Monthly Archives: April 2012

William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Company

On a cold, drizzly morning in November 1894, 25,000 men, women, and children surged through the gates of Philadelphia’s Cramp shipyard to witness the launching of the largest liner yet built in the United States.  She was the SS St. Louis, the 11,000 gross ton flagship of the American Line, owned by Philadelphia shipping tycoon […]
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Poor Richard in a Roman Toga

Benjamin Franklin lived in the here and now; he wasn’t so much the toga type. Early on, Franklin and friends formed what they called the “Leather Apron Society” and cultivated their image as well-read, regular fellows. It wasn’t beyond Franklin to slice up a rattlesnake (or an image of one, anyway) to make the point that the […]
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Reverend William Henry Furness: A Philadelphia Unitarian

Born in Boston and educated at Harvard, Reverend William Henry Furness (1802-1896) came to Philadelphia at the tender age of 22 to nurture the city’s small Unitarian community, which had been founded by scientist and British immigrant Joseph Priestly in the 1790s. Like Quakerism, which holds that the light of God is in all of […]
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Parapets, Pinnacles and Perpetuity

Monument Cemetery Gatehouse just before demolition, Broad Street at Berks Street, March 3, 1903. Philadelphians were dying to get out of town in the 1830s and 1840s—and so were city dwellers just about everywhere. Parisians started the trend, opting for a rural burial at Le Père Lachaise Cemetery before Americans caught the bug. Soon, the […]
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Andrew Jackson Downing on Tulpehocken Street

People’s pride in their country is connected to pride in their home. If they can decorate and build their homes to symbolize the values they hope to embody, such as prosperity, education and patriotism, they will be happier people and better citizens.                           […]
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Never a Dull Moment: The Rough and Tumble History of Philadelphia Newspaper Publishing

The Evening Telegraph at the Lincoln Building on Broad Street, South of City Hall. Photograph by N.M. Rolston, October 4, 1916. When Philadelphia boomed so did its newspapers. The city’s population, about 81,000 in 1800, expanded fifteen-fold over the next century to 1.3 million. This did wonderful things to make Philadelphia a robust newspaper reading […]
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Le Corbusier Dynamites the Drexel Block

In his writings on architecture and city planning, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier (1887-1967) was fond of using the “royal” we: We must create a mass-production state of mind: A state of mind for building mass-production housing. A state of mind for living in mass-production housing. A state of mind for conceiving mass-production housing. In […]
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April 2, 1912: Barnes Unpacks His First Shipment of French Art

The now-demolished Youth Study Center and current site of the Barnes Foundation, 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue. Photograph by Francis Balionis, June 18, 1952. “I know what you have,” William Glackens told Albert C. Barnes of his first stabs at art acquisition. It’s an “ordinary rich man’s collection.” You spent thousands of dollars and “they are stinging […]
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