Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

News » Author Archives: Brandon Borrelli

Quaker City (The); Or, the Monks of Monk Hall

[caption id="attachment_21659" align="alignright" width="220"]A printed illustration of George Lippard in profile, leaning his left elbow on a desk George Lippard was known as a founder of the Philadelphia-rooted American Gothic movement for his dark themes of greed, debauchery, and injustice. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

George Lippard (1822-54) published The Quaker City; Or, the Monks of Monk Hall in 1844-45 in serial installments, which were then collated as a novel. A gothic tale, set in Philadelphia and inspired by a linked pair of real-life urban crimes, the novel juxtaposes a plot centered on greed, amorality, and debauchery against the then-popular stereotype of an idealized Quaker of exemplary morals. As the “City of Brotherly Love” vision of Quaker William Penn (1644-1718) was widely known, Lippard counted on the irony that the novel’s characters and plot were neither brotherly nor loving.

In Lippard’s time, Philadelphia experienced a decade of rioting and destruction reflecting racial and class tensions, exacerbated by an ineffectual police force and a fractured urban region of more than two dozen municipalities within Philadelphia County. Lippard, who died when he was just 31 years old, made a successful decade-long career in journalism, playwriting, and historical fiction that promoted his commitment to social reform. Believing that society’s poor were overworked, underpaid, and powerless against exploitation by rich, powerful, immoral individuals and organizations, Lippard advocated a socialist system to improve their lot. Although Lippard was not himself Quaker, his frequent experiences with Quakers led him to identify them with his own politics. These experiences also informed his decision to present a Quaker character who is seemingly immune to the temptations of ordinary mortals.

[caption id="attachment_21662" align="alignright" width="205"]A photograph of the cover of Lippard's George Lippard’s The Quaker City; Or, The Monks of Monk Hall functioned as an exposé of crime, social class disparity, and criminal injustice in the city of Philadelphia. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

The Quaker City is built upon the highly publicized trial of a wealthy man who could afford an unethical lawyer to get him acquitted of murder. The novel’s lurid themes include a convoluted intertwining of plot lines, with multiple incidents of seduction, rape, drunkenness, and greed on the part of a club of privileged decadents—the Monks of Monk Hall—who flaunt their wealth and power. These plot lines are complicated by multiple murders: one man is prosecuted for killing in revenge for the rape of his sister, while another wealthier murderer is acquitted of poisoning his wife when he discovers that she is having an affair. Despite the title, Quaker characters are absent from the story until the final scene, when a nameless and ineffectual “Quaker” makes his appearance on a boat that is leaving Philadelphia, a scene that suggests that the moral influence of Quakerism was exiting what was once a “Quaker” city.

The term “Quaker” had been coined by detractors of the seventeenth-century Christian sect that labeled itself “the Religious Society of Friends.” “Quaker” was used to mock the sect’s impassioned—often trance-like—worship and social behaviors. By the mid-nineteenth century, when Lippard published The Quaker City, Quakers had acquired a reputation for behaviors that seemed to reflect a number of contradictory qualities: high-minded integrity as well as self-righteous rigidity; visionary nonconformity as well as antagonistic eccentricity; unwavering morality as well as wild-eyed fanaticism; nonviolence as well as emotional aloofness; and social-justice conviction as well as compassionless judgment. Lippard’s nameless Quaker character, making only a cameo appearance, seems to throw a spotlight on these tensions and ambiguities.

[caption id="attachment_21748" align="alignright" width="200"]A photograph of the cover of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin also portrayed Quakers as standard-bearers of morality. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Until 1852, when Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96) published Uncle Tom’s Cabin—which also portrays Quaker characters as standard-bearers of morality—The Quaker City was America’s best-selling novel. With some 60,000 copies sold in its first year, the novel helped to solidify notions of urban life and capitalism as cauldrons of sin, greed, and debauchery, and to promote upstanding Quakers as the antithesis of urban low-life. In 1848, capitalizing on the novel’s popularity, and reflecting his admiration for Quaker ideals, Lippard began a newspaper called The Quaker City, which also promoted his progressive social justice ideology. Following the novel’s publication, at the nadir of Philadelphia’s administrative chaos, city and state officials took heed of the city’s lawlessness. In 1854, the disparate neighborhoods of Philadelphia city and county were consolidated under one unified police jurisdiction, a first for American cities.

Unlike Stowe’s novel, The Quaker City largely disappeared from popular consciousness. Still, Lippard’s portrayal of the romanticized “Quaker” remained an important part of a literary genre that left an indelible mark on American popular culture about what it means to be “Quaker” and the tension between urban realities and Quakers principles.

Emma J. Lapsansky Werner is Professor of History Emeritus at Haverford College, where she was Curator of the Quaker Collection.

Country Clubs

[caption id="attachment_21435" align="aligncenter" width="575"]A black and white photograph of the Philadelphia Cricket Club's three-story clubhouse, with grounds in the foregrounds featuring members playing a game of cricket. A large banner is strung up to the right of the clubhouse and a crowd can be seen in the distance between the clubhouse and a steep-roofed house at the left edge of the frame. The Philadelphia Cricket Club, the oldest country club in the United States (est. 1854), was one of the four founding members of the Golf Association of Philadelphia (est. 1897). (Wikimedia Commons)[/caption]

Country clubs originated in the 1890s as elite, family-oriented havens usually emphasizing golf, but they have never been just about golf or even sports. Clubs fostered sportsmanship, appropriate deportment, and social development while also providing opportunities for exercise. A “golden age” of country clubs lasted until the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the number of clubs grew again in the prosperous decades after World War II and with the continuing suburban boom of the late twentieth century. As clubs proliferated and served a greater variety of members, they reflected the changing culture and economic importance of leisure activities in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The “country club movement,” as social commentators termed it, began in the 1890s as “golf mania” swept the country. During the economic depression that occurred in the 1890s, many privileged men turned to golf as a less expensive alternative to yachting, polo, and hunting. With suburbanization and an increasing emphasis on leisure, sporting activities also gained popularity among the middle class. Some contemporary writers viewed the desire of women to play sports as the most significant factor in the proliferation of country clubs, which, unlike earlier men’s clubs, were family-oriented.  

[caption id="attachment_21440" align="alignright" width="300"]A colored overhead illustration of the Belmont Cricket Club grounds, including the clubhouse, players playing cricket in the field and tennis courts at the back of the grounds behind a line of trees. The Belmont Cricket Club, one of the big four Philadelphia Cricket Clubs, was located at Chester Avenue and Fifty-Second Streets in Southwest Philadelphia. (The Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Forerunners of the modern country club included men’s city clubs, union leagues, urban athletic clubs, and resort casinos (clubhouses). In Philadelphia, the big four cricket clubs were the first four country clubs. At one time Philadelphia had as many as one hundred cricket clubs, evidence of the appeal of the sport to all social classes, but members of the Philadelphia (established 1854), Germantown (est. 1864), Merion (est. 1865), and Belmont (1874-1914) cricket clubs enjoyed large clubhouses and spacious lawns. Dining rooms and verandas provided spaces for socializing and for family members to watch matches. The cricket clubs incorporated other sports activities, such as croquet, bowling, and tennis, all played by women as well as men. Members at three of these clubs were also attracted to golf. In 1895, the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill opened a nine-hole golf course. Golf enthusiasts at the Merion Cricket Club began playing golf the following year and the Aronimink Golf Club (est. 1900), later relocated to Newtown Square, Delaware County, grew out of the Belmont Cricket Club in southwest Philadelphia. 

Early Clubs With Golf

[caption id="attachment_21438" align="alignright" width="185"]A black and white photograph of Philadelphia-born and raised, “Bart” King was renowned as America’s greatest “gentlemen cricketer,” earning the city of Philadelphia and Belmont Cricket Club international sports fame. (CC Morris Cricket Library and US Cricket Museum)[/caption]

Even before members of cricket clubs became golf enthusiasts, several other country clubs included golf. In 1890, socially prominent Philadelphians including John C. Bullitt (1824-1902) and E. T. Stotesbury (1849-1938) founded the first non-cricket-centered country club in the region, the Philadelphia Country Club (est. 1890) on City Avenue. They stressed that members should be able to enjoy “recreation and pleasure without encountering any person or anything which will in the least degree be inconsistent with good behavior or good manners.” Most of the founders were heads of families who desired a conveniently located family club where they, their wives, and children could enjoy respite from the city. Liveried coachmen met trains from Center City to bring members to the club.

Following the pattern of most early clubs, which leased or purchased country estates or farms and adapted existing residences for new uses, the Philadelphia Country Club purchased “Steinberg,” the former country estate of the Duhring family, located within city limits adjacent to Fairmount Park. Initially a club for riding, driving, and polo, two years after its founding the Philadelphia Country Club added a nine-hole golf course, with two holes on land leased from Fairmount Park. The popularity of golf soon meant the course was insufficient and in 1924 the club purchased property on Spring Mill Road in Gladwyne, which could “be reached by automobile in 30 or 35 minutes from City Hall,” the club announced.

After the founding of the Philadelphia Country Club, the vicinity near City Avenue became the location of several more clubs, including the Bala Golf Club (est. 1893) on Belmont Avenue within the city and the Overbrook Golf Club (est. 1900) just outside the city on property that later became the site of Lankenau Hospital. Scores of new country clubs opened throughout the Philadelphia region in the years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. The Harper’s Official Golf Guide of 1901 listed about forty clubs in the Philadelphia area. Many affiliated with the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP), which in 1897 became the first regional golf association in the country. Over time, member clubs extended from Lancaster to Scranton in Pennsylvania, from Princeton to Cape May in New Jersey, and to New Castle County, Delaware. By 2015, the GAP had 151 member clubs in the region, which also hosted additional nonmember country clubs. Just four weeks after the founding of the GAP, the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia became another first of its kind, testifying to the enthusiasm of many women for sporting activities.

[caption id="attachment_21441" align="aligncenter" width="575"]An image from the New York Times published in July 1915 of a women's doubles tennis match taken from behind the court, picturing the clubhouse and its columns to the left, along with a group of spectators under an awning. The Philadelphia Cricket Club hosted national tennis championships, beginning in 1887, that garnered nationwide attention for Philadelphia as a U.S. center for sports. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

Clubs Outside the City

Although many early country clubs were established within the city of Philadelphia, most eventually moved farther from Center City because landowners would not renew leases, adjacent land could not be obtained for extending golf courses, new roads crossed through the courses, or facilities became overcrowded by expanding membership. Relocating outside the city also reflected suburban migration during the twentieth century. For instance, by the time the Philadelphia Country Club sold its Bala property in the 1950s and enhanced its Gladwyne facilities, the majority of members no longer lived in Philadelphia but in surrounding Main Line suburbs.

Country clubs quickly became popular in counties surrounding Philadelphia as more people took up golf, tennis, and swimming and desired more places to socialize. Often, locals introduced to golf while traveling abroad—particularly to France, Britain, and Bermuda—returned to the United States to establish clubs. Eleanor Reed Butler (1871-1945) saw golf played in France and returned home to Media to help organize the Springhaven Country Club (est. 1896), the first club in Delaware County. Women frequently played golf and helped organize clubs, but Springhaven was unique because a woman, Ida Dixon (1854-1916), contributed to the design of the course.

Philadelphians also established clubs in New Jersey. The Burlington County town of Riverton, founded in the 1850s by a group of Philadelphia merchants as a summer retreat, by the end of the century had a growing number of year-round residents who desired to play golf. The Riverton Country Club (est. 1900) became the first in New Jersey to join the Golf Association of Philadelphia. Philadelphians looking for a course offering a better climate for  winter golf but tired of taking the train to play at the Country Club of Atlantic City when snow was on the ground in Philadelphia founded the Pine Valley Golf Club (est. 1913) in Camden County, hoping that weather conditions would provide more opportunity for winter play. Some of Philadelphia’s sporting aristocracy, including Connie Mack (1862-1956), became early members. In the first decades of the twenty-first century, the club maintained an elite, all-male membership and a course ranked by some authorities as the best in the world.

Blue Laws vs. Sunday Golf

[caption id="attachment_21442" align="alignright" width="280"]A black and white photograph of the interior of the Philadelphia Country Club dining room with windows along the left wall, two chandeliers and neatly-set tables arranged around the room.  The typical facilities and spaces included in most country clubs are reminders that country clubs have been about socializing as well as about sports. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

Social customs and laws sometimes restricted club activities in early years. Blue laws in many states forbade sports on Sundays. In New Jersey, as in other states, though, such restrictions became unpopular and not all communities enforced these laws locally. When members of the Haddon Country Club (est. 1896) in Haddonfield became frustrated with strict local enforcement of blue laws there, a group founded the Tavistock Country Club (est. 1920) in what became the new Borough of Tavistock, which did not intend to enforce a ban on Sunday golf and sports. The Haddon Club folded two years later.

Even before 1920s prohibition of alcohol, some clubs, such as the Riverton Country Club, banned drinking for religious reasons and many others did so to preserve the family atmosphere that made these clubs different from men’s clubs or even many single-sport clubs, such as cricket, polo, or hunt clubs. Membership categories even in the earliest years included both individual and family categories, and some clubs offered junior as well as social-only memberships. Where women could join as members, they typically paid lower entrance or annual fees (and their playing times often were limited to times when working men would not be using the facilities). In return for required fees, country clubs offered variety of sporting facilities; in early years croquet, bowling, archery, billiards, trapshooting, and even basketball and baseball were typical sports played at country clubs. Most added swimming pools, tennis courts, and squash courts for members.

As the social membership categories suggests, country clubs also provided spaces for socializing and entertainment. Theaters, ballrooms, dining rooms, men’s grille rooms, ladies’ parlors and tea rooms, a variety of sitting rooms, porches, and verandas offered ample opportunity for members to socialize and display their mastery of the club’s standards of etiquette.

Varieties of Clubs

Not all golfers liked the “country club atmosphere” of families, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Some organized golf-only clubs, such as the Sunnybrook Golf Club formed in 1914 by six members who left the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Conversely, not all country clubs offered golf. The Philadelphia Aviation Country Club in Blue Bell was founded after the 1927 trans-Atlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh (1902-74), when the idea for a chain of such country clubs across the country briefly engaged aviation enthusiasts. By 2015, only the Philadelphia club survived.

Some country clubs became the focal points of residential communities. In Montgomery County, when the Huntingdon Valley Country Club (est. 1897) moved to Upper Moreland and Abington Townships in the 1920s, the club also intended to subdivide some of the property into lots of two to five acres for members and other “desirable people.” Radley Run in Chester County, built in the 1960s, is a typical mid-century country club community. Residential communities centered on a country club continued to be popular in the early twenty-first century. One newer tract, French Creek Village in Elverson, Chester County, described itself as “the ultimate golf club community.”

While some country clubs remained havens for the elite, a handful crossed class lines to offer leisure activities to blue-collar as well as white-collar workers. The Philadelphia Electric Company baseball field in Upper Darby, Delaware County, became the McCall Field Country Club (est. 1919) when golf became more popular. The DuPont Country Club (est. 1920) in Wilmington, another successor to an earlier employee recreational facility, became a preeminent example of a country club designed to “promote social intercourse” between management and workers. In 1945, the Insurance Company of America reopened the Roxborough Country Club (est. 1925) as the Eagle Lodge Country Club. The Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern grew out of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s employee country club (est. 1930). This club, along with another company club, the Hercules Country Club (est. 1937) in Wilmington, were the only two in the region founded during the Depression. Men’s fraternal organizations and religious groups also established country clubs that enhanced their collegiality and provided facilities for those excluded from other clubs. A group of Shriners organized the LuLu Temple Country Club (est. 1909), and Catholics dominated Torresdale-Frankford.

Exclusion and Change

[caption id="attachment_21436" align="alignright" width="300"]A black and white photograph of the Torresdale-Frankford Country Club clubhouse from a 45 degree angle, viewed from the golf greens.  Several trees and shrubbery trim the two-story buildings perimeter.  Often associated with the suburbs, many early country clubs were founded within Philadelphia. By the 1990s, only Torresdale-Frankford (est. 1896) and the Bala Golf Club (est. 1893) had eighteen holes within the city limits. (PhillyHistory.org)[/caption]

Country clubs also formed in response to exclusion. Successful Jewish families, including the Gimbel and Lit families, who migrated to Oak Lane, Elkins Park, and Jenkintown in the early twentieth century established the Philmont Country Club in 1906. In the 1920s, the American Hebrew magazine listed fifty-eight country clubs in the United States owned and operated by Jewish memberships, although most of these excluded the new immigrant generation of Russian Jews. The world of sports, leisure, and social activities of most country and golf clubs remained closed to many. Country clubs reflected the racial and gender attitudes and practices of their early years, but many gradually became more inclusive.

African Americans, who long struggled to gain entrance to country clubs, played golf at public courses. Caddying at country clubs provided an avenue for learning the sport, and some clubs had a specified weekly time for caddies to play the course. This was the case with John Shippen Jr. (1879-1968), an African American/Native American, who served as the Aronimink Golf Club pro for a time in the 1890s. For his first U.S. Open in 1896, the year that the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the standard of “separate but equal” for public accommodations, Shippen had to sign up as Native American in order to play. 

The 1920s, a decade of explosive growth in the number of country clubs, saw some advances for African Americans. By 1930, middle-class black golfers had established fourteen golf clubs in the country, including the Fairview Golf Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s first black golf club. In the early 1990s, the Professional Golf Association (PGA), which had barred African Americans from membership until 1961, announced that none of its tournaments would be held at country clubs that denied membership on the basis of race, religion or gender. The Aronimink Golf Club could not hold the 1993 PGA Championship because it still had an all-white membership. Since then, formerly all-white clubs such as Aronimink, Merion, and the Philadelphia Cricket Club, among others, recruited more diverse memberships.

Although women were founders and members at many clubs from the beginning, in the early twenty-first century they frequently remained barred from voting, sitting on boards of directors, holding equity interest in clubs, or eating in “men’s grille rooms.” Some clubs continued to ban female membership: In 2015, Pine Valley in New Jersey allowed women to play only at restricted times if accompanied by a male member. The practice of banning golf carts at some clubs also created barriers to access for disabled and elderly players. In other ways, however, some country clubs became forerunners in providing access to physically challenged players, for example by opening courses for outings and tournaments for blind players.   

The increasing number of country and golf clubs over the twentieth century paralleled the growing importance of sport, fitness, and leisure in American life, as well as an embrace of suburban rather than urban living. Clubs provided a range of part-time and full-time employment and contributed to the region’s tourist economy by hosting tournaments. By the early decades of the twenty-first century, many more people who desired to belong to such institutions gained entrance. Because of the practice of vetting members and charging entrance and annual fees, however, early claims that country clubs represented an expanding democracy were perhaps overstated.

Anne E. Krulikowski is an Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University.

Philadelphia Orchestra

[caption id="attachment_21169" align="aligncenter" width="575"]A black and white photograph of the Philadelphia Orchestra on stage at the Academy of Music In 1916, the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Leopold Stokowski performed the American premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, often referred to as the Symphony of a Thousand. (Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra developed into an iconic organization for Philadelphia through its musicianship, commitment to culture and education, and service as a cultural ambassador. The musical tastes and personalities of a series of influential conductors infused the orchestra with a rich history and distinctive sound as it became one of the finest and most renowned orchestras in the world.

Philadelphia did not have an orchestra to call its own until late in the nineteenth century, despite a long history of musical performances sponsored at venues such as Musical Fund Hall (opened in 1824) and the Academy of Music (1857). The first step toward creating a Philadelphia-based orchestra came in 1893, when opera conductor Gustav Hinrichs (1850-1942), choral director Henry Gordon Thunder (1865-1958), and composer William Gilchrist (1846-1916, founder and conductor of the city’s Mendelssohn Club) founded the Philadelphia Symphony Society and began producing three amateur concerts a year at the Academy of Music. In 1899, the society hired Fritz Scheel (1852-1907) to conduct not only the three amateur concerts but also two concerts in spring 1900 with professional musicians recruited from around the city. The success of these concerts laid the groundwork for forming the Philadelphia Orchestra.

[caption id="attachment_21163" align="alignright" width="151"]A black and white photograph of inaugural conductor Fritz Scheel, in formal attire with slicked hair and large, characteristic, curly mustache. Fritz Scheel, the first conductor and director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted its inaugural performance at the Academy of Music in 1900. (The History of American Music, 1904, via Google Books)[/caption]

An executive committee led by Henry Whelen Jr. (1848-1907), a well-known patron of music and the arts in Philadelphia, announced a plan to begin the Philadelphia Orchestra with a season of six concerts during 1900-01.  While expecting to cover costs through ticket sales, the committee also sought to raise a guarantors’ fund of $10,000 and exceeded that goal by $5,000.

Under the baton of Fritz Scheel, the orchestra performed its inaugural concert at the Academy of Music on Friday, November 16, 1900. The concert, which received all positive reviews, featured Russian-born Ossip Gabrilowitsch (1878-1936) as piano soloist and a program of European classical music: Carl Goldmark’s Overture In Spring, op. 36, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67, Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Piano No. 1 in B-flat minor, op.23, Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, op. 65, and Wagner’s “Entry of the Gods in Valhalla,” from Das Rheingold.

Concerts Beyond Philadelphia

The success of the orchestra’s inaugural season spurred its patrons to create the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, formed on May 17, 1901, and consisting of officers, a board of directors, and executive committee. Scheel became the orchestra’s first official music director and conductor, and he realized almost immediately that the orchestra could not be sustained by local concerts alone. In the first year the musicians traveled only within the immediate region in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but in the second season, despite a large deficit, the orchestra managed to travel to New York, Baltimore, and Washington.  

[caption id="attachment_21201" align="alignright" width="267"]A black and white photograph of the Academy of Music from the stage, viewing the main floor seating, the three balcony levels and the large central chandelier. The Academy of Music, which opened in 1857 at 240 S. Broad Street as Philadelphia’s first grand opera house, primarily featured opera performances until the Philadelphia Orchestra’s debut in 1900. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

Scheel’s term as conductor and musical director spanned the early challenges, financial difficulties, and successes of the orchestra, and his legacy laid the foundation for his successors. Scheel searched for and hired the finest musicians, invited well-known guest artists, and performed works by the great European masters as well as lesser-known composers.  His death on March 13, 1907—from pneumonia contributed by nervous exhaustion—was mourned as a great personal loss to the orchestra and to Philadelphia.

Bohemian-born Karl Pohlig (1864-1928) succeeded Scheel and enlarged the orchestra from sixty-five players to eighty. He expanded the orchestra’s repertoire and invited the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) to guest conduct in 1909. However, orchestra musicians found him abrasive, and a soloist described his conducting as “uninspired.” Pohlig’s tenure ended abruptly with the revelation of an extra-marital affair with his secretary. 

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), previously conductor of the Cincinnati Orchestra, became the orchestra’s third music director in 1912. Imposing his own set of performance standards, Stokowski fired thirty-two musicians in the first year and for the next decade focused on replacing players with the finest professionals. His preference for a less rigid performance style, including “free bowing” for string players, created the warmer, more intense and continuous sound that became the hallmark of the Philadelphia Orchestra, known as the “Philadelphia Sound.”

Stokowski Triumphs

Stokowski conducted his first concerts in Philadelphia on October 11 and 12, 1912, with a program consisting of Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore, no. 3, Brahms’ Symphony no. 1 in C minor, op. 68, Michael Ippolitow-Iwanow’s “Sketches from the Caucasus,” and Wagner’s Overture to Tannhauser. He scored his first major triumph with the American premiere of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 1916. It was a massive undertaking, including three performances with three choruses (950 voices), 110 players in the orchestra, and eight soloists. Hugely successful, these concerts were hailed by the directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association as marking nothing less than “an epoch in the musical history of Philadelphia to which no other event is comparable.”

[caption id="attachment_21164" align="aligncenter" width="575"]A black and white photograph of the Philadelphia Orchestra (and all members in formal attire) on the second level of the Wannamaker Store's Grand Court; behind them, Wannamaker's Great Organ. In the 1920s, Leopold Stokowski’s “Philadelphia Sound” joined with the Great Organ in the Grand Court of the Center City Wanamakers department store. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

Stokowski and the orchestra further enhanced the orchestra’s reputation by making recordings for more than thirty years with Camden’s Victor Talking Machine Company and RCA. Stokowski’s legacy also included children’s concerts, which began in 1921 for children ages twelve and under and evolved in 1933 into a series of hugely successful youth concerts. Moreover, Stokowski’s attraction to film had opportunities for an even wider audience.  Stokowski inspired Walt Disney (1901-66) to create the full-length animated film, Fantasia in 1940, which featured classical music and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  The film was successful but did not lead to additional collaborations.

The Philadelphia Sound continued under the baton of its fourth music director, Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985), who held the position for more than four decades. Between 1940 and 1970, Ormandy enhanced the Philadelphia Sound by purchasing the finest string instruments by makers such as Stradivari and Guarneri. The instruments, combined with the extraordinary talent of the string players, further established the Philadelphia Orchestra’s reputation as the finest in the world.  The musicians’ many travels with Ormandy included a 1949 tour of Great Britain, the orchestra’s first tour of continental Europe in 1955, performing twenty-eight concerts in eleven countries, and in 1973, a tour to the People’s Republic of China, a first for an American orchestra.

[caption id="attachment_21166" align="alignright" width="280"]A black and white photograph of Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at rehearsal with arms eccentrically outstretched. Eugene Ormandy conducts a rehearsal (c. 1944). (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

Along with musical successes, Ormandy and the music directors who followed him in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century faced numerous institutional challenges, including labor relations with musicians. Strikes or threats of strikes by members of the orchestra centered on wages, pensions, health care, and parity of salaries with other orchestras.  The first major strike by the musicians’ union—the Philadelphia Musical Society, Local 77, of the American Federation of Musicians—occurred in 1966 during Ormandy’s tenure and lasted fifty-eight days. The second, in 1996, was caused by several factors and lasted sixty-four days. The orchestra musicians blamed the management for the delay in the building of a new concert hall, for a three-year deficit that led to pay and healthcare concessions to balance the budget, and more importantly, the loss of a recording contract with EMI, which had expired in August 1996.  While under a recording contract, the musicians were guaranteed a minimum sum above their salary through broadcasting and recording fees. Musicians feared the loss of the contract would not only erode the orchestra’s national media exposure, but also would prevent the orchestra from attracting first-rate musicians and diminish its reputation as one of the best orchestras in the world.

Muti, Sawallisch, Eschenbach

While Ormandy continued the orchestra’s lush sound and standard nineteenth-century repertoire, his successors instituted many changes. The next music director, Riccardo Muti (b. 1941), who led the orchestra from 1980 to 1992, programmed a range of music from Haydn to Penderecki and introduced a leaner sound, criticized by many. Wolfgang Sawallisch (1923-2013), who followed in 1993, brought back the Philadelphia Sound and favored works by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Bruckner, Dvorak, Brahms, Wagner, and Strauss. He also introduced more American music and modern works. As senior musicians retired, Sawallisch reshaped the orchestra by replacing more than a third of the players. His successor, Christoph Eschenbach (b. 1940), increased community outreach and regularly performed chamber music with members of the orchestra as a pianist. However, in 2008 he announced his tenure with the orchestra would end amid negative comments in the press in Philadelphia, which arose partly from orchestra members unhappy about the initial hiring process of Eschenbach and later by his style as a leader.

The most significant change for the orchestra during this period was its move to a new home, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, where Sawallisch conducted the inaugural concert in Verizon Hall on Saturday, December 15, 2001.  The program consisted of Kernis’ Color Wheel, Ravel’s Daphis et Chloé, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in C Major, Op. 56, with performances by Emanuel Ax (b. 1949), Itzhak Perlman (b. 1945), and Yo-Yo Ma (b. 1955).  Verizon Hall proved to be different acoustically from the Academy of Music. Its vastness produced a more brilliant sound, and for the first time players could hear each orchestra section clearly.  As a consequence, the performers had to learn how to blend and play differently.

The orchestra also made changes to attract new audiences.  Some were minor, such as giving up the formal wear “uniform” worn by the players and having the orchestra stand up and acknowledge the audience. In an attempt to fill the hall and persuade more people to give the orchestra a chance, inexpensive tickets were made available one half hour before concert time and students of the Curtis Institute of Music were admitted free just as a concert was about to begin. The orchestra also began outdoor performances in neighborhoods throughout the city. Other, more major, adjustments included adding visuals in the form of slides, dancers, dramatic readings, and even circus acts to accompany familiar and unfamiliar music. The orchestra also continued to play in venues such as the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and Saratoga (N.Y.) Performing Arts Center to attract audiences who were generally non-concert goers. 

Nézet-Séguin Debuts

During this period of turmoil and change, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (b. 1975), a Canadian born prize-winning pianist and conductor, emerged as the next music director following an interim of four years in which Charles Dutoit (b. 1936) became chief conductor. Nézet-Séguin debuted as guest conductor in December 2008, became music director-designate in June 2010, and then music director in 2012. In January 2015, the orchestra extended Nézet-Séguin’s contract to the 2021-22 season. 

[caption id="attachment_21170" align="alignright" width="280"]A photograph (taken from the left side of the main floor) of Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center on South Broad Street. (Photograph by J. Griffin, Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

Nézet-Séguin’s ascent to the podium occurred as the Philadelphia Orchestra Association declared and emerged from bankruptcy. The financial woes that led to the 2011 declaration of bankruptcy—the first for an American orchestra—included the high cost of musicians’ pensions and financial obligations to Grammy-winning pianist and Philly Pops artistic director Peter Nero (b. 1934).  The orchestra also faced renegotiating agreements with the owners of the Kimmel Center and a new collective bargaining agreement with musicians. The Orchestra Association came out of bankruptcy in June 2013, but not without deep concessions by its musicians.

Rising above the fray of the bankruptcy turmoil, Nézet-Séguin focused his energy on music and audiences, including some risk-taking in programming by introducing more Baroque music, more vocal music, and more contemporary American composers. Nézet-Séguin’s youthful exuberance and musicianship opened a new era of seeking larger audiences and while continuing the legacy of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Joseph C. Schiavo is a Clinical Associate Professor of Music and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and University College in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–Camden.

Joseph C. Schiavo

Joseph C. Schiavo is a Clinical Associate Professor of Music and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and University College in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–Camden.

Bookselling

[caption id="attachment_20458" align="alignright" width="236"]An illustration of Thomas Ellwood Chapman’s Book Store and Book Bindery (74 North Fourth St, Philadelphia). A woman leans forward, looking at the books displayed in the store’s window, while a man walks in through the door to the left. Various signs on the three-story building read, “RAGS BOUGHT,” “BOOK BINDERY,” “T.E. CHAPMAN BOOK SELLER” and “BOOK STORE.” This printed advertisement from 1847 depicts Thomas Ellwood Chapman’s Book Store and Book Bindery at 74 N. Fourth Street, Philadelphia. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Bookstores have long been an important part of the economic and cultural fabric of Philadelphia. As early as the eighteenth century, booksellers set up shop in the city, eager to serve a highly-educated population hungry for information. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the number of bookstores continued to rise. These stores sold a wide variety of titles, from the latest best sellers to rare first editions. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, bookselling began to change in significant ways. The growth of chain bookstores, and, later, the Internet, resulted in the closing of independent bookstores across the region.  

In colonial America, many printers were also booksellers. Bookselling helped provide the capital that men like William Bradford (1663-1752), Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), Thomas Dobson (1751-1823), and Mathew Carey (1760-1839) needed to finance their printing and, later, publishing operations. During this period, booksellers imported most of their stock from Europe. Religious texts, almanacs, and schoolbooks sold particularly well. Booksellers also sold stationery and other items. One of Philadelphia’s earliest bookstores was run by the Martinique-born author Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry (1750-1819), who first came to Philadelphia to escape the violence of the French Revolution. He opened his shop at Front and Walnut Streets in 1794, selling a variety of foreign-language books. His bookstore quickly became a center for the French expatriate community in the city.

[caption id="attachment_20455" align="alignright" width="241"]An illustration of W.A. Leary & Co.’s Cheap Book Store depicting the three-story building with book displays positioned in front, along with several shoppers; one shopper sits and reads while another crouches and browses through a box of books. This illustration of W.A. Leary & Co.’s Cheap Book Store (in its original location at 138 N. Second Street) depicts the three-story building with book displays positioned in front, along with several shoppers. (Library Company of Philadelphia)[/caption]

Bookstores thrived in Philadelphia during the nineteenth century, as literacy rates continued to climb and reading became an important part of American self-improvement efforts. Although several local publishers, such as J.B. Lippincott & Co., ran retail stores, as the century progressed bookselling became largely independent from printing and publishing. Leary’s Book Store, founded in 1836 by Maryland-born William A. Leary (1816-65), became one of the city’s most popular places to buy books. The store, which had several locations including 138 N. Front Street (1836), Fifth and Walnut Streets (1868), and 9 S. Ninth Street (1877), did not gain prominence until it was taken over by former employee Edwin S. Stuart (1853-1937) in 1876. Leary’s became known for its large stock of used books as well as for its distinctive sign, which featured an older man on top of a ladder with his hands full of books. In 1891, Stuart became mayor of Philadelphia, and, in 1907, he became governor of Pennsylvania. Stuart’s brother, William H. Stuart, took over the operation of the store. Under William, Leary’s continued to thrive. Writer Christopher Morley (1890-1957), who frequented the shop, used it as the inspiration for his mystery novel The Haunted Book Shop (1919). By 1950, Leary’s was selling almost 40,000 books a week. The store closed in 1968.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, books could be found not only in bookstores but also in department stores as well. John Wanamaker (1838-1922) started selling a few children’s books in his Philadelphia store in 1877. By 1884, he was selling $10,000 worth of books a day. He even published the monthly magazine Book News to advertise his offerings. Before long, other Philadelphia department stores began selling books, including Gimbels, Strawbridge and Clothier, and Snellenburg’s.

[caption id="attachment_20454" align="aligncenter" width="575"]A colored illustration of the interior of George G. Evans gift book establishment.  The interior is long and narrow, with book shelves lining each wall, packed tightly with books of various sizes and colors.  Shoppers browse, wearing typical mid-nineteenth century garb. Bookselling thrived in Philadelphia during the nineteenth century, and shops such as the George G. Evans “gift book store” at 439 Chestnut Street promoted their polished locations with advertisements such as this one, from the 1850s. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

During the twentieth century, women became more prominent in the bookselling business. One advocate for women in bookselling in the region was Georgiana Hall, who worked for Wanamaker’s. In 1914, Hall gave a speech on the subject in front of the Philadelphia Booksellers’ Association. Hall argued that in addition to careers in teaching and librarianship, college-educated women should also consider bookselling. Another important woman in the bookselling business was Elisabeth Woodburn (1912-90). Woodburn sold books out of her farmhouse in Hopewell, New Jersey, where she specialized in agricultural and horticultural books. Woodburn was a founding member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) and later became the group’s president.

Woodburn was one of many antiquarian booksellers who clustered in and around Philadelphia in the early twentieth century. Perhaps the most famous was A.S.W. Rosenbach (1876-1952), who started the Rosenbach Company at 1320 Walnut Street in 1903. Known for offering extremely rare books, including Gutenberg Bibles and Shakespeare Folios, Rosenbach sold to some of the richest men in the United States, including Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927) and Henry C. Folger (1857-1930). Rosenbach and his brother Philip Rosenbach (1863-1953) established the Rosenbach Museum and Library in 1954 to showcase their personal collection of books. In 2013, it became part of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

One of Rosenbach’s neighbors and competitors, the Vienna-born bookseller Charles Sessler (1854-1935), opened his shop on 1314 Walnut Street in 1906. Sessler sold all sorts of rare books, but he specialized in the work of Charles Dickens. Sessler’s assistant, Mabel Zahn (1890-1975), began working at the store when she was only fifteen years old and took over the store when Sessler died. Zahn became president of Sessler’s in 1955.

The 1960s and 1970s brought new energy to Philadelphia, with the growth of the counterculture and new social movements. The city’s bookstores reflected these changes. Robin’s Book Store was founded by David Robin (1901-74) in 1936 at 21 N. Eleventh Street. Eventually moving to 6 N. Thirteenth Street, Robin’s gained notoriety in the 1960s as one of the few bookstores in the city willing to sell Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1891-1980). Many people considered the book controversial because of its sexually explicit content, and the city’s district attorney tried to ban bookstores from carrying it. Robin’s refused and ended up selling 7,000 copies in one week. In 1980, Robin's moved to 108 S. Thirteenth Street. The store closed in 2012.

[caption id="attachment_20941" align="alignright" width="300"]An image of the interior of Joseph Fox Bookshop featuring a wall covered in bookshelves and colorful books, with the front desk on the right-hand side (featuring more books). Opened in 1951, Joseph Fox Bookshop is the oldest independent bookshops in Philadelphia. (Visit Philadelphia)[/caption]

Other bookstores served specialized audiences. New World Book Fair was located at 113 S. Fortieth Street in West Philadelphia. Opened by William H. Crawford (1911-2002) in 1961, the store sold Marxist and African American books and became known as a gathering place for local activists. It closed in 1974. Giovanni’s Room, one of the first gay book shops in the United States, opened in Center City in 1973. Founded by Tom Wilson Weinberg (b. 1945), Dan Sherbo (b. 1950), and Bern Boylethe (1951-92), the shop took on an especially important role during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, when it sold books about HIV that could be found nowhere else. In 1975, activist Sheila Lee Goldmacher (b. 1934) helped found Alexandria Books, Philadelphia’s first lesbian and feminist bookstore. The shop closed two years later. Two other important activist bookstores that were founded during this time were House of Our Own, which opened in 1970 at 3920 Spruce Street, and Wooden Shoe Books, which opened in 1976 at 112 S. Twentieth Street.

Beginning in the 1980s, independent bookstores in the Philadelphia region faced stiff competition from large chain bookstores like B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and Borders, which could afford to heavily discount their books. During this period the Booksellers’ Association of Philadelphia, which had 250 members in the 1950s, disbanded. By the 1990s, the online retailer Amazon.com began offering books for even lower prices. Many independent bookstores closed, but others managed to find their niche. Joseph Fox Books was founded in 1951 by Madeline and Joseph Fox in Rittenhouse Square. In the mid-1990s, the store, which by then had moved to 1724 Sansom Street, started hosting authors’ events to draw readers to the store. As of 2016, it was the oldest independent bookstore in the city. Despite the dominance of Amazon.com and the rise of ebooks, the opening of several new independent bookstores, including Big Blue Marble Bookstore and Port Richmond Books, continued to make print books available to Philadelphia readers.

Ann K. Johnson is the Library Publishing and Scholarly Communications Specialist at Temple University. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California.

Cartoons and Cartoonists

American cartooning began in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin (1706–90), who introduced cartoons to North America, used images to galvanize viewers to action on the issues of their day. As the political, economic, and cultural capital of the early United States, Philadelphia became a center for producing political cartoons and humorous caricatures. Although New York eventually supplanted Philadelphia as the nation’s primary publishing center, Philadelphia cartoonists and their work continued to thrive and influence the art of cartooning, politics, and popular culture of readers throughout the nation.

[caption id="attachment_20296" align="alignright" width="300"]A political cartoon depicting a partially-coiled snake severed into eight pieces, each with letters beside it representing a colony name; beneath the image, the text "JOIN, OR DIE." The political cartoon “Join, or Die” was reprinted in almost every newspaper in America as a rallying cry for colonial unity during the French and Indian War and became a popular pro-colonist image throughout the American Revolution. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

Many historians consider “Join, or Die,” the iconic image of the segmented snake representing the American colonies, published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in May 1754, to be the first political cartoon published in America; it was certainly the first cartoon published in an American newspaper. Some consider “Non Votis,” a lesser-known illustration of a hapless wagoner appealing in vain to Hercules, from the political pamphlet Plain Truth (1747), to be the first American political cartoon. Whichever image deserves the honor, Franklin was responsible. Both affected the political climate of their day. Plain Truth and its imagery helped mobilize militia volunteers against the French. “Join, or Die,” quickly appeared in almost every newspaper in America as a rallying cry for colonial unity during the French and Indian War. It later became a popular pro-colonist image during the American Revolution.

Ironically, Franklin was also the first American public figure widely lampooned by cartoonists. Approximately half of the cartoons known to have been published in the 1760s (most produced in Philadelphia) criticized Franklin. In 1764, in the wake of Pontiac’s War and the Paxton Riot, illustrated pamphlets and broadsides flew back and forth—some going as far as to depict Franklin as a devil. These negative caricatures contributed to Franklin’s defeat in the Pennsylvania Assembly election of 1764.

During the War of 1812, Philadelphia’s cartoonists celebrated U.S. victories against the British and introduced cartoon characters that came to symbolize the United States and its people. Scottish-born etcher and children’s-book illustrator William Charles (1776–1820) churned out dozens of political etchings commenting on the war. During the War of 1812, “Brother Jonathan,” a country bumpkin character widely considered a precursor to Uncle Sam, came to personify the United States. Philadelphia cartoonists such as James Akin (1773–1846) popularized Brother Jonathan and other symbolic characters such as Columbia (female personification of America and freedom) and Major Jack Downing (another American everyman character and Uncle Sam precursor).

The Boost of Lithography

Prior to the 1830s, cartoons, engraved in copper or carved into wood, were expensive and time-consuming to produce. The introduction of lithography allowed images to be cheaply and easily reproduced, and cartoons proliferated. Beginning in 1828 and 1829, commercial lithographic firms established in Philadelphia, a major hub of this activity, published prints of all varieties, including cartoons and caricatures. Politics during the Jacksonian era provided plenty of fodder, and Philadelphia firms published widely circulated, biting artistic commentaries by artists such as David Claypoole Johnston (1799–1865) and Edward Williams (E. W.) Clay (1799–1857). Between 1828 and 1830, the Philadelphia-born Clay produced his most famous series of prints, Life in Philadelphia, in which he parodied middle-class African Americans for their perceived social and political aspirations. Clay’s racist caricatures were hugely popular and were reproduced and imitated by cartoonists in New York, London, and other cities.

Philadelphia-area lithographers still did brisk business and boasted influential cartoonists in the 1850s, though New York printers now dominated the American lithographic printing industry. John L. Magee (b. 1820?), for instance, produced numerous cartoons throughout the 1850s and 1860s that commented ironically on trends and events in Philadelphia and its environs, deplored the spread of slavery, championed the Union cause, and criticized the Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson (1808–75).

In the 1850s and 1860s, while New York–based magazines such as Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine, and Vanity Fair launched the careers of several cartoonists, Philadelphia continued to play a role. The accomplished illustrator Felix O. C. Darley (1822–88) of Philadelphia and Delaware contributed fanciful cover illustrations for humor magazines such as the John-Donkey and the Lantern. Henry Louis Stephens (1824–82) of Philadelphia and Bayonne, New Jersey, drew caricatures for Leslie’s and Harper’s as well as illustrating and co-editing Vanity Fair.

[caption id="attachment_20070" align="alignright" width="240"]A political cartoon featuring a Gov. Pennypacker-faced parrot and a cut with the face of Rep. Pusey. The cat is rubbing himself against the boot the parrot is perched upon, and the A series of cartoons in the North American depicting Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker as a parrot inspired passage of the Salus-Grady law banning depictions of public figures as animals. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

With the rise of the daily newspaper cartoon from the late 1880s into the 1910s, Philadelphia cartoonists gained a new opportunity to shine. Philadelphia newspapers cultivated hosts of freelance and staff cartoonists. Some papers even printed their work in color. Cartoons and simple line drawings, easily produced with high-speed presses, now capable of printing in color, grabbed readers’ attentions. Philadelphia daily newspapers such as the North American, Inquirer, Public Ledger, and Record often published cartoons on their front pages. Several syndicated their content. Editors typically gave cartoonists free rein, and many produced political cartoons commenting on national and local people and events, sometimes as part of ongoing series. Walt McDougall (1858–1938), a staff cartoonist at the North American, claims credit for coining the term “graft”—then a carnival term for chicanery—as a non-libelous synonym for political corruption in a series that introduced a dinosaur-like “graft monster” to newspaper readers. McDougall was also co-producer of the first color comic strip in America, The Unfortunate Fate of a Well-Intended Dog (1894).

The Anti-Cartooning Law, 1903

Philadelphia newspaper cartoonists made national headlines around the turn of the century when cartoonists at the North American inspired the Pennsylvania state legislature to pass the Salus-Grady libel law (also known as the Anti-Cartooning Law) in 1903. Provoked by a series of cartoons by Charles Nelan (1858–1904) during the gubernatorial election of 1902 that depicted Governor Samuel Pennypacker (1843–1916) as a parrot, mindlessly squawking the words of his party boss (and relative) Matthew Quay (1833–1904), it banned cartoons or caricatures that depicted people as nonhuman animals. Nelan also mocked Pennsylvania state representative Frederick Taylor Pusey (1872–1936), who introduced the bill to the legislature, by depicting him as a “Pus(s)ey cat.” McDougall reacted to the bill’s passage by immediately publishing caricatures of Pennypacker and other Pennsylvania politicians as non-animal objects, such as oak trees, beets, chestnut burrs, beer steins, and turnips. Newspaper cartoonists in Philadelphia and elsewhere published caricatures of public officials as a virtual menagerie of different animals. The Salus-Grady law was never enforced and was rescinded shortly after Pennypacker’s term as governor ended.

[caption id="attachment_20073" align="alignright" width="300"]A photograph of Marjorie Buell working on an illustration while sitting at her drawing table. A Philadelphia-area cartoonist “Marge” introduced readers to the popular character “Little Lulu” through her nationally syndicated comic strip of the same name. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)[/caption]

Many newspaper cartoonists also created nonpolitical drawings for sports and children’s pages and experimented with early versions of the comic strip. Philadelphia cartoonists created a number of strips of varying popularity and longevity. Some, including The Little Quakers (H. E. Godwin [n.d.], Inquirer, 1903–04), Little Billy Penn and His Doggy Schuylkill (Hy Gage [1878–1971], Record, 1906), It’s Philadelphia (Robert Vance [n.d.], Bulletin, 1947–54), and Silly Philly (Bil Keane [1922–2011], Bulletin, 1947–61), were of primarily local interest. Philadelphia cartoonists also created widely syndicated strips, such as Adventures of Willie Green (1906–20s), by Harris Brown (1884–1962), and Little Lulu (1935), by Marge (Marjorie Henderson Buell [1904–93]). Evening Ledger cartoonist and Temple University professor John J. Liney (1912–82) became the primary artist of the nationally syndicated Henry comic strip from 1945 to 1979. From at least the 1920s, when it ran the comic strip I Am Proud That I Am a Negro by “Jay Bee” Davidson, the Philadelphia Tribune incubated the talents of African American cartoonists, including the National Newspaper Publishers Association award–winning Samuel Joyner (b. 1924).

In the mid-twentieth century, Philadelphia-based editorial cartoonists such as Charles Henry (“Bill”) Sykes (1882–1942) in the 1910s–40s and Herbert Johnson (1878–1947) and Jerry Doyle (1898–1986) in the 1930s–40s drew influential cartoons that commented on World Wars I and II, the Depression and New Deal, workers’ rights, socialism, fascism, and American politics. Many comic historians credit Doyle with inventing “John Q. Public” as a symbol of the everyday American.

Two Pulitzer Winners

[caption id="attachment_20278" align="alignright" width="252"]color photo of cartoonist Signe Wilkinson. Signe Wilkinson won a Pulitzer Prize for her editorial cartooning at the Philadelphia Daily News. (Photograph by D. Groff for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)[/caption]

In 1976, Tony Auth (1942–2014) of the Inquirer became the first Philadelphian to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. In 1992, Signe Wilkinson (b. 1959), cartoonist for the Inquirer and the Daily News, became the first female cartoonist to win this honor. Both artists’ careers were affected by the technological changes—notably, the rise of the internet and of digital media—and the decline of the newspaper industry in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Auth, who enjoyed a long and illustrious career at the Inquirer for forty-one years, made a major transition when, in 2012, he began cartooning in a new medium, becoming the first “digital artist in residence” at NewsWorks.org, a web-based news portal of Philadelphia’s WHYY radio. Transitioning from the traditional drawing board to an app on his iPad, Auth continued to produce award-winning syndicated cartoons for NewsWorks until his death in 2014. With Auth’s death, Wilkinson, who has drawn cartoons for the Daily News since 1985, became the only remaining political cartoonist for a major Philadelphia newspaper, although readers became increasingly likelier to encounter her cartoons online at Philly.com than on the printed pages of the Inquirer or the Daily News.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, as newspapers ran fewer and fewer comic strips—many cutting their comics sections entirely—so too did the number of Philadelphia-based comic strip artists decline. In the early twenty-first century, however, the Philadelphia area boasted at least two nationally syndicated comic strip artists: Robb Armstrong’s Jump Start (1989–), centered on an African American family in Philadelphia, and Terry and Patty Laban’s Edge City (2000–16), which explored the lives of a suburban Jewish family. Members of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society, founded in 1997, kept the art of cartooning alive in the metropolitan area as they continued to push the boundaries of cartooning in its various forms—including comic strips, editorial cartoons, underground/alternative art, and web comics. Throughout the late twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, Philadelphia cartoonists, although smaller in number, continued the proud tradition of political commentary begun in the colonial era by Benjamin Franklin.

Rachel Moloshok is managing editor of publications and associate manager of scholarly programs at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where she has helped to plan and execute several digital history exhibits, including Politics in Graphic Detail: Exploring History through Political Cartoons (2015).

Share This Page: