Tag Archives: Philadelphia History

Problem-Based Learning in the SCRC

Students in reading roomProblem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method commonly used in medicine and science curriculum, but it has also been applied in teaching history.  (See  Stallbaumer-Beishline, “Problem Based Learning in a History Classroom,” in Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 2012.) Stephen Hausmann, an instructor in Temple’s History Department, contacted our Rebecca Lloyd,  History’s library subject specialist,  about using this approach for assignments in his General Education course, “Founding Philadelphia.” He hoped that this method of answering historical questions would increase student engagement and help them to develop information literacy and critical thinking skills. Rather than writing a research paper, the course was designed to have students working together in teams over the course of the semester to learn to think like historians and answer specific questions based on evidence drawn from primary sources.

Librarian Rebecca Lloyd, held instruction sessions early in the semester to show students how to find and use the secondary and primary sources (drawn from her American history subject guide) that they would need to come up with answers to the PBL-based questions. She held follow up sessions to help with research and checked in throughout the semester to see how things were going.

students in SCRC reading roomUsing this same teaching approach the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) hosted a class session in our reading room. This was the last of the seven PBL-based assignments for the semester. Students were encouraged to handle and engage with the materials pulled for the class and use these primary sources to address two historical questions:

Question 1: The 1876 Philadelphia Exposition showcased the city as a modern, industrial, symbol of American strength and promise. This was very much in contrast with the dire economic situation the United States faced after the Panic of 1873. Look at some of the fair materials – in what ways did the Centennial Exposition foster this image? What attractions, items, displays, architecture, and landscape were used to create an American mythology at the event? Compare these with other collections from the 1870s. What contradictions do you see? In what ways was the exposition an accurate portrayal of late nineteenth century American life?

Question 2: One job of a historian is to piece together the basics of daily life in the past for different groups of people. Find two sets of documents that catalogue two different people from Philadelphia’s history. How were their economic and social situations different and similar? Describe their daily lives as best as you can and explain how they compared with one another. What did they eat and drink? What about their leisure activities or family life? What about the work they did or how they otherwise earned their pay?

Hart manuscript
Hart, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, 1849

The SCRC materials used in this exercise were the Nathan S.C. Folwell Scrapbook, the George D. Shubert Diary, the Civil War Enlisted Slave Documents, the William Beatty Civil War Correspondence, Lectures on the Public Schools of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Scrapbook, the History of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, and selections from the Young Men’s Christian Association Records, the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Philadelphia Branch Minute Books, and the William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company Records.

At the end of the semester, Stephen Hausmann shared the following comments about his class’s experience in the SCRC working with primary sources:

“I had spent much of the semester training my students to use online databases. The visit to SCRC was a chance for them to use their skills in an “active” archival setting. One of my major objectives was to teach information literacy and ways of “reading into” a document, and I hoped that viewing archival material in the flesh would give students an opportunity to use those skills.”

Actively looking at documents in groups led his students “to draw many conclusions about the materials at hand in a way that never really happened during the usual, online, archival research sessions I held in class. Being able to walk around tables and pick up documents, turn pages, and discuss with their peers what they were seeing made for an archival experience I didn’t really foresee.  in short, the visit’s collaborative nature achieved what I had been trying to get my students to understand all semester.”

“I think maybe faculty think a session like this will be extra work for them, while on the contrary it actually lessened my burden by allowing me to walk around and talk more with students substantially about the documents they were looking at. I couldn’t have been happier with how things went and some of my students told me it was their favorite single class of the semester.”

students in SCRC reading roomWe intend to encourage instructors to try PBL-based assignments in their courses, as a hands-on alternative to the traditional research paper. The SCRC is uniquely suited to collaborate on just such an approach.

–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services, SCRC

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: the JCRC and Gun Control

In the late 1960s, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) saw it a priority to take a public stance regarding gun control legislation. While cases of local antisemitic incidents often included violence, they did not generally include firearms. However, in June 1968, gun control legislation was on the JCRC Board of Directors meeting agenda resulting in the board adopting a policy in support of stricter gun control legislation. The primary motivating factors appear to have been two-fold. First, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy had just occurred. And second, there was concern for Jewish merchants and surrounding neighborhoods due to an increase in violent crimes in historically Jewish neighborhoods.  This had produced increased fear and a call for action from the community. The JCRC argued the solution was to address wider, systemic problems and that an escalation of violence and vigilantism could only beget more violence. In a statement by Executive Director Albert Chernin:

Remarks on Jewish Self Defense October 27,1969
“Remarks on Jewish Self Defense presented by Albert D. Chernin, Executive Director,” Annual Dinner Meeting, October 27, 1969

[W]hat we must do is to forge with others a national consensus to persuade the federal government to carry out that massive program that we have postponed for more than 25 years to deal with our massive social, political, and economic problems….That, my friends, is Jewish self-defense. Jewish self-defense is better schools…full and fair employment…full and fair housing….In short, Jewish self-defense is a dynamic, thriving democracy.

Between 1968 and 1971, the JCRC did very little beyond releasing public statements. Their involvement in the gun control debate began again in earnest in 1972. Motivated by a desire to reduce violence in their community, the Old York Road Suburban Division of the JCRC reminded the board of their 1968 opinion and called on them to renew their public stance advocating gun control. While reassessing their position, the JCRC solicited advice from the Philadelphia Crime Commission, the criminal justice expert at the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Executive Director of the National Council of Responsible Firearms Policy on the question of the constitutionality of private hand gun ownership. JCRC counsel concluded that, “The United States Supreme Courts and lower courts have consistently interpreted the Second Amendment as a prohibition against federal interference with the state militia and not a guarantee of an individual’s rights to bear arms.”

Response from Wilmot Fleming, November 26, 1973
Stanley Tauber to Wilmot Fleming, Board of Directors records, Officers Files, November 26, 1973

The board then sanctioned the petitioning of elected officials and public advocacy groups, supported most notably by the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission. Though they received positive responses from the community, the responses from elected officials were tepid. For instance, in response to the JCRC’s suggestion that gun control legislation be advanced at a federal level, the Pennsylvania Senate’s minority caucus chairman Wilmot Fleming called the JCRC’s petitioning of Congress “somewhat meaningless.” The JCRC continued to lobby Fleming to push a total ban on handgun ownership, but he remained unmoved, citing the belief that, “The problem with any gun control measures, either state or federal, is the fact that a criminal who wishes to obtain a firearm of any kind to be used in the commission of a drime [sic] will get it regardless of any law on the statute books.”

In 1975, after failing to make any headway, the JCRC’s focus on gun control legislation began to wane. A change in the executive directorship brought a reassessment of priorities and a focus on Soviet Jewry and the defense of Israel.

Casey Babcock, Project Archivist, SCRC

This is the fourth post of an occasional series highlighting the work of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The records of the JCRC, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, are currently being processed and will be available for research in late summer 2018.

 

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: 19th Century Sister Diarists

Just as the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was captivating visitors in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, Fannie and Amelia Allen began chronicling their social and intellectual pursuits in their diaries. The Allen sisters filled their diaries with short summaries of the day’s events and longer, introspective passages that revealed their personal ambitions and struggles to find a mate who was both desirable and an intellectual match.

Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen Diaries
Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen Diaries

In an entry dated April 20, 1876, Fannie (age 21) writes: “I am trying to school my thoughts and make myself contented with the blessings, and not wish for others, but it is hard, and it is only now and then, when I see some others not, as I think, situated happily as I am so I feel thoroughly contented. It is hard to see others happily mated, and neither Amelia or I is so, or likely to be…”. Amelia (age 22) expresses similar sentiment in a June 18, 1878 entry: “Years do not bring what I long for as every girl I suppose at my age wants – a lover whom I can respect. Times are either different now or we are hard to suit. I know not which but certain it is never have I seen the person I could care for in that light.”

Already working as a teacher, Amelia frequently writes about the challenges she experienced in the Hebrew Sunday School Society and Philadelphia Public Schools. Despite her desires, Amelia never married. She dedicated her life to education and social service. In 1885, along with other like-minded Jewish women, Amelia founded the Young Women’s Union, where under her tutelage adolescent girls learned domestic skills and in 1894 helped organize the women’s branch of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.

Fannie Allen Diary, 1875-1885
Fannie Allen Diary, 1875-1885

As Fannie approached her late twenties, she spent less and less time recording her thoughts in her diary, but on August 25, 1884, she (age 29), made the following revelation: “I reopen this to say though I’m not married, I hope to be. It seems too wonderful. Not only do I expect to be a physician, but I hope to wed a Mr. Moses De Ford. A man who though younger than I, is my ideal in almost every particular. We were engaged Aug. 17 but expect to keep our betrothal a secret, even from my dear Mother until after I graduate and he is a physician, then as soon as he gains enough supporters, we hope to be married partners, no fear of deficient love on his side and mine.”

Nearly three years later on June 8, 1887, at the age of 32, Fannie married Moses De Ford, eight years her junior, but not before graduating from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Fannie practiced medicine alongside her husband for over 30 years in the Kensington neighborhood, providing medical care to the immigrant population that worked in the textile mills and shipyards nearby, and advocated for better hygiene and sanitation for the working poor.

To learn more or request access to the diaries of Fannie Allen and Amelia J. Allen in the Special Collections Research Center, view the online finding aids here:
https://library.temple.edu/scrc/fannie-allen-diary
https://library.temple.edu/scrc/amelia-j-allen-diary 

–Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Refugee Crisis in Philadelphia, 1979 – 1980

Newspaper clippingOn Christmas Day 1979, Mr. and Mrs. John Boston of the Alleyne Memorial AME Zion Church in West Philadelphia welcomed several Vietnamese refugees into their home for dinner. Earlier in the month, some 200 refugees accepted an invitation to attend services in their church. Part of the Human Relations Program, these inclusive gestures were coordinated by the Nationalities Service Center (NSC) in cooperation with numerous neighborhood associations, churches, social service organizations, and city departments. The program aimed for community involvement in refugee resettlement. It developed out of necessity, as tensions were mounting in neighborhoods into which thousands of Southeast Asian refugees settled in just a few years.

Ongoing conflict and political upheaval in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos contributed to a worldwide refugee crisis in the late 1970s. By 1980, NSC—just one of several area refugee resettlement agencies—had resettled over 3000 Southeast Asian refugees in Philadelphia, with a commitment to settle 75 people per week going forward. NSC settled the refugees primarily in West and North Philadelphia, where apartments were available and rents were low.

Program sheet
NSC did not consult or alert West or North Philadelphia residents to the influx of refugees, nor were the residents made aware of the political circumstances of their dislocation. Refugees, many of whom were from rural areas in their countries of origin, in turn were not initially educated in the workings of life in a modern American city or the culture of the neighborhoods into which they settled. The language barrier exacerbated matters. At University City High School, existing students misconstrued an ESL program established to assist SEA students as favoritism that gave them an unfair advantage. In Walnut Hill, NSC unknowingly placed refugees in apartment buildings deemed unfit for habitation and inadvertently undermined a boycott of the Dorsett apartment building.

Refugees were reportedly harassed and robbed on the streets, neighborhood associations began to complain, and a general sense of anger and resentment permeated the neighborhoods. Several task-forces involving NSC, other resettlement agencies, assorted city and state departments, and social service organizations assembled in the city. What the media reported as racially motivated discord, NSC saw as a “human relations problem,” one that could be solved with education and community involvement.
NSC’s Human Relations Program officially ran from 1979 to 1980, organizing events and programs to bring the SEA and other refugees together with their new communities. There was a cultural performance festival held that aimed to teach refugees about American culture. It included dancing, drama, singing, and disco. A field trip to a Phillies game, a summer sports program for children, block parties, and a church social at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church were also among the program’s offerings.

Ultimately, NSC and the other task forces working on the issue found that “…public relations is of primary importance. Once informed about the refugees, most communities are receptive.” It was an important lesson to learn at the time. In addition to SEA refugees, private sponsors and settlement agencies were also contending with thousands of Cuban and Haitian refugees. In an effort to improve their ongoing resettlement work, at the conclusion of the Human Relations Project NSC planned to maintain project staff to continue hands-on community work. The Task Force on Inter-Group Crisis, of which NSC was a part, was also discussing a “comprehensive resettlement program and conflict avoidance…”.

Of the many groups involved in ameliorating the refugee resettlement crisis, the Special Collections Research Center holds the archives of the Nationalities Services Center Records, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Spruce Hill Community Association, West Philadelphia Corporation, and others.

 

–Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC

Animals in the Archives: American Anti-Vivisection Society

Animals table at Free Library Event
Display at “Animals in the Archives” event, October 25, 2017

Each year in October, the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) celebrates American Archives Month through dedicated programming that raises awareness about the value of archives. This year, the SCRC participated in the Archives Month Philly sponsored event, “Animals in the Archives,” at the Free Library of Philadelphia Parkway Central Library. The event featured over a dozen Philadelphia-area institutions including the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Presbyterian Historical Society, The Stoogeum, and the William Way LGBT Community Center, each of which brought along archival material and hands-on activities, all with animal related content.

At the event, the SCRC featured publications, photographs, and printed materials from the archives of two local organizations founded in the 19th century, The Philadelphia Zoo and the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS). Throughout their existence, “America’s First Zoo” and AAVS have sought to educate the public about animals and animal welfare through organized programs. One of those programs was the Miss B’Kind Animal Protection Club, started in 1927 by AAVS Recording Secretary and Managing Director, Nina Halvey.

Miss BKind postcard and ruler
Miss BKind postcard and ruler, circa 1945

Halvey taught humane education in private and parochial schools throughout the Philadelphia region as part of the AAVS’ effort to combat the use of animals in scientific experimentation. The club also hosted meetings for children ages 8 to 16 at the AAVS headquarters every other Saturday and provided a correspondence membership for children across the U.S, Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia. Club members pledged “I will be kind to animals now and when I grow up.” Halvey promoted the club through lectures and a radio show series on WPEN called “Dogs I Know About.” In 1931, Halvey received a humanitarian prize from the Geneva International Bureau for the Protection of Animals for her humane education work related to the Miss B’Kind Club.

Would You Kill His Pet?” pamphlet, circa 1950
“Would You Kill His Pet?” pamphlet, circa 1950

To learn more about the Miss B’Kind Animal Protection Club and the historical records of the AAVS, including preserved versions of the organization’s website, contact the SCRC at scrc@temple.edu

Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Celebrating 50 Years of the Urban Archives

The Libraries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Urban Archives with an exhibit,  a screening, and symposium.

Walt Whitman Bridge construction, 1955
Walt Whitman Bridge construction, 1955. Photograph by Philip Taylor

In 1967, when Temple University’s history department decided  to collect the records of city organizations in order to document the history of Philadelphia from the Civil War to the present, and more generally represent the urban experience, the faculty may not have imagined how the archives would evolve.   They were interested in gathering raw material for their graduate students’ research use.  Since then the Urban Archives has evolved into the most extensive collection of 20th century Philadelphia history in the region, holding the archives of hundreds of city and regional organizations–from a few to thousands of boxes each.  And it’s holding are used not only by undergraduate and graduate students, but by high school students, scholars from all over the world, the media, documentary producers, and the general public.Octavia Hill Association Property Outline

The late sixties was something of a turning point in the study of history.  As Fred Miller, who served as director from 1973 to 1989, put it:  “The archives owes its existence to…the growth within the historical profession of the study of social history; the crisis of the cities, which led to the rise of a veritable urban research industry; and the growth of higher education, during which Temple became a major research university.” Fred arrived shortly after the administration of the archives was transferred to the Libraries (in 1972).  And he was succeeded by Margaret Jerrido, who was head of the archives from 1990 until her retirement in 2007.

Lion cubs
Lion cubs born at the Zoo, 1936

It’s striking how true the archives has stayed to its original purpose, described in the 1968 History Department press release announcing the archives as “creation of a new manuscript collection focusing on urban life and development and drawing on the Philadelphia metropolitan area since the Civil War. The collection will collect institutional and individual records which will illuminate ethnic and racial groups, social welfare, crime, education, religion, economic development, and political activity.”  Neighborhood association records became a strength, and in the early 1980s a major initiative to collect labor records increased those collections.  And the archives continues to grow, adding, in the past few years, the  archives of Occupy Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Weavers Way Co-op Records , and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Associations to name a few.

Many of the earliest collections gathered in between 1967 and 1969 by the history department, the first director Phillip Benjamin, and a team of graduate students  remain the most frequently used, including the first major collection:  the records of the Housing Association of the Delaware Valley.  The Urban Archives has also become know for holding the photograph and clippings library of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin–and for being the premiere location for the study of MOVE and the MOVE bombing in 1985.MOVE

Representing the hundreds of graduate students, from Temple, Penn, Yale, Duke, and across the country and the world, who have used the archives in their work, is Matthew Countryman, whose dissertation, researched at the Urban Archives among other archives in the city, became the monograph Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Matthew is Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Arts and Citizenship Program at the University of Michigan, and we are also grateful to him for his work with us on our Civil Rights in a Northern City website.Case Study of a Riot

At the symposium, we are privileged to have Herb Bass, Emeritus Professor of History, with us, who was present at the creation, to tell us more about that.  Matthew Countryman, Margaret Jerrido, Ang Reidell (Education Specialist, National Archives and Records Administration-Philadelphia); Frank Hoeber;  Joe Slobodzian, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter; and Sam Katz from  History Making Productions.  We asked the to  talk about their time with the Urban Archives and perhaps speculate where the next fifty years should take us.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, Special Collections Research Center

 

Society Hill Playhouse’s Street Theatre

“A make-shift stage, a few actors, some stories to tell, and an audience–that’s all it took to bring the excitement of the theater to the inner city.”

Street Theatre flyer, 1969
Street Theatre flyer, with performance in the background, 1969

During the summers of 1968, 1969, and 1970, the Society Hill Playhouse (SHP) took theater to the streets of Philadelphia and Camden. SHP inaugurated its Street Theatre Program for “Better Break ’68,” a program created by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Tate’s Council on Youth Opportunity. The Better Break program collaborated with businesses, organizations, and individuals across the City to offer a variety of educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities for Philadelphia’s youth and families.

SHP’s Street Theatre was among several performing arts entertainments offered as part of Better Break. It turned a flatbed truck into a stage, which traveled to neighborhoods across the City. A deliberately integrated cast performed a series of skits that addressed tenant life and the Vietnam War, among other relevant issues of the day, and offered some upbeat musical numbers as well.

Street Theatre was reportedly well received by the neighborhoods and internationally praised. The troupe gave over 60 performances in 1969 alone, with many neighborhoods requesting the return of the truck from the previous summer. Some neighborhoods even coordinated block parties and other events around the performances. Photographs of Street Theatre were included in the U.S. Information Service’s, “Theater Now,” which was exhibited in the Near East, Far East, and North Africa. It was also featured in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary. Rene Bonniere of the CBC, reflected in a letter to SHP co-founder, Deen Kogan, “… after touring the greater part of the United States it was one of the most interesting experiments we found dealing not only with the theater but also with human relationships.”

Street Theatre performance, 1969
Street Theatre performance, 1969

Deen Kogan and husband, Jay – both Temple graduates – launched SHP in 1959 as Philadelphia’s “off-Broadway” theatre for contemporary American and European playwrights. Gradually, it developed a niche in populist comedies, like Nunsense, and, in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia, it presented major productions city-wide. It’s other programs included the Writers Project, beginning in 1962, which was dedicated to developing new works, and the Philadelphia Youth Theatre, 1970-1983, which drew students from public, private, and parochial schools. SHP was located in the Society Hill District, housed in the historic former David Garrick Hall. The theater closed on April 1, 2016.

Deen Kogan donated the Society Hill Playhouse Records to the Special Collections Research Center in 2016.  A finding aid is available to provide more information about ithe collection.

– Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC

What in the World is a Vertical File?

 

1971 report about the Charrette
Charrette report, 1971

Libraries and archives often maintain what they arcanely call “vertical files,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “a collection of articles (as pamphlets and clippings) that is maintained (as in a library) to answer brief questions or to provide points of information not easily located.” Other definitions note that the items in the file are too minor to require individual cataloging. And “vertical” refers to the actual storage orientation of the file folders—upright, often in a filing cabinet.

These files are simultaneously rich and idiosyncratic in content. A user never knows what might turn up and learns to enjoy the serendipity of finding a rich file, while being resigned to the disappointment of a skinny one.

Franklin Theater Program., circa 1930
Franklin Theater Program., circa 1930

Temple University Libraries’ Special Collection Research Center maintains several such files. In the Philadelphia Jewish Archives, there are the Vertical Files on the Jewish Community of Greater Philadelphia which is an accumulation of items that document Jewish history in Philadelphia. The collection include photocopies of newspaper articles, pamphlets, family histories and genealogies, ephemeral items such as brochures, flyers and event programs and other miscellaneous materials relating to persons, places, organizations, and topical subjects. The files provide background information on cultural and historical events, businesses, and community members of the Jewish community in the Greater Philadelphia region and parts of southern New Jersey.

Russell and Sarah Conwell
Russell and Sarah Conwell

The inventory to the Temple University Archives Vertical File  was recently put on line. It documents Temple’s founder Russell Conwell and many aspects of the University’s history. The collection contains publications, pamphlets, flyers and event programs, newspaper clippings, and other materials gathered from university offices and various news sources relating to persons, places, organizations, and topical subjects that document Temple University.

We’re reviewing the Science Fiction Collection Vertical File and the Dance Collection Vertical Files and hope to have information available about their contents soon.

Archbishop Tutu at Temple, January 14, 1986
Archbishop Tutu at Temple, January 14, 1986

Are these vertical files going the way of the dinosaur? At the moment, they are often superior to any search engine—or at least as good as the staff who faithfully gather and file the items—and serve as a great starting point and resource for many topics. Did you want to know about the Temple-Community Charrette of 1970; the model UN Conference that began at Temple in 1946; what Desmond Tutu said to the Temple community when he received an honorary degree in 1986? Start with the vertical file!

 

–Margery Sly, Director, SCRC

Friendly Visits

Women and children of League St., 1899
Women and children of League St., 1899

The Octavia Hill Association was incorporated in 1896 to improve working class housing conditions through the sympathetic management of dwellings which it purchased and renovated. The association’s activities were modeled after the work in London of Octavia Hill, with whom one of its founders, Helen Parrish, had studied. Helen Parrish who served as secretary for the association, kept a diary in 1888, and created correspondence, notes, reports, and other publications describing the associations’ work, (1888-1943).  The OHA archives are housed at Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

Parrish Diary Cover
Parrish Diary

Parrish’s 1888 diaries (in three volumes) were recently digitized and describe her “friendly visits” to OHA’s  tenants.  In common with other social welfare activists of the era, Parrish and other agency staff members believed that part of their role was to police tenants’  behavior.

Dr. Christina Larocco who surveyed the collection as part of the In Her Own Right grant project, notes:  “It is rare for historical figures to lay out their thoughts, influences, and goals so explicitly. Helen Parrish emerges as a figure as complex and compelling as Jane Addams, one whose life and work encapsulate the central paradox of Progressivism as both altruistic and coercive. This collection adds new evidence to the perennial debate over which characteristic more fundamentally describes this movement. Moreover, these papers reveal Philadelphia to be a city as important to Progressive reform as New York and Chicago, not only within the U.S.but also as a hub in the transatlantic circulation of Progressive ideas.”

In addition to the diaries, many of the images in the OHA archives have been digitized, illustrating housing interiors and exteriors before and after renovations, court yards, and street scenes around Philadelphia.

Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920
Children outside property owned by OHA, 1920

Additional material from the Octavia Hill Association archives is in the process of being digitized and will be available both through Temple Libraries and through a pilot site “In Her Own Right:  Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920,”  being built as a part of a NEH planning grant received by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries which looks toward commemorating the 100th anniversary of women receiving the vote in 2020.

–Margery N. Sly, Director, SCRC

 

“A Free and Modern Zoo for Philadelphia”

Lion cubs
Lion cubs born at the Zoo, 1936

One of the notable aspects of the Philadelphia Zoo  (the Zoological Society of Philadelphia) archives in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, is its rich photographic materials, which include approximately 200 lantern slides dating from 1880 to 1936, used to help educate and advance the mission of the Zoo.  Some of these slides were featured in a presentation at the Wagner Free Institute’s Annual Lantern Slide Salon, on October 13, 2016.

Gorilla cage
Old Gorilla Cage, circa 1920

The earliest lantern slides depict the nineteenth-century Zoo, its buildings, grounds, and animal attractions, while the slides from the 1930s document both scientific advancement and a push for change in animal housing.  Breeding and collecting remained in the forefront, great strides were made in nutrition, and the iron-barred cages of the  nineteenth century began to disappear, as new, natural, open-air habitats were constructed.

Commisssary
Making “zoocakes” in the commissary, circa 1935

Later slides document the Zoo’s Penrose Research Laboratory which made early strides in the study and prevention of diseases effecting animals in captivity, and the lab’s pioneering work in nutrition. The Zoo discovered that disease, early mortality, and low fertility affecting the animals was directly linked to nutritional deficiency. To combat this, the Penrose Lab developed the Philadelphia Zoocake, which was “a mineral and vitamin rich concoction…” formulated from corn meal, ground meat, ground vegetables, eggs, fat, molasses, salt, and baking powder. By 1936, the Zoo tested its new dietary program, including the zoocake, and saw dramatically increased general health. Greater fertility and diminished mortality rates were also noted. In fact, some of the animals went on to break records in terms of longevity in captivity.

Unloading groceries
Unloading groceries with orangutan, circa 1935
Beaver Pond
New Beaver Pond, constructed by the WPA, 1935

In addition to the strides in nutrition, labor provided by Depression-era federal work relief programs kept things moving forward in other areas. In the 1930s,  workers for the Works Progress Administration repaired the buildings and grounds, helping to advance how the Zoo housed and exhibited animals. Where barred cages and cell-like enclosures were the norm for the nineteenth century zoo, the twentieth century zoo sought to remove the bars and to create habitats that resembled the animals’ natural environments. This offered better living space for the animals and more thrilling exhibitions for visitors.

Monkey Island
View of Monkey Island, constructed by the WPA, 1935

In 1936, the Citizens Committee for a Free and Modern Zoo was formed to ascertain public interest in the Zoo and campaign for public funding to make the Zoo a free attraction and finance continued improvements. The committee used images from other zoos’ more modern animal exhibits to excite the public about the proposed changes at the Philadelphia Zoo. Such images were coupled with pictures of caged animals under tag line, “Iron Bars a Prison Make,” to underscore the need for this important change in zoo-keeping practices. While the ground work was laid in the 1930s, it wasn’t until after World War II that the city answered the call and appropriated one million dollars to help the Zoo realize its vision.

— Courtney Smerz, SCRC Collection Management Archivist