Harold Ash was educated in Philadelphia and Atlantic City schools before attending Temple University. In 1934, he began his involvement with American labor unions, becoming a staff member of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Ash actively followed the work of organizations representing teachers and industrial workers throughout the country. By corresponding with and collecting the materials of unions and federations as they sought to defend their rights and interests, Ash created reference files he could draw upon when tasked with assisting these groups.
Until his death in 2010, Ash served both educational and industrial unions. Portions of the Harold Ash Papers document his committed role as federation negotiator for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (PaFT) during his time as a staff member of the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Due to his experience with collective bargaining contracts, Ash received many thank-you notes in response to his assistance with teachers’ organizations all over the United States, and the collection contains many agreement drafts and final agreements that Ash had a part in.
Additional material in the collection chronicle Ash’s work with the Telephone Workers Organizing Committee, Insurance and Allied Workers Organizing Committee (IAWOC), Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA), and various other national unions. Ash also served as a teacher in Division of Extension, School District of Philadelphia, and compiled bargaining course materials for college students, federations, and individual workers alike. Materials touching on matters of race, gender, and religion suggest an interest in the array of issues facing workers in all fields.
Ash was not alone in his dedication to labor organization—his wife Martha also took part in union efforts, running as a delegate on the United Bargaining Slate of the PFT.
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:
[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.”
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.
Established in 1974, the National History Day competition is a year-long educational program that attracts thousands of middle and high school students and educators nationwide. Students compete at the local and state levels, which award participants the opportunity to present their work in a national contest held every June at the University of Maryland, College Park. Since 2006, the Special Collections Research Center has participated in NHD and has hosted classes from numerous Philadelphia area schools, including the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School.
In preparation for the 2017 NHD competition, Masterman High School students Abigail Leighton, Eva Faenza, and Madeline Kim visited the SCRC to use the original news clipping and photograph files of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers for information to include in their group documentary, “The Selma Marches: Two Steps Forward One Step Back for Voting Rights.” Their project placed second in the Senior Division, Group Documentary category at the Pennsylvania state NHD competition.
Abigail Leighton describes the class visits to the SCRC as “…instrumental in the creation of our film. The sources we studied not only helped us develop our knowledge of the Selma Marches, they also provided us with visuals such as headlines that articulated key points that we made in our documentary. The insights we developed from the articles we discovered at the SCRC helped propel our documentary from the NHD Philly competition at the National Constitution Center, to the NHD national competition at the University of Maryland. “
“We visited the SCRC very early on in our research. Because of this, the sources we found there provided a framework for our project. We worked with over twenty articles from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Clipping Collection. Primarily, these articles helped us place the Selma Marches in historical context, a crucial part of the National History Day process. They were like puzzle pieces. Each article told the story of a different day leading up to the three major voting rights marches. When we pieced the puzzle together, we were able to understand the motivation behind the movement. The articles also helped us interpret the immediate national impact of the marches. We read about protests sparked by the violence in Selma in major cities across the nation. Although throughout this year we consulted many primary sources from speeches to letters to footage and pictures and even conducted a primary source interview with James H. Barker, photographer of the third Selma March, the most instrumental sources were those first articles that we read at the SCRC.”
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.
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.
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.
On 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.
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…”.
The Special Collections Research Center holds a number of medieval manuscripts of various types, including financial ledgers, notated music, a Book of Hours, and philosophical texts.
One interesting volume in the collection is a manuscript of the “Pore Caitif,” a late 14th and 15th century devotional text consisting of tracts intended for home use by the laity. The compilation of this handbook for religious instruction is most frequently attributed to English reformer John Wycliffe (1330 – 1384), and it contains approximately fourteen tracts intended to teach the reader about the Ten Commandments, the Paternoster, the Creed, and other basic aspects of Christianity. The number of Pore Caitif manuscripts in existence–more than fifty–demonstrates that this text was extremely popular during this time period.
It is unlikely that the compiler of this instructional volume was the one to assign the title “Pore Caitif,” even though that title seems to have been used as early as the 14th century. Most likely the common title was taken from the manner in which the compiler refers to himself: “pore” being an alternate spelling of “poor,” and “caitiff” or “caitif” meaning “wretched” or “despicable.”
Temple’s Pore Caitif dates from the 14th century. It has a later binding from the 16th century, made of black Moroccan leather, and contains the bookplate of Robert R. Dearden, a 20th century Philadelphia book collector. An inscription on the last pages of the manuscript indicates that Dame Margaret Hasley, a sister in the Order of Minoresses, presented this work to another sister.
The volume was recently digitized for the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). The project aims to digitize and make available online medieval manuscripts from fifteen institutions in the Philadelphia area. Images and descriptive metadata will be released into the public domain and easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing over twenty manuscripts to the project.
–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) was established by B’nai B’rith in January 1939, but was originally known as the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation Council (PADC). The organization changed its name in May 1944, to better reflect its dual mission to fight anti-Semitism and organized bigotry, as well as to promote intergroup understanding and cooperation. Although the JCRC developed into an organization that worked to advance both of these goals, the earliest records show their focusfrom 1939 through the end of the Second World War was on investigating and combatting anti-Semitism.
Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, conspiratorial ideas regarding Jews increasingly became intermixed with an isolationist and nativist sentiment that hoped to keep America strictly neutral in the growing conflict in Europe and Asia. A graphic example of this came to the attention of the PADC on April 17, 1941.
Initially referred to as the “new pro-Nazi circular,” correspondence shows that Maurice Fagan, executive director of the PADC, was in contact with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other groups who were investigating its appearance in Philadelphia. An ADL contact revealed that a large number of these circulars were sent to “H. L. Smith” of 2218 Pine Street by “M. Slauter” of 715 Aldine Ave., Chicago. A few days later, Fagan learned that the “Uncle Sam crucifixion circular” was the “brain child” of Newton Jenkins of Chicago and that there were reports of the circular appearing in Oregon and New York. A memorandum from April 24, described 715 Aldine Ave. as a “clearinghouse for anti-Semitic material” and connected Newton Jenkins with Elizabeth Dilling, a right-wing activist and supporter of isolationism.
An April 27 American Jewish Committee report, orchestrated by George Mintzer, details an investigation of the 715 Aldine address and the individuals associated with the case. While the address turned out to be a boarding house and M. Slauter to be a fictitious name, the investigator discovered the circular was printed by John Winter, co-owner of a Chicago printing company that had previously been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for connections with the German American Bund, the National German-American Alliance, and other “front organizations associated with the Nazi movement.”
A second circular began appearing in May that shared the same artistic and thematic style as the first. A May 15 letter from Joseph Roos to Maurice Fagan and others, states that Gustav A. Brand was very likely the artist behind both circulars. Roos states that he knew Brand well and that Brand was a former Chicago City Treasurer who “has constantly been under fire because of his strong Nazi language.”
On May 29, Maurice Fagan sent a letter to the Philadelphia office of the F.B.I. with an update on the investigation into the circulars. This letter appears to be the last action taken on this case, but the records of the JCRC contain many other examples of PADC investigating and exposing cases of anti-Semitism in the Greater Philadelphia region.
–Kenneth Cleary, Project Archivist, Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection, SCRC
The Special Collections Research Center is fortunate to hold two Books of Hours from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in its collection. Looking at these two volumes side by side, visitors to the SCRC can see for themselves the transition from the manuscript tradition to the printing tradition during the early years of the printing press.
Books of Hours were generally created during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, and contain prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary to be read throughout the day. These prayer books were intended to aid personal prayer rather than public worship in a church or cathedral. Books of Hours were enormously popular with the middle class of the day, and even today are the most common type of book or manuscript remaining from the medieval period. For more information on books of hours, see the tutorial on the Les Enluminures web site.
Specific content of Books of Hours varies widely. While all contain the Hours of the Virgin, some might also contain the Hours of the Cross, or certain psalms. The liturgical content of a Book of Hours is referred to as its “use,” and is typically named for the region or area where that use was common, such as “Use of Rome.”
SCRC’s manuscript book of hours is thought to be from Toul, France (Book of Hours: Use of Toul), and dates from between 1450 and 1499. It is written on parchment, which is made from animal skin, and it contains hand painted miniatures. As a manuscript, it is a unique item. The printed Book of Hours (Ces presentes heures sont a lusaige de Ro[m]me, or Book of Hours: Use of Rome), printed in Paris around 1534 by Germain Hardouyn, contains metalcuts hand painted by artist Jean Pichore. It is printed on vellum, which is a finer quality parchment made from the skin of a calf or other young animal. This volume is believed to be one of only three remaining copies of this edition.
The manuscript Book of Hours was recently digitized for Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis a Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) . The project aims to digitize and make available online medieval manuscripts from fifteen institutions in the Philadelphia area. Images and descriptive metadata will be released into the public domain and easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing over twenty manuscripts to the project.
–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC
With thanks to Katharine Chandler, Bryn Mawr College, for her assistance
“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.”
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.”
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.