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History of Philadelphia 1609 - 1884
By J. Thomas Scharf and Thomson Westcott in 3 volumes


Ix presenting this History of Philadelphia to the public no apology is necessary. As a record of events, as an exhibition of men, as a chronicle and exposition of institutions and resources, the work in this particular field, it is believed, will be found a complete and satisfactory record, in its every department, of the growth, development, and expansion of a municipality. This is asserted with a thorough knowledge of what has been done elsewhere since the revival of public interest in and enthusiasm for local details, and with a consciousness also of the suspicion of arrogance and self-assumption naturally incidental to such pretensions. To accomplish so much, and with such a degree of self-satisfaction, has been no holiday task. Of the labor, expense, and responsibility involved, very little need be said. The proof is presented in these volumes. In their preparation more than twenty times the compass of material, expressly procured and arranged, in addition to the great collection of books read and examined for collateral information, was digested, condensed, and, in the pertinent newspaper phrase, “boiled down” to the present limits. In no sense of the word is this work founded upon, built up out of, or repeated from, any previous one on the same subject, or any of its branches. It is a new book, treating its theme in a new, comprehensive, and original manner, after exhaustive research, thorough examination, and critical comparison of the best authorities, and the most authentic documents and authoritative records. This digesting and assimilating process has not, perhaps, been carried as far as exigent critics might demand, but in this busy and bustling world there is not time enough to polish the front of a city hall as nicely as one would a mantel ornament of Parian marble. The proprieties of style have, however, not been neglected, for carelessness in that respect would have been equally unworthy of a theme so dignified, and of the liberality and beauty of form of the publishers’ work.

A history so comprehensive in its objects and scope, and embracing such an infinitude of details, must necessarily have its limitations and defects, because of the impossibility of discussing fully a great variety of subjects without occasional errors. It would have been easy to escape from them by making the work less copious, by avoiding dangerous or controverted themes, and so gliding swiftly over the surface, generalizing and summing up instead of displaying all the facts.

The desire to leave nothing untold which could in any way throw light upon the history of men, events, and institutions in Philadelphia has made it impossible at times to escape repetition. Facts, which fall within the proper cognizance of the narrative of general events, will sometimes reappear in another shape in the records of institutions or in special chapters. But the fault will claim the reader’s indulgence, because intelligent persons prefer a twice-told tale to one neglected or half told.

Several of the themes or chapters of the homogeneous whole have been treated by those who have some particular association or long acquaintance with the subject. In the diversity of writers there will of course be variety of opinions, but they make good the poet’s description,

“Distinct as the billows, yet one as the sea,”

and may not be the worse for each offering a reflection, according to its turn to the light, without marring the unity of the general expanse.

"Without Mr. Westcott’s indispensable aid and invaluable stores of material on the History of Philadelphia, which he has been diligently collecting for the past thirty years, and which have been used in every department of this work, it would have been impossible to present the history of this great city in the satisfactory shape it now assumes. Indeed, as has been frequently stated in the following pages, Mr. Westcott has devoted a lifetime to the faithful, industrious, and intelligent pursuit of this history; few records have escaped him, and he has supplemented their evidence with recollections of a trustworthy character, and with testimony from a thousand sources, such as none but the most indefatigable antiquarian would seek or could procure. Mr. Westcott has also contributed to the work many valuable and unique drawings, portraits, maps, plans, etc., which are now printed for the first time; and during its progress he has also been constantly consulted by all engaged in the preparation of the special chapters, and besides furnishing important suggestions, facts, and items, he has read and corrected all the proofs, from the first page to the last. Besides the very efficient aid thus rendered during the various stages of the work, he has specially prepared for it the chapters on “ Progress from 1825 to the Consolidation of the City, in 1854;” “Music, Musicians, and Musical Societies;” “Charitable, Benevolent, and Religious Institutions and Associations;” “Military Organizations, Armories, Arsenals, Barracks, Magazines, Powder-Houses, and Forts;” “Municipal, State, and Government Buildings;” “Court-Houses, Prisons, Reformatory and Correctional Institutions, and Almshouses;” “Public Squares, Parks and Monuments;” “Roads, Ferries, Bridges, Public Landings and Wharves;” “Telegraph,” and many other minor subjects.

The authors would be unjust to themselves, and to the city whose history they have written, if they did not acknowledge, in this place, with feelings of profound gratitude, the cordial aid extended to them aud to their undertaking by the press and people of Philadelphia. They have given the fullest encouragement throughout, and have helped materially in elaborating and perfecting the work. Important and valuable assistance and information have been received from the following persons, to whom also particular recognition is due:

To Frederick D. Stone, librarian of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, for valuable memoranda and suggestions made to the authors during the progress of their work; to Frank Willing Leach, for biographical sketches and details in regard to the press and libraries of Philadelphia; to Rev. W. B. Erben, for the preparation of the history of the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and its institutions and church work; to Martin I. J. Griffin, for the history of the Catholic Church, and its institutions, societies, schools, aud church work; to Bishop Matthew Simpson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. William Cathcart, D.D., of the Baptist Church, Rev. Charles G. Ames, of the Unitarian Church, Rev. W. J. Mann, D.D., of the Lutheran Church, Rev. W. M. Rice, of the Presbyterian Church, Johu Edmunds, of the Congregational Church, and Rev. Chauncey Giles and T. S. Arthur, of the Swedenborgian Church, for essential assistance in the preparation of the history of their respective denominations; to Albert II. Hoeckley, for his chapter on “Clubs and Club Life;” to Charles R. Hildeburn, the librarian of the Athensenm, for many kindnesses of various sorts; to Isaac H. Shields, attorney-at-law, for his complete chapter on the intricate and important subject of “The Municipal Government of Philadelphia;” to Lloyd P. Smith, librarian of the Philadelphia and Ridgway Library, for many kindnesses and courtesies in smoothing the way, and contributing to the work the details for the history of the libraries under his charge, including free access to and use of valuable documents; to William Perrine, who contributed to the work the chapters on “Progress from the Consolidation Act, in 1854, to the Civil War,” “After the Civil War,” and “Education;” to Rev. Jesse Y. Bnrke for sketch of the Pennsylvania University; to Hon. James T. Mitchell, who kindly revised the chapter on the “Bench and Bar;” to John Hill Martin, author of “The Bench and Bar of Philadelphia,” who furnished valuable Civil Lists, and, with a kindness and courtesy not to be forgotten, allowed the authors to extract all that they wanted from his able work; to Wm. B. Atkinson, M.D., who revised the chapter on the “Medical Profession,” and S. D. Gross, M.D., LL.D., who read the proofs of the same; to Charles A. Kingsbury, M.D., D.D.S., for materials on Dental Surgery and Institutions; to Lewis D. Harlow, M.D., for sketches of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Medical Colleges; to Miss May Forney, for the chapter furnished by her upon “The Distinguished Women of Philadelphia;” to Professor R. M. Johnston, who prepared the chapter on “Literature and Literary Men;” to Robert R. Dearden, A. J. Bowen, J. H. C. Whiting, and John A. Fowler, for much valuable material on the history of insurance in Philadelphia; to Clifford P. MacCalla, Charles E. Mayer, Edward S. Roman, John W. Stokes, George Hawkes, Walter Graham, William Hollis, John M. Yanderslice, and John Magargee, for valuable assistance in the preparation of the chapter on “Secret Societies and Orders.”

Among others to whom acknowledgments are especially due may be mentioned the late Edward Spencer, Charles H. Shinn, Nathaniel Tyler, Professor P. F. de Gournay, John Sar-tain, Samuel W. Pennypacker, Dr. W. H. Burke, Professor Oswald Seidensticker, James J. Levick, M.D., Rev. W. M. Baum, D.D., Frederick Emory, and Professor W. H. B. Thomas, who have furnished much valuable information and assistance.

The publishers have most liberally met every desire, in respect of letter-press and engravings of portraits, maps, and other illustrations; they have spared no expense or effort to make the mechanical execution of the volumes equal to its subject, and they have helped in every difficulty while the work was in progress.

Philadelphia, March 1, 1884.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3



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