Monthly Archives: December 2012

Happy Holidays from PhillyHistory Blog

The first public tree goes up in Independence Square in 1913. Lists reflecting on the bests and worsts of the waning year are nearly as abundant as egg nog and cardboard-flavored cookies in the weeks leading up to the holidays. But unlike the transience of yearly in memoriams, Philadelphia’s rich tradition of holiday decorations is […]
Posted in Events and People, Snapshots of History | Comments closed

The First and Only to One of Many: How a Coffee Shop Helped Transform Spruce Hill

Soon after moving to West Philadelphia in 1995, Douglas Witmer joked with his brother-in-law Dan Thut that one day they would open up a coffee shop in the Spruce Hill section of West Philadelphia. Neither had business experience. Douglas studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His wife’s brother Dan had a background in […]
Posted in Historic Sites, Neighborhoods, Urban Planning | Comments closed

The Skeleton Man, the Jersey Devil and a Multitude of Other Attractions

Admission cost a dime at the 9th and Arch Museum. Indeed, dimes ruled the for-profit world of Victorian-era museums.  But in the end neither the entertainment, nor the dimes, were enough. For more than half a century, the corner of 9th and Arch sustained Philadelphians with opportunities for diversion, education and voyeurism. The public came […]
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The Rise and Fall of Blackface Minstrelsy in The City of Brotherly Love

A century before one of the last gasps of American blackface minstrelsy played out at the corner of 9th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia lawyer-turned-cartoonist Edward Williams Clay pioneered his art of stoking white ridicule. Clay’s racist “Life in Philadelphia” caricatures targeting  African Americans quickly grew into an international success. And while Clay was adding insult […]
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