Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rev. Chauncey Giles, Leader of the Swedenbourgian Church in America

       Rev. Chauncey Giles was the leader of the New Jerusalem Church (Swedenbourgian) in the United States. He was born in Massachusetts in 1813 and educated at Williams College. He spent a number of years as a struggling school teacher moving from town to town in Pennsylvania and Ohio. He was so dissatisfied with teaching that at one time he attempted to become a dentist. He then tried giving public lectures on chemistry – a subject about which he knew nothing. He attempted to demonstrate some experiments, but ended up burning his hand and inhaling chlorine gas. He finally found his true calling when he became a clergyman in Cincinnati. After eleven years, he moved to New York. In 1875, he was elected President of the General Conference of the Church of the New Jerusalem in the United States and continued in that position until his death in 1893. For a number of years, he was also editor of the New Jerusalem Messenger.

Eunice and Chauncey Giles, about 1883

       In 1877, Giles began was having health problems and decided he could no longer continue all of his duties. He decided he required a lighter work load and accepted the call to become pastor of the New Church Society in Philadelphia. He took up his position in Philadelphia in early 1878 and moved his family to 3609 Hamilton St. He wrote that: “[w]e are delightfully situated here. West Philadelphia is a city in the country. The streets are like green lanes. Many of the houses have beautiful gardens with shrubbery and flowers. We have some city sounds, but they are not numerous and loud enough to drown the sounds of birds and other country notes. We have enjoyed the quiet and beauty of our home very much.” In March, 1878, he reported that “I am often asked if I feel at home, and I am compelled to answer, ‘No.’ I know I am at home and I am satisfied, but there is so great a difference between Philadelphia and New York that it will take time to accommodate myself to all the new ways and feel contented. The people are very kind and do all in their power to make me feel at home. There are many people of culture here, and I think they are more sociable than they were in New York. I really think we have received more invitations to dine and take tea since we came here than we did in the fourteen years in New York.”
       Soon after his arrival in Philadelphia, Giles made several trips to London and to Paris where he helped a group trying to establish the New Church of Jerusalem in France. This trip consumed much of 1878 and for the next few years he continued spending several months a year in Europe. In later years, he traveled to a number of cities in the U.S. often in connection with annual meetings of the General Conference. The trips to Europe were made possible by the generosity of anonymous donors which also allowed him and Mrs. Giles to spend summers at Lake George.
       After he returned to the U.S. and his home in Philadelphia, he wrote to a friend in Europe inviting her to come for a visit. By this time, the Rev. and Mrs. Giles seem settled into their new setting. In December, 1878, he wrote: “We have a good cheerful fire in the grate, my study lamp gives a soft and pleasant light, and we can offer you an easy chair. There is also a basket of delicious fruit, a present from the Sunday school, on my desk, and on the side table there is a very large and beautiful bouquet, covering nearly the whole of the table, a present from the ladies of the society. Come, you shall share in them all. Mrs. Giles will lay aside her book, and I will put away my writing, and we will have a good talk.”
       Building a successful congregation must not have been an easy task. Years later, his daughter wrote that: “Among its members were many earnest and devoted New Churchmen who, because of tenacious and opposite opinions held by other equally sincere members, had refrained from active participation in the affairs of the Society, so that conflict might be avoided. Some who had come into the Church from the Quakers wished little or no ritual; others there were who liked a more elaborate service. Some would like to join the General Convention and work with the Church at large; others opposed it. Mr. Giles's one aim was useful work in harmony for the Church.” Giles brought the congregation together to raise money first for church windows then for a new organ.
       During the years 1879-1881 the Church lacked a regular meeting place. However, by 1881, they had collected sufficient funds to purchased land at the corner of 22nd and Chestnut Streets where they built the church that still stands today. When the building was completed in 1883, Giles reported that “[t]he completion of this church and the Sunday School building and their dedication to the Lord will be in one way the crowning success of my life. I do not know of anyone who thought it to be possible when I came here. I do not think anyone even dreamed of it, but there they stand, an ornament to the city and a beautiful and convenient home for our society.” By this time, the Church had a number of prominent members who lived in Powelton. (See my previous blog, Swedenborgians in Powelton.)

       In the spring of 1882, Giles was able to buy 3502 Hamilton St. with help from friends. Years later, his daughter wrote that “[f]or the first time in his life [he] owned a home of his very own. This fact was a constant source of gratitude. I have heard my mother say that it is the only material blessing for which he ever prayed. The home was a comfort to them both in their declining years and a blessing most deeply appreciated.”

       In 1885, Giles was having increasing health problems associated with rheumatism, bronchitis, and a broken rib. Therefore, the Church hired William L. Worcester as his assistant. Worcester was ordained in late 1885 and later succeeded Giles as pastor. He lived with the Giles family until 1899 when he married Edith Burnham, daughter of William and granddaughter of George Burnham (3401 Powelton Ave.), and moved in with her parents.  The Burnhams were prominent members of the New Church.
       Giles published several books and a large number of sermons. He also wrote stories for children in “an attempt to embody some useful truths in a form to interest the young.” These were published in “The Wonderful Pocket” (available for download from Google books).

       Chauncey Giles died at his home in 1893. Mrs. Giles continued living there until her death in 1912. Mr. Giles’s obituary in the New Church Messenger noted that “[i]n the removal of Mr. Giles we have taken from us the most widely known man of the New Church. He was beyond all comparison the leader in the work of the New Church propagandism, and has doubtless said, published, and done more for making known to the world the doctrines of the New Church than any other man in its history.” In 1897, the Philadelphia Church added a new chancel and dedicated it to his memory.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The People Behind the Census Listings

       When I started looking into Powelton history, I began with the censuses. They give the name of each resident plus a few words to describe them in terms of their marital status, occupation, place of birth, etc. I have since discovered that some of individuals were quite prominent. However, most Poweltonians didn't head national organizations or large companies, didn't write books, and weren't heroes of the Civil War. Digging deeper using a wider variety of sources, I have occasionally found brief insights into the lives of less prominent, more typical Poweltonians. This might be some of their history, details about their jobs or social life, or hints about what happened to them in later years.
       Here are three examples from the 3600 block of Hamilton St. around WWI. These families were neighbors who probably saw each other on a regular basis while walking down the street or waiting for a trolley.

3618 Hamilton St.
       The 1910 census lists a widow, Emma Southgate (age 58), her unmarried daughter, Eva (34), and a boarder, Samuel Zacharias (70). Zacharias is listed as a widower who was the superintendent of a trust co. A brief obituary for him provides insights into his varied past.
       1915: "Samuel M Zacharias, 74 years old, who died Sunday night at his home, 3618 Hamilton street, was for 30 years superintendent of vaults of the Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company. Mr. Zacharias was born in Lingletown, Dauphin County, and was graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1863. That year he joined the Union Army, serving in the Sixth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry. Following this he entered the grain business with his father, and later was appointed Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue for Juanita, Mifflin and Snyder Counties." (Evening Public Ledger, Jan. 26, 1915)

3624 Hamilton St.
       A few doors down the block in 1920, we find Bridget Connor (age 75). She lives with her son, Bernard (38), her married (but separated?) daughter, Genevieve, and two granddaughters. Bernard was single and the manager of a fertilizer company. However, a newspaper story about a robbery offers some interesting details.
       "Jewelry Taken From Crippled Victim Near His Home.
       "A one-armed man was held up by four men in a motor and robbed of jewelry valued at $4000 within a half block of his home at midnight. The victim is Bernard Connor, 3624 Hamilton street, owner of a fertilizing business at Twenty-sixth and York streets. The hold-up was at Thirty-seventh and Hamilton streets.
       "Connor looked over his shoulder when he heard the motor approaching. He saw it slow down, and three men jumped out. With his only arm, his right, he struck and knocked down the lending man.
       "The others drew revolvers and threatened their victim.
       "One of them snatched a diamond stickpin from Connor's necktie, another took off a diamond ring and the third went through his vest pockets and found a gold watch. They did not bother with his wallet which contained $45.
       "The highwaymen left in their car and Connor ran along Hamilton street until he stopped a motor and persuaded the driver to give chase. The two machines sped out to Fortieth and Baring streets where the bandits' car eluded the pursuing one
" (Phila. Inquirer, March 1, 1921)
       So here we see Bernard as a feisty company owner, missing one arm, and walking down the street at midnight wearing jewelry worth $4,000.

3629 Hamilton St.
       Across the street, was Augustus Keil (age 39) and his family: wife, Rebecca (31), son Robert (l0) and daughters, Henrietta (8) and Anna (2). They also have a nanny, a 35 year-old black woman who was widowed. In 1920, they have another daughter, Rebecca. Robert was then 19 and working as an electrical engineer building organs. However, two newspaper articles give some idea of what his life was like between the censuses.
       August, 1918: “Private Keil., Company M, 109th Infantry. Reported missing in action on July 15, 1918. He was eighteen years old, and enlisted in the old First Regiment, N. G. P., in May, 1917. He received his training at Camp Hancock, and sailed for France in May, 1918. The last letter received by his parents was dated June 27, 1918. Prior to enlisting he was a student at West Philadelphia High School. He lived with his father, at 3629 Hamilton street.” (Evening Public Ledger, 8/16/1918)
       January, 1919: "The War Department announced today the names of one officer and 264 enlisted men of the American expeditionary force, who have arrived in France after being released from the German prison camp at Rastatt.... Among the enlisted men from this city ... Roger H Keil, 3629 Hamilton street...." (Phila. Inquirer, Jan. 4, 1919)

       A death, a robbery, and a POW returning home are not everyday occurrences. These events reveal something about these individuals. However, they also give us some feel for the neighborhood. These events were known to all the neighbors and, to some extent, they were shared losses and celebrated victories -- shared experiences that make a neighborhood (or a village) more than a list of names with ages, occupations and places of birth.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our Dr. Frankenstein? A True Tale for Halloween

       Dr. Albert P. Brubaker (1852-1943) was a physiologist. Following in the footsteps of his father, Henry Brubaker who received a degree in medicine from Jefferson Medical College, Albert received his degree from Jefferson in 1874. Henry had returned to western Pennsylvania to provide medical services in Somerset County. Albert stayed in Philadelphia to teach and do research beginning his career at the Charity Hospital of Philadelphia. In 1880, he joined the faculty of the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery (later merged into the University of Pennsylvania Dental School), a position he held for 22 years.

Dr. Albert P. Brubaker (1852-1943)
       In 1883, he married Edith Needles, the daughter of a druggist. They lived with her family for a number of years. When the Drexel Institute was opened, he became the lecturer on Physiology and Hygiene. It was probably about this time that they moved to 105 N. 34th St. where they lived for about 35 years. Edith, meanwhile, continued her studies by taking courses in biology at the University of Pennsylvania.
       In 1897, Albert joined the faculty at Jefferson. He had already held various positions there and it was at Jefferson that he pursued his research on physiology. He also published several textbooks that were widely used and republished numerous times. He was a member of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Physiological Society and the American Philosophical Society. In his later years, he was active in the Ethical Culture Society. In 1916, the graduating class at Jefferson dedicated a volume to him. In it they described him as a “strict disciplinarian… yet most affable and considerate towards students and colleagues; tolerant of all truths, endowed with singularly happy equipoise, broad sympathies and all-around completeness.” Edith was active in the New Century Club and became its president in 1905. Later, she was very active in the Visiting Nurses Association. In about 1918, they moved to 3426 Powelton Ave. where they lived for many years.
       Brubaker was a scientist who wanted to understand the workings of the human body. One of his more unusual experiments examined the role of electricity in animating the body. It was observed by a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer and described in an article on the front page in January 1900. Although it was a serious investigation, the story reads more like the script for a scary silent film.

     "When the negro policy dealer, Robert W. Brown, who murdered his wife, Lucinda, more than a year ago, was being dragged to the gallows in Moyamensing Prison on Thursday, he shudderingly shrieked, ‘My body will go to the dissecting table – to the dissecting table!

(Phila. Inquirer, Jan. 12, 1900)
     "His religious advisers admonished him to think of his soul and not of his body.
     "Pleading for delay for both soul and body, the wretched stabber fell through the fatal trap of the very moment when he turned his head to implore the keeper at his side for more time to speak.
     "In this act the knot back of his left ear slipped to the base of the brain, midway between the ears, and consciousness expired instantaneously at the end of the rope.
     "There were those who wanted, in the interest of science, to give the murder is wished for opportunity to complete the suspended speech. Not a second was wasted after he was pronounced dead. An ambulance, with clanging bell and the right-of-way, flew through the streets to the Jefferson College. In ten minutes after he was legally dead he was resting on a table in the physiological laboratory.
     "Around the table were three of the most famous physiologists in the scientific world. They were Drs. Judson Deland, Albert P. Brubaker and A. Hewson. Dr. Deland had charge of the demonstration.
     "A Startling Question.
     "Could motion and life be restored to that inanimate body?
     "For an answer to this question the three scientists devoted their energies and resources of their skill and genius.
     “They had all taught that certain nerve centres controlled motion and action. In that eminent body, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, of which the professors are members, the theory has often been advanced that there is no physiological necessity for early death. Here was a subject dead to all ordinary tests. Was he scientifically dead?
     "A sharp wire, charged with electricity, was applied to the various nerve centres of the body and brain. A superstitious layman would have been horrified at the result. Brown raised first his right arm and then his left. His had moved. His mouth twitched in a compulsive grin. the cords of the neck swelled and the mouth opened as if he would complete his interrupted speech on the scaffold. The hands clenched one after the other. A leg was drawn up and then extended.
     “Unceasingly electric wire prodded centre after centre in the nervous organism. One would have thought that a new Cagliostro was at work. At a fresh touch from the thaumaturgist plying the needle the body sat upright.
“Every Sign of Life.
     “Amazing enough was all this. There was more. The eyes opened. The heart beat. There seems to be breath, for the organs of respiration were agitated.
     “Would he walk? Would he talk?
     “But, placed on the floor, the body fell back limp. The lips opened without sound. Science has demonstrated wonders, but life could not be brought back with motion. The soul has gone beyond returning breath. The electric needle and made Brown do everything but walk and talk.
     “In less than an hour the nerve centres themselves became dead. The three scientists surrendered the effort at resuscitation. The limp body of the murder was removed to the anatomical department on the top floor.
     “There Dr. Brubaker, who is the demonstrator of physiology in the Jefferson Medical College, and the author of text books used in that institution, lectured yesterday afternoon to the second and third year men on Brown's body. He explained to them the operations practiced upon the subject, and the resulting phenomena. Brown had died in a religious hysteria. By the slipping of the noose the neck had not been broken. The brain had been congested. The heart has been remarkably strong, beating fifteen minutes after drop fell, and artificial resuscitation afterward did not seem difficult."
     (Phila. Inquirer, Jan. 13, 1900, pg. 1)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Fight Against Electric Trolleys on Baring St.

     Powelton is a classic example of a “streetcar suburb.” However, for nineteenth century Poweltonians this meant horse-drawn streetcars. In the early 1890s, a furor erupted over plans to replace horse-drawn cars with electric trolleys. One of the first lines to be electrified was the Baring St. line which ran from Market St. up 33rd St. to Baring, then 37th St. to Fairmount Ave. and on to 44th St. and on the return from Fairmount to Baring along 36th St.
     In 1892, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that:
     “There is talk along Baring street, Fairmount avenue and other streets traversed by the Baring street division of the Traction Company of a mass meeting to protest against the defacing presence of trolley poles and wires. Aside from the physical danger of the system and other potent objections, the erection of the poles along the Baring street route would disfigure one of the fairest portions of Philadelphia county. The great charm of West Philadelphia’s residence section, which lies largely along or adjacent to this route, is the semi-rural aspect of the streets and houses.
     “The horse-cars are an abomination, but 99 per cent. of the residents and property owners feel that even these easy-going vehicles are preferable to the unsightly appurtenances of the trolley cars with their attendant noises. At any rate the attractive vistas of the streets are unmarred, and everyone wants them to remain so.” (Phila. Inquirer, March 27, 1892)
Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 1892
      The same issue of the Inquirer included a petition against the trolleys on its front page and encouraged readers to sign it. It stated, in part: “We believe the trolleys to be dangerous to life, limb and property. The franchises have been granted without any adequate restrictions or compensation. They allow the increase of poles and dangerous overhead wires to an alarming extent.”
     A few months later, 15 prominent residents of Baring St. took the lead in a law suit to prevent the Philadelphia Traction Co. from electrifying its trolleys through West Philadelphia. The action was brought by Howard Watkin [3305 Baring], Henry D. Justi [3401 Baring], Thomas Scott [3437 Woodlands], Marcus H. Darrow [3413 Baring], Samuel H. Troth [3309 Baring], David Masters [3308 Baring], Theophilus Hassenbruch [3316Baring], Edward M. Willard [718 N 40th], George G. Erickson [3955 Wallace], Joseph S. Erickson [720 N 40th], William Garrett [3404 Baring], George W. Kendrick, Jr. [3507 Baring], Walter Erben [3415 Baring], Samuel R. Skillern [3509 Baring], William H. Brown [3510 Baring], John F. Craig [3417 Baring], William J. McCahan [3419 Baring], Elijah Pugh, Jr. [3501 Baring], and Charles H. Alexander [3626 Baring] against the West Philadelphia Passenger Railway Company, the Philadelphia & Darby Railroad Company, the Philadelphia Traction Company, the city of Philadelphia, and Abraham M. Beitler, director of public safety of the city of Philadelphia.

An Earlier Cartoon Against the Street Car Companies (Phila. Inquirer, May 22, 1889)

     The suit alleged that “this overhead electric trolley system, if so erected upon the streets of West Philadelphia as set forth in the plans, will not only be a public nuisance, dangerous to both life and property, but will inflict private injuries upon your orators by largely decreasing the values of the various properties owned by them, and rendering them undesirable as residences….” Part of the argument was that the charter of the West Philadelphia Passenger Railway Co. (which had been granted the route) only authorized it “to lay a double or single track of railway, to be used exclusively with horse-power….”
     Surprisingly, the list of claimants includes several Poweltonians whose professions would suggest more acceptance of modernization. William H. Brown was Chief Engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad. William Garrett was a paper manufacturer who was only about 38 at the time the suit was brought. Henry D. Justi owned a large factory that made dental supplies and he was a member of the Franklin Institute. Walter Erben was a wool merchant who was elected to the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1895.  In addition, they were all neighbors of the Brill family which controlled J. G. Brill & Co., the largest producer of the electric trolleys.
     The West Philadelphia Passenger Railway Co. was among the first of many lines leased by the Philadelphia Traction Co. (PTC) which in 1902 became the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co.  Who was behind the PTC? The list of principals includes some of Philadelphia chief moguls: William H. Kemble (who was known for his close ties with many powerful officials), Peter A. B. Widener, William L. Elkins, George R. Yarrow, George W. Elkins and George D. Widener.
     In January, 1893, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the trolley owners quoting a previous decision that a railway "is bound to keep pace with the progress of the age in which it continues to exercise its corporate rights."

Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia) Feb. 16, 1920 (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

J. Henry Scattergood's Letter Home from War-Torn France, March 1919

       J. Henry Scattergood (1877-1953) grew up in Powelton.  His family moved to 3515 Powelton Ave. in 1880 when he was a few years old and he lived there for more than 40 years.  The Scattergoods were a prominent Quaker family whose members were associated with numerous Quaker causes.   After several years in business, Henry became treasurer of Haverford College in 1916 and treasurer of Bryn Mawr College in 1927.  He also served as U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Herbert Hoover.

J. Henry Scattergood, c1919

       After WWI, he went to France as a member of the Society of Friends’ Committee of the National Red Cross to coordinate food aid.  When Herbert Hoover invited the American Friends Service Committee to take charge of feeding German child, Henry’s brother, Alfred G. Scattergood, became chief of that unit.
        Henry wrote the following letter to his wife on March 14, 1919 at a pivotal moment in European history.  The letter describes the scene immediately around him, the broader situation in France, Germany and Austria, American politics, the hope for a new “league of nations” and his fears for “another struggle of the future“ if the league was not designed with the proper intent.  It is an amazing, insightful document written by one of Powelton’s finest.  It is copied here in full as it was printed in the Evening Public Ledger in April, 1919.
        "I started a letter two days ago from Paris, but was interrupted by interviews, and then suddenly found I had to leave that evening for Neufchateau, in the east of France, to see some United States army officers about materials which we need in the Verdun area. So yesterday was spent on trains and at Neufchateau and today again on trains on my way to Charmont (our new headquarters in the Verdun area). I have an hour before the connecting train leaves for Bar le Duc. Hundreds of ‘Yanks’ are all around us – typical scene. There is a constant string in one door to the canteen and out another, each fellow getting his can full of hot coffee and a sandwich. He pays a trifle if he has the money, otherwise it is given.
        "Besides cold corned beef and hard bread it is all they often get on a journey from one place to another.
        "Last evening at Neufchateau, while I was getting supper at the A. R. C. [American Red Cross] station canteen, I watched a girl I felt sure I knew hand out coffee and sandwiches. She proved to be Ruth Gibbons, of Haverford Meeting, and she had just fed 1700 boys in forty-five minutes – two trainloads. One feels for these fellows, and all of them sick and tired of the army and all anxious to get home and back to their usual work.
        "Many towns like this one, and most of those in northeast France, are full of Americans. This applies to the sectors taken over by the United States from the French. In every little village they are stationed; with too little to do now, and tired of the French and the French of them.
        "Today I have seen Russians, who were prisoners in Germany, brought by the French and Americans to work here for their keep, I suppose. A French soldier told me they are still really the same as prisoners. I can't just place their legal status, but as some one is feeding them they probably are willing to stay rather than go to Russia or Germany with all the uncertainties in those countries.
        "What strange situations the war has made. The individual work habit has been lost by hundreds of thousands of men. They have been fed for so long now in many cases one, two or three years of compulsory service before the war and then four and a half years of war itself – that they have come to depend upon state employment, and have lost the habit of individual work.
        "This is especially true of Germany and Austria. In the former, the present government has had to make a general appeal to the citizens to work, saying that on work depends the whole welfare of the state. Think of what it means to have the work-loving German nation of the past reduced to this. Those unemployed, I understand, are being paid for the moment by the state eight marks a day. They would rather take this and not hunt work than find work and get more.
        "In Austria, reports from Switzerland say, the conditions are even worse, and chaos and the break-up of the state and civilization are threatened. Soldiers form committees and get food themselves because of quasi-governmental powers and don't care if others suffer. It is a case of every one for himself, and a scramble with no real general coherence or state authority.
        "This god that the central empires have worshiped – the state – has crumbled to pieces and they feel lost.
        "The desperate straits of starvation and unemployment and demoralization have, of course, hastened the process of proletariat unrest which breeds Bolshevist philosophy, and those returning from the Berne conference state that the Moderates from Germany, whom they saw there expressed the view that the revolution in Germany and Austria is just beginning, not ending.
        "The Allied powers have been late in realizing the facts to which they have been blind because of feelings arising from the war. England awoke first through its members of the inter-Allied food commission and gave the warning three weeks ago. Its leading member even resigned because of lack of support for his view at the time. Now even the French appear to see the danger of delay. Mr. Lansing, two nights ago in a speech in Paris, repeated the warning of the instant need of feeding Germany, or there would be no Germany to feed.
        "But none of the United States $100,000,000 for the Hoover Food Commission can be used because of restrictions passed by our ‘enlightened’ Congress, prohibiting help being given to the central powers. And yet they wonder at the growth of Bolshevism. But not so with those who see on this side the strain and stress of conditions caused by the war.
        "The more one watches the frenzied struggle with the present problems of national interests, of internal finances and budgets, of demobilization and the re-starting of industry, etc., the more one realizes that the war has made more problems than it settled. I am having an eye to the national budgets now in the making, and I look for interesting realizations to dawn therefrom upon the consciousness of some of the nations that have withstood thus far any new developments in the international and social orders.
        "How lamentable it seems at this juncture for Senator Lodge and others to be ‘throwing monkey wrenches into the gears.’ It is taken in Europe as meaning that America is much divided. But it is encouraging to find that the league-of-nations idea has made such headway in France that Senator Lodge's views are generally given very little space in the French newspapers now, and that enlightened European opinion sees the new opportunity more and more.
        "The great struggle is still ahead, however, to make the league of nations a real league and not merely a camouflage alliance of one group assuming counter-interests against another group. This last conception would, of course, have in it the seeds of another struggle of the future.
        "Yet people ‘taking counsel of their fears,’ both in the United States and in Europe seem prone to seek immediate safety in the latter kind of a league, or rather alliance, and have difficulty in seeing through into a greater conception of trust in the deeper moral forces underlying all humanity in which rests the real security for all."
(Reprinted from the Evening Public Ledger, April 4, 1919.  P. 20)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

J. G. Brill and the Brill Brothers

John G. Brill (1817-1888)
       Johann Georg Brill was born in Cassel, Germany in 1817. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1847 along with his wife, Juliane, a daughter, Anna, and an infant son, George Martin Brill. Fifty years later, his sons ran the J. G. Brill Co., the largest manufacturer of street cars in North America.
       Soon after John G. Brill arrived in Philadelphia (with his Americanized name), he began working for Murphy and Allison, manufacturers of railroad cars at their plant at 32nd and Chestnut Streets. In 1866, Murphy & Allison became W. C. Allison & Sons. In 1868, they stopped manufacturing horse-drawn passenger cars. J. G. Brill and his oldest son, G. Martin Brill set up a small shop across the street and started making parts for passenger cars under the name J. G. Brill & Son. In the 1870 census, J.G. and Martin reported that they were carpenters. For the first few years, they did not have a proper workshop. Mrs. Brill and three of their sons became confectioners to help support the family. In 1872, J. G. Brill &; Co. acquired a third partner, John Rawl, who brought them much needed capital and important business contacts. They quickly started getting orders for complete cars. In 1873, they had their first foreign sale, to Mexico.

Early Horse Car Built by the J. G. Brill Co. in 1873

        In the 1870s, J.G. moved his family to 3601 Spring Garden St., a large house.  (It has later replaced by a row of three houses.) During the 1880s, the car building shops grew to cover 4½ acres. In 1887, Brill  began building a new factory at 62nd St. and Woodland Ave. (now the site of a shopping mall). J. G. Brill died in 1888 at the age of 71 before the new factory was completed.

J. G. Brill Co. Factory, 62nd St. & Woodland Ave.

      In 1890, the company moved to their new factory.  The site was ideal being situated between two rail lines.  It made possible a big increase in production.

George Martin Brill (1846-1906)

       After the death of J.G., the firm was run by Martin and two of his brothers, John and Edward, along with John Rawle. Martin had worked with his father to build the company.  He now became president and oversaw general operations.  He was also issued over 20 patents. He had moved his family to 414 N. 32nd St. and then, in 1889, to 3613 Hamilton St. (which he purchased for $9,250).  In 1895, he purchased the estate at 3500 Powelton Ave. that had recently been owned by the Du Pont family for $21,000 plus $39,000 for the adjacent land along Powelton Ave.. In 1900, he lived there with his wife, Mary, their three daughters, their son and three servants.

Thee bob tail; car required only one horse and fares were collected by the driver.

       The second son, George, didn’t play a major role in building up the business. About 1870, he moved to Williamsport, Pa. with his wife and worked as a baker. He returned to Philadelphia and the family business about 20 years later.

Edward Brill (1850-1914)

       The third son, Edward, joined the company in 1880. He was in charge of buying and the storing of lumber and other material. He later became treasurer and vice president. In the 1880s, Edward and brother John moved to 3411 Baring St. In 1889, he married Cecilia Shipper, daughter of Francis and Clara Shipper (3313 Baring St.). He had just turned 39 and she was about 23. They did not have any children. In 1900, they lived at 3465 Chestnut St.

John A. Brill (1852-1908)

       John A. Brill was credited with much of the success of the business. He was responsible for many of the most important innovations and he traveled tirelessly selling cars all over the world. He was apparently a great salesman. He never married. During his last years, he suffered from a terribly disabling condition.  In 1900, he lived with his divorced younger sister, Amelia, at 1110 S. 47th St.

Brill was a leading innovator in "trucks."  This 1895 model was for 8-wheeled cars.

        By 1902, J. G. Brill Co. was the largest manufacturer of street cars in the U.S. They began acquiring other companies and opened a factory in France. At the same time, the Brill family’s association with Powelton was coming to an end.  Martin sold 3500 Powelton and moved to Lower Merion. When he died in 1906, his obituary was featured on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brill made many specialty cars such as this car for export to South Africa in 1895

       The Brill family was among the most successful entrepreneurial families that ever lived in Powelton.

Two important references:
John A. Brill. "The development of the street car from horses to electricity." Cassier's Magazine, Electric Railway Number. Vol. 16.. 1899: 389-424.

Debra Brill.. History of the J.G. Brill Company. Indiana University Press, 2001.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

100 Years Ago in Powelton: The New Friends' School Building

The Philadelphia Inquirer carried the following story on September 25, 1901:


   “The Friends’ West Philadelphia School building, at Thirty-fifth and Lancaster avenue, is fast nearing completion and will be ready for occupancy, it is believed, by Oct. 14.  The building is thoroughly modern, and the committee in charge has given special care to the heating, ventilation, and plumbing arrangements.  The drinking water for the entire plant will be filtered through stone and boiled before it enters the coolers.

   “This building will now comfortably accommodate 165 pupils, divided into kindergarten, primary and intermediate grades, promoting finally to the Friends’ Central School at Fifteenth and Race streets, of which graded system it is a part.  The principal is now enrolling pupils at her temporary office, 3507 Lancaster avenue, where she or her assistants may be consulted between the hours of 8:30 A. M. and 4 P. M. every weekday except Saturday.”

Note: the arrangements for clean water were especially important.  There was a serious problem with typhoid fever until Philadelphia finally completed the installation of sand filters for the city's water supply in  1912 and began chlorination in 1913.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Powelton's Movie Starlet

The following article appeared in the Evening Public Ledger, March 17, 1915:

“Dr. John P. Chapman and Miss Mary J. Huff to Marry

      “An introduction at a dance a year ago, which was followed by ardent courtship, will culminate in the wedding, next Friday, of Dr. John Patrick Chapman, an instructor of anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Miss Mary Justina Huff, a moving picture star. The ceremony will be performed at St. Patrick's Church, 20th and Spruce streets.
      “Miss Huff, who resides at the Powelton Apartments, 36th street and Powelton avenue, is a native of Columbus Ga. For several years she has been appearing as a star in many famous moving picture productions. She is now posing for the Lubin Film Manufacturing Company. She has appeared as leading woman in ’Love of Women,’ ‘Men of the Mountains’ and other plays.
      “Doctor Chapman first met Miss Huff at a dance given by the members of the Merion Cricket Club a year ago, at Haverford. They were introduced by friends. A courtship followed. Miss Huff, who is 21 years old, will continue to appear as leading woman in the ‘movies’ after her marriage. Before she agreed to accept Doctor Chapman’s proposal she insisted that her marriage should not interfere with her career. Doctor Chapman is 27 years old. He resides at 1700 Pine street. He is well known as a practitioner in this city. He and his fiancĂ©e obtained their marriage license yesterday afternoon."

      Justina Huff (1893 – 1977) made 21 films with the Lubin Film Manufacturing Co. which had their studios on North Broad Street. Her younger sister, Louise Huff (1895 – 1973), had a slightly longer (1910-1922) and more celebrated career.
      John Chapman graduate from Penn Medical School in 1911. He was born in St. Louis. He was orphaned at age 8 and was raised by an aunt and uncle in Watertown, N.Y. Three younger siblings were sent to live with another aunt and uncle in Portland City, Oregon.
      Justina made her last film in 1916. In 1920, the couple was living on S. Latches Lane, Lower Merion with two young children.