Author Archives: Spencer Willig

Take Care of Him and I will repay Thee: A Luxurious Philadelphia Asylum

  Since the establishment of Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Pine Streets “to care for the sick-poor of the Province and for the reception and care of lunaticks,” Philadelphia was a leading center of psychiatric care. The city is, after all, the birthplace of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, widely regarded as the father […]
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The Life of the Schuylkill: Part Two

  Jaundice. Vomiting. Kidney failure. Bleeding from the mouth, eyes, nose and stomach. Death. Many Philadelphians today would probably not have a hard time believing that the list above is a catalogue of consequences one might reasonably expect to suffer after drinking out of the river. Yet it was precisely these agonies – the agonies […]
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The Life of the Schuylkill: Part One

  The Schuylkill is not an unattractive river. Reflections of the illuminated arches of the bridges above it gleam on its dark surface at night, while the lights of Boathouse Row have given commuters on I-76 and Amtrak and Septa passengers something to enjoy as they speed past. The Fairmount Waterworks, newly restored and featuring […]
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Fires, Fights and Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia’s Volunteer Firemen, Part Two

  By 1752, there were already eight active fire companies in Philadelphia. That same year, Franklin built on his own achievement by helping to found the Philadelphia Contributionship, the oldest fire insurance company in America. Interestingly, though Franklin modeled his creations after their English counterparts, the American system was fundamentally different. In England, fire brigades […]
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Fires, Fights and Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia’s Volunteer Firemen, Part One

  “The alarm of fire being given Onward we did go Their house we broke, and their engine took And beat their members also.” (From “The Franklin Hose Song,” c. 1850) Tracing their roots back to a proud roster of founding fathers and fires fought, the volunteer fire companies that preceded the establishment of the […]
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