The Book of Philadelphia is a title suggestive of a large task. Philadelphia is complex, old, still growing, and he who understands her and writes of his understanding so that others may share it must have energy, insight, and skill. Mr. Shackleton's book bears ample evidence of his powers as an interpreter; his previous efforts at baring the souls of New York and Boston have given him a penetrating vision and a sureness of touch that ﬁnd full scope in his book of Philadelphia. He has given us far more than a guidebook for the tourist or casual sojourner; his observations and comments have a character that should make the book even more valuable to Philadelphians than to outsiders.
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The Book of Philadelphia
The book of Philadelphia, R. Shackleton
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Chapter I -Insiders And Outsiders1
Chapter II -The Hidden Churches. 7
Chapter III - Within A Nooked Courtyard. 16
Chapter IV - The City Of Franklin. 20
Chapter V - The State House. 31
Chapter VI - The Hall Of An Ancient Guild. 40
Chapter VII. - Quakers And Meeting-Houses. 46
Chapter VIII - Old Sections Of The City. 55
Chapter IX - Streets And Ways. 64
Chapter X - Romantic Business. 75
Chapter XI - Art And Artists. 81
Chapter XII - Some Actors And Authors. 89
Chapter XIII - The Place Of Clubs. 100
Chapter XIV - A City Of The Classic. 109
Chapter XV - From City Hall To Memorial Hall115
Chapter XVI - The Fair Mansions Of Fairmount123
Chapter XVII - A College Town Within The City. 130
Chapter XVIII - Some Distinguishing Traits. 136
Chapter XIX - The Battle Street Of A Village. 144
Chapter XX - Out The Old York Road. 153
Chapter XXI - The Wayne Line. 161
Chapter XXII - The Three B's Of The Riverside. 167
Chapter XXIII - Romance In Towns To The Southward. 173
Chapter XXIV - Valley Forge. 178
Chapter XXV - As Far As York And Lancaster184
Chapter XXVI - Some Benefactions, Old And New.. 189
Chapter XXVII - South Of Market Street194
Chapter XXVIII – A Feudal City. 199
PHILADELPHIA is the City of Brotherly Love; but if you hope to receive a share of the brotherly affection it makes a great deal of difference whose brother you happen to be. And, more than that, it is looked upon as of prime importance to know not only whose brother you are, but whose son or daughter, whose grandson or granddaughter you are, who were your great-grandparents, even who were your great-great-grandparents. No other American city so coldly cuts its social cleavages; no other has raised and upheld such unbrotherly barriers. There are not only brothers — but others! If one is outside of certain lines and circles of consanguinity, Philadelphia is not the City of Brotherly Love but the City of Unbrotherly Indifference.
All this would have immensely surprised William Penn himself, who hoped so ardently for the growth of an actual Philadelphia as the capital of his Sylvania. The city whose name meant fraternal affection was to be in the midst of a smiling sylvan colony. But the English King gave the first touch of exclusiveness to the new colony by his merry prefixing of Penn's own name to Sylvania, and neither the entreaties of Penn, which were laughed away, nor his offer of a bribe of twenty guineas to the undersecretary who engrossed the charter; a bribe which was refused by the wary clerk, who, though he loved money much, feared the Merry Monarch more; could suffice to take away what Penn deemed the un-Quakerlike use of his own name; he deplored the un-Quakerlike appearance of personal vanity.
In Philadelphia, family is a fetish. And yet, it is far more than a city of families. It is markedly a city of individuality, of individualities, a city of character and of characters; it is a city of a character which comes more from individuals than from families, intense though family worship is. In this frank dependence on individuals for its fame and progress, the city presents an odd contrast in the deference which it at the same time so frankly yields to local lineage.
And, strangest of all, for this City of Unbrotherly Indifference to outsiders and love for insiders, is the fact that its accepted leaders, its greatest men, have been frankly outsiders!
Penn himself was the first example. Being the founder, he could not well avoid being an outsider; but instead of making himself an insider, by taking up his permanent home here, or even by living here for many years or making frequent visits, his personal stay in the city and province of his founding was brief.
William Penn had excellent grounds for that family vanity which is so marked a trait of the city he founded. His ancestors were not such as sat upon the remote edges and outskirts of history. One Penn was even so distinguished as to have much to do with that long-established English institution, the Saturday night bath, for, as barber to Henry the Eighth, from whose reign until well into that of Victoria the week-end bath was a fashion firmly fastened, he was expected always to be present and, as the old phrasing has come down, ''always useful." And he had his reward, for in a painting by Holbein representing a group of barber-surgeons receiving a charter from King Henry, he is gravely prominent, as befits the barber of a king.
William Penn's own father, who was very much the opposite of a Quaker, found a road to fame by becoming an admiral, gallant and capable, thus quite eclipsing, in the opinion of most of the English, his non-fighting son, who merely founded a great commonwealth and a great city.
In the beautiful Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, in old Bristol, which Queen Elizabeth declared to be the fairest and goodliest parish church in England, I saw the monument of Admiral Penn, with his coat of arms and his armor set in impressive prominence on the wall, and with a lengthy laudatory inscription, naming title after title that he had won, and quaintly ending, that he had "in much Peace arived and Ancord In his Last and Best Port.''
Very different is this proud monument in the beautiful old church from the monument to William Penn himself; yet the sweet austerity of William Penn's last resting place outdoes that of his father in impressiveness. For the founder of Philadelphia rests in an out of the way nook in rural England, a lonely spot called Jordans, where stands a tiny Quaker meeting-house, and his grave is marked only by a low-set stone, and all is peace and restfulness, and the honeysuckle, the fragrant stock, the white roses, grow close about the stone, and in the charming austerity there is immense impressiveness.
The family and the descendants of William Penn followed his example in not staying in Philadelphia, either living or dead, admirable city though from the first it has been. Of the thirteen children of Penn, seven by his first wife, she of the unexpectedly romantic name of Gulielma, often affectionately shortened by him to "Guli," and six by his second, Hannah Callowhill, a name retained in Philadelphia by unromantic Callowhill Street, only one was even born in America, his son John, and none was buried here. A later John, a grandson of William, and also governor, died here in 1795 and was buried in the cemetery of Christ Church; but the body was shortly taken up and carried to England.
By accepting perforce the prefix of "Penn" to the name of the colony, and by the effect of his own personality, Penn himself gave the note of individuality which has throughout the passing years marked the city.
Over and over again one notices similitudes between Philadelphia and Boston, and curiously the two old cities are indeed alike, with the likeness dependent in great degree upon the loyalty to family descent, But in comparing the two cities, one may constantly notice the contrast that it was families that made Boston, but individuals who made Philadelphia.
And again and again, once the fact is realized, one comes back to that curious fact that the greatest individuals of Philadelphia were not really of the city. Cold as Philadelphia is and has always been to outsiders, difficult as it is and has always been for outsiders to become affiliated — aphiladelphiated, so to speak — it is to outsiders, and not to insiders, that Philadelphia mainly owes her achievements and her prestige.
Franklin, more than any other individual, represents and characterizes Philadelphia; and Franklin dropped in quite casually from Boston, and quite without the backing of proud New England family connection. That his father was a pious and prudent man and his mother a discreet and virtuous woman, as he himself expressed it on the epitaph which he wrote for their monument, covered all that could be said on that score; and this was nothing at all from the viewpoint of family.
Yet Philadelphia, like Boston, stands in extraordinary degree for the sense of respectability which lies in family permanence.
Next to Franklin, no name is so closely associated with Philadelphia as that of Stephen Girard; and Girard was a native of France, whose Philadelphia advent was even more casual than that of Franklin; for with his ship he slipped into Philadelphia in a successful effort to escape English privateers, and, rather than go out to certain capture, stayed on, and became a great Philadelphia merchant.
Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, the great Philadelphian who financially saved the country, was English born, and Jay Cooke, the financier of the nation during the Rebellion, was an Ohio man. It is a curious similarity, in regard to these two outsiders who became so important, that each of them, after saving the nation financially, failed in his own finances and lost everything. And an unhappy dissimilarity is that although Jay Cooke happily rehabilitated himself financially, Morris, the greater man of the two, unhappily did not.
Philadelphia has a university of work. Temple University, whose students, coming from all parts of the country, have passed beyond one hundred thousand in number in the few decades of the university's existence; and the man who founded this university, Russell Conwell, founded also a great hospital, and a church which has greater seating capacity than any other Protestant church in the United States, and Sunday by Sunday he fills it; and he has also made himself known as among the most popular of living lecturers, in thousands of lectures throughout the land; and this Philadelphian was born in a little hill town in Massachusetts!
The two editors who have the distinction of winning, with their periodicals, probably the greatest and most widespread circulation, not only of Philadelphia but of the world, Edward Bok and George Horace Lorimer, came to Philadelphia, the one from Holland by way of Brooklyn and the other from Kentucky by way of Chicago.
Side by side with the fact that the greatest Philadelphians, in accomplishment, were not born Philadelphians, there has always gone a curious indifference to distinguished men, both that the city has had and that it might have had. It is curious that Philadelphia had the chance to have Phillips Brooks; that in fact he was for a time a Philadelphian, being rector of Holy Trinity some half century ago; but his qualities were not sufficiently appreciated here, and New England got him back and made him a bishop.
And there was another bishop that the Philadelphians rejected who became the head of a very considerable corner elsewhere, Bishop Potter: for although she kept two Bishop Potters, who by the way, were both of them born in New York State, she let the other and greater Potter, Henry C. Potter, leave here and go to New York City to become a very distinguished bishop indeed.
The indifference has extended to the point of not even claiming greatness that actually belongs to the city, if the city has not sufficiently cared for the man who did the deeds of greatness. The city is so delightfully sufficient unto itself that it has always believed that it could afford to accept or ignore, just as it chanced to decide.
There was Tom Paine. He was a Philadelphian when he did his greatest service for the country. Yet he is never claimed as Philadelphian; and this was not because he was a free-thinker in religion, for Stephen Girard was an avowed free-thinker, and Franklin was known to be essentially one. And, as usual, Paine was not a born Philadelphian.
The way in which Tom Paine won high achievement is in itself a fascinating story.
An Englishman, he came to America late in 1774, armed with a letter of introduction from Franklin, who was then abroad. Within a few months occurred the battles of Lexington and Concord, and all that this meant to Paine at that time was, as he expressed it in a letter, that it was very hard on him to have the country set on fire about his ears just as he was getting settled! But before the end of 1775 he was flaming with American enthusiasm. "I have always," writes this patriot of a few months' growth, "I have always considered the independency of this continent an event which sooner or later must arrive."
By the time he had been a year in America he was writing the brilliantly patriotic " Common Sense," and it was published in January of 1776; not, however, to Paine 's financial advantage, for his publisher even managed to figure up a balance against him of 29 pounds, 12 shillings and one penny — and somehow that penny seems to stand for so much!
Then Paine enlisted and took up his musket and marched and froze and fought and retreated and suffered with the other soldiers and in the intervals of his duty, at night around the scanty camp-fires, wrote the first part of the ''Crisis," and it was printed and sent out on the very eve of Washington's attack at Trenton, and had great influence in heartening the handful of soldiers for the desperate attempt. "These are the times that try men's souls!" Such were the ringing opening words.
Paine 's own account of the " Crisis" is still preserved. "0n the eighth of December, 1776, I came to Philadelphia and, seeing the deplorable and melancholy condition the people were in, afraid to speak and almost to think, the public presses stopped, and nothing in circulation but fears and falsehoods, I sat down, and in what may be called a passion of patriotism wrote the first number."
What a city of glorified indifference, to be indifferent to such Philadelphia achievements as these of Tom Paine! And it is so typical. One finds it hard to believe, for Philadelphians have forgotten it or never write or speak of it, that General McClellan was born here, and the city is just as silent in regard to the fact that here was the birthplace of General Pemberton. Indeed, I think it likely that few Philadelphians know that either of these famous generals was Philadelphia born. And the case of Pemberton was so positively bizarre. Born in this city, of old-time Quaker stock, educated at West Point and serving in the Mexican War, a Northerner of Northerners, he nevertheless joined the Confederate army and was so trusted as to be given the command at Vicksburg, which place, with his army, he surrendered to Grant. Exchanged, Pemberton once more threw himself into the fighting and was in command of Confederate artillery at Petersburg and Richmond, again facing Grant up to the end. Then, after a while, this curious Philadelphia Quaker so felt the drawing charm of his city, that he yielded to it and crept unobtrusively back, and died at nearby Penllyn.
The similarities, so often insisted upon, between Boston and Philadelphia, are not so noticeable as their differences.
In Boston, not only is every Bostonian who won even a medium fame proudly remembered, but the house where he lived is remembered, and street addresses and descriptions are scattered freely through every book which treats of that city. But in Philadelphia all this is different. The city takes a pride in forgetting its own people, except the outsiders who became insiders! — and a perverse pride in forgetting where they lived. No Philadelphia book gives the names, or, if by some rare chance a few names are given, no mention whatever of the home is made.
Did you ever hear of Kate Smith? "Fate sought to conceal her by calling her Smith," as the poet sang. But nothing could long conceal this particular Kate Smith. She wrote the story of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Yes; that story, with the most charming of young girl heroines, was written by Kate Smith of Philadelphia, though few knew she had been a Philadelphian. After a while she had left Philadelphia, and lived in California and Maine and New York, and incidentally developed a partiality for marrying into names holding within them the odd combination of "igg," such as Wiggin and Riggs. She was born in Philadelphia on September 28, in the year — but, well, never mind about the year! That is quite immaterial. Some people always stay young.
Where was Henry George born? For, although the fact is forgotten, the great Single Taxer was born at 413 South Tenth Street. Where did Robert Morris live? His unfinished " Folly" is tauntingly remembered, but his home is forgotten.
Nay, you would ask in vain where lived the most famous Philadelphian of all, Benjamin Franklin, A few, a very few, could tell where was located the home that he built for himself after he had been for many years a Philadelphian, the home that was his when he died, but no one could tell you, with certainty, where he lived and worked during the most important years of his life, the formative years, when he and his printing press were establishing their permanent place in the history of not only Philadelphia but of the world. Boston honors his birth-site, London his lodging place, Twyford his visiting place, Paris knows where he lived while at the French court, but Philadelphia has forgotten his working-place.
And yet, it is not that Franklin has been neglected. Never was a man more profoundly honored, more deeply and ineradicably kept in mind, by any city. It is only that in this respect, as almost all other respects, Philadelphia is a city apart, a city of individuality, a city that is different, a city that must needs even forget or remember her distinguished ones, or forget or remember facts in regard to her distinguished ones, according to a code and a practice of her own.
Or, take Girard. It would be hard to find his home or the site of his home. But none the less he is honored and remembered. A beautiful old bank building, far down town, the first of the classic pillared fronts and worthy of its leadership, bears his name, and a superb new building planned by that great lover of architectural beauty, Stanford White, and put up within a few years at the busiest corner of Philadelphia, bears his name, not through a connection with his estate, but to do honor to his memory.
UNLIKE other old cities, Philadelphia hides her old churches. Boston sets her old churches out to be seen of all, in the heart of her busiest section, where business folk and citizens of every kind, and all visitors to the city, see them perforce. New York sets her fine old Trinity and the still more ancient St. Paul's so prominently in the forefront that all must needs see. Thus to the throngs of Broadway, of Tremont Street, of Washington Street, are displayed the fine preciousness of the fine old churches of the fine old time. But in this, as in other matters, Philadelphia is the city that is different!
Those who go down old-time Chestnut Street or Market Street or Walnut Street look in vain for any indication of long-past churchliness. And these are the three old streets along which goes the traffic of the present day. And this in a city which so prides herself on her churches and her churchliness!
And even when one learns where the old-time churches are to be found, it is a matter of difficulty for most Philadelphians and for all visitors to find them. They are in out of the way corners, with no far-seen upstanding spires that dominate or guide. Christ Church has a low spire that is hidden, and St. Peter's has a tall spire that is hidden, and Old Swedes has no spire at all and is even more hidden. And when it comes to St. Joseph's— but that is still another story!
It is not that there has been any effort to hide the churches. There has never been persecution. The hiding has been unintentional. From the earliest days, Philadelphia has made welcome every kind of belief, and almost every kind of disbelief. Quakers, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Free Thinkers like Girard or Franklin but not quite the Free Thinker of the heedless outspokenness of Tom Paine, have been made free of the city.
Far down town as it is, hidden in a part of the city where there is no longer either business or living; except, broadly speaking, for tenement dwellers who have seized upon old houses for their tenements; in a part of the city that is now as distinct from social life as it is from business, although geographically on the very borders of both, is old St. Peter's, and I mention this church first, because Philadelphia is a city that is still governed, in essentials, by society, and St. Peter's is the society church. To be received as one of themselves by the members of St. Peter's is all that is necessary to show that one's standing is established; those who permittedly pass St. Peter's portal here, feel no qualms as to being permitted entrance through St. Peter's hereafter.
There is no obvious reason why this should be a more aristocratic church than the still older Christ Church or the church on Rittenhouse Square which represents, more than any other of the modern churches, social leadership; but ''facts is facts and not to be drove," as I think it was Sairy Gamp who observed. The church is especially notable because it stands in its own graveyard; and this is seriously or half seriously given as one cause of its exclusiveness. For it is not the habit of Philadelphia churches to stand in their own graveyards. Taking the general aspect of the city, the churches are graveyardless almost to the extent of new cities of the West.
Here and there is a church with a patch of graves about it, as, so unexpectedly, the Catholic church on 13th Street between Market and Chestnut. But, broadly considered, it is a city without visible graveyard evidences, except in the formal cemeteries. St. Peter's churchyard and that of old Swedes, where the graves are in open evidence, are almost hidden successfully away from the knowledge of all but those locally born. The Philadelphian must always have shared the Louis XIV dislike of seeing the place where he was to be buried. The graveyards and cemeteries, old and new, are mostly in remote places. The largest. Laurel Hill East, West, North and South, are so cleverly perched above park paths and drives that they hold to their Schuylkill side without being in the city scene. Broad Street has no Trinity churchyard to point a moral to the busy Philadelphian; no Granary graveyard looks out on happy Chestnut Street. Old Arch Street graveyard would be hidden were it not that the wall is cut for Franklin's grave to show. Is this perhaps an influence of the Friends, whose graveyards are peaceful spots and not for show? Even Woodlands is on a quiet road leading to Darby and is not a daily reminder to many passersby.
It does certainly add to the dignity of a church to be surrounded by rows of gravestones, for the general effect on the general eye and consciousness as well as on the personal pride of people who can walk into church past the gravestones of their ancestors.
Much more effective as St. Peter's Church is on account of its graveyard, that is not the only reason for its exclusiveness. After all, Swedes' Church is surrounded by its own graveyard. Old Christ Church found at an early day that it must secure burying space away from the immediate vicinity of the church, which was becoming hedged about by buildings, and thereupon established its graveyard in the large space at the corner of Arch and Fifth streets.
The possession of a graveyard gives opportunity to add an interest to a church by the interest of the graves; and most interesting in the graveyard of St. Peter's is that of Decatur. When Stephen Decatur offered the toast, "My country! May she be always right! But, right or wrong, my country!" he did not know that the words were to become one of the proud possessions of our country. For they express the sentiment of a right good fighting man; his not to reason why, his but to do and die. And it is odd that, after winning fame in the Tripoli fighting and in the War of 1812, and winning, in general belief, like that other hero of the 1812 war, Oliver Hazard Perry, the title of ''Commodore," although neither of those gallant men was rewarded by a thankful government with so high a title, Decatur should have died, not in battle but in a duel. Decatur attacked in words the conduct of another navy officer, James Barron, and, although Barron probably deserved to be attacked, he was the better shot, and so the career of the famous toast-maker ended in 1820, when he was but forty-one years of age. His grave is marked by a tall grooved column and on it is the declaration that his ''exploits in arms reflected the daring fictions of romance and chivalry." Beside this column is the low flat stone marking the grave of that other Stephen Decatur, likewise a right good fighting man of the navy, his father.
And poor Parson Duche is buried here. He had rapidly arisen to high prominence as rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's, and had uttered such a prayer, before the Continental Congress, at the beginning of the Revolution, as set him high in public love. But when there came the days of Valley Forge and it seemed that only a miracle could save America, he gave up the cause for lost, and wrote Washington, advising him to make the best possible terms with Britain, while he was still able to negotiate at the head of an army.
The people turned against him. He fled. And when, the war over, he crept back, his former assistant held the double pastorate and there was no place for Duche. His previous popularity, his prominent connections, his former friends — nothing availed him, and he lingered on till near the close of the century, and died, unhappy and unforgiven.
St. Peter's Church is lengthwise on Pine Street, facing out across a great area of graves, many of them with the old table-top, toward Fourth Street, and backing close up to Third Street. It was built in 1761, and was an offshoot of Christ Church, and for years they were under the same rectorship. Washington, when his home was in Philadelphia, attended sometimes one, sometimes the other, and Pew 41 is here pointed out as his.
It is a brick church, the brick being almost black with age; the building is of narrowish effect, with slim belfry tower, six stories in height, also of brick, surmounted by a narrowish wooden steeple which runs narrowly to a peak. Vines clamber freely up the front of the belfry tower to its very top, and the great graveyard is green with grass and sheltered by the greenery of trees.
Inside, one notices at once how small it is. It is even smaller than Christ Church, which itself is small compared with the old churches of New York or Boston, but it is somewhat larger than the toy-like Old Swedes.
The pews are square box-pews, said to be of cedar, and painted white; and the plainness of it all, the simplicity, the simple dignity, give a pleasant impression.
It is notable through having its organ and altar at the eastern end and its pulpit, a lofty, narrow, sounding-boarded pulpit of white-painted cedar at the opposite end, thus compelling the rector to conduct one portion of the service from one end of the church and the other portion from the other end, and consequently compelling the occupants of the square pews to sit facing in one direction during part of the service and to change to the other seat, to face the other way, for the other part, of the service.
And Philadelphians love to tell that a young man who in time became one of the most prominent business men, was so attentive to a young woman of the St. Peter's set, whom he afterwards married, that he even dared to go to her church to see her. It was his first visit to the church, and hoping to slip in quietly and unobserved, he tiptoed to the door. He stepped hesitatingly in — only to retreat in panic because every eye was fixed directly upon him, the congregation all facing his way; whereupon he quietly slipped to the other end, and this time entered boldly, when what was his consternation to find that, the rector, preceded by the verger, having duly paced the church's length, the congregation had all turned and again all faced him!
To St. Peter's are ascribed two stories which have spread from Philadelphia and have been applied to exclusive churches here or there throughout the country. But it is a pity to take such tales from their original habitat.
One is of the society leader who, having it pointed out to her by the rector, that she really ought to call upon and thus recognize a newcomer, still demurred. "But you will have to meet her in Heaven!" he exclaimed. To which came the swift retort, " Heaven will be quite soon enough!" And the other tale is of the woman who, dying, was leaving a life throughout every day of which every social duty had been punctiliously performed. " Don't ask my friends to my funeral," she whispered, to her grief-stricken husband, " because I could not return their calls!" And such stories are illustrative.
Between Market and Arch streets, in the heart of a region of three-storied business in buildings of reddish or grayish or brownish brick and where, in a permeative odor of coffee and spice, there is still a good deal of business carried on, is old Christ Church, facing toward Second Street its niched and entablatured front.
It is a church which shows exquisitely what triumphs may be attained in brick work; and the sober red, dulled and darkened by the years, is dotted with black headers. There are many windows, all curve-topped. The roof is heavily balustered with white-painted pine, dulled by age to gray, with urns holding torches of carved flame. And fine architectural effects have been obtained around the windows and the doors and in the heavy projective line dividing the two rows of windows. A brick belfry, topped by a spire of white, rises square and sturdy above the level of the roof, and then continues its charming rise in diminishing gradations of wood; rising at first four-sided, then eight-sided, then in a spire narrowing to a point and to a weathervane.
But if you fancy that perhaps there is somewhat of overdone detail, it is possibly not altogether fancy. Not many years ago there was a fire; and the insurance company, under its policy, chose to reconstruct many parts and did it admirably, following original designs. But there were some changes; the urns on the roof, for example, being of concrete-filled metal instead of the perilous-for-fire white pine of the original structure.
In the brick pavement close about the church one notices a few gravestones; and in particular, here is the grave of James Wilson, a Signer of the Declaration, a signer of the Constitution, the first chief justice of the State, a man of great consideration in his day.
And there are a number of flat tombstones in the aisles of the church, indoors, reminding one of the French marquis who at great expense bought the right to be buried upright within one of the pillars of the cathedral of his town, so that, as he expressed it, people would not be walking over his stomach for centuries.
Since the time of the Revolution the pews have been torn out and replaced; they are now low, instead of high; therefore there is not such interest as there might have been in knowing that President Washington sat in Pew 58 and Betsey Ross in 12, that Franklin's pew was 70 and that of the author of ''Hail Columbia!" was 65; and yet you may at least see in what part of the church these celebrities sat; where George and Martha sat and after them John and Abigail Adams.
Dr. John Kearsley, a vestryman, was the architect, and Philadelphians like to point out, that this church and Independence Hall, the two most distinguished old-time buildings of the city, are to be credited to law and medicine, John Kearsley designing one and a lawyer, Judge Hamilton, also of the same vestry, the other: assuredly a most curious fact.
The general aspect of the interior is simple and admirable; a smallish interior, too; with panel-fronted galleries, with three white fluted pillars on either side, with bow-front organ-loft with square-edged pillars at the corners in front, with brass chandelier pendent in the center — a chandelier for candles, which has hung here since 1749, — a wineglass pulpit, set so far forward as to give a sense of intimacy between preacher and people, a Palladian window behind the altar (Philadelphia loved Palladian windows!); and there is much of new stained glass that in time will take on the precious softening which comes with age.
The chime of eight bells — ''Distant and soft on her ear fell the chimes from the belfry of Christ Church" — dates from the middle of the 1700 's. These bells echoed the sound when the Liberty Bell rang forth its peal, and when the Liberty Bell was carried from the city to avoid falling into the hands of the British, these bells also were taken, and all remained in Allentown until after the British went away.
The custom has now come in of ringing these church bells at noontime; ringing national anthems; a patriotic sounding forth! — and, with our entry into the great war, a beautifully expressed invitation was set, at the door, to enter and pray for our country, our soldiers, our allies, our churches, the wounded and the dying and those who mourn, and for "a just and lasting peace."
Ancient records of the church are still preserved; with such fascinating items as one which directed a ringing of the bells on the occasion of the passing of Washington through the city. And there are items of expense, of over two centuries ago, still to be picked out of the ancient books, such as, "A poor man's grave, 6 s."; ''Mending the minister's fence, 8 s."; "A lock for the church door, 12 s."; "A cord of wood, 10 s." To bury a poor man, one notices, cost only half as much as to put a lock on the church door.
Among its ancient treasures Christ Church preciously preserves its old silver, flagons and patens, chalices and plates, thin and delicate and light, in accord with the traditions of old-time artisanship; several of them given by Queen Anne, who so interested herself in sending silver to the early churches of these early English colonies, and thus materially tending to give fine remembrance to her name and fame here in America.
Set within a slender stone paved patch on either side, shut in by iron fencing, with shrubs and smallish trees standing close, within the open spaces, there is a pleasantly leafy aspect, in leaf-time, with pleasant tilleul-like surroundings.
Washington used to come out, after service, between the brick pillars, topped by stone balls, underneath the beautiful arching wrought-iron which surmounts the iron gates; the only wrought-iron gate and arch that I remember, in America, of anything like equal beauty, except the gate and arch of ancient Westover, on the James. Washington's coach was generally drawn by two horses, fine Virginia bays with long " switch" tails; but not infrequently there were four horses, and on rare occasions there were six, with postilions and outriders. His coach at Christ Church entrance gate always drew an expectant group. And it is not to be forgotten that he frequently wore, to church, a rich blue Spanish cloak, faced with red silk velvet.
At this gateway I noticed, the other day, a large-lettered invitation which to the literal minded would seem to be a request to proselytize among the Quakers, for with a delightfully unconscious humor it read, ''Come in and Bring a Friend."
Here, beside the church, lies the body of that unquiet spirit, General Charles Lee, who, passionate and violent as he was, was for once in his impetuous life awed by a passion greater than his own, that of Washington when he met him retreating at Monmouth. Lee died suddenly in Philadelphia just before the war came to its end. He had strongly expressed the wish that his bones should not be placed in any church or churchyard, or within a mile of any Presbyterian or Anabaptist meeting house. The Episcopalians were willing to assume charge of his body, and in disregard of his wish, it was buried at the outside edge of the churchyard. It is still told in Scotland, as a pleasant winter evening's tale, that when a husband buried his wife in a graveyard where, so she had solemnly told him, she would not be able to rest, he none the less placed her there, explaining to the neighbors that if she could not rest he would take her away. Such reasoning seems to have influenced those who buried Lee in a churchyard against his will, and for three quarters of a century he quietly rested there. Then the alley beside the church was widened, the coffin of Lee was found and was buried near the south wall of the church.
It was two hundred years ago that Christ Church bought its large plot of ground for burials at the corner of Arch and Fifth streets. The area is thick-crowded with gravestones and monuments. Numerous trees and much of grass give restfulness. The graveyard is enclosed within an old brick wall, eight feet in height; and at the northwest corner of the graveyard, close to the junction of the two streets, the wall has been taken down for a little space, and iron pickets set there; and, looking in, there may be seen the grave of Benjamin Franklin, market by a flat stone. In his will he gave explicit directions as to this. He was to be buried beside his wife, under a marble stone, six feet by four, plain except for a small molding around the upper edge, and with the inscription, " Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, 178-": all of which was followed, except that unexpected longevity necessitated the change to "1790."
This graveyard is notable, too, for the famous men of the navy who are buried here. Here lies that Commodore Truxtun, who so gallantly captured the swiftest and the biggest ship of the French in the course of our misunderstanding of 1799 and 1800; here lies Bainbridge, whose services were mostly in connection with the Mediterranean pirates and who lost his ship to them; here lies the distinguished Commodore Dale, who as a young man served under Paul Jones on the Bon Homme Richard, and was the first of the gallant Americans to get aboard the Serapis!
The present Christ Church building was completed about 1750; but the land had been purchased, and the congregation founded, and the earliest church begun under its present name, as far back as 1695, thus making it, in foundation, almost as old as the first organization of the Quakers themselves. But it is not so old as the church of the Swedes nor is it so well hidden as the Swedes. Indeed, even after you have been directed to the Swedes, and have reached the general neighborhood where you know it must be, you look in vain for it, you probably pass beyond it, and helplessly ask again. It is only skilled street pilots who can find the hidden old church at all!
The Old Swedes Church goes back in inception to the time of the Thirty Years' War. How long ago that seems! And the Swedes themselves always loved to point out that the inception came from the great hero of that war, Gustavus Adolphus. And that king not only busied himself with plans for Delaware River colonization while the great Thirty Years' struggle was in progress, but only a few days before his death, at the great battle of Lutzen, he warmly urged the scheme anew.
The Swedes were in Philadelphia before the coming of William Penn; even before the granting of a charter to Penn. And this old church, Gloria Dei, was built in 1700, on the site of a block-house in which services had for years been held. In the 1630 's some Swedes actually came to the Delaware River region to settle, and in the fifties and sixties they carried on contests and disputes with the Dutch and with the English. There exists a pleasant homely tradition of their having trained beaver who fished for them and laid the fish on their cottage doorsteps, and another tradition of a wonderful pear tree which bore little sweet pears many years after the Swede who planted it was gone and which was the family tree of all the delicious Seckel pears of to-day.
When Penn arrived in Philadelphia, he found three brothers Swanson settled not far from his landing place, and, rather than insist on his rights under his English charter he bought their claims, and their name is still kept in the memory by Swanson Street, on which street, near Christian, stands this ancient church.
It is by the waterside, and is approached, from the center of the city, through a region of square after square of misery, of squalor, of wrecked and dilapidated little houses, of streets and little alleys and courts of decay and decadence, of dirt and dearth. It is a heartbreaking district; one of the numerous districts quite unknown to prosperous Philadelphians themselves, and lived in by a poverty-stricken class of foreigners, who have turned the homes of sea captains and clean-living mechanics into the poorest of tenements. Towards the river are railway tracks and wharves.
The church sits in the midst of a little graveyard, with a little grass and a few trees, and among the stones is one to the memory of Wilson, the beloved ornithologist of a century or so ago, who begged that his body be laid here, so that he should forever lie in a silent, shadowed place, where birds should always sing above his grave; and in spite of the spreading hither of the city's close-built homes, the church is in a little oasis in a sad desert of barren living; and trees and birds are still there!
But it is all as if it were a toy church, it is so little a building, so odd a building, so quaint and fascinating and unexpected and curiosity-provoking a building. And the two cherubim with collar-like wings, examples of early Swedish wood-carving, which look out at you, big-eyed, are themselves like toys, in the toy-like environment.
The church is of brick that is almost black with age and shimmery with headers, and the heavy cornice and the windows and the belfry are of a grayish white. The building has decided Norse suggestion, with its peaked gable over the entrance, surmounted by a tiny square wooden belfry, topped by a tiny narrow spire. The little interior has a barrel ceiling, with the lines of the beams showing through the plaster.
Within barely half a mile from Old Swedes I came upon a busy sidewalk market, extending for square after square with unimaginable variety of goods and produce, wearable and eatable, in close juxtaposition; with sour pickles next to cloth, pickled fish close to shoes, barrels of fish adjoining rolls of cotton, barrels and boxes of apples next to gaudy shirts, all piled on shelves or counters close against the front walls of the houses or little stores. It was a busy scene, for potential customers thronged by hundreds, even though for much of the distance the walking space was so narrowed by the displays and by the buyers, that on what was left of the sidewalks it was often impossible to walk or to wade.
NOT long ago I came-upon the trail of an interesting Benjamin West painting; or, at least, a painting by West with an interesting history — and, after all, any painting by West must needs be interesting, especially in this, his own city.
The painting was of the Holy Family; rather, it was supposed to be, because it represented a woman, in Biblical dress, giving a child a drink from a little bowl, while an old man stood behind and an angel hovered near in general watchfulness. The painting had been given, so the story ran, to the Jesuits of Conshohocken, now a part of Philadelphia, but then a little town apart; and was turned over by the Jesuits to the Church of St. Joseph in Philadelphia, where for many years it hung behind the high altar, like so many Holy Families or Virgins in churches abroad.
But one day it was discovered, or surmised, that the painting was not of the Holy Family, but of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert, and, as being in too conspicuous a place for such a subject, it was removed from above the altar and carried into the adjoining church-house.
To the church-house I went, and asked to be shown the painting by Benjamin West; and somewhat of interest was awakened. But all trace or memory of the painting had vanished! New priests had come in; no one had left any record of it; the sexton was called into the consultation, as having had a service of more years than any of the present priesthood there, and somehow the legend or fact or memory was dimly evolved that, long ago, there was a superior who, finding that a number of paintings hung on the church-house walls, ordered them into some forgotten limbo, on the ground that they gave a darkened effect to the rooms!
And there, at least for the present, the story ends. There is some possibility that the West painting may be found, tucked away with rubbish in garret or cellar. "It would sell for a good deal of money, would it not?" I was asked, with a touch of wistfulness; and, so continued the priestly querying, "This Benjamin West was a man of considerable standing in his day, was he not?"
The Catholics, although tolerated in this city in early days, were looked upon even here with somewhat of suspicious dislike, and although they did not try to hide their place of worship, they put it in an inconspicuous locality, thus trimming their sails to possible storms of persecution; and, following this unobtrusiveness, the church, through the close-building-up of the city round about, has become positively obscure in its seclusion. Its location is like a dream from some story book. There could not be, in a crowded city, a more complete hiding away of a large building.
The church was built nearly two centuries ago and was rebuilt and enlarged a century ago. It stood here when the Acadians came, unhappy folk, four hundred and fifty-four of them — odd, that the precise number should be kept in remembrance! — unhappy banished folk, parents who did not know where their children had been taken, children who had been torn from their parents, husbands separated heartlessly from wives and wives who had been thrust away from their husbands, never more to see them. The Evangeline and Gabriel of the poet had very real prototypes. It is strange that the Acadian horror of 1755 should thus still echo here; and the fact has been remembered that the enforced Acadian pilgrims, cynically turned ashore here, were looked upon with dread by many a Philadelphian, through the idea that they might take the part of the French against the English; though there need not have been much dread, as two-thirds of the four hundred and fifty-four heartbroken folk were women and children. One Philadelphian wrote that they were ''no better than so many scorpions in the bowels of the country ''; but the poor scorpions did not sting: — and later, when the Revolution was impending, it was found that the Roman Catholics were, as a rule, on the side of the Colonies. They were given recognition by the patriotic leaders, and on an October day of 1774 both Washington and John Adams risked criticism by attending service in this old church still standing here. Washington quietly enters in his diary "Went to St. Joseph's in the afternoon"; not expressing comment; which, by the way, was in great degree his cautious custom; but John Adams, fresh from the outlook of Puritanism, was frankly shocked, and poured out his feelings in a letter to his wife. To him, "the poor wretches, fingering their beads, chanting Latin not a word of which they understood, crossing themselves, bowing and kneeling and genuflecting," were, as he put it, "awful and affecting." That Lafayette also attended services here and Rochambeau and De Grasse and others of the French, was but part of the natural order of things. A building that so many people discovered in the long ago, we should be able to find to-day, in spite of the hemming in by office buildings and warehouses; and so this is how the church is to be found. Begin by going south on Third Street, past Walnut Street, to Willing 's Alley — one of the few alleys, if not the only one, still retaining the original designation of alley; for there was many an "alley" in early days, but a finical-minded generation has changed them into "streets." Turn down Willing 's Alley, to the westward, between tall warehouses, and you come to an iron-gated archway, on your right, which leads you through a building and into a nooked courtyard — and here, in this nooked and unsuspected corner, is the church! It is of brick, of dull yellow, further dulled by the passage of many years; and in one corner is the square campanile, almost Italian in appearance, and of the dull yellow hue of the main body of the church. You are reminded of some Italian church on the Swiss side of the Italian border, rather than precisely of a church of Italy. It is far from beautiful. But it is of foreign aspect, and would provoke instant interest if happened upon by some strange chance instead of being sought for.
The interior of the church is large and plain; the courtyard — enclosed by warehouses, the church, and the church-house — is paved with dull gray stone, where once was the graveyard of the church. Here, according to tradition, the body of Evangeline's Gabriel, the Gabriel of Longfellow's poem, was laid; for it was fittingly here in Philadelphia that the tale came to its end. For Evangeline, after years of wandering and with hope forever departed, came to this city, joined a sisterhood who cared for the sick, and in the yellow fever epidemic of the 1790 's found her Gabriel, in the moment of his death, in the almshouse. But not in the Quaker almshouse, as you will be told, with such an earnestness as would seem to befit Evangeline's being a real and not a fictitious woman! — not in the Quaker almshouse, which stood on the south side of Walnut Street above Third, but at the City Poorhouse, which was in the square enclosed by Third and Fourth and Spruce and Pine streets; this poorhouse being also a hospital. And although both almshouses have disappeared, the real Philadelphian, though he may be forgetful of much, is anxious that you have correctly the details of the connection of Evangeline with his city.
The imaginary Evangeline impressed herself locally far more deeply than have most of the actual distinguished folk of Philadelphia. She is more real than as if she were really real! In fact, the story of Evangeline is taken with an amazing reality. Philadelphia has out-Longfellowed Longfellow! For, although the poet, the creator of the imaginary heroine of the heartbreaking tale, distinctly and musically says that ''Side by side, in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping, under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard," Philadelphia still insists that Evangeline was not buried by the side of Gabriel, in the courtyard of this old St. Joseph's Church, but that her body was placed in a vault, given over to the sisterhood of which she was a member, of the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, at Sixth and Spruce streets, which, by the way, is not to be confounded with the Holy Trinity of Rittenhouse Square, which is Episcopalian.
The Catholic Holy Trinity is itself of old-time foundation, though not so old as St. Joseph's, and it holds tombstones bearing even Spanish and French names, reminders of the long-ago frightened influx from the massacres of San Domingo. Holy Trinity was, so it is said, the last building to be erected in Philadelphia in the Philadelphia style of red and black bricks; and in a corner of the churchyard is the slab-covered vault wherein lies the supposititious Evangeline, with the actual Sisters. And the policeman on post is often approached by people who ask him to point out to them where Evangeline is buried!
Among the founders of the hidden-away St. Joseph's Church was an ancestor of one to whom we may refer as the well-known Spanish general, George G-. Meade. For Meade, of our Army of the Potomac, was born in Cadiz! But he was a very real Philadelphian, none the less, and his parents merely happened to be in Spain on account of the business interests of the father. Of an old Philadelphia family that was connected with St. Joseph's, educated in Philadelphia, married in Philadelphia, a general whose principal service was directing the great battle which turned back an invading army from Pennsylvania, he was throughout of Philadelphia spirit.
He was a little more ostentatious, however, than the typical Philadelphian, and I think that his riding about, on a white horse, as many a Philadelphian still describes him, savored of the ostentatious. Born in the year of Waterloo, he may have associated the idea of Napoleon and Napoleon's white battle-horse with himself. And I recently noticed a war-time photograph which showed so many soldiers, with General Meade in the center, that it seemed of course that it must represent him at the head of his army; but a glance at the descriptive line beneath showed that it was merely a picture of the general and his staff.
In what can only be termed a certain Philadelphian feeling, however, he was all Philadelphian; a feeling which holds within it a touch of envy toward the State and the City of New York and at the same time a profound sense of superiority; for I noticed, in his " Memoirs, " a letter of 1863, in which he said: "I do not like General Hooker's entourage. Such gentlemen as Dan Sickles and Dan Butterworth are not the persons I should select as my intimates, however worthy and superior they may be." One feels as if those words ought certainly to be italicized; he doesn't like the New York officers ''however worthy and superior they may be!"
THE idea that Franklin had of going about Europe with George Washington, with the two traveling and sightseeing together, was one of the most fascinating suggestions ever made.
That the two great Americans were personal friends is itself a pleasant thing to remember. And in 1780 peace seemed to be in sight. Whereupon Franklin wrote Washington, from Europe, saying that when peace should come how happy he would be to meet Washington in Europe and accompany him, as he quaintly expressed it, "in visiting some of its ancient and famous kingdoms."
I like to picture the two friends, wandering about together in the Paris of before the French Revolution, or floating together in a gondola in Venice, or together standing in Westminster Hall — for England honored both Washington and Franklin, in spite of their leadership in revolt. In Europe, so continues Franklin's letter, "You would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect with a thousand years." But Washington could not arrange to go, and what would have been the most fascinating travel tour of history was not made.
For one reason, such a tour, of two men together, would not have met Washington's ideas. A tour, to him, meant a tour with his wife also. Even during the Revolution Martha was for much or most of the time in camp with him, and even at Valley Forge, her presence adding not only to the happiness of Washington and herself but adding much, also, to the good spirits of the officers and soldiers. But to Benjamin Franklin, the normal rule for travel was to leave his Deborah at home; and Deborah seems not to have objected to the years and years of loneliness that came from Benjamin's travels and his long periods of residence abroad. Franklin was a widower at the time he wrote his delightful suggestion to Washington, but even if his Deborah had still been alive it would not have occurred to him as either necessary or advisable to have her with him as a traveling companion.
Deborah, his ''dear Debby," died in 1774, while he was on one of his European absences, and it seems that her end was saddened and even somewhat hastened by his absence. And thus ended the romance which began when Franklin, a poor lad, a stranger from Boston, walked for the first time on the streets of Philadelphia, and, eating one big roll and carrying another under his arm, found that a pretty girl was shyly laughing at him from the doorway of her home: the pretty girl to become in later years his wife Deborah.
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