Dox Thrash and the “Poetry of the Artist’s Own People”

A son of sharecroppers, Dox Thrash was born in 1893 and raised in a cabin outside the town of Griffin in rural Georgia. The second of four children, he was raised primarily, perhaps solely, by his beloved mother, Ophelia. Throughout her adult life, Ophelia Thrash worked six to seven days a week as a housekeeper and cook for a white family named Taylor while providing materially and spiritually...
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William Logan Comments on William Pitt and the Stamp Act of 1765

The Stamp Act was passed by British Parliament on March 22, 1765. It was levied to help pay for debt caused by the stationing of British troops in America during the French and Indian War, the North American conflict in the global Seven Years’ War (1756–63) between France and Great Britain. The act was to take effect on November 1, 1765. It was a direct tax imposed by the British on the American...
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Editor’s Letter

The cover of this edition features a poignant watercolor portrait, Woman in Blue, Waiting, by a Philadelphia artist whose work has been regrettably overlooked in the past but is now being rediscovered as new studies and exhibitions, as well as a preservation effort to save his home, have emerged in recent years. Printmaker and painter Dox Thrash sought to document the African American experience...
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“From My Own Observation and Familiar Acquaintance”: Phebe Earle Gibbons Introduces the Pennsylvania Dutch to the World

  “It was on a Sunday morning in March, when the air was bleak and the roads were execrable, that I obtained a driver to escort me to the farm-house where an Amish meeting was to be held,” wrote Phebe Earle Gibbons (1821–93), describing a Lancaster County Amish religious gathering in the late 1860s. “The floors were bare, but on one of the open doors hung a long white towel,...
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The Giant That Stumbled: Baldwin Locomotive Works Dominated Its Field for a Century, Then Vanished

How could a Philadelphia-based global giant with 20,000 employees and a history of 120 years of operation disappear, leaving little trace? It happened to the Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW), which perfected the art and science of building steam locomotives for domestic and worldwide markets. Baldwin was so dominant that in 1901, eight smaller builders that were scattered around the East banded...
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The Manumission of Samuel Stephens

In 1783 Stuart George Dallas and his wife Elizabeth, formerly of the island of Jamaica, filed a manumission contract in Philadelphia for enslaved 12-year-old Samuel “Sammy” Stephens. George Bryan of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered a writ of habeas corpus for Samuel Stephens to be brought before him on July 1, 1786. The manumission contract, pictured here, is preserved in the Pennsylvania...
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The Spirited History of Pennsylvania Saloons

In 1905 and 1906 Charles and Linnie Ross of Stroudsburg traveled throughout Pennsylvania, photographing residents and buildings in communities they passed. Hoping to sell their prints for a handsome profit, they made sure to shoot the most popular spots in each town. Unsurprisingly, the Rosses photographed dozens of saloons in their travels, including this one in Williamsport. By 1851 saloons...
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Reforming Faith by Design: Frank Furness’ Architecture and Spiritual Pluralism Among Philadelphia’s Jews and Unitarians

Philadelphia never saw anything like it. The strange structure took shape between 1868 and 1871 on the southeast corner of North Broad and Mount Vernon streets, in the middle of a developing residential neighborhood for a newly rising upper middle class. With it came a rather alien addition to the city’s skyline: a boldly striped onion dome capping an octagonal Moorish-style minaret that flared...
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“Without Fear and Without Reproach”: Octavius V. Catto and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a monument to Octavius V. Catto in a ceremony at the southwestern apron of City Hall. Catto was a cornerstone figure in Philadelphia’s early civil rights struggle — a recruiter of an African American militia during the Civil War, an instrumental figure in the victory to desegregate Philadelphia’s horse-drawn streetcars, a...
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Editor’s Letter

The features in this edition focus on Pennsylvanians who strived for a more equitable, pluralistic America. The articles cover a period from the mid-19th century into the early 20th, a time when movements for civil rights were emerging and new barriers were being broken in several social and cultural realms. The story of Octavius V. Catto reflects a key moment in the history of the struggle for...
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