“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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1918’s Deadliest Killer: The Flu Pandemic Hits Pennsylvania

I had a little bird, Its name was Enza. I opened the window, And in-flu-enza. —Children’s rhyme, 1918 The year 1918 was arguably one of the darkest in modern times and the deadliest ever recorded in human history. Much of Europe was locked in a hideous, relentless military struggle that had dragged on for three years, killing millions of soldiers and bankrupting its governments. Famine stalked...
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Modernizing Center City: Philadelphia’s Penn Center

Modernism came to Philadelphia in September 1947. It had been creeping up on the city for some time, but that’s when the citizenry who for decades had come to expect little from the machine that controlled city politics came to see how a modern Philadelphia could look. It was a 10-part vision of Modernism presented by the City Planning Commission’s Better Philadelphia Exhibition that was...
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William Penn Plans His City

William Penn’s plan or the City of Philadelphia was an honest, inspired effort, fully imbedded in-as well as espousing-his Quaker beliefs. His new province and new city would be free of religious persecution and would, at the same time, pro­vide opportunities for even the most humble individual to achieve a level of financial success simply not available in the Europe of that time. In a...
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The Unhappy Tale of Building Philadelphia’s City Hall

Philadelphia’s City Hall is widely regarded as one of the most im­pressive in the world. A great marble wedding cake that fills the square at Broad and Market streets. So big in fact that it was the largest public building in the country until the Pentagon was built in the early 1940s. The building is also admired as something of an outdoor art museum, with decorative stone and bronze...
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Shorts

“Working Under Wires,” examining the work – often unseen or unnoticed by the public – that ensured safe, reliable, and economical public transportation, will remain on exhibit at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington through December 1997. The exhibition focuses on the men and women employed by trolley companies as operators, mechanics, track crews, overhead wire...
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The Watering of Philadelphia

In the glory days of the early republic, the Fairmount Water Works was one Philadelphia’s most famous landmarks: a marvel of engineering, scenic beauty, stylish design, and civic mindedness. It was built for the most practical of purposes – to provide a clean and plentiful supply of that most essential elixir: fresh water. Today, Philadelphian’s are blessed with one of the best...
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Frank Rizzo: Philadelphia’s Tough Cop Turned Mayor

On Saturday night, August 29, 1970, unknown assailants shot to death Philadelphia police sergeant Frank Von Colln while stationed in a small guardhouse in the Cobbs Creek section of the city’s expansive Fairmount Park. No one witnessed the killing, but police suspected that it was the work of the Black Panther Party, an African American revolutionary organization that endorsed violence as a...
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William Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity

Alexander Milne Calder’s bronze statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia City Hall surveys the founder’s beloved Holy Experiment fashioned out of the ideals of his Quaker faith. In a seventeenth-century world conditioned by violence, religious persecution, and arbitrary authority, Penn established an unusual colony dedicated to the principles of religious toleration, participatory...
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