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.