The Model T with the “Mother-in-Law” Seat

A Ford Model T roadster with a “mother-in-law” seat parked in front of townhouses at 216 and 218 North 19th Street, August 8, 1912.

In the early 1900s, the government was not in the business of regulating car design and safety.  The only real government requirements when it came to owning one were license plates and registration.  Luxury cars of that era, especially European imports such as Mercedes and Napier, were so complicated to drive and service that most owners had live-in chauffeurs who doubled as mechanics.

In 1908, the Ford Motor Company rolled out its $850 Model T.  Powered by a twenty-horsepower in-line four cylinder engine, the car had a top speed of about 43 miles per hour.  It was also mechanically simple, had interchangeable parts, and was easy for self-trained owners to fix. Thanks to Henry Ford’s pioneering use of the assembly line, Model T’s dropped steeply in price over the next decade, to a low of $250 by the early 1920s.  When the Highland Park plant outside of Detroit was operating at top speed, a Model T Ford could be assembled in only 93 minutes, from start to finish.  Yet the Tin Lizzie’s reign over the American auto market could not last forever. By the early 1920s, General Motors’ Chevrolet marque was beating Ford on price, style, and amenities, especially color choices. Due to dropping sales and its outdated technology, the Model T was phased out in 1927 and replaced by the more modern and stylish Model A.  Over the course of its 19-year production run, Ford had built a staggering 10 million Model Ts.

After-market “isenglass” side curtains on a Ford Model T touring car, in a c.1915 advertisement.  The song “The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top” from the musical Oklahoma! references the use of isenglass in bad weather. Source: The Old Motor.

The most popular and practical body style for the Model T was the four door “touring car.”  The roof was a collapsible leather top. In very bad weather, the owner could roll down transparent “isenglass” (made from fish air bladders) side curtains to keep the rain and wind out.   Few Ford Model T’s were enclosed — a closed body added significant weight and reduced the top speed to around 35 miles per hour.  A closed body also raised price beyond the reach of the typical Ford customer.  Enclosed sedan and limousine bodies needed much more powerful engines, and as a result were the domain of much more prestigious automakers such as Packard and Pierce-Arrow.

Driving a Model T is very different from today’s modern cars. See how to drive one here. 

For Ford Model T customers who preferred something sportier, Ford also offered the two-seat “roadster” body style.  It was a great car for young couples. However, what if the proverbial “third wheel” wanted to come along for the ride?  Ford solved this problem by adding a single spare seat between the rear fenders.  Given its isolation from the passenger and driver, as well as being entirely exposed to the elements, this seat became the butt of jokes.  Wags would call it the “mother-in-law” seat.  It also made the already frumpy looking roadster look even more awkward.

Often situated atop the gas tank, the mother-in-law seat was also the most dangerous in the car!

Ford and other automakers got the message. By the 1920s, this extra rear seat would be merged into the body of the car and get a more charming name: the rumble seat.

Sources:

“Turn Your Tin Lizzie Into a Limousine,” The Old Motor, December 14, 2014, http://theoldmotor.com/?p=134906, accessed November 21, 2019.

“Celebrating the Model T: Only 100 Years Young,” Auto Atlantic,  http://www.autoatlantic.com/Sept08/Sept08_Ford-Model-T-is-100.html, accessed November 21, 2019.

“Model T Club of America,” https://www.mtfca.com/, accessed November 21, 2019.

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The Elite Clubs and their “Crusty Coagulate Mass of Traditions”

Union League – Southwest corner of Broad and Sansom Streets. July 26, 1927 (PhillyHistory.org)

While plumbing the breadth of the city’s clubs and their very different cultures, Nathaniel Burt acknowledged the Mummers (“one of Philadelphia’s oldest and proudest traditions, but not at all Old Philadelphian”) before landing squarely at the threshold of the city’s most venerable and “crusty coagulate mass of traditions.”

Where would this be headquartered? At Broad and Sansom and the Union League, perhaps? Not quite. “In Old Philadelphia circles,” Burt informs us in his classic book Perennial Philadelphians: Anatomy of an American Aristocracy, “it is understood that though the Union League is very honorable and important, it is not really socially flawless. A great many Old Philadelphians belong to it; for some it is their only club. It is grandly affluent and crusty, full of a rich Civil War fug, long portraits, gilt ceilings, marble floors, paneled banquet halls, thick carpets and curtains; but there is an undoubted tinge of boodle and smoke filled room about it. One seems to sense the absence of spittoons. It is a distinctly political club; once only those who had voted straight Republican could be members, and a good many figures, important politically but not very proper morally or socially, have in the past lounged in the corridors and dozed in the wide chairs. The aroma of Philadelphia’s old ‘corrupt and contented’ is very pervasive.”

Venerable and crusty? Definitely. But not “socially flawless,” and hardly “beyond reproach.”

For the elite destination at the pinnacle of Philadelphia club life, Burt directs us to 13th and Walnut Streets, where, in its architecturally inconspicuous way, the Philadelphia Club has silently stood for the better part of two centuries. Here, “at the edge of the Gayborhood,” as the Philadelphia Magazine points out, is “the oldest and most guarded of the city’s old-guard clubs.” The scale of its plain, red brick building “is so great and its condition so pristine,” noted architectural historian Richard J. Webster, “that many casual observers mistake it for a twentieth-century example of the Georgian Revival.”

Casual observers would be wrong.

Philadelphia Club, North side of Walnut Street, 13th to Broad. June 14, 1931. (PhillyHistory.org)

“The Philadelphia Club can’t claim to be the oldest such club in the world,” Burt explains, “but it can and does claim to be the oldest in America.” The feel is “definitely stately, not to say austere, with high ceilings, white woodwork, dark portraits and discreet soft-footed servitors.” The interior “reflects a kind of ‘Philadelphia taste’ that takes many generations to lay down,” observes Roger Moss, “an effect that is well beyond simulation by the most skilled decorator.” Domestic leanings make sense when we consider that the building was originally intended as a city mansion for Thomas Butler, “kin of the Pierce Butler who married and divorced the actress Fanny Kemble” the grandmother of Owen Wister. In 1934, Wister served as club president and composed its centennial history.

Yet, in spite of its homey origins, the club has never been accused of being warm or inviting. “It is a very handsome affair, and full of handsome members,” says Burt, “but it rather lacks the Gemütlichkeit associated with most Philadelphia enterprises.”

“Blue bloods hang out to play an archaic domino game called sniff,” a home-grown variant of dominoes. The rules of this game are known only to members and explained in an otherwise unattainable pamphlet by member Benjamin Chew, entitled Chew on Sniff.

Admission to the Philadelphia Club has been equally unattainable.

“Metaphorically, at least,” Burt informs us, “bits of broken hearts litter of the pavement in front of the chaste fanlit door on Walnut Street, memorial to those who tried to get in and couldn’t. More than any other single institution except the Dancing Assembly the Philadelphia Club has stood and still stands is the Gibraltar of social order, defending the purity of Philadelphia bloodlines against the nouveau riches, and keeping up the tone of things.”

In the 1930s, Wister reminded his readers (all of whom were members, since the history was privately printed) that the club had very specific “requisites for admission.” These included “courtesy, self-restraint, a nice regard to the rules of etiquette, a command of speech, an elegance of dress, a familiarity with the habits of the leisure class, a respect for appearance, for the outside of things, a desire to make the passing moment pleasurable.” Subjective enough to deny entry to many a New Philadelphian and, as dictated by the “crusty coagulate” of traditions, all women.

Wister barely blinked as he imagined the club’s second century: “We carry on the tradition, patriotic, social, and civilized, of an honorable and happy past; and . . . we look forward to carrying our tradition on into a happy future.”

[Sources: Nathaniel Burt, The Perennial Philadelphians: The Anatomy of an American Aristocracy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Originally published in 1963); Richard J. Webster, Philadelphia Preserved: Catalog of the Historic American Buildings Survey (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976); Benjamin Wallace, “Members Only,” The Philadelphia Magazine (May 18, 2005); Roger W. Moss and Tom Crane, Historic Landmarks of Philadelphia (Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); Owen Wister, The Philadelphia Club, 1834-1934 (Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Club, 1934)].

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Cigars with Frank Furness at 711 Locust Street

The former Frank Furness house (left, 711 Locust Street), June 12, 1958.

Reverend William Henry Furness (1802-1896), the minister of Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church, complained that Philadelphia’s architects should liberate themselves from the demure and boring “Quaker style…marble steps, and wooden shutters.”   Yet exuberant ornamentation was not only anathema to Philadelphia taste, but it was also expensive, even in the Victorian era of cheap labor.  Reverend Furness raised his own family in a plain but substantial “Quaker style” rowhouse at 1426 Pine Street. It was well-situated and within the bounds of the Furness family’s middle class budget.

His son Frank Furness broke the mold of Philadelphia’s sober and conservative architectural language, designing buildings in an aggressive, flamboyant style that still captures our imagination.  A fine Frank Furness building, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Library and the First Unitarian Church (built for his father’s congregation), shouted “look at me” in defiance of all Quaker modesty.

However, when it came to his own house, the architect Frank Furness found himself in the same budgetary dilemma as his minister father.  Although he rubbed elbows with some of Philadelphia’s richest families, he and his wife Fannie could not afford to build a showcase house for himself, of his own design.  His architecture practice, although financially successful for the last quarter of the 19th century, simply did not bring in enough money for him to travel in the Rittenhouse Square set. So, he and his wife did the next best thing: purchasing a proper four story townhouse in the Washington Square neighborhood, which was still respectable but had fallen in status somewhat in since the Civil War. It was still safely between the “acceptable” boundaries of Market and Pine streets, a calling card detail to which Furness’s client base would have paid attention.

Dining room of the Theodore and Martha Roosevelt townhouse, 6 West 57th Street, New York. This was also the home of future president Theodore Roosevelt when he was a young man. The interior of the Roosevelt home was designed by Frank Furness. Source: Wikipedia.

If Furness’s house at 711 Locust Street was Quaker plain on the outside, the architect made the interior a glittering showcase of his own design skill.  Yet it was the “smoking room” that really caught the attention of the visitors, if they were allowed into Furness’s inner-sanctum.  Or, in modern parlance, his “man cave.”

The “smoking room” at 711 Locust Street looked as if it had been plucked from a Rocky Mountain hunting cabin and dropped right in Center City Philadelphia.  It was filled with Native American art and textiles, pelts, unframed prints, antlers, and guns that Furness had purchased on his frequent journeys out west.  Like his fellow “proper Philadelphian” creative-type Owen Wister, he was fascinated with the ethos (and mythos) of the American West.  Here, in this rustic one story addition that he built with his own hands, he would entertain his comrades from his Civil War cavalry regiment, as well as John Foster Kirk of Lippincott’s Monthly and the poet Walt Whitman.

In the early 1880s, the publisher D. Appleton & Company released Artistic Houses, a lavish book that featured interior photographs of some of the grandest homes on the United States, including several in Philadelphia. They were built by tycoons such as William Henry Vanderbilt,  Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Marshall Field. Yet there was only featured photograph of the inside of an architect’s home: the smoking room at 711 Locust Street. The editors of Artistic Houses wrote of this space:

Frank Furness’s “smoking room” at 711 Locust Street. Originally published in Artistic Houses, 1883-84. Reproduced from HiddenCity.org.

What Mr. Furness has really achieved, from a chromatic point of view, can barely be surmised from our reproduction in black and white…but those who have seen the interior of this cozy little sanctum will agree that, in felicity of arrangement, both of lines and tones, it is artistic to a high degree, while its literary interest, if we must express ourselves–its absolutely unique. 

Frank Furness’s good fortune–an endless flow of commissions and long evenings with bohemian friends in the “smoking room”–did not last.  By the early 1900s, his vibrant, bold architecture of Furness & Evans was woefully out-of-fashion, and he fell on hard times.   He moved out to Media to be near his beloved brother Horace and other extended family. He died in 1912.  His Locust Street townhouse, with its famous smoking room, is now a distant memory.

Sources: 

Artistic Houses, Volume II (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1883-84), https://archive.org/stream/Artistichouses2A/Artistichouses2A_djvu.txt, accessed November 14, 2019.

Arnold Lews, James Turner, and Steven McQuillin, The Opulent Interiors of the Gilded Age (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1987), p.101.

Michael J. Lewis, Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001), pp.142-143.

James F. O’Gorman, The Architecture of Frank Furness (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973), p.15.

 

 

 

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Angora Mills and the Baptist Minister

 

West Philadelphia country road near Angora Mills, 58th and Baltimore Avenue, September 20, 1906.

Entrepreneurs George and Robert Callaghan built the Angora Mills complex in 1864, at the height of Civil War-fueled demand for army uniforms. Named after the Turkish city of Ankara (not the cat breed), it stood at the intersection of 60th Street and Baltimore Avenue (in today’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood) and sprawled over 52 acres.  Angora Mills include not just a steam-powered brick textile mill, but also 54 residences for 300 workers and their families, a stable, springhouse, coal yard, and an on-site Baptist church. A Hexamer survey conducted in 1888 also indicated that Angora Mills had 4 self-acting “mules” with 4,200 spindles, 36 spinning frames 180 spindles on each, a sprinkler system and cutting edge incandescent lighting. The Angora Mills “village,”although still within the city limits of Philadelphia, was set in an idyllic landscape of farms and groves of old growth trees.    There was also a private club nearby, the Sherwood Cricket Club, a rustic venue that catered to the mill’s employees during their precious leisure time.

All that changed in 1903, when Reverend Bernard MacMackin quietly took possession of Angora Mills at a sheriff’s sale. MacMackin paid $206,000.00 for the property, fronting $76,000 in cash and taking out mortgages to cover the balance.  The Philadelphia Inquirer scratched its head at the deal: Reverend MacMackin was a prominent Baptist minister who had no real business experience, but he also happened to be an in-law of the Callaghans.  When questioned about the deal, MacMackin “refused to discuss this phase of the purchase, saying it was a personal matter.” Although connected to Center City by an electric trolley line since the 1890s, the Market Street Elevated was under construction a few blocks north of Angora Mills, making Angora Mills ripe for subdivision. Within a few years of the sale, the site was cleared, sold, and developed into blocks of rowhouses.  The mill’s name lives on in the “Angora Terrace” neighborhood. The site of the adjoining Sherwood Cricket Club is the modern-day Sherwood Park.

Reverend MacMackin apparently profited from the deal: at his death in 1916, he left an estate worth over $200,000 (the modern-day equivalent to almost $3 million) to his family.

Sherwood Park, 58th and Baltimore, the former site of the Sherwood Cricket Club, November 11, 1939. Charles A. Lamb, photographer.

Sources:

“A Minister Buys Nearly All of Angora,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 1903.

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/25990534/may_5_1903/

“Angora Mills, Callaghan and Brother,” Hexamer General Surveys, Volume 23, Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.

http://www.philageohistory.org/rdic-images/view-image.cfm/HGSv23.2209-2210

Charles Alvin Jones, “MacMackin Estate, 51 A.2d 689 (Pa. 1947),” Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Court Listener, January 9, 1947.

https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/4089940/macmackin-estate/

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Philadelphia’s Cowboy Creation Story

The Philadelphia Club, 13th and Walnut Streets, 1913. (PhillyHistory.org)

In 1891, the fictional cowboy mounted his steed at 13th and Walnut Streets and never looked back. He galloped a circuitous route to the publishing houses of New York, then headed out to Hollywood and the American imagination.

What was the cowboy doing at such an unlikely urban crossroads? There, in the Philadelphia Club (as unlikely a place for a cowboy as anyone might ever imagine) Owen Wister, fresh back from his latest Western exploit, held forth in the club’s dining room with his drinking buddy Walter Furness.

Wister might just as well have been telling tall tales about a European Grand Tour, had he traveled eastward rather than westward. But in the Fall of 1885, Wister, a summa cum laude Harvard graduate set to begin law school, was plagued by headaches, vertigo, and the “occasional hallucination.” Fearing a nervous breakdown, Wister’s father sought out advice from family friend, the physician/author S. Weir Mitchell. “An extended visit to Europe for relaxation” would usually be Dr. Mitchell’s prescription. But in this case, he recommended that the anxious 25-year-old go West and live outdoors. “See more new people,” he told Wister, “learn to sympathize with your fellow man a little more than you are inclined to. … There are lots of humble folks in the fields you’d be the better for knowing.”

After a series of eye-opening trips to Wyoming and the Yellowstone from 1885 to 1891, Wister, now a full-fledged witness of the American West, returned to share glimpses of his newfound narrative riches. In time, he would come to advocate the idea that the American West, as opposed to the East, was the rightful center of the nation’s heart and soul. And the cowboy, its manifestation in flesh and blood, would be animated first in short stories, then, in 1902, in a best-selling novel, The Virginian.

The Virginian, first edition (1902)

Owen Wister at a campfire in 1891. The Owen Wister papers. (American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming)

But in order to make such a leap, Wister would require an epiphany. This blue-blooded Philadelphian needed to convince himself, his family and friends, that he was the one who could actually pull this off and become America’s Rudyard Kipling.

At the Philadelphia Club that Fall evening in 1891, Wister and Furness, ate and drank (and drank) and as the evening wore on and the tales got taller, it occurred to Wister that he could write the stories that would bring the cowboy to life as the quintessential American.

Years later, he recalled the moment: “Fresh from Wyoming and its wild glories, I sat in the club dining room with a man as enam­oured of the West as I was. . . .  From oysters to coffee we compared experiences. Why wasn’t some Kipling saving the sage-brush for American literature, before the sage-brush and all that it signified went the way of California forty-niner, went the way of the Mississippi steam-boat, went the way of everything? . . . What was fiction doing, fiction, the only thing that has always outlived fact?”

Wister sipped his claret and staked out the plan. Then he blurted: “Walter, I’m going to try it myself! … I’m going to start this minute.” He headed “up to the library; and by midnight or so, a good slice of [the short story] “Hank’s Woman” was down in the rough.”

Success would require a bit more critical help from Dr. Mitchell. According to historian John Jennings, two of Wister’s manuscripts “gathered dust until Mitchell urged Wister to send them to Henry Mills Alden at Harper and Brothers, promising to provide a letter of introduction. Alden accepted the manuscripts and Wister was launched as a minor western author.”

Eleven years later, with The Virginian hot off the presses, Wister would become America’s major Western author. And the cowboy, originally “a rough, violent, one-dimensional drifter” would transition into a national hero.

[Sources: John Jennings, The Cowboy Legend Owen Wister’s Virginian and the Canadian-American Frontier (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2012); Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902); J. C. Furnas, “Transatlantic Twins: Rudyard Kipling and Owen Wister,” The American Scholar, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Autumn 1995), pp. 599-606; Neal Lambert, “Owen Wister’s “Hank’s Woman”: The Writer and His Comment,” Western American Literature, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1969, pp. 39-50.]

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Philadelphia’s “Cow-Boy” Monument

“Cow-boys and Indians at the Unveiling of Remington’s ‘Cow-boy’ Statue on June 20, 1908.” (From the Fairmount Park Art Association, 1909. via Hathitrust)

The banks of the Schuylkill were packed with onlookers. On a craggy outcropping overlooking a clearing by the river stood Frederic Remington’s new, larger-than-life bronze statue wrapped in American flags. Soon enough, the cord would be ceremoniously pulled to reveal the city’s latest equestrian monument: “The Cow-Boy.”

Five thousand spectators turned out for the dedication. A band of cowboys (the musical variety) warmed up the crowd. Wyoming Jack, “a noted scout” and Chief He-Dog, in full regalia, did the honors. The popular cowgirls Mida and Lida Kemp were there. Mounted Sioux: Yellow Cloud, Cheering Horse and Driving Bear looked on as their families stood with VIP Philadelphia: leadership of the Fairmount Park Commission, the Fairmount Park Art Association (which had commissioned the piece) and others. A stand-in for Mayor John E. Reyburn apologized for His Honor’s absence. June 20, 1908 was a big day for dedications. The mayor had gone out to Valley Forge for the unveiling of another equestrian in bronze: Anthony Wayne.

The fictional “Cow-Boy” attracted a larger crowd than the real Revolutionary War hero.

One would have expected to see there that day the Philadelphian most responsible for the cowboy legend. More than anything else, Owen Wister’s best-selling novel, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains, published six years earlier, had forged the cowboy in the popular imagination. Lauded as “one of the great triumphs of American literature,” at the time, The New York Times claimed Wister had “come pretty near to writing the American novel.” The Virginian was reprinted sixteen times; two million hardbound copies found their way into readers’ hands. There would be five film versions and, in the 1960s, a long-playing television series.

Statue – Remington’s “Cowboy” – Fairmount Park. April 12, 1910. (PhillyHistory.org)

“It is safe to say,” writes historian John Jennings, “that Wister launched the foremost popular mythology in American history.” And he did so by animating the cowboy with words as much as Remington did with images and figures. From the stormy evening in Yellowstone National Park where they first met in 1893, Wister and Remington together crafted and popularized this American character, the appeal of which, Jennings points out, “stood in stark contrast to the vulgar excesses of the Gilded Age.” But in 1899, Wister and Remington had a falling out. And so, that Saturday on the banks of the Schuylkill, Remington alone stood as the cowboy’s creator.

In fact, credit was due to the trio of Remington, Wister and Wister’s Harvard classmate and lifelong friend, Theodore Roosevelt. In 1888 Roosevelt admired the Dakota cowboy’s “quiet, uncomplaining fortitude.” He found the cowboy brave, “hospitable, hardy, adventurous” and “the grim pioneer of our race, [possessing] to a very high degree, the stern, manly qualities that are necessary to a nation.” This ready-made romantic figure was capable of reassuring Americans “that the simple, honest virtues of Jeffersonian America were not lost.” With the cowboy, Remington, Wister and Roosevelt (now as the U.S. President who brought Remington’s Bronco Buster in the Oval Office) “manufactured a myth” of this, the “most popular American folk hero.”

The cowboy hadn’t always been the object of such unbridled admiration. Before Wister’s Virginian, this frontier type was more of “a rough, violent, one-dimensional drifter” familiar at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Remington identified something more, something special, in an article titled “The Texas Cowboy” published in 1892:

The cowboy is strongly unimaginative, absolutely unconventional, and his character is as tough as his life, made hard and narrow by combat with appalling dangers, great vicissitudes, and an absence of ideas at variance with his own. He shows in his method of verbal expression that he has succumbed to his environment, for he thinks horse, talks horse, and dreams horse, and awakens to find himself, with some meat and bread and a quart of coffee under his belt, sitting on a horse.  … The cowboy’s life is passed alone, with only his pony and the great stretch of solemn plains and the flat, blue sky. He has little use for his voice, though his thoughts may wander as far afield as any poet’s. . . .  You will find in his gaze a positive quality . . . for no English high-caste man ever regarded the rest of the world from so high a pinnacle as this tanned and dusty person who sleeps in a blanket and eats bacon three times a day.

Statue – Remington’s “Cowboy” – Fairmount Park. April 12, 1910. Detail. (PhillyHistory.org)

Remington and Wister met the next year and soon elevated the cowboy a few notches higher, while revealing distinct biases along the way, in an article published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.  In the American West, wrote Wister, one could avoid the “hordes of encroaching alien vermin, that turn our cities to Babels and our citizenship to a hybrid farce.” He went on: “it won’t be a century before the West is simply the true America with thought, type, and life of its own kind. We Atlantic Coast people, all varnished with Europe, and some of us having a good lot of Europe in our marrow besides, will vanish from the face of the earth.” Accompanying this essay, titled the “The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher,” were five illustrations by Remington, including, most notably, “The Last Cavalier,” depicting a cowboy on horseback “with a host of Anglo-Saxon knights, crusaders, cavaliers, frontiersmen, explorers, and soldiers of the Raj receding into the misty past.”

Why not introduce this larger-than-life American hero to the public in the form of a larger-than-life monument? “The fast disappearing Indians and western cowboy should be put in enduring bronze,” encouraged New York art editor Alexander W. Drake in a letter to Remington in 1899, “. . . this should be done by the only man in America who can do it,” he flattered. “What could be more appropriate for an American city?”

Statue – Remington’s “Cowboy” – Fairmount Park, October 13, 2019.

The Fairmount Park Art Association agreed. And so would The Philadelphia Inquirer, which described Remington as “the most truly American,” artist who “owed nothing of his craftsmanship to foreign study or to copying foreign ideas. He was a product of our own soil, educated in an American atmosphere.” Remington produced sculptures “with such fidelity to life that they will remain long after the last cow-puncher has gone to his grave.”

Many other cities wanted larger-than-life cowboys by Remington. Only Philadelphia would get one. A year and a half after the 1908 dedication, Remington died of complications from appendicitis. The Corcoran Gallery in Washington would be the first of many museums to purchase one of his bronzes (Off the Range, also known as Coming Through the Rye) but table-top sculptures, however spirited, just didn’t have the presence or the unexpected gravitas of this 12-foot “Cow-Boy” monument overlooking the Schuylkill.

[Sources: Frederic Remington, “The Texas Cowboy,” The Denver Republican, Sept 1892 (Published in Current Literature, Vol 11, September-December, 1892); Owen Wister, The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (New York: The Macmillan Company,1902); “Cowboy Statue to be Unveiled,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 19, 1908; “Picturesque Scenes Attend Unveiling of the Cowboy Monument in the Park,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 1908; Fairmount Park Art Association, Annual Report (Philadelphia: Fairmount Park Art Association, 1909);, “A Genuine American Artist, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 28, 1909; David Sellin, “Cowboy,” in Fairmount Park Art Association, Sculpture of a City: Philadelphia’s Treasures in Bronze and Stone,” (Walker Pub. Co, 1974); David A. Smith, “Owen Wister’s Paladin of the Plains: The Virginian as Cultural Hero,” South Dakota History, 2008, vol. 38, no. 1, pp 47-77; John Jennings, The Cowboy Legend Owen Wister’s Virginian and the Canadian-American Frontier (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2012).]

Disclosure: The writer is a member of The Association for Public Art (formerly The Fairmount Park Art Association) board of directors.

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A Philadelphia Firehouse Designed by the “Other” Philip Johnson

Fire Station at 701 S.50th Street, designed by Philip H. Johnson in 1903. Photographed by R. Carrollo, December 9, 1959.

All our municipal governments are more or less bad. Philadelphia is simply the most corrupt and the most contented.”

-Lincoln Steffens, 1903

The firehouse at intersection of Baltimore Avenue and 50th Street is a redbrick Flemish revival structure dating from the early 1900s.  In the days of coal-fired kitchen ranges and unreliable electrical wiring, a modern fire station was a big draw to potential residents of Cedar Park and Spruce Hill, which by the early 1900s had become a desirable and expensive streetcar suburb.  The fire engines at the station at 701 S.50th Street were horse-drawn until at least the mid-1910s, when internal combustion engines finally became powerful enough to haul heavy ladders and pumping machinery through the streets at high speed.

 

A British fire engine, powered by an internal combustion engine, 1905. From Popular Mechanics.

Although dripping in fin-de-siècle charm, the Cedar Park firehouse was the result of a no-bid, lifetime city contract that remained inviolate for 30 years and netted architect Philip H. Johnson a small fortune.  Johnson owed his good luck thanks to a familial connection to one of Philadelphia’s most powerful political bosses. In 1903, when journalist Lincoln Steffens described Philadelphia as “corrupt and contented” (and the same year Johnson’s drafted the firehouse plans), the city’s 7th Ward was under the iron-fisted rule of the Republican boss Israel M. Durham. A longtime party operative who had served in the Pennsylvania State Senate and as State Insurance Commissioner, he lavished generous salaries on himself and his loyal associates.  He also traveled widely to Europe and the American West, all while receiving a handsome $20,000 a year salary as State Insurance Commissioner. During his final years, he became majority owner and president of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team.  Although poor health prevented Durham from watching from the stands, he kept a telephone by his hospital bed so he could manage the team and follow the games in real time.

One of Durham’s most controversial acts was the awarding of a lifetime contract to his brother-in-law Philip Johnson for City Health Department projects. No relation to the famed modernist architect of the same name, Johnson was a competent (if not particularly imaginative) architect who had previously worked at the City’s Bureau of Engineering and Surveys. After starting his own firm in 1903, thanks to the contract granted by his brother-in-law, Johnson churned out dozens of public buildings during his tenure.  Among them were the City Hall Annex (now the Notary Hotel), the Philadelphia General Hospital, the Philadelphia Hospital for Mental Diseases at Byberry. and the old Philadelphia Convention Center on Civic Center Boulevard.  After Durham’s demise in 1909, several Philadelphia mayors tried to get Johnson’s lifetime contract overturned. The courts consistently sided with Johnson, and as a result more than $2 million worth of projects flowed into the architect’s office until his death in 1933. Protected from competitive bids, Johnson made few efforts to hide the wealth garnered from the city coffers, belonging to the Philadelphia City Yacht Club and the Larchmont Yacht Club in the suburbs of New York City.

After closing in the 1980s, the Cedar Park firehouse became the home of a popular indoor farmer’s market. Today, the former firehouse now houses a quartet of Cedar Park businesses: Dock Street Brewery, Satellite Cafe, Firehouse Bicycles, and The Fireworks Co-Working Space.

Sleeping quarters, fire station at 701 S.50th Street, photographed by R. Carrollo, December 9, 1959.  Now Firehouse Bicycles.

The engine garage, photographed by R. Carrollo on December 9, 1959. Now Dock Street Brewery.

Firehouse at 701 S.50th Street. photographed by R. Carrollo on December 9, 1959. Now the site of the Satellite Cafe.

Sources: 

Sandra Tatman, Johnson, Philip H. (1868-1933), Philadelphia Architects and Buildings, 2019.

Howard Gillette, Corrupt and Contented, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

“Israel Durham Quits: Abandons Claims to Leadership of Party Machine,” The New York Times, January 10, 1906.

“Israel Wilson Durham: Politician and Owner/President of the Philadelphia Phillies,” Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery.

 

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Pershing’s Short, Yet “Epochal” Visit to Philadelphia

Philadelphia lavished patriotic honors on General John J. Pershing, one year ago. The commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front in World War I carved out only two-and-a-half hours for celebration in the City of Brotherly Love. No matter. Everyone seemed to make the most of what was touted as an”epochal visit.”

“Pershing’s long, long, trail, blazed with the everlasting glory of victory, crossed Philadelphia,” glowed the Inquirer the following morning. “The city that cradled the Nation swept America’s military idol from his feet in the tumult and ecstasy of a welcome which veteran generals from overseas declared shamed those other historic moments of Paris, London and New York.”

“This demonstration to honor the man whose leadership and genius had wrought a final triumph, destined to live eternally in the pages of history, was majestically superb and gloriously epic. Business and industry went A.W.O.L. for hours in order that the city where American liberty and freedom first were translated into government might lay its tribute at the feet of a man who directed the might of America in crushing autocracy and tyranny in Europe.

“One half million throats roared acclaim to the splendid figure who rode in an auto at the head of the line, a figure who visualized to the cheering multitude the spirit of fighting, victorious America. A million eyes followed this military leader, alight with love, affection and idolatrous worship that the fires of renewed patriotism had kindled and kept aglow.

“Previous celebrations and fetes, hitherto apocryphal in the city, were overshadowed by this welcome. . . . Streets became living canyons, throbbing and pulsating to the emotional greeting of a people stirred to the depths by the man and all that he meant to those who had kept the home fires burning. Forests of flags nodded and waived and danced in the breeze, obedient to the chubby fist of childhood as well as the palsied hand of age.

“Women in their ecstatic jubilation pelted the Commander, home from the wars, with roses and other flowers. From the skies and windows of the great office buildings of the city came showers of confetti raining down upon him.  And behind all adulation, all this wealth of affectionate greeting and stupendous welcome, were the ceremonials which the city and State had arranged to give a stately touch to this riotous ovation that extended over three miles of march, and never once died down…

“Recent history holds no parallel to yesterday’s demonstration for enthusiasm. . . . From the moment that he stepped from his car . . .  he found his pathway figuratively carpeted with the hearts of his countrymen here. All along the stretch of this turn in the long, long trail, too, he found adulation and affection bloom and blossoming in his path.

“Deeply affected and immeasurably delighted, Pershing found that the charm and the splendor of this welcome rested largely in its spontaneity. His eyes greedily drank in their fill of the entrancing sight, and shone with the keenest appreciation and gratitude which found their outward expression when he spoke at the Union League. He told his hearers that the reception surpassed anything in his experience.”

General Pershing Speaking from Union League Balcony, September 12, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

“You have every reason to be proud of your patriotism because you inherited it from your forefathers and because of the way in which you have defended the principles for which they stood,” said Pershing at the Union League, overlooking Broad Street. “I wish I had more time to say what I feel in my heart, on being in this historic city of Philadelphia, I only hope that I many again come to drink from this fountain of patriotism.”

General John J. Pershing, Governor William C. Sproul and Mayor Thomas B. Smith at Independence Square, September 12, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

“Mayor Smith and Governor Sproul were among the prominent personages of the city and State on hand to meet the General, as spick and span and smart as any subaltern fresh from West point . . . Flanked by the Governor and Mayor General Pershing strode . . . . Here he found the real guard of honor drawn up to greet him. Two dozen or more boys who had won the Distinguished Service Cross for their valorous deeds in the armies which the distinguished guest had commanded. The moment that Pershing’s eyes fell upon these heroes he deserted his civilian hosts and became the soldier and the commander instantly, and unaffectedly.”

“Goddess of Liberty” at Reception to General Pershing, Independence Hall, (PhillyHistory.org)

“His eyes roved over the men, rested for a moment or two on the decorations that embellish their tunics, and questions several of them as to the deeds which brought this distinguished recognition. As he walked away, he turned to the little knot of civilians in his wake and said musingly: ‘These are the real men: the real fellows who did the work. Real men, every one of them; don’t forget that.'”

Flags of Allied Nations at Independence Hall, September 12, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

“His short visit—all too short for the big welcoming host of Philadelphia—will never be forgotten,” wrote John Wanamaker. “General Pershing must come back and give us more time, when we will see that Philadelphia, big as it is can give him a bigger welcome and more courtesies than could be crowded into the brief visit of yesterday.”

Really? How could another visit have possibly topped this one?

[Source: “General Acclaimed By Thousands Here in Epochal Visit,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 1919; [Advertisement letter by John Wanamaker] “General Pershing, the Great American Soldier and Commander of Our Victorious Armies,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 1919.]

See more on Pershing’s patriotic encounter with the Liberty Bell.

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Patriotic Etiquette at the Liberty Bell — 1919 edition

“Philadelphia Paying Tribute to Its Soldier Sons,” Broad and Spring Garden Streets, May 15, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

After the conclusion of what would become known as World War I, mandatory visits to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell provide us, a century later, with a laboratory of contrasting and complementary patriotic practices.

May 15, 1919: Eight miles of the “khakied legions” and their “forests of bayonets” march in celebration throughout the city. On Broad Street and the new Parkway, “bands blared their music, cheerleaders awakened the stands to fresher and more frequent tumult, while songs burst upon the air, like some festival prepared for a Roman general back from his journey of conquest into other lands.”

At Independence Hall the spirit of celebration turned serious. If ever there was a ground zero for understated expressions on behalf of American Freedom, Liberty and Independence, it was Independence Hall, and more particularly, at the Liberty Bell. “While the cheering and the tumult multiplied in many places,” here it was “chained by a somber realization that silence could best pay tribute…” For this special day, the Liberty Bell was brought into the sunlight of Chestnut Street where all those who passed could feel its powerful, mute presence.

Liberty Bell outside Independence Hall, May 15, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

July 4, 1919: The first peacetime Fourth offered another opportunity to celebrate American victory with song, dance, speeches and other patriotic displays. This time, the Liberty Bell is carried out to Independence Square “and placed on a pedestal banked with ferns and potted plants.”  If it wasn’t for the blazing sun and extreme heat, the event would have attracted more than 100,000. Only “meager thousands” turned out for the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence and what came after.

In an unscheduled speech, Judge John M. Patterson, a candidate for Mayor, took over the podium. He described the Liberty Bell, as “the holiest relic in the world.” Then the earnest, unctuous Patterson, who would lose his mayoral bid, took a right turn away from the usual  somber, bell-based patriotic etiquette.

“The bell could proclaim to the Bolshevists today that America is a land of law and order,” Patterson declared.  And “as long as we have religion and patriotism, the red flag of anarchy will never oust the flag of the United States. Let the churches see that every member of their congregations is an American in deed as well as in word, and if he is not, then let him be an outcast from the Church as he is from the Nation. We can array good people against the bad and blot out this menace. Let the Bolshevists and those who rail at our laws and liberties understand that if they don’t like this country and the way its government is administered then the best thing they can do is go to some place that does suit them.”

General Pershing at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall September 12, 1919 (PhillyHistory.org)

When Patterson stepped down, Iowa Congressman James W. Good, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, replaced him at the podium and continued. “There is no room in America for any flag but the flag of America and your duty and mine in this country, in times of peace as well as in times of war, is to obey the law and pay obedience and reverence to the flag of the United States. There is no place in America for the Red flag. It means the destruction of all that our civilization represents.”

September 12, 1919: General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front returns. He visits the Bell and the Hall and re-focuses with silence and somber tones after a welcome by Mayor Thomas B. Smith. “We stand on holy ground, General Pershing,” says the mayor. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence signed it within these four walls. This is the home of the Liberty Bell, loved by one hundred million free people.”

The General walks up to the Bell, ensconced and decorated for the occasion “mute but glorious in its cradle. . . . Unconscious of the shouts and the cheers, or the interruption of the photographers’ flash lights, the soldier stood there, silent before the venerable relic of the days when liberty was first proclaimed throughout the land. With head bared and eyes softened, the man who had led the great army overseas to carry to victory the armed purpose that sprang to life in this historic shrine, riveted his eyes upon the Bell.”

“For several moments he stood tense, and then his eyes roved over the symbol of freedom, and he seemed to be pondering in his mind if his stewardship were worthy of the traditions which the Bell conjured to his mind. Then, bending low, as if to press his lips to the Bell, he saluted paused for a moment and then walked out to address the throng.”

Pershing had an adoring crowd. By the time he made his way to Broad Street, “the sidewalks were jammed with great masses of cheering people.”

Pershing briefly toyed with the idea of running for public office. He never did.

[Sources: “Commonwealth and City Pay Magnificent Tribute to Valorous Sons Who Risked All in Liberty’s Cause.” The Inquirer, May 16, 1919; “Wide Celebration of First Peace 4th Held In This City,” The Inquirer, July 5, 1919; “City Will Accord Big Welcome Today To Gen. Pershing,” The Inquirer, September 12, 1919; “General Acclaimed By Thousands Here In Epochal Visit,” The Inquirer, September 13, 1919.]

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101 Years Later: Mapping the South Philadelphia Race Riot

“To one who is familiar with the political conditions in Philadelphia, the rioting of July 26-31 was not unexpected,” wrote Walter F. White, Assistant Secretary of the NAACP a few months after the dust settled. “The only surprising feature is that such an outbreak did not occur much sooner. It is doubtful if there is any other city in the country where a more unclean system of pollical chicanery exists.”

Readers who watch this space know the story. For those to whom the 1918 South Philadelphia Race Riots is news, earlier posts start here (for the incident where it started on Friday, July 26th), hereherehere,  here (about the spreading and sustained violence over the weekend that followed) and here (for a summary and chronology of the events from July 24th through July 31st).

“Crowd at 28th and Federal streets during yesterday’s riots trying to take negroes off Darby car.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 29, 1918.

What do we know from contemporary sources? Other than White’s 8-page account, the city’s newspapers presented a range of coverage that was accurate at times, inaccurate others, and usually rife with rumors and bias that leaned toward the dramatic. “In a series of street battles waged for twenty-four hours by more than five thousand white and colored men in a downtown section covering about two square miles, read one example, “scores were seriously injured in the most terrific and bitter race riot that has ever taken place in this city. …[Rioting] grew in intensity . . . with individual fights and mobs engaged in gun fire on nearly every other corner of a section bounded by Washington Avenue, Dickinson Street, 23rd and 30th Streets.”

More than a century later, there’s no living memory of the events. All we have are the contemporary written sources and previous few images, including the photograph presented here (right). On the 101st anniversary of this and other moments in the riot, we present a mapped version of the story to help restore awareness of what took place, where and when. Not only does this give us a clearer sense of the hot spots, it grounds our understanding of how violence spread through the community over those fateful days and who was involved.

South Philadelphia Riot Map (Google)

Click on the map (here, or left) to get a better idea of where the riot took place, where it spread and who participated as instigators and victims. Red circles indicate hot spots, blue circles indicate where they lived.

Riot Locations:

  • Residence of Adella Bond, 2936 Ellsworth Street, July 26, 1918
  • Shooting of Hugh Lavery by Jesse Butler, at 26th and Annin Street, July 27th
  • Shooting of Officer Thomas McVay by Henry Huff, inside 2716 Titan Street, July 28th
  • Attack on Henry Huff home – 2743 or 2745 Titan Street
  • Mobs reign on “small streets” [Annin and Alter Streets] between Federal Street and Washington Avenue [25th and 28th Streets]
  • Attack on Eleanor Grant home, 1522 South Stillman Street
  • Armed Mob barricaded itself in a vacant house with weapons, 27th and Alter Streets
  • Mob Attack on an African-American church, 27th and Federal Streets
  • Federal Arsenal employee shot in tavern, Grays Ferry Avenue and Carpenter Streets
  • Police attack Preston Lewis in the Polyclinic Hospital, 1818-1828 Lombard Street
  • Mob attack of the Darby Car, 28th and Federal Streets (see illustration)
  • Riley Bullock arrested by police, Titan Street and Point Breeze Avenue
  • Riley Bullock murdered by police in the 17th District Police Station, 20th and Federal Streets

Grays Ferry Avenue at 28th and Federal Streets in 1936. (PhillyHistory.org)

Identity and home address of 31 seriously injured or killed riot participants and victims, including race and age, if published:

  •  Millard Berry [or M. Derry] 28, “colored” 2623 Annin street, “scalp abrasions.”
  • Noam Bewz [or Nonah Bews] 33, “colored,” 1838 Naudain Street. “dying; three broken ribs and multiple body and head lacerations.”
  • Isaac Bradford, 2020 or 2220 Morton [sic, Manton] Street, “fractured jaw.”
  • Riley Bullock, 30, [African American] 2032 Annin Street. (shot dead in the 17th District Police Station)
  • Joseph Bush, 29, 2603 Mantua Street. “Lacerated scalp.”
  • Jesse [or Joseph] Butler, 18, “colored,” 4849 Haverford Avenue, “badly beaten.”
  • Lem Carter [or L. Lem Carter], 27, “colored,” 2536 Alter Street, “bullet wound in left leg.”
  • Frank Donohue, 1325 South Stanley Street, “shot in groin.” (dead).
  • William Duberry, 33 [African American], 1511 South Stillman Street, “internal injuries and a fractured skull.”
  • Joseph Fleming, 27, 1524 South Ringgold Street, “forehead lacerated.”
  • Joseph Graham, 19, 2928 South Van Pelt Street, “laceration of the head.”
  • Henry Hale, 50, “colored” 400 Eldridge Street, “broken arm.”
  • Henry Huff, 23 or 25, [African American] 2743 or 2745 Titan Street, “beaten about the head and face with a club” and “lacerated forehead.”
  • Albert Hankerson, 27, [or Elbert Hankson, 37, “colored”], 2603 Mantua [sic, Manton] Street. “Lacerations of face, scalp and fingers.”
  • Joseph Kelly, 23 years old, 2311 Carpenter Street, “shot in right leg.”
  • Hugh Lavery, 34 or 42, 1229 or 1234 South 26th Street, “shot by a negro” at 26th and Annin Streets (dead).
  • Preston Lewis, 33, [African American], 2739 Titan Street, “lacerations, scalp and face.”
  • Robert McDevitt, 14, 2043 Federal street, “slight cuts and scratches, treated in drug store.”
  • John McPolin [or John M. Polen], 22, 2717 Titan Street, “shot in thigh.”
  • Thomas McVay [or McVey] patrol driver, 24, 2731 or 2735 Oakford street, “shot to death” at 27th and Titan Streets.
  • Gordon Matthewson [or Gordon Matenson], 38, 2747 Titan Street, “lacerated scalp.”
  • George Miller, 44, 1217 South 26th Street, uncle of Hugh Lavery, “shot in leg.”
  • Thomas Myers, 34, patrolman. 2212 Titan street, “shot in right leg and left hip.”
  • William Nahar, 29 years old, of 1406 South 19th Street, “lacerated scalp.”
  • Edwin Noley, [or Edward Naley or Edward Naby] 38, “colored,” 2737 Titan street, “broken nose and jaw, internal injuries, fractured skull; not expected to live.”
  • William Reason, 18, “colored.” 1740 Rodman Street, “fractured jaw, body contusions.”
  • John Riley, 22, 1243 South 20th Street, “bruises and lacerations.”
  • Thomas Scully, 34, “colored,” 2031 Fernon Street, “shot in head.”
  • Patrolman John M. Synder, 17th District Police Station, 20th and Federal Streets, “hand fractured, lacerations.”
  • Isaac Thompson, 27, 1554 South Woodstock Street. “Lacerations of scalp.”
  • Robert Wilson, 26 “colored.” 2043 Federal Street or 1406 South Nineteenth street, “lacerated scalp.”

What more can we know from the information above? Lots, we’d like to think. A century plus after the fact, there are bound to be family accounts, shared or unshared, verified or unverified, that should be part of the evolving historical record. In addition, all kinds of questions arise about the riots and their aftermath in and around the impacted neighborhoods. These accounts could only be provided by those who heard about the events, or echoes of them, in the century that followed.

One hundred and one years later, it’s beyond time to share what we know.

[Sources: Philadelphia Race Riots of July 26 to July 31, 1918, An investigation by Walter F. White, Assistant Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and an account of actions taken by the Philadelphia branch of the N.A.A.C. P.; “2 Slain, 20 Injured As 5000 Fight Race War in South Philadelphia,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 29, 1918; “Another Dies in Race Riots; Marines Used.” Evening Public Ledger, July 29, 1918.]

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