Tag Archives: Man-Made Philadelphia: A Guide to Its Physical and Cultural Environment

Let’s Have Some Fun

This summer I spent over three hundred hours reading guidebooks about Philadelphia from the Centennial to the Bicentennial and it was a blast. It did not matter if I was reading in some alcove in the Paley Stacks, at my usual table in Temple Special Collections, grouped with other researchers at the Library Company of Philadelphia, in a sunny spot around campus, or even in my room; I was having a great time. It took about a week for me to get my bearings and to get into a daily rhythm, but once I did I was off to the races. Despite how much fun I was having, my blog posts were usually rooted in criticism regarding the source material I was reading and the the way we continue to handle our history in the present day. My first two blog posts focused on the failures and successes of some of the guidebooks I read, particularly when it came to how they represented history. My first blog post can be found here and the my second blog post can be found here. My other two posts focused on walking tours that I went on and the thoughts that they provoked. My third post examined how physical representations of history change when progress and modernity are the goals of city development, while my fourth post examined how Philadelphia and the United States hides from historical legacy and the consequences that this decision causes.

This is my final blog post so this time I am going to try a different format compared to my past posts.  This post is dedicated to sharing my favorite findings, my least favorite moments, my biggest regrets, and anything else that comes to mind. Hopefully, this way I can share some of the fun I had this summer so let’s get down to business and have a good time.

Fast Facts: I annotated fifty-three different guidebooks from Temple Paley Stacks, Ambler Stacks, Temple’s Library Repository, Temple Special Collections, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the New York Public Library. Of those fifty-three guidebooks 28.3% contained maps, 13.2% contained walking tours, and only 5.7% featured driving tours. I looked through three different archival collections at Temple Special Collections each with new surprises and discoveries. After I digitized the last of my annotations they filled 340 pages in Google Docs. I also logged just under 313 hours work for the research.

Biggest Regrets: One of my biggest regrets is that I only read six editions of the The Negro Motorist Green Book and I failed to incorporate any of them into my blog posts. This series of guidebooks was a reminder of Jim Crow segregation, but more importantly they show that the black community of the United States was just as interested as any other community in traveling and exploring the country, despite them being ignored as a valuable audience. One poignant quote made its way into each edition I read and demonstrates why this series of guidebooks was so essential, “It is a book badly needed among our Race since the advance of the motor age. Realizing the only way we knew where and and how to reach our pleasure resorts was in a way of speaking, by word of mouth, until the publication of ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book…’ We earnestly believe ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ will mean as much if not more to us as the A. A. A. means to the white race.” For anyone interested in exploring the Green Books the New York Public Library has a number of them digitized and they are well worth looking through. 

My other big regret is that I did not wrote a blog post regarding accessibility issues in Philadelphia. Out of the fifty-three guidebooks I read and annotated this summer only one, Julie P. Curson’s A Guide’s Guide, treated disabled people as a valuable audience. She elaborated on the accessibility of historical locations by letting readers know if there were ramps to entrances, if exhibits or restrooms were only reachable by stairs, and the width of doorways.  She also included the number of steps and the location and accessibility of elevators for a number of historical locations. By looking at reports from the Census Bureau the refusal to acknowledge issues of accessibility all the more shocking. A report released in the early 1990s that estimated roughly 20% of Americans were living with some sort of disability and a report published in 2012, again, found that roughly 20% of Americans were living with a disability. Granted, these two reports are both well after the time frame of the research, but the consistency of the numbers makes it more than plausible that a similar number of Americans were living with a disability in the 1970s. Disability is an umbrella term that encompasses a myriad of lived experiences; however, the decision to ignore nearly a fifth of the population is indicative of the how often we think of accessibility issues, particularity in cities. Because we often push issues of accessibility to the back burner, if we consider them at all, we rarely incorporate accessibility into our city planning further alienating a wide swath of the population. Even A Guide’s Guide relegated the accessibility information to a separate chapter near the end instead of including it as a header under every location, similar to how the hours and price of each location was included. We need to do better at all stages of city planning to allow disabled people to enjoy the same level of comfort that abled people experience while living in or visiting Philadelphia, or anywhere for that matter. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Civic Access is a useful starting point for anyone looking to see how we can make cities more accessible, but they are only the first steps and we still have plenty of work ahead of us to make even them a reality. I only wish I had done more to bring attention to this issue.

I do not know how I would have worked it in, but I also wish I had found some way to talk about A Guide to the Stranger, or Pocket Companion for the Fancy. I can not take credit for finding this particular guidebook as Dr. Lowe turned me on to it, but the pleasure of sharing it now is all mine. This guidebook is definitely worth looking through as it offers “A rare glimpse into underworld flesh peddling” (Library Company of Philadelphia), and luckily for us the Library Company of Philadelphia kindly digitized it for future generations. So I will just leave it at that and anyone interested should click here to be blown away.

Favorite Quotations: I fell in love with a number of quotes and phrases from the guidebooks I read this summer. For instance, a handful of times I saw Fairmount Park referred to as a “pleasure park” (Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce), or, even better, a “people’s pleasure ground” (Jackson 35), which always brought a smile to my face. I think calling Fairmount Park a pleasure park or ground is more than apt and, personally, I would not mind a resurgence of either phrase. One line in Magee’s Centennial Guide of Philadelphia instigated a trip to the location in question as the allure was too much to stay away, “Nothing can be more romantic than a trip to Laurel Hill [Cemetery]… Here rest the remains of distinguished soldiers, statesmen, divine, and civilians” (169). After visiting Laurel Hill Cemetery, twice, this summer I can confirm it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon, although probably not first date material. A guidebook from 1871 expressly about Fairmount Park concluded with a bit of snark in an attempt to motivate the reader to explore Fairmount and Philadelphia, “Walking is our best English inheritance; with more walking, men and women will have longer and lead better lives” (122). See, snark truly is timeless.

Favorite Photos: I came across a number of incredible photos in the digital collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia, two of which can be found below. I also took countless pictures of the guidebooks I read and of the locations and scenery during the walking tours I went on.

I’m jealous, kind of. This photo is courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
The text reads: “The battle is over, Bunker Hill no more will call the soldier from the maid he adore, while to his side he would his gentle Nelly press She tells him of the Enterprise Fruit and Jelly Press.” Maybe I’m the only one who finds linking war to selling a Fruit and Jelly Press funny, but I still chuckle every time I see this ad in my camera roll. This photo is courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.
This is a map from Man-Made Philadelphia: A Guide to Its Physical and Cultural Environment. It featured maps like this on every page, along with photos taken from the pedestrian view of landmarks. It was a great take on the classic guidebook format.
Here’s a reminder for anyone who needs it. I found this while on a walking tour of Fairmount Park. (Another thing I wish I had written about as I love our city’s pleasure park.)

Anyways, that is enough from me. If you have read this blog post or any of them I am grateful that you let me share this summer of research with you and I hope that you learned a thing or two. A big heartfelt thank you goes out to Dr. Lowe for having me as her research assistant this summer and letting me spend the days reading about and walking around our beautiful city. When I first met with Dr. Lowe her passion for the project was infectious and any doubts I had about spending the summer immersed in the world of Philadelphia guidebooks were quickly cast aside. She got me headed in the right direction and then let me run wild and free in the archives around the city. I also have to thank all of my friends that let me lead them around Philadelphia on a walking tour as they kept me company through every wrong turn and helped me digest the history all around us. And if we ever hung out right after I left an archive there is a good chance you heard me ramble for at least five minutes about whatever small detail stuck with me that day so thank you for helping me work through my thoughts and for not telling me to calm down and let it go. So on that note, grab a friend and go out and explore Philadelphia. I am sure you will find places you never knew existed and gain a deeper appreciation for the city, whether it is as a visitor or as a resident. I promise you will have more fun than you would ever expect.

The Depths of Paley Library

Hi there, I am Nate Hubler and I am spending the summer as a research assistant exploring Philadelphia guide books. The goal of the research is to determine how historical value fluctuates and changes depending on the time period in Philadelphia and on the people represented in the guide book. We are specifically looking from the time of the Centennial to the Bicentennial in Philadelphia, or roughly the 1860s to 1980. I have spent the last two weeks tucked away in random corners of Paley Stacks and Temple’s campus as I have been diving into the guide books available on the shelves in the Stacks and a few that have been delivered from Ambler Stacks and the Library Repository. I quickly became lost in the pages in front of me as Philadelphia’s past consumed me, but now I am taking a brief pause to shine a light on the selection of guide books I have found so far. These pauses will be a regular part of my research this summer and I hope that they will provide a window into the fascinating world of Philadelphia guide books that we are working to reveal.

This blog post is going to focus on a handful of the more interesting sources I have come across so far in my research, of which there have been several noteworthy entries. I was lucky that the first book I began reading, Guidebook to Jewish Philadelphia: History, Landmarks, Donors of the Jewish Community for the Life of Philadelphia, 1703-1965, was written from a Jewish historical perspective because I read about locations that would not make an appearance in many of the other guide books I pulled off of the shelves at Paley. I read about the brilliance of Rebecca Gratz and the storied history of the Mikveh Israel Synagogue; both which would only return with the briefest of homages in other guide books, if at all. But besides giving me a preemptive break from the seemingly endless number of guide books written through a primarily White Anglo-Saxon Protestant lens the Guidebook to Jewish Philadelphia also provided a number of well-crafted walking tours with accompanying maps. I have yet to have a chance this summer to explore any of the walking tours of Philadelphia that I have read about, but when I do the walking tours featured in the Guidebook to Jewish Philadelphia will be where I begin my travels.

Another day I looked through two very different guidebooks, The Philadelphia Tradition of Work: Things to Do & Places to See and Magee’s Centennial Guide of Philadelphia. The two guide books were slightly more than a century apart with The Philadelphia Tradition of Work releasing in 1979 and Magee’s Centennial Guide releasing in 1875, but this century long gap allowed for some fascinating comparisons of locations examined within each book. For example, The Philadelphia Tradition of Work dedicates a large amount of space to memorializing the Frankford Arsenal which it describes as “[having] produced munitions for every American war since the war with Mexico…” ( Cybriwsky and Hanson 36), but Magee’s Centennial Guide carries a much more reserved tone simply calling the Arsenal “famous for its war supplies” (Magee 40). Despite over a century passing between the publication of the two guide books they both rely on the Frankford Arsenal’s production of American munitions to assign it its historical value. The justification for including the Arsenal on one’s day trip around Philadelphia boils down to a roughly identical argument; this suggests to me that historical value and patriotic value are often considered one and the same regardless of time in Philadelphia’s history. I am interested to see if this trend continues in the other guide books I will explore this summer and how will it might change in relation to the identity of the author or the intended audience.

(I didn’t even get to mention the map that folds out of Magee’s Centennial Guide to Philadelphia which is at least five times as large as the book itself!)

I also had the opportunity to look over two guide books that completely blew me away because of how different they were from the rest of the guide books I had been seeing. The first was Man-Made Philadelphia: A Guide to Its Physical and Cultural EnvironmentMan-Made Philadelphia was obsessed with the idea of presenting Philadelphia from the eye of the pedestrian walking down the street and that obsession produced amazing results. The guide explored individual squares or stretches of Broad and Market Street with gigantic full-page maps which presented the buildings of interest on the map as one would actually see them from the street. Each section was mainly comprised of the map of the area and countless pictures of noteworthy sites and buildings which was quite the break from the typical written assault on display in most guide books. While Man-Made Philadelphia gave relatively little space to the written word I could make interesting assumptions about the authors’ priorities based on what was featured in the map, photographs, and written explanations and the combinations therein.

The last source I really want to talk about is the Handbook for Soviet Jewish Immigrants in Philadelphia. This guide book largely focused on helping new Soviet Jewish immigrants adapt to the changes between the Soviet Union and Philadelphia which meant that the bulk of space in the book was dedicated to explaining places to go for legal trouble, necessities, and support groups. However, towards the end it begins to explore how their audience can spend time having fun at Philadelphia museums and in places of historic value in Philadelphia. While other guide books I have read included the price of admission, the Handbook for Soviet Jewish Immigrants made it clear that it was only including locations that the authors knew their audience could afford to go to. This makes it the first guide book that I have encountered so far that was actively aware of having a lower class audience and worked to incorporate that into their guide. The Handbook for Soviet Jewish Immigrants also featured a number of (not so) subtle digs at the Soviet Union. My favorite of which was when the authors made it seem that the Soviet Union offered nothing in the way of cultural education for its citizens while Philadelphia, and most other major American cities, offered near constant free or low-cost cultural education for all citizens regardless of race, religion, or gender.

Needless to say I’m excited to dive even deeper into the world of Philadelphia guide books and see what surprises await. My first two weeks yielded a number of fascinating finds so I have little doubt that the coming weeks will continue to impress. This coming week I will be branching out from the Paley Stacks and spending as much time as possible in the Special Collections Research Center in Paley Library to explore some sources closer to the Centennial and from some different types of authors . See you in the next post!