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Friday, September 23, 2016

Construction at the Hannah, and a pipkin

The Hannah Callowhill Stage is currently a roofless construction site that cannot be described as a building, let along a theater, without some intense and stubborn imagination. Things are going swimmingly, though, and I don't necessarily mean because a recent deluge left a pond-sized puddle of water in the middle of the janky slab.

Yes, that's right! There is no longer a roof! Or any internal walls. All those months of desperate and occasionally tearful leak-prevention have come to an end, since there is nothing left to protect or keep from getting moldy. Everything had to go because 21st-century building codes and engineering concerns necessitate a lot of concrete and steel reinforcement and stabilization. Matt spent hours earlier this year turning the steel part of our plans into a SketchUp rendering so we could understand it in three dimensions:
I helped to create this by sitting next to Matt and feeling stupid.
These steel I-beams had to be lifted into the space using a crane, which happened this past week. A CRANE, PEOPLE. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be responsible for the utilization of a crane in my lifetime, but here we are, on this ridiculous journey that requires the use of a crane.

Photo courtesy of new friend, awesome harpist and fellow heavy equipment enthusiast Liz Huston.
Naturally, I took the morning off from my grueling schedule of being anxious about composing to document the incident and frolic about the site getting in the way. There are more pictures, courtesy of my Official Photographer Kendall Whitehouse:

Hannah Callowhill Stage 2016-09-14

And we made the video at the top of this post of flying, dancing, swinging girders which I keep watching over and over again (the Benny Goodman helps).

In historical artifact news, while I was on-site a few days earlier, this happened:

I GASPed because as soon as I laid hands on it, I knew this was the missing fragment from one of our favorite finds from the privy. You can see the piece I'm talking about here in situ, a little mug-like thing with its handle poking out, right on the privy floor (it's actually a small pipkin):


Even when we pulled it out, we knew it was pretty great. Digger George who was with us that night giving support was fairly excited:


But alas, there was a small piece missing from the rim, and although we sifted through some of the dirt around the piece, we couldn't find it. Here are the lightbox photos we took after I cleaned it up:

Tripod-legged pipkin with strap handle and green lead glaze

I never expected to find the rest of it. We had no way of knowing if the missing piece had even gone into the privy: from the rust caked on the broken edge, it was clear that the pipkin was broken before it was buried and not as a result of our construction. But sure enough, miraculously, the sherd I discovered scrabbling through random discarded dirt piles was a perfect match, and this artifact is whole again for the first time in nearly 250 years.

This thing is now probably worth as much as my car? Although to be fair, I drive a ten-year-old car. And of all the things that we found, I think this might be the one that I like the most, so I have no desire to sell. Like, one of these days I wouldn't mind finding a potter to make a reproduction of it, without the lead glaze, so I can drink my coffee out of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 3 of 3


Click here for Part 1 of Daniel Williams's story.

Click here for Part 2 of Daniel Williams's story.

Before we take up Daniel's story again, a brief photographic interlude! Back in Part 1, I mentioned the Schuylkill Fishing Company, an exclusive men's social club (drunken pseudo-Masonic frat) which Daniel Williams was a member of from at least 1760. According to their wiki page, they erected a monument on the banks of the Schuylkill River in 1947, so on a whim, Matt and I stopped on the way home and found it. Spoiler: from the road, it kind of looks like an electrical junction box, to be honest. And the elements have not been kind to the engraving, which reads:

This is the Original Site of the
Instituted May 1st
After the War of Independence
The Name was changed to the
The Organization is Still in Active Existence
After an Unbroken Record of Over
Two Hundred and Fifteen Years
This Tablet was Placed Here in

OK, enough triviality and narcissism, and back to Daniel. Now we come to a hard truth that America is still grappling with in the 21st Century: our country—or at least, the white men who ran our country—prospered in large part because many, many early white Americans owned slaves and profited enormously from their forced labor. And although Quakers were remarkably progressive on the issue of slavery—calling for bans since the mid-1600s, allowing black people to join the Philadelphia Meeting House in 1700, and policing slave-holding among their members—a lot of Quakers owned slaves anyway, flying under the radar of the Monthly Meetings to avoid for as long as possible facing the irreconcilable contradiction of a philosophy of radical non-violence and slave ownership.

Daniel Williams was not always one of these people. In July of 1763, as the executor of an unmentioned estate, a number of slaves came under his care, and he immediately brought the issue to the Arch Street Monthly Meeting, who recorded the matter in their minutes and assigned no fewer than seven Friends to consult with him and bring about the most moral conclusion. The next month, they gave their report, although the precise details of the solution were not recorded:
The Friends appointed to consider the matter requested by Daniel Williams Report that they met the next day & took under consideration the Circumstances of the Case, from whence it appear'd to them that there was no absolute necessity for him to sell the Negro Slaves under his care, and gave him their advice accordingly, and pointed out to him the method for him to Act whereby they apprehended he might safely avoid deviating from our testimony against the practice of dealing in Slaves.
I'm not absolutely certain what this means. Did Daniel Williams keep the slaves entrusted to him? The language is weaselly enough that I almost wonder if they are suggesting that it's acceptable to keep slaves as long as one doesn't sell them; it reminds me of laws for decriminalized banned substances that allow for possession but not dealing.

Six years later, in the 1769 Tax and Exoneration lists for Southwark and Middle Ward, Daniel Williams's entry lists among his possessions, along with his land, two horses, one cow, one (presumably white indentured) servant, and three Negroes. Were these the same slaves mentioned in 1763? I have no way of knowing or confirming.

In 1775, even with the Revolutionary War looming and dozens of young Quakers being disunited for joining the army, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made slavery a special priority. They called for investigations into Friends who owned slaves, which produced this letter from Isaac Lane and Samuel Clarke:
Daniel Williams has a Molatto Slave under 30 who has been beyond Sea for some time past, till last fall he returned, he has receiv'd none of his wages for the time of his absence, but has been in advance for him since his return, One Negro man with a wooden leg unable to get his living, & an old negro woman about 50 years old, he complains they are a dead weight on his hands, that he disapproves of the Slave trade & its not with any lure of gain he keeps any.—
I am guessing these are the same three slaves listed in the 1769 tax records. Here we see for the first time the justification that Williams continued to use for years to come: that these slaves were old and practically useless, implying that he was doing them a favor by keeping them in bondage. It's the same damaging, self-serving, slimy paternalism more famously employed by Southern slave-holders in the following century when arguing against emancipation.

Nothing is done about this for three years. At some point during those three years, Jane and Daniel, now in his sixties, leave their Chestnut Street house, and move onto their farm on Turner's Lane in what was then known as the Northern Liberties (Turner's Lane no longer exists; the approximate location of their L-shaped 15-acre farm was just west of Broad Street above the Temple University Performing Arts complex.)

Then in 1778, only a few months after the British pulled out of Philadelphia, the Quakers started to take action, according to the minutes of the Arch Street Monthly Meeting:

In October, two Friends, Isaac Lane (who co-wrote the 1775 letter to the Yearly Meeting) and Jacob Shoemaker were dispatched to visit him.

In November, they reported they were unable to meet with him.

In December, they reported that they met with him, but it didn't go well, and they resolved to try again.

In January of 1779, the case was continued.

In February, two women Friends, Mary Armitt and Mary Pleasants, were also recruited to speak to Jane Williams, and the men and women resolved to labor further with the couple on the issue.

In March, the case was continued.

In April, a report was given that Daniel "still persists in rejecting the Advice of the Yearly Meeting respecting the Slaves he holds," but the Quakers resolved to try again before preparing testimonies that would lead to disunion.

In May, one of the Friends sent to meet with Daniel and Jane was out of town, so nothing was done.

In June, Jacob Shoemaker reported that a visit was made to the couple, and they again rejected the advice of the Yearly Meeting to give up their slaves. The Committee decided to prepare the testimonies mentioned in April.

In July, it was reported that the testimonies had not yet been prepared, and that "the friends under appointment thereon are desired to attend to the conclusion of the meeting divers times expressed on the minutes."

In August, an essay of testimony was presented and approved:
"Daniel Williams late of the City of Philadelphia now of the Northern Libertys, who was Educated and made Religious Profession with Us the People called Quakers, hath been long treated with in much Love, and advised to Release several Negros whom he holds in Bondage, but not manifesting a Disposition to take the Advice of his Friends, but persisting in the Unjust detention of them the said Negros in Slavery notwithstanding much Gospel Labours and patience hath been extended towards him, It is therefore become a Religious Obligation on Us to Testify that he has disunited himself from Fellowship with Us until he complys with the Rule of our Discipline, and does what the Nature of the Case requires, and as his Wife Jane vindicates her Husbands Conduct respecting the Negro's, we testify that she hath also seperated herself from Membership with Us, until by giving Way to the Instructions of Divine Grace she is brought to see the Error of her Conduct and makes such Acknowledgm't as the Case Requires which is our desire for them both.—"
David Bacon and Hugh Roberts were appointed to deliver this testimony to Daniel and his wife; Quaker procedure was that such a testimony had to be presented to the Friend in question and an opportunity for appeal given before disunion could occur.

In September, although the Friends assured the Meeting they "had not been unmindful of the service," they also claimed they had not yet had an opportunity to deliver the testimony. The Women's Meeting appointed Mary Bacon and Margaret Elliott to accompany the men and give the same essay to Jane Williams.

Finally—FINALLY—in October of 1779, a full year after the first mention of the matter, the testimony was confirmed as delivered to Daniel and Jane. The Friends who made the delivery reported that Jane "continued to justify her husband's conduct."

The thing that strikes me about this extended episode is how, if you read between the lines, the Friends appointed to confront Daniel and Jane seem to be dragging their feet like crazy. I guess it's worth remembering that, as reprehensible as slavery was to the Quakers, Daniel and Jane were clearly not just Friends, but real friends of these people—and pillars of society to boot. They had been faithful and involved Quakers their entire lives, and had attended the Arch Street Monthly Meeting since before their wedding 33 years previously. Their ten dead children all lay in the Arch Street Quaker burial ground. Daniel was a witness and executor on multiple Friends' wills. To compare: it took the Arch Street Quakers only five months to disown Ennion Williams for fighting in the Revolutionary War, and two of those months were a delay because Ennion was out of town, you know, warring. But for Daniel and Jane, the Quakers tried for a year to change the slave-holders' minds, and begged several continuances of the Committee. In these minutes, concise as they are, I can hear the tension between Quakers who rightfully demanded that action be taken to make Daniel face the consequences of his slave ownership, and Quakers reluctant to force such long-standing and respected members out of their church.

Ten months later, on August 8th, 1780, Jane Williams died. She was interred in the Friends Burial Ground; Quakers often allow non-Quakers or disunited Quakers to be buried in their cemeteries.

Daniel carried on, but his life was winding down. On April 3rd, 1781, an advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet confirming he had closed all his merchant businesses:
Philadelphia, March 1, 1781
Whereas Daniel Williams, of
the city of Philadelphia, Merchant, carried on business several years under the Firm of Daniel Williams and Sons, and under the Firm of Williams's and McCaskey, at Amwel, East Jersey, also, under the Firm of Williams's and Bready, at St. Johnston, in Kent county on Delaware. These are to request all persons who have any Demands, against all or either of the above Firms (though long discontinued) to call on said DANIEL WILLIAMS for Payment: And all persons who are Indebted to either of the aforesaid Firms, are desired to make payment to me only, or to my particular order.
(I can't find anything about those other firms; this is a good moment to appreciate that 18th-Century Philadelphia was a city with unusually good record-keeping, journalism, and media.)

In 1783, while still living on and working his farm, sometimes with his son Ennion, Daniel leased out both his Chestnut Street house and his Front Street store, and sold several of his other properties, including 103 Callowhill Street, which was bought by blacksmith Adam Stricker. The Tax and Exoneration lists of 1782 and 1783 continued to include "3 Negroes" among Daniel's possessions, although in 1783 an odd descriptive note appeared next to the entry: "(old)." Presumably these three "old" slaves were also occupying and, let's be real, working as best as they were able on the Northern Liberties farm.

But the 1785 tax list did not show the slaves. And in 1786, when Daniel was 68, he applied to be reunited with the Quakers.

Letter from Daniel Williams to the Arch Street Monthly Meeting, 6th March, 1786.

Daniel was not letting go of his excuse that the slaves were old and disabled and keeping them was an act of welfare, but this is such a weak argument—he kept them working on his farm until they were even older before eventually setting them free (and furthermore the "Molatto" mentioned in 1775 was said to be under 30 at that time, so he could hardly have been elderly). These slaves worked for his gain for at least 16 years, and possibly as many as 22. And there's no mention of what happened to them after they were manumitted. Had they been provided for? Where did they go?

It would even be nice just to know their names.

Despite this, since he did free his slaves and expressed opposition to the practice of slavekeeping and "the African trade," Daniel's letter was accepted, references were provided as to his good character, and he was reunited with the Society of Friends.

In the last years of his life, he sold his 15-acre farm and his properties on Chestnut and Front, and lived in a more modest home at 55 Vine Street—just around the block from 103 Callowhill Street. There's a parking lot there now, right across the road from One Water Street.

He died on November 29th, 1794, aged 77, and was buried in the Merion Meeting House graveyard, close to where he grew up. In keeping with the Quaker tradition of plainness, his grave is not marked with a headstone. He left money to his children, to the poor funds of the Arch Street and Uptown Meetings, and to "Old Daffney (a servant)."

Cyberstalk complete, for now. It's pretty amazing to contemplate this long, privileged, distinguished, flawed, and very human life, hundreds of years later.

If you're interested in seeing my 42 pages (and counting) of primary source notes, here's a link to them. There may be more to come, depending on whether I unearth more research in the future, or some extra non-cyber information comes to light about the artifacts from the privy.

In the meantime ... oh yeah, that's right, I'm a composer? I have music to write.

Friday, August 26, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 2 of 3

The Revolutionary War

Click here for Part 1 of Daniel Williams's story.

When we left off, Daniel Williams was a successful merchant who bought 103 Callowhill Street on March 6, 1770. For the next part of the story, in which I look at Daniel and his family's lives during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), I first want to backtrack slightly.

Daniel and his family were Quakers, and the Revolutionary War posed a problem for Quakerism because one of the major tenets of the religion is strict pacifism. Quakers could be kicked out of the society, aka disunited, aka disowned, aka "read out" during Monthly Meeting, for engaging in any kind of conflict or warlike training or even just for carrying a weapon; their philosophy was that any and all violence is wrong, even for the purpose of self defense.

In the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, the measures Quakers supported as a means of resolving trade-based conflicts between Britain and America were diplomatic solutions such as boycotts. One of the most important of these was the Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia, which was created in response to the infamous Stamp Act and signed by 373 Philadelphian merchants on October 25, 1765. As you can probably guess, Daniel Williams was one of those signatories.

Excerpt from the Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia, showing Daniel Williams's signature at left. Incidentally, in the next column is the signature from none other than Sheriff Joseph Redman, mentioned in part 1.

This Resolution helped bring about the repeal of the Stamp Act, but of course, Britain persisted in trying to bring those uppity colonials to economic heel, and peace was not to last. The first Townshend Act was passed in 1767, and the Colonies once again launched protests, with the most strenuous and organized objections coming from Boston. At this point, Philadelphian merchants sent petitions to Britain, but I can't find another signed pledge like the Resolution of Non-Importation, which is probably why Williams & Eldridge were able to open their imported textiles shop in 1768. The deteriorating situation, however, may have contributed to the dissolution of Daniel's partnership with Samuel Eldridge in January 1771.

Two months later, Williams relaunched his Front Street store as Williams & Sons, and for the next couple of years, they continued to sell a selection of imported dry goods as well as the ubiquitous bolting cloths and millstones. Notably, most of the Williams & Sons advertisements from 1771 to 1774 listed imports from East India, Europe, Russia, and Ireland, but not England or Britain (though there is mention of Scotch thread). But on December 21, 1774, an advertisement appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal, showing that this Philadelphia merchant, at least, was importing directly from London without any repercussions that I can discover:

Just Imported in the Richard Penn, Isaac All, Master, from
London and to be Sold for cash or at six months credit, by
At their Store in Front-street, between the Coffee-House and
Chestnut-street, A large and general ASSORTMENT of
D  R  Y    G  O  O  D  S,
Suitable to the season.  September 21.  tbc. 12w.

(The Richard Penn, by the way, was a 200-tonne ship built in Philadelphia in 1774. Isaac All was an esteemed American captain who, along with his ship, was detained by the British temporarily at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.)

The sons of Williams & Sons were Edward, aged 21 when the store opened, and Ennion, aged 19; Daniel's only other surviving son was the youngest, Daniel Junior, who was still an infant. Here is a heartbreaking list of all of Jane Williams's births, with the surviving children in bold text:
  • Mary Williams 1747–1749
  • Jane Williams 1748–1749
  • Daniel Williams 1748–1749
  • Edward Williams 1750-1810
  • Ennion Williams 1752–1830
  • Sarah Williams 1754–?
  • George Williams 1756–1756
  • Mary Williams 1757–1758
  • Deborah Williams 1758–1802
  • Hannah Williams 1760–1761
  • Joseph Williams 1762–1765
  • Daniel Williams 1763–1765
  • Sarah Williams 1764–1832
  • Samuel Williams 1766–1769
  • Daniel Williams 1770–1797
(N.B. I cribbed this list from a secondary source and haven't had time to go through it in detail and verify all the dates, although the ones I have checked do seem to line up with the Quaker birth and death records of the time. Also, composer non-sequitur: both Edward and Ennion are slightly older than Mozart, who was born in 1756.)

Even as a childless woman, I have so much trouble comprehending what it must be like to have ten children die in infancy. Hannah Callowhill's family has a similar story: she was the only surviving of seven children. How did parents cope with tragedy like that? Did they somehow get used to it? Was PTSD just a normal state of being? We have modern studies on the devastating effect of one child's death on parents; what must it have been like to live in an age when it routinely happened ten times to a single couple? It seems unbearable. And yet, after the deaths of ten of his babies, Daniel Williams was starting a new business and continuing to be heavily involved in society.

But back to the surviving adult sons. When war officially broke out in April 1775, Edward and Ennion were 25 and 23, and ready to fight the Redcoats. They enlisted in the Continental Army and began military training and exercises, and in September, when the Arch Street Quakers Monthly Meeting found out, they took steps to address this, sending several Friends to "labour further to convince them of the inconsistency of their conduct with our Religious profession & principles."

But Ennion, at least, was already off and away, which we know because he was one of the few Revolutionary War soldiers to keep a surviving journal. On October 4, 1775, his brother accompanied him to Trenton, New Jersey. There,
I took leave of my dear brother as if it was the last time we should meet again in this world. At the same time requested him to respect a certain young lady as the particular object of his brother's attention and to my parents, brothers and sisters.
Ennion continued traveling north to Connecticut, where he met up with his friend Jonathan Mifflin, son of Major-General Thomas Mifflin (first cousin once removed of Benjamin Mifflin who owned 103 Callowhill Street from 1745 to 1760!). Unsurprisingly, given this connection, when Ennion arrived in Boston, he was invited to stay in Major Mifflin's quarters and he wrote often of his interactions with the Major and Mrs. Mifflin. On the 15th of October he met George Washington for the first time, and conversed with him about the political situation between the Colonies and Britain. Here are a few more excerpts from Ennion's journal:
Tuesday, October 17, 1775, [...] Mrs. Mifflin informed me that a play was to be acted in Boston and that Major Mifflin was gone to see the expedition. Our company directly hastened to Prospect Hill Fort, where we see the flashes of the guns of our two batteries of about one mile from Boston. The intent of these 14 or 15 shot we can't tell; however the enemy did not return a single shot, and unfortunately for us, one of our cannon burst to pieces, killed one man and wounded six others, blew off the cover and started two plank and she sunk in about four feet of water. [...]

Wednesday, October 18th. From the summit of this lofty and delightful Hill we could see all the south side of Boston and the Neck Harbor, the Castle, Ocean, Islands, &c., beautiful view presents itself. I can't tell whether it exceeds the view from Powder Horn or not. We returned to Cambridge. All the beds at Major Mifflin's being occupied, I was obliged to lodge at Brown's. Wrote to my father and Jno. Mifflin and Post.[...]

Friday, 20th. Breakfasted at Mr. Connor's. Dined at Cambridge. Drank coffee at Mr. Mifflin's, supped at Brown's, and joined in an Indian frolic, which to me has been the most unlucky accident since I left home.
I think an "Indian frolic" is a wild and drunken party?

Ennion's journal wraps up on October 26th, but either by distinguishing himself in combat, or by virtue of his privileged and connected position, or both, he achieved the rank of major in the Continental Army by 1776, and continued to serve in the war until 1777. He was important (and wealthy) enough, in fact, that none other than Charles Wilson Peale was commissioned to paint his miniature portrait in 1776, which you can see in person at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

Ennion Williams, by Charles Wilson Peale. From the Met's website: "The artist recorded on October 26, 1776: "Rd. of Mr. Williams 28 Dolrs. For his Miniature," and later that day, "put a Glass on Mr. Williams Min: Miss Williams having broke the first for which I expect 10s."

I assume that Edward Williams also fought in the Continental Army, though I don't have as much information about him because he didn't have the foresight to write a journal or have his portrait painted by Peale. But I do know that in January 1776, the Arch Street Quakers testified:
"Edward Williams and Ennion Williams of this City having been educated in religious profession with us the people called Quakers; but contrary to our Religious principles have in this time of Commotion associated with others in training to learn the warlike exercises, for which it became our concern to treat with Each of them; but our Labours of Love not prevailing, and they still appearing unconvinced of the rectitude of our peaceable Testimony against war; we think it incumbent on us to declare, that by their deviation herein, they have excluded themselves from being members of our Religious Society until from a just Sense of their outgoing, they shall condemn the same, to the satisfaction of this meeting, which that Each of them may be enabled to do, through the assistance of Divine Grace is our desire for them—"
Disowned at the same time as Edward and Ennion were several other Arch Street Quakers who chose to serve in the Revolutionary War, including at least one person, William Crispin, whom I can confirm joined the Free Quakers, an offshoot gathering of "Fighting Quakers" or "Wet Quakers" who wished to adhere to all the Quaker principles except the one that prevented them from fighting the British. I don't know if Edward or Ennion joined the Free Quakers as well, as Free Quakers didn't keep thorough member lists, but it's possible.

I can't find too much more about the Williams family during the Revolutionary War. In February of 1777, Daniel was listed as one of three parties connected to the sale of a house in Germantown, but nothing else was advertised for the rest of that year and for almost all of 1778, probably because the British captured Philadelphia. I hope that house in Germantown sold OK, because the British stationed about 9,000 troops in that area.

Just to round this all out, let's skip forward and follow the story of Ennion Williams through. In 1817, more than 20 years after the death of his father Daniel, and 42 years after he was disunited, Ennion surprisingly applied to rejoin the Society of Friends by repenting of his involvement in the war.

Letter from Ennion Williams to the Arch Street Monthly Meeting of Quakers, November 6th, 1817.

His acknowledgment was accepted, and he joined the Western District Monthly Meeting on 12th Street. But then, amazingly, when he was 75 years old, he became involved in challenging the Quaker status quo yet again during the Great Separation of 1827, when so-called "Hicksite" Quakers split off from "Orthodox" Quakers. Since he had begun meeting with the more universalist Hicksites, he was once again disowned from the society he had joined, along with all the other Hicksites.

I sort of hope I'm still rocking the boat when I'm 75. Ennion Williams died on February 12, 1830, at age 77.

Click here for part 3.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

History of the Hannah: Cyberstalking Daniel Williams, Part 1 of 3

Since pulling a bunch of artifacts out of an 18th-Century privy, I have unsurprisingly thrown myself into expanding the scope and detail of my initial historical investigation of 103 Callowhill Street. Back then, all I could find to cover the period between Benjamin Mifflin's 1745 deed and 1872 was a single notice for a sheriff's sale in 1770. WELL NO LONGER. An advertisement Matt found in a 19th century newspaper gave me another name which I was able to use as a key to unlock the missing deeds and information. Behold, the very-nearly-almost-complete provenance of 103 Callowhill Street!
  • 1681 William Penn, Proprietary (via the Penn Charter)
  • 1712 Hannah Callowhill Penn, Acting Proprietary
  • 1727 The Proprietaries (John, Richard, & Thomas Penn)*
  • 1745 Benjamin & Hannah Mifflin (house carpenter/merchant)
  • 1760 Abraham Carpenter (cooper)
  • 1770 Daniel & Jane Williams (merchant)
  • 1783 Adam & Barbara Stricker (blacksmith)
  • 1794 Thomas & Rebecca Hamilton (merchant)
  • 1804 Burns family (Joseph & Rebecca, then Eleanor)**
  • 1872 Patrick Murray (liquor merchant)
  • 1905 Nothaft Family
  • 1942 Frank & Mildred Yeagle
  • 1945 Solomon Warshaw
  • 1965 Victor & Gladys Morris
    Etc. (Not going any further on here because owners are still living)

    *N.B. Ground rent continued to be paid to heirs, in theory, until 1872.
    **Eleanor Burns advertised the property for sale in 1865. In 1869 Thomas Gordon Penn, last of the Penn line, died, at which point the Proprietary's ground was transferred to William Stuart, who began divesting the land free of ground rent. So there is some fuzziness from 1865 to 1872 that I will attempt to clarify at a later date.
Since the objects we rescued from betwixt nightsoil most likely date from the mid to late 1700s, I focused my most recent inquiries on that period. Particularly, for reasons that may become clear in the next few months (yes I am being mysterious), I paid a lot of attention to Daniel Williams, who bought the property in 1770 and owned it through the Revolutionary War.

Did you know that I am pretty good at cyberstalking? Fortunately, I am usually not an unstable fanatic or hyper-vindictive troll, or this would be a dangerous skill to possess. I am so good at it, I can cyberstalk people who have been dead for over 200 years and discover rather a lot about them. I have 38 typed pages of primary source notes and transcripts about Daniel Williams—and counting!—and my brain feels fit to bursting attempting to encompass the life of this man whose experiences are so very, very alien to me. Honest to god, I never bought into Founders' Chic before buying this property and unexpectedly acquiring a feeling of ownership of its past as well. But here I am, female, not exactly white, and Australian, and obsessing over a minor founding father.

1809 woodcut via Radnor Historical Society
 Daniel Williams, the son of Edward and Eleanor Williams, was born on December 2nd, 1717, in the "Welsh Tract" outside of Philadelphia. His birth was recorded in the records of the Radnor Quakers, a year before they erected the Radnor Friends Meeting House which is in use to this day. He grew up in the country with at least three siblings (brothers William and James and sister Sarah) on his parents' land in a rural area called Blockley just west of Philadelphia near what is now Overbrook, which is probably where he learned his first trades as a miller and baker.

On September 9, 1744, when he was 26, Daniel applied to the Merion Monthly Meeting for a reference so he could move a few miles west and join the Society of Friends in the nascent city of Philadelphia. The Merion gathering certified "that after Enquiry made we do not find but that he is of an orderly Life and Conversation, in Unity with us, and Clear of Marriage Engagement as far as we know." This state of non-attachment was not to survive long following his move to the big smoke; after only 14 months, Daniel Williams and Jane Oldman (daughter of Thomas Oldman) applied to the Arch Street Monthly Meeting for permission to marry, and after a couple of months of vetting, their union was approved. They wed on January 27th, 1746 in a Quaker ceremony attended by 62 Friends, including their respective families. According to the following day's Monthly Meeting minutes, the wedding was "accomplish'd orderly" (early Quakers have such a romantic way with words).

The records I find for Daniel over the next decade or so suggest that three things occupied his time at this stage of his life. First, he established a milling and baking business at his residence at Second and Walnut Streets and a bake house on the dock. Second, he began to appear in the records of his fellow Quakers—both in Philadelphia and back in the Welsh Tract—as a witness, trustee, or executor in legal documents such as wills and real estate transactions. And third, Jane began giving birth to children in rapid succession, although sadly they more often than not died in early childhood. In 1749, two of his toddler children, Mary and Daniel, died in the space of three months. And the records for the next couple of decades continue to be littered with child deaths; Jane may have given birth to as many as fifteen children, although only five of them seem to have survived past childhood.

By 1754 (aged 37), Daniel's baking and milling business had grown to the point where he began cementing his reputation by purchasing advertisements in the newspapers of the time. This one, from May 16 of that year, is the first one I can find. NB: boulting clothes aka bolting cloths aka boulting cloaths etc. etc. are the screens used to sift flour during the milling process, and I assume Daniel was Philadelphia's go-to guy for them, because he continued to prominently advertise and sell them for the rest of his life. In fact, although this ad copy went through a couple of slight variations (principally in which he touted increasing levels of expertise and experience), this pitch, which appeared in several publications, remained essentially the same for the next 35 years.

Pennsylvania Gazette, May 16, 1754
Throughout this period, Daniel prospered both financially and socially. In 1759, when he was 41, he moved his family and business to a house in Chestnut Street, next door but one to the corner of Front Street. Around this time, he stopped referring to himself as a baker and started calling himself a merchant or gentleman, focusing on the more lucrative and less labor-intensive fields of commerce, credit, local politics, and social capital. By 1760, the year he was elected Philadelphia County Commissioner, he was already a long-standing member of the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania, which sounds like an ordinary sport recreation club, but TRUST ME, IT IS NOT. Click on that link and go down that rabbit hole sometime; it the oldest continually-in-operation social club in the English-speaking world, and it takes the form of a kind of ridiculous fish-themed Skull and Bones where Founding Fathers, including George Washington, hung out at a clubhouse in the woods of Fairmount and got ritually drunk. (They also have their own drink, Fish House Punch, which I guess I will try to recreate and supply at the Hannah's eventual launch party if I can source peach brandy.)

In 1752, Daniel also was the 105th person to buy shares in Benjamin Franklin's Library Company. You know how people say that Benjamin Franklin invented the modern library? The Library Company of Philadelphia is what they mean. Williams was not just an early member; from 1766 through 1769, he served as the company's treasurer. This means Daniel Williams was 100% hobnobbing with Benjamin freaking Franklin on a regular freaking basis.

One amazing and mysterious anecdote from this time is that of the Pegg's Run sword. In 1764, the Second Street Bridge was being built over Pegg's Run, also known as the Cohoquinoque Creek (also known in 2016 as Willow Street). During the laying of the bridge's foundation, a sword was discovered 14 feet underground on the banks of the waterway; I found a reference to the find in the 1830 Annals of Philadelphia, indicating that Daniel Williams, as Philadelphia Commissioner, gave the sword to the "City Library." On a hunch, I wrote to the Library Company, and was delighted when they checked their director's minutes and confirmed the story!

Courtesy The Library Company of Philadelphia.
Many thanks to Cornelia King, James Green, and Linda August for answering my questions!
OHHHH YOU WILL BE SO HEARTBROKEN TO HEAR that the sword is no longer in the Library Company's possession. They purged much of their object collection over the next 200 years either because of the objects' poor condition, or because the presence of museums made a curio collection at the library unnecessary. I have my intern Megan (yes, I have a composition intern for the summer!) looking into other museums to see if anyone has a record of it being passed to them, but it's a slim chance.

I want to point out that (a) see, this is definitive proof that Daniel was 100% hobnobbing with Ben freaking Franklin, and (b) of course I enjoy that I found Daniel Williams by pulling old objects out of the ground, and then discovered that 250 years ago he was also geeking out over pulling old objects out of the ground, only a block away from me.

Meanwhile, with his wealth and status increasing, Daniel went on a Philadelphia property-buying spree. In 1762, Daniel bought a residential house on Chestnut Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets (where Benjamin Franklin Hall now stands at 427). He continued to use his old house on Chestnut near Front as his shop until 1764, when he purchased a building around the corner at what is now 40 Front Street and moved his business there. In 1766 he additionally acquired 15 acres of farmland in the Northern Liberties, just north of where the Temple Performing Arts buildings are now.

In his Front Street shop, he first expanded his bolting cloth business to include things like millstones and Madeira wine casks, then went into business with Samuel Eldridge in 1768 and vastly expanded the range of his inventory. From an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on October 17, 1768:
Williams and Eldridge,
At their store in Front-street, between Chestnut-street and the Coffee-house, have lately imported,
A NEAT assortment of European merchandize, which they will sell on the lowest terms, for cash or short credit.———They have Yorkshire cloths, coatings, duffils, kerseys, halfthicks, naps, serves, white, red and scarlet flannels, linseys, long ells, tammies, durants, common and fine shalloons, calimancoes, starrets, dorsetteens, single and double damasks, plain and striped camblets, black ruffel, green and blue harrateen with trimmings, rugs and blankets, hosiery, worsted caps of several sorts, buckram, British and German oznabrigs, brown and white Irish and Russia sheeting, English and Flanders ticking, bed-bunts, huckaback, Russia diaper, clouting diaper, coarse and fine table-cloths, Irish and German Dowlas, 10 nail, 7 8thsm, yard-wide and yard 308ths cotton and linen checks, blue and red furniture checks, 3 qr 7 8ths and yard-wide Irish linens, 7-8ths and yard-wide cambricks and lawns, long lawns, muslins, an assortment of handkerchiefs, vis. check linen, printed secterfoy, rosets, figured and spotted bandanoes, cotton and silk romals and cravats, ell-wide persians, taffeties, mantua, shale, fringe, men and womens white lamb gloves and mitts, calicoes, cottons and chints, silk knee garters, sewing, silk, coloured, stitching and Scotch thread, ribbons, feriets, gaitering, pins, Whitechapel and common needles, an assortment of cutlery and hardware, paper, nutmegs, pepper, &c. and a few burr mill-stones; also a general assortment of the best
To be sold by DANIEL WILLIAMS, at the said store, and at his house in Chestnut-street, a little below the State-House, as usual.
All the things that you have never heard of on this list are textiles or textile-adjacent, trust me. I think it's safe to assume that Williams and Eldridge were mostly in the imported textiles business, with a smattering of general store wares at the end.

In April 1769, Daniel Williams was listed as the first member of a Grand Inquest in the Mayor's Court dockets, which is probably somewhat equivalent to a modern Grand Jury. The interesting connection here is that he was sworn in by High Sheriff Joseph Redman, whom he might also have known as a fellow member of the Library Company, and a fellow important gentleman about town. This is significant because in December of that year, Sheriff Redman was the official who seized the property at 103 Callowhill Street to pay the debts of the previous owner, Abraham Carpenter (deceased), advertised its public sale in the advertisement I found in my previous investigation, and on March 6, 1770, sold it to the highest bidder: Daniel Williams. I can't say for certain that Daniel Williams bought this property in part because he was buds with Joe Redman, but I think it's very likely that they did at least recognize each other at the auction.

I sent Megan on an excursion to the Philadelphia City Archives to find this deed. Having an intern is the best!
Sadly, I haven't been able to unearth any information on exactly how Daniel utilized the property after he bought it. There are no advertisements for leasing it or services available. Perhaps, since at the time he was importing textiles, he used it as a convenient dockside storage warehouse, or rented it casually to dockside workers or tradesmen. All I know for sure is that someone on the property at this time dug a privy or two, and filled it with poop and bones and broken pottery.

There are a few more substantial things I want to relate about Daniel Williams, but I'll split them into two separate blog entries, because this is just too overwhelming for a single post. Coming soon: Daniel Williams and the Revolutionary War, and Daniel Williams and Slaves, which leads handily into his decline and eventual end.

Click here for part 2 of Daniel Williams's story.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Artifacts from the Hannah Callowhill Stage

In my previous blog post, I mentioned the presence of large holes for structural elements that were being dug around the perimeter of the inside of the building. What I didn't mention is that while I was there that day, I found the base of an old wine bottle sitting half-buried in a pile of dirt:
Photo on left taken on-site, photo on right taken at home after cleaning
This excellent site on dating old bottles informed me that since there are pontil scars on the bottom and no side seams, the bottle was hand-blown and therefore definitely pre-Civil-War, ooh! A few hours later, Matt also stopped by the construction site after work, combed through some of the soil with his hands and discovered pottery sherds.

He also took a closer look than I did at the walls of one of the rear construction pits, and recognized that a vertical line of bricks going down about six feet indicated the presence of a privy (in the lingo of my native land: a dunny) which could possibly date back to the very first construction on the property in 1740. Privies are rich sources of archaeological artifacts, being receptacles of not only what the archaeologists sometimes adorably term "night soil," but also household trash.

We resolved to return on Thursday night, after the construction workers had knocked off for the day, to see what else we might find.

Long story short: HOLY NIGHT SOIL.

See album on Flickr: Digging for artifacts at the Hannah Callowhill Stage

We found so much stuff, we went back on Saturday and found some more of it. And in between, and since Saturday, I spent every waking hour (and some of the hours I should have been sleeping) obsessively washing and sorting and matching and assembling and gluing. This was such a joy! I was one of those kids whose dad was always yelling "Don't touch that!" because I wanted to feel every cool thing in the world. I've been trained well to refrain from touching objects at museums, but that hasn't meant the desire has gone away. Finally, my grabby little fingers could handle the forbidden fruit as much as they wanted, because it was mine, I found it, on my property. Also, I'm pretty good at jigsaw puzzles, but I always found them pointless. Now at last I had multiple jigsaw puzzles with a purpose.

See album on Flickr: Prepping artifacts from the Hannah Callowhill Stage

If I believed wholeheartedly in fate, it would seem very fateful that Matt and I bought this property and spearheaded this construction and were on hand to rescue these objects. Remember that time we went to Egypt and geeked out on the archaeology there (and also found some very human looking bones in the sand at Saqqara)? Or that time we went on a dinosaur dig and found an allosaurus skull? This latest chapter seems extremely right.

I have learned a nightsoil-ton about mid-18th to mid-19th Century rubbish in the last few days while waiting for epoxy to set: a crash course in redware, slipware, creamware, stoneware, porcelain, and glassware, with some information on bones, pipes, and shoe leather thrown in. Here's an example of the reading I've been doing while taking breaks to use the modern equivalent of the privy. I also learned that Colonial people ate a LOTTTTTT of oysters and dumped all the shells in the toilet or used them as fill, and also that oyster shells look identical to pieces of pottery when jumbled up in a pile of 200-year-old night soil, and god I really hate oyster shells now.

Below is a slideshow of the end results of our work: photos of each of our finds. If you click through to the actual album on Flickr, I have tried to identify them and include links to information I've read in the titles and descriptions. If you have any further information to contribute about any of the items we found, we'd love to hear it in the Flickr comments:

See album on Flickr: Artifacts from the Hannah Callowhill Stage

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How old are these artifacts?
    This site about bottles found at Colonial Williamsburg notes that the shape of our most intact wine bottles date them to the mid- to late-1700s. (As I mentioned, the first building on the site was erected at 103 Callowhill between 1740 and 1745.) The redware pottery would also suggest a mid- to late-1700s origin for the oldest artifacts, as it is extremely similar to pottery found in other sites around Philadelphia that date from this period; see, for example, the pottery of Henry Piercy. (N.B. We also found four pieces of "kiln furniture" - pieces of clay that are used in a kiln to stack pots and keep them steady during firing, could there have been a kiln onsite once? Or perhaps waste from a potter was used as fill at some point.) Redware became less common after the 18th century after it was discovered that lead glaze is toxic, oops. We found one piece of stoneware with a maker's mark on it: Willets Manufacturing Company, which began creating stoneware in Trenton, NJ, in the late 1800s. In a pit closer to the front of the building, we found some newer items such as glass soda bottles and Bromo-Selzer bottles that date from the 1910s, which I'm guessing is approximately when the slab foundation was poured.

  • What information do you have about stratification?
    The majority of the fragments were recovered from piles of dirt that had already been extracted from the construction pits, so sadly most in situ information has been lost. Some of the more intact objects were located about 55 inches below the slab and dug out of the pit walls.

  • What are you going to do with these artifacts?
    We'll display them somehow in the space, of course, probably in the lobby/cafe area. There's too much for all of it to be displayed at once, so I guess some of it will go in our apartment too. Unless someone knows of a museum who wants to borrow it so more people can see it. We're not going to sell anything because (a) it's not worth all that much money, and (b) it's much cooler to use it to showcase the history and character of the property once the theater is complete.

  • Have you been contacted by museums or archaeologists about this?
    Goodness me, no. As far as archaeological finds go, this is very common stuff. Colonial privies are found all over this area (of some note is this description of a privy dig in Wilmington in 2008 which unearthed extremely similar artifacts). It's cool and exciting because it happened to us, in our theater, but there's nothing earth-shattering in these finds that hasn't been documented in similar sites hundreds of times before.

  • Are you going to excavate further?
    Goodness me, no. We are spending an obscene amount of money that we don't have to build a theater with an apartment we can live in. We can't delay construction for any reason without the construction project costing significantly more. If we had unlimited money, I would totally bust up the slab and dig out the entire property to find more privies, but as it is, I am literally skipping meals because my belt is so tight.

  • How did you take those photos?
    Yesterday I threw together a lightbox out of an Ikea Hyllis shelf, a few lamps I had around the house, some poster board, and some muslin cloth.