift for his son 120 years ago.

Franklin Rorke mansion, 41st and Ogden, August 14, 2018. Photograph by Steven Ujifusa

One can fault would-be patriarch Allen B. Rorke for his spendthrift ways and the dynastic ambitions he placed on his very troubled son Franklin.  The once-lauded Rorkes have been long forgotten. Yet the house survives, and it could be argued that Rorke indeed lived up his reputation of doing “more rather than less than his specifications called for.”

 

Sources: 

“Allen B. Rorke,” Findagrave.com

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/60364125/allen-b.-rorke

“Builder Allen B. Rorke Is Dead, But His Work Will Live On,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1899

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/20696094/allen_b_rorke_obit_phila_inq_27_dec/

Sandra Tatman, “Rorke, Allen B,” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings 

https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/1274

Sandra Tatman, “Rorke, Allen B. Jr.,” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings

https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/65344

“Says He is not Insane,” The Philadelphia Times, May 4, 1901, p. 3.

“Released from Asylum,” The Philadelphia Times, May 5, 1901.

H.R. Haas, “862-72 N. 41st Street,” Nomination for Historic Building, Structure, Site or Object, Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Philadelphia Historical Commission, March 7, 2017

https://www.phila.gov/historical/Documents/862-72-N-41st-nomination.pdf

“Three Deaths from Burns,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 22, 1906, p. 7.

Categories
Events and People Neighborhoods Snapshots of History

A Cursed Mansion in Belmont: The Rise and Fall of the Rorkes (Part 1)

Allen B. Rorke (1853-1899). Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1899,

In the 1890s, the self-made construction magnate Allen B. Rorke appeared to be living the Gilded Age dream.  Fame, fortune, social standing, and grand houses were all his.  He belonged to the Union League, the Masonic Order of the Odd Fellows, the Legion of Honor, and the Clover Club.  Among his construction clients were the Poth Brewing Company, the Philadelphia Traction Company, and Jacob Reed & Sons. He resided with his family in a townhouse at 131 S.18th Street, just off fashionable Rittenhouse Square.

As a loyal member of Philadelphia’s Republican Party machine, Rorke was considered by his friends to be an ideal candidate for mayor.

Yet in the laissez-faire circus of late 19th century Philadelphia, the pressure to maintain appearances was crushing. And appearances could be deceiving.  One observer noted that, “His contracts were always carried out with a disposition to do more rather than less than his specifications called for.”

The son of a master carpenter, Rorke, like so many tradesmen’s children, left school at 14 to apprentice himself in his father’s trade.  At 21, he struck on his own. One of his earliest construction projects was the Horticultural Hall at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, a colossal cast-iron and glass pile designed by Hermann Schwarzmann.  By his 30s, Rorke had a healthy portfolio of building projects in the Philadelphia area.  His City Directory listing advertised for “estimates and Plan furnished upon application, for Banks, Warehouses, Mills, Churches, Dwellings and Buildings of every description” (Philadelphia City directory, 1884, p. 1369).  Like many other prominent builders, he maintained an office in the Philadelphia Bourse Building, near Independence Hall.

129, 131, 133 S.18th Street, 1963.

Rorke’s most high profile project was the construction of the new Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb, the structure was a replacement for a neoclassical structure that burned in a spectacular fire in 1897.  Yet many in the Pennsylvania state government were unhappy with the Rorke/Cobb collaboration.  One observer derided it as an  “unadorned, unfinished, several-story brown brick structure that looked like a factory.” The legislature decided that, rather than upgrade the structure, they would spend the money on on a more grandiose home.

As a way of solidifying his dynastic ambitions, Rorke purchased a big lot at the corner of 41st and Odgen Street in West Philadelphia as the site of his son Franklin’s new suburban home.  It was an odd location for a socially-ambitious businessman: the Belmont neighborhood at the time was comfortable but hardly fashionable.  Yet the Franklin Rorke mansion rivaled the big homes under construction a few miles to the west in Overbrook Farms. Unlike the nearby twins and rowhouses, Franklin’s turreted Queen Anne mansion at 862-872 North 41st Street was a freestanding structure, surrounded by a garden and stone fence.

That summer, as the new family mansion rose on 41st Street, the Rorkes vacationed at the Seaside Hotel in Atlantic City. The nation had fully recovered from the Panic of 1893, and the luxury hotels of the Jersey Shore were booked to capacity from June to September. The Philadelphia Times described the children as an “exceedingly clever lot.” That fall, a laudatory article appeared in the Philadelphia Times, praising Rorke as “the nation’s greatest builder.”

On Christmas Eve of 1899, Allen Rorke spent the day with his son Franklin in West Philadelphia. The mansion at 41st and Ogden was nearing completion. The following day, at his townhouse on Rittenhouse Square, Rorke complained that he wasn’t feeling well. He then collapsed to the floor, felled by a stroke.  A second stroke rendered him unconscious. He died on December 26, his wife and sons Franklin and Allen Jr. at his side.

His funeral which took place at his Rittenhouse Square home. Governor William Stone and Mayor Samuel Ashbridge served as honorary pallbearers.  Soon after the doors of the Rorke family’s grand West Laurel Hill family mausoleum were locked, his grieving wife and sons received another jolt. High society pundits speculated that Rorke had left a legacy north of $1 million, a princely sum in fin-de-siecle Philadelphia and enough for the three heirs to continue on in high style. Instead, “the nation’s greatest builder” had left his family a mere $952.56, or about $20,000 in today’s money.

Franklin and Allen Jr. were also left their father’s construction firm.  The question was whether or not they could salvage it, and their family’s fortunes.

Sources: 

Allen B. Rorke, Findagrave.com

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/60364125/allen-b.-rorke

“Builder Allen B. Rorke Is Dead, But His Work Will Live On,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27, 1899

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/20696094/allen_b_rorke_obit_phila_inq_27_dec/

Sandra Tatman, “Rorke, Allen B,” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings 

https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/1274

H.R. Haas, “862-72 N. 41st Street,” Nomination for Historic Building, Structure, Site or Object, Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, Philadelphia Historical Commission, March 7, 2017

https://www.phila.gov/historical/Documents/862-72-N-41st-nomination.pdf

“Big Season is on in Atlantic City,” The Philadelphia Times, June 27, 1899.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Snapshots of History

Books in Trust: The Germantown Friends Free Library – Part 1

Germantown Friends School Meetinghouse, 34 W. Coulter Street.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18

Today, Germantown Friends School is well-known for its strong arts and theater programs.  Yet there was a time not too long ago when the school could not acquire fiction for its library.  The restriction lay was written into a type of ancient trust so common in Philadelphia institutional life.  The Cope Trust, set up in the 1870s to fund the purchase of new books in a library open to both students at GFS and the greater Germantown community, explicitly forbade the librarians from acquiring “works of fictitious character commonly called novels.”

This might seem Philistine by today’s standards, but this stipulation had as much to do with economic sense as the philosophy of Quaker “plainness.”   In the mid-19th century, most children left school at 14, and libraries were places driven young people could further their education without the assistance of a teacher. The Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie, who arrived in Pittsburgh with his family at age 11, worked as a “bobbin boy” in a mill for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for a meager $1.20 per week. Unable to attend school, Carnegie petitioned a local subscription library for access during his precious hours off.   He was turned away. Not only could he not afford the $2 subscription fee, but also it was only open to local apprentices, not to the general public, let alone millworkers. Incensed, the teenaged Carnegie wrote the local Pittsburgh paper about his treatment. The library relented, and let the immigrant boy into the stacks. Carnegie eventually got a job as secretary/telegraph operator for Pennsylvania Railroad president Thomas A. Scott, and went on to be America’s most successful steel producer.  In his retirement, Carnegie would donate $60 million of his fortune to the construction of almost 1,700 public libraries throughout the United States. Many continue to serve their communities to this day.

When, in the wake of the violent Homestead Steel Strike of 1892, he was asked why he gave so generously to libraries, but refused to increase his workers’ wages, he retorted: “If I had raised your wages, you would have spent that money by buying a better cut of meat or more drink for your dinner. But what you needed, though you didn’t know it, was my libraries and concert halls. And that’s what I’m giving to you.”

In 1853, the same year Scott hired the young Carnegie to work at the PRR, the Germantown Quaker Alfred Cope donated funds for a permanent library that could be used by the students Germantown Friends School and members of the surrounding community.  Previously, GFS’s book collection was squeezed into the meetinghouse’s cloakroom.  The reading list was quite serious. Among its 200 or so books were George Fox’s Journal, the eight-volume The Friends Library, Piety Promoted, and Penn’s Rise and Progress. Readers who took out a book for more than two weeks were fined twelve-and-a-half cents a week.

Salvation for Germantown Friends’ library came in the form of Alfred Cope. Heir to a Philadelphia shipping fortune, he never entered the family business due to frail health.  His father Thomas Pim Cope was founder of the Cope Line, which operated a fleet of transatlantic sailing packets between Philadelphia in Liverpool.  Like New York’s Black Ball Line, the Cope Line introduced the revolutionary idea of regularly scheduled departures.  Previously, ships waited until their holds were full until setting sail. This practice, while saving merchants money in the short term, left passengers and merchants waiting for days or even weeks. The Cope Line turned the old business model on its head, making passengers and merchants tailor their schedules around the shipping line’s The vagaries of wind and weather made regularly scheduled arrival times impossible until the advent of steam-powered transatlantic liners in the 1840s.  During the Cope Line’s six decades of existence, the business made the Cope family one of Philadelphia’s richest clans.  Henry Cope, another son of Thomas, took his inheritance and purchased 55 acres on Germantown’s Washington Lane.  Named for the Cope family’s ancestral village in England, the Cope estate is now the Awbury Arboretum.

Awbury Arboretum, intersection of Washington Lane and Ardleigh Street, June 1, 1956.

In 1857, Alfred Cope purchased a building on Germantown Avenue to house new classrooms for GFS, as well for the now-800 volume library. The books had previously been rather unceremoniously shoved into the Meetinghouse’s ladies cloakroom.  Fifteen years later, the chronically-ill Cope made his final gift: $13,000 to erect a purpose-built home for the Friends Free Library, which would be open to both students of the school and the wider Germantown community. The new library opened its doors in 1874, its shelves lined with 5,634 books: 1,500 children’s books, 25 Friends volumes, 262 science books, and 238 biographies.   Yet when setting up the trust that would fund the acquisition of new books, the Cope family inserted an important stipulation for this public-private library: no fiction, except for children’s books.

The newly-appointed librarian William Kite vigorously defended the stipulations set forth in the Cope Trust, and according to one account, “the factory girl who tended a spinning jenny, the messenger boy, the studious young man with notebook, he found something for them all, even for the rowdies who plagued him by coming in droves and asking fot tracts which he knew they would not read.”

Within a century of its founding, however, the Friends Free Library realized that to stay culturally current, it had to find creative ways to acquire works of fiction — in the interest of the community and the students of Germantown Friends School.

Interior of the Friends Free Library , 1881. Courtesy of the Germantown Friends School Archives.

Steven Ujifusa, a Philadelphia-based historian, is the author of Barons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World’s Fastest Clipper Ship (Simon & Schuster 2018).  He has appeared on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and the Philadelphia Athenaeum Literary Award for Non-Fiction.  His first book, A Man and His Ship: America’s Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the SS United States, was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the ten best non-fiction books of 2012.  www.stevenujifusa.com

Sources:

Bill Koons, “A Short History of the Friends’ Free Library,” Collection of Germantown Friends School.

“Friends Free Library of Germantown, 1848-1948, Some Notes in Retrospect, Collection of Germantown Friends School.

Susan Stamberg, “How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune Into a Library Legacy,” NPR, August 1, 2013. https://www.npr.org/2013/08/01/207272849/how-andrew-carnegie-turned-his-fortune-into-a-library-legacy, accessed August 16, 2018.

“Our History,” http://awbury.org/our-history/, accessed August 21, 2018.

 

 

Categories
Behind the Scenes Neighborhoods Snapshots of History

Creating Community at the Powelton Co-op – Part 2

3508 Hamilton Street. The 3500 block of Hamilton was the nucleus of a community made up of former members of the Powelton Co-op. November 9, 1959.

Part I of “Creating Community at the Powelton C0-op”

A few years ago, Gwendolyn Bye, daughter of Friendship Co-op founders Jerry and Lois Bye, was thumbing through some old photos from her 1950s West Philadelphia childhood. When she came across a class picture from the Charles Drew Elementary School, which once stood on the 3700 block of Warren Street, she realized something remarkable.

“I saw this wonderful picture of my very first grade class with Mrs. Ruby,”  she said. “‘Oh, my God,’ I say to myself. ‘My class is all black, and I’m the only white kid.’ And I didn’t even know it at the time!”

Sixty years ago, her Quaker activist parents decided to send their four children to the local public school near their home on the 3500 block of Hamilton Street. “We could’ve gone to a Quaker school,” she remembered. “But my parents wanted us to go to the local public school. And it was almost like what was going on in the South in the ’50s and ’60s was– unfortunately, they were all-white schools. My parents did the opposite. They wanted their children to go into an all-black school and integrate it.”

Gwen spent her first years at “The Court,” the first home of the Powelton Co-op, where she grew up with the community’s other small children. Many were mixed race: Japanese-African American, Jewish and Protestant, white and African-American. Here, in Powelton Village, in the relaxed surroundings of the co-op, they didn’t feel judged. They didn’t care what the neighbors said. They were simply a group of little kids who played together.

Gwen’s upbringing in Powelton gave her a perspective on race that few Americans in the 1950s had. “Racism is taught by parents,” she said. “If you just let a child experience other human beings, they’re not going to look at them based on their skin color. They’re going to look at them for who they are, other people that they play with, other people that they enjoy or like.”

She also lacked something: fear. “I didn’t have fear growing up,” she said. “I didn’t fear anybody. I didn’t fear you because you were black. I didn’t fear you because you were Jewish. I didn’t fear you because you were white. I guess I would fear people because they had guns. That I feared. I feared police.”

It was only when she entered middle school that she began hearing other kids call each other derogatory names, even at the relatively integrated Powel School on the 3500 block of Powelton Avenue. “One child would say black cracker. Another child would say white cracker. And I’d ask, ‘What is a black cracker, and what’s a white cracker?”

Her father Jerry Bye and his fellow realtor George Funderburg encouraged other like-minded newcomers to move to Powelton Village, bucked the the “blockbusting” so endemic in the real estate profession. In 1951, for example, he rented an apartment to the Lees, an African-American couple from Trenton, New Jersey.  He and other residents made sure the Lees felt welcome. “It was a nice neighborhood, an integrated neighborhood, and it was very progressive,” remembered Bob Lee, whose wife was a social worker doing fieldwork at a community healthcare center  “We all got along very well.”

By the early 1950s, the Powelton Co-op’s residents could no longer fit into a single large house. In addition to the number of single members, there were a growing number of families with young  children. Yet the core families didn’t want to abandon their special corner of West Philadelphia. They adapted by purchasing homes of their own, centered on the 3500 block of Hamilton Street. Real estate was still cheap, and many of the Co-op’s were affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, an easy walk away.  They also made plans to create a distinctive neighborhood social infrastructure: a babysitting co-op, cultural events, and their own civic assocation.

 

Sources: 

Interview with Gwendolyn Bye, October 5, 2017.

Interview with Bob Lee, November 16, 2017.

 

Categories
Behind the Scenes Historic Sites Snapshots of History

Andrew Eastwick: Savior of Bartram’s Garden

 

Bartram’s Garden, 54th Street and Eastwick Terrace, as photographed by Widoop and Carollo, dated January 1, 1960.

Famed Bartram’s Garden, homestead of Philadelphia’s 18th century botanist John Bartram, is going through a renaissance today. The gardens are lushly planted and the main buildings restored.  The parking lot is full on warm summer Saturdays. New bike trails connect this pastoral sanctuary to Center City and University City.  The renovated barn offers programs for schoolchildren. After wandering through the botanical gardens–the nerve center of the Bartram family’s North American seed empire–visitors can rent kayaks and canoes at the river landing and paddle up and down the Schuylkill River. Picnickers relax under groves of old growth trees.  A wildflower-bedecked walking path flows down to the river’s edge.

The whole ensemble is gloriously incongruous: a pristine and beautifully-maintained vestige of Philadelphia’s colonial era, hemmed in by housing projects, oil tanks, and railroad trestles.  The shimmering glass-and-steel skyline of Center City looms in the distance, a dreamy reminder of the modern age.

What saved Bartram’s Gardens from destruction?  A larger and even grander mansion, built with the very proceeds of 19th century industry that gobbled up much of the surrounding riverbanks.  Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1806-1879) was a Philadelphia engineer credited with the invention of the steam shovel.  As a partner in the firm of Harrison, Winans, and Eastwick, he made a tremendous fortune building railroads for Czar Nicholas I of Russia.  In 1850, he purchased the 46-acre Bartram property from John Bartram’s granddaughter Ann Bartram Carr. Yet unlike many other rich men before and after him, he decided not to tear down the existing house on his property.  Rather, he left modest Bartram family homestead alone as a museum piece, and built his own mansion off to one side. According to one report, he vowed not to harm “one bush” on the Bartram family compound.

“Franklinia Altamaha,” as illustrated by William Bartram in 1762. Source: Wikipedia

Eastwick’s own house stood in stark contrast to the simple stone Quaker farmhouse lived in by three generations of Bartrams.  Bartram Hall, completed in 1851, was the first major commission of architect Samuel Sloan, who went on to design the houses on Woodland Terrace and the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disease. Built the so-called Norman revival style, it cost $30,000 (over $2 million in modern currency), and rivaled the grand estates on New York’s Hudson River, boasting 34 rooms and surrounded by formal gardens.  Its four-story tower and crenelated roofline rose high above the flowering Franklinia trees so lovingly cultivated by John Bartram.  On warm summer nights, the rich industrialist’s family and houseguests could wander through the adjacent Bartram family homestead, kept just as America’s founding botanist knew it.

A rendering of Bartram Hall, as portrayed in Samuel Sloan’s “The Model Architect.”

Yet even a man as rich as Andrew Eastwick couldn’t stem the tide of industry on the Schuylkill River.  By the time of his death in 1879, his property was completely surrounded by factories, and the river befouled by pollution.   Yet the Eastwick heirs resolved that their family home would not succumb to the same fate as the rest of the lower Schuylkill valley. In 1890, they deeded both Bartram Hall and Bartram’s Gardens to the city of Philadelphia for use as a public park.  Sadly, only six years later, the grandiose and ponderous Bartram’s Hall caught fire and burned to the ground. Today, a pavilion sits on the site of the mansion.  It is a popular site for weddings.  A community garden serving Southwest Philadelphia flourishes nearby.

The original Bartram house and garden remain, a monument not just to America’s earliest botanist, but also to Andrew McCalla Eastwick, one of the founders of the American historic preservation movement.

Sources:

“Bartram Hall, The Andrew M. Eastwick House, Philadelphia PA,” Picturesque Italianate Architecture, July 18, 2016.  http://picturesqueitalianatearchitecture.blogspot.com/2016/07/bartram-hall-andrew-m-eastwick-house.html

Kenneth Hafertepe and James F. O’Gorman, eds. American Architects and Their Books, 1840-1915 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), p.114.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Snapshots of History

The Derham Body Company: Dignified Simplicity on Four Wheels

A 1920s advertisement for the Derham Body Company of Rosemont and Philadelphia, featuring a Locomobile owned by Rodman Wanamaker II. Locomobile, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, claimed theirs was the “best built car in America.”  Edward T. Stotesbury, flamboyant owner of kids bounce house Whitemarsh Hall in Wyndmoor, owned a similar Locomobile. Coachbuild.com.

The so-called annual model change (also known as “planned obsolesce”) dates back to the 1920s, when General Motors transformed automobile styling from an afterthought into high fashion.   Dazzling new body styles, vibrant colors, and powerful engines enticed the aspiring American middle class, who began going into debt to buy a lifestyle accessory rather than a mere vehicle.

Yet between 1895 and 1930,  car buyers were often more attached to their car’s body than the actual machine , a holdover from the days of the horse-and-carriage, when highly-skilled artisans produced a variety of open and closed bodied coaches: landaus, victorias, phaetons, brakes, and cabriolets, to name a few.Bounce house for sale

Philadelphia was never much of a car-manufacturing city, with the minor exception of the short-lived Biddle Motor Car Company. Yet Philadelphia’s custom car coachwork was famous throughout the world.  John Joseph Derham, an Irish immigrant, set up shop in 1887 in the new Main Line community of Rosemont, building fine carriages for the horse-loving residents. By the early 1900s, J.J. Derham’s well-heeled customers were buying their first automobiles. Rather than buying a factory-built car body, a Derham client like department store heir Rodman Wanamaker II would opt to purchase only the chassis.  Wanamaker would then have the car (consistenting of only a wheels, frame, engine, and radiator) delivered to Derham, where he would then work with master craftsmen to come up with the car of his dreams.

This could be a daunting undertaking.  The cars that Derham’s customers chose sold for around $5,000 for the chassis alone ($100,000 in today’s money): Locomobile, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Lincoln, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Mercedes, Minverva, and Packard.  Building a custom-built body for hat chassis could set the owner back another $10,000 to $20,000. The body styles boasted the same names as the horse-drawn carriages they replaced.  A sporty two seater body, for example, was known as a cabriolet.  An enclosed formal body for opera night at the Academy of Music was a brougham.  An four door car open body, good for summer driving on winding suburban roads, was a phaeton.  Although some very rich customers owned several cars, others preferred to use two or more bodies on the same car.  According to a history of J. Gibson McIlvain & Company, Derham’s principal wood supplier in the 1910s and 20s:

“Largely because most early automobiles were manufactured with open, touring car bodies, the business prospered. Wealthy citizens of Philadelphia who wished to drive their cars in winter would come to the Derham company to a have a closed body custom-built. Every Spring the closed body would be removed and stored with Derham. In the Fall, the body would be installed in time for the cold weather.”

In an era before government-mandated safety standards, coachbuilders were free to indulge their client’s wildest fantasies.  Body panels were aluminum, and the frames constructed of seasoned ash.  Interiors were lined with velvet and leather, and accented with strips of rosewood, walnut, and mother of pearl.  To keep up with demand, every spring Derham would send a representative to the McIlvain yard to “make his selection of the finest oak, northern ash, and hickory.”

There was at least one Philadelphia lady who took the attachment to a specific body style to an extreme. Louise Audenried’s first car was a 1907 Zeidel, with a custom-built Derham body.  When Audenried bought a new car several years later, she demanded that the old body be transferred to the new chassis. Derham gave her the bad news that the old body wouldn’t fit onto the new chassis.  Louise Audenried refused to budge — she wanted exactly the same type of body.  So, Derham built a replica body that fit onto the new chassis.  In the 1920s, Audenried purchased a new Pierce-Arrow, and once again, Derham obliged.  Finally, in 1938, Audenried purchased a magnificent Packard Super Eight.  Yet rather than fashion a modern, streamlined body for this chassis, Derham did exactly as the client wished: constructing a boxy, Edwardian body on top of a powerful Art Deco drivetrain.

The J.J. Derham & Company had an office at 237-45 S.12th Street, nearby another auto body shop. Photograph dated January 10, 1917.

For coachbuilders like Derham, the good times ended with the stock market crash of 1929, which wiped out the fortunes of many of their loyal clients. Even those who still had money opted to simply buy a Cadillac or Lincoln with standard, factory-built bodies.  Most of the old line, East Coast coachbuilders  went out of business.

During the lean years of the 1930s, Derham miraculously held on, designing formal cars for the King and Queen of England, Pope Pius XII, Gary Cooper, and even Josef Stalin.

After surviving on custom jobs and classic car restorations, including a presidential limousine for Dwight Eisenhower, Derham’s Rosemont shop finally closed its doors in 1971.

A Duesenberg advertisement featuring a convertible town car body built by the Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Pinterest.com.

Sources: 

“Derham Body Company,” Coachbuilt, http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/d/derham/derham.htm, accessed September 28, 2017.

William Barton Marsh, Philadelphia Hardwood: The Story of the McIlvains of Philadelphia, 1798-1948 (Philadelphia: William E. Rudge’s Sons, 1948), p.63.

 

 

Categories
Behind the Scenes Events and People Neighborhoods Snapshots of History

Coleman Sellers, Powelton Village, and The Gilded Age” (Part I)

Coleman Sellers II (1827-1907). Source; Wikipedia.com

While ‘The Gilded Age’ commercial obstacle course touches on many themes as it shifts uncomfortably between melodrama and satire, occasionally verging into burlesque, it always projects a powerful message about the futility and self-destructiveness of chasing after riches.

-R. Kent Rasmussen

Now divided into apartments, 3301 Baring Street is an imposing Italianate style mansion completed in 1857 for John McIlvain, a prominent lumber merchant, and his wife Sarah.  When it was built, the Powelton district of the newly annexed West Philadelphia was a fashionable suburban retreat for the city’s gentry, its street-lined streets worlds away from the smoke and noise of the burgeoning industrial metropolis.  The district was accessible only by horse-drawn streetcar, and its houses boasted spectacular views of the Schuylkill River and the Fairmount Waterworks.

At the end of the Civil War, the McIlvains sold the house to industrialist and inventor Coleman Sellers II and his wife Cornelia. Coleman Sellers was one of the kingpins of Philadelphia’s Quaker establishment. He also had the arts in his blood, as his mother was the daughter of Philadelphia’s famous painter Charles Wilson Peale. Born in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania in 1827, Coleman was trained as an engineer and spent his formative years in Cincinnati, Ohio as the superintendent of a rolling mill operated by his brothers George Escol and Charles.  Yet what really made Sellers’ career was locomotives — by the early 1850s, he had become a master engineer of these new machines that could transport the riches of the heartland to the East Coast at over 30 miles per hour.  Flush with cash, Sellers returned to his native city and built a thriving machinery works in the Spring Garden neighborhood.  As the 19th century continued and blossomed (or devolved) into what satirist Mark Twain called the “Gilded Age,” Sellers expanded his investments into other concerns, such as Midvale Steel in East Falls and the Millbourne Mills in his native Upper Darby.

Socially, Coleman Sellers enjoyed great success as well, joining the ranks of the Saturday Club and the Union League.  Yet his work ethic never flagged.  He designed and built locomotives for William Henry Aspinwall’s Panama-Pacific Railroad (a 50 mile rail line that cut down the travel time between New York and the new state of California from months to weeks), oversaw the construction of the Niagara Falls hydroelectric plant, served as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and patented an early motion picture camera that he christened the kinematoscope. His firm also built the shafting to the Corliss engine that powered the 1876 Centennial Exposition.  His true pet project was the Franklin Institute, the scientific powerhouse which he served as vice president and president.

He was also a firm believer that machinery needed no applied ornamentation, as its innate aesthetic beauty lay in its function. Foreshadowing the architecture of functionality later espoused by Louis Sullivan and LeCorbusier, Sellers declared that “we find that a new order of shapes, founded on the uses to which they are to be applied and the nature of the material of which they are made, have been adopted and the flaunting colors the gaudy stripes and glittering gilding has been replaced by this one tint, the color of the iron upon which it is painted.”

The Coleman Sellers II mansion at 3301 Baring Street, December 14, 1962.

Yet Sellers also somehow found the time to live graciously (and in colorful Victorian style) at his home at 33rd and Baring, which he and his wife expanded and lavishly redecorated over their four decades in residence.  According to his grandson Harold Colton in his 1961 book North of Market, Coleman “extended the west side adding a second room for his extensive library and enlarged the dining room making it quite long. The walls he hung with many portraits of the family by his grandfather Charles Wilson Peale. On the second floor the master bedroom over the dining room was lengthened and over the new library a sunny glass-enclosed conservatory was built, where his wife Cora could keep her flowers in the wintertime. Besides the improvements to the west wing he built between the kitchen and dining room a pantry over which were private baths on each floor. On the third floor over the kitchen wing he built an office for himself and a laboratory or shop reached by new back stairs. After the improvements were complete Jessie [Sellers, his daughter] was given the large bedroom on the third floor not only with a private hath but also with a fireplace.”

In fact, the 3300 block of Baring became something of a Sellers family compound.  Siblings and cousins pooled $23,000 to purchase it for their own homes.  In the early 1880s, the patriarch built Queen Anne twin houses at 410 and 412 North 33rd Street for his son Coleman Jr. and daughter Jessie, respectively.

Yet as Coleman Sellers’ star rose, the one of his younger brother and former business partner George Escol Sellers plummeted, in no small part due to a certain fictional character created by authors Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their collaborative 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today: Colonel Mulberry Sellers.

As Twain wrote: “Many persons regarded ‘Colonel Sellers’ as a fiction, an invention, an extravagant impossibility, and did me the honor to call him a “creation”; but they were mistaken. I merely put him on paper as he was; he was not a person who could be exaggerated.”

Sources: 

“3301 Baring Street,” PoweltonVillage.org. http://www.poweltonvillage.org/interactivemap/files/3301baring.htm

“Coleman Sellers (1827-1907), FrankFurness.org, n.d. http://frankfurness.org/profile/biography/influences/design/sellers/

Barbara Schmidt, “We Will Confiscate His Name: The Unfortunate Case of George Escol Sellers,” TwainQuotes.com, n.d., http://www.twainquotes.com/ColonelSellers.html

Dominic Vitiello, Engineering Philadelphia: The Sellers Family and the Industrial Metropolis (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), p.177.