Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

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In Memoriam: Gary Nash

We are so saddened to learn the news of the passing of our good friend and colleague, Gary Nash, a consulting editor of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. While Gary spent his career in California at UCLA, he never lost touch with Philadelphia, the city where he was born. Among many other works of scholarship, Gary's research opened new ways of understanding Philadelphia with Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania 1681-1726 (published in 1968), The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (1979), Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840 (1988), First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory (2002), and many other books and articles.

An engaged scholar who promoted excellence in education and public history, Gary also played a pivotal role in significant Philadelphia projects. He amplified critical needs for inclusive history, particularly by intervening in the public interpretation of the Liberty Bell and the President's House site to assure the recognition of enslaved Africans and the complexities of freedom in early America. And in 2007, he amplified the need for a comprehensive, public, and inclusive history of Philadelphia -- The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, which continues as an active project today. In addition to serving as a valued adviser and advocate, he wrote essays about the Cradle of Liberty and the Liberty Bell.

To learn more about Gary Nash's life and career, we invite you to read the tribute published by the UCLA History Department, linked here. Moreover, we encourage you to honor his life's work by following his example of commitment to Philadelphia history.

Urgent Call for Authors, Summer 2021

We are approaching an exciting juncture for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia project as we make plans to publish books derived from this digital platform. Scholars and other topic experts, you can help! Please review our list of most-needed topics so that we may fill gaps in our coverage. Your peer-reviewed essay will add to recognition of your expertise in your chosen field.

We seek to make assignments with firm deadlines of late summer or early fall, and modest compensation is available.

March 24: Your Chance to Help the Encyclopedia Grow!

You can make a difference in the future of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Just once per year, we take the opportunity of Rutgers Giving Day to invite donations so that we may continue to employ students as fact-checkers and digital publishing assistants. With your help, we will continue to add to more than 700 topics already published. Any gift, large or small, is welcome and may help us win bonus incentives.

Special opportunity this year: First-time donations of $50 will be matched (up to $50,000 total for Rutgers)!

To help the encyclopedia, direct donations to MARCH (the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities), where the encyclopedia is produced.  Link here to give!

●     $15 employs one student for one hour of research assistance or digital publishing.

●     $30 pays for fact-checking one new essay.

●     $90 pays for building one new topic page.

●     $150 employs one student for one ten-hour work week.

●     $2,100 employs one student for one semester.

Additional anticipated needs include website repair and maintenance (estimated $30,000).

Thank you for helping us continue producing original scholarship and supporting the history practitioners of the future.

Top Ten Topics of 2020

Happy new year!  Our most-read topics for 2020 reflect a year of pandemic, unrest, stay-at-home learning, and searches for family connections:

10. Orphanages and Orphans, by Holly Caldwell.

9. Nativist Riots of 1844, by Zachary M. Schrag.

8. Yellow Fever, by Simon Finger.

7. Columbia Avenue Riot, by Alex Elkins.

6. Immigration and Migration (Colonial Era), by Marie Basile McDaniel.

5. Murder of Octavius Catto, by Aaron X. Smith.

4. I'd Rather Be in Philadelphia, by Charlene Mires.

3. Row Houses, by Amanda Casper.

2. Native American-Pennsylvania Relations, 1754-89, by Timothy J. Shannon.

And the most-read topic for 2020 is, no surprise here:

Influenza ("Spanish Flu" Pandemic, 1918-19), by Thomas Wirth.

Have a happy and healthy new year, and thank you for your interest and support of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

Update: Our Website Functions

Frequent users of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia may notice that some features of our website are unavailable or not working properly.  The website is undergoing review and maintenance to improve functions and security, so thank you for your patience.  You will still be able to read the text for all topics.

If you wish to reach other features, such as texts in image galleries, you may be able to access them through the copy of the website in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine:


Time running out to save historic ‘MLK House’ in Camden

WHYY story by Nicholas Pugliese

Lorene Cary makes stage debut with ‘My General Tubman’

WHYY story by Peter Crimmins

Top Ten Topics for 2019

Happy new year! Join our most frequent users by visiting the top ten most-read topics in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia during 2019:

10. Broad Street Bullies, by Karen Guenther

9. Immigration 1870-1930, by Barbara Klaczynska

8. Yellow Fever, by Simon Finger

7. Native American-Pennsylvania Relations, 1681-1753, by Michael Goode

6. March of the Mill Children, by Gail Friedman

5. Boxing and Boxers, by Matthew Ward

4. Immigration and Migration (Colonial Era), by Marie Basile McDaniel

3. Row Houses, by Amanda Casper

2. Medicine (Colonial Era), by Martha K. Robinson

And the most-read topic for 2019 is ...

1. Native America-Pennsylvania Relations, 1754-89, by Timothy J. Shannon

Thank you for reading, and watch for more new topics in 2020!

Milestone: 650 Topics Published

We're pleased to announce that The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia has reached a new milestone of 650 topics published online. The 650th topic, published on December 27, 2019, is Turnpikes, written by the encyclopedia's Editor in Chief, Charlene Mires.

Our publishing during 2019 was supported by generous contributions by individual donors, including those who gave during our annual one-day fund-raiser on Rutgers Giving Day. Watch for your next opportunity to contribute on March 25, 2020--the next Rutgers Giving Day--or add your support any time by using the link on our home page. Thank you!

Fever 1793 (Novel)

Published in 2000, Fever 1793 is a young adult novel that tells the story of a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Cook, who fights to survive the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia. The historical novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (b. 1961) depicts 1793 America through the eyes of Mattie, who, when the fever hits in late August, struggles to live in a city overtaken by fear. Demonstrating the ongoing alarm over unknown illnesses during this time, Fever 1793 provides a sense of the daily life of Philadelphians in the early national period. The novel demonstrates the historical significance of the epidemic, which took an estimated five thousand lives, and gives readers a glimpse of public health crises and medical treatments available in the eighteenth century.

[caption id="attachment_34428" align="alignright" width="201"]Photograph of Laurie Halse Anderson Laurie Halse Anderson, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, engages young readers from the perspectives of young, marginalized voices. This photograph was taken in 2006. (American Library Association via Flickr)[/caption]

Anderson, a New York Times best-selling author of the award-winning young adult novels Speak (1999) and Chains (2008), conceived the idea for Fever 1793 after reading a newspaper article about the yellow fever epidemic while her family was stuck in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway, driving into Philadelphia. Anderson then lived in the city and worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Always interested in historical fiction, she began research in 1993 for Fever 1793 by examining primary sources at the Historical Society of Philadelphia and consulting historians at Independence National Historical Park and the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians.

Before completing and publishing Fever 1793 with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2000, Anderson published two children’s books, Ndito Run and Turkey Pox, both in 1996, and Speak, which became a National Book Award finalist adapted into a 2004 film starring Kristen Stewart (b. 1990). In 2001 Anderson published another children’s book, The Cheese on 3rd Street, also set in Philadelphia. In many of her novels, she writes from the perspective of teenagers and children, often the marginalized. With Fever 1793 and her other works of historical fiction, like the trilogy Seeds of America, Anderson developed a reputation for writing novels that address challenging topics and engage young readers.

Rumors of the Fever

In Fever 1793, Mattie Cook lives with her mother, grandfather, and a family cook named Eliza. She helps with her family’s coffeehouse, originally built by her now-deceased father. Toward the beginning of the novel, Mattie argues with her mother because she wants to be treated as an adult rather than a child. While facing this issue, Mattie and her family begin to hear rumors of the fever spreading throughout Philadelphia. At first the townspeople, including Mattie’s grandfather, are not alarmed and believe it will be like other fevers during previous summers. However, as the death toll begins to rise, Mattie and her family discover the overwhelming danger of the plague.

To avoid the sickness, Mattie leaves the city with her grandfather. They travel to the Pennsylvania countryside, only to be denied entrance because of their fever symptoms. Fighting off dangers and the fever itself, Mattie must persevere and make it back to Philadelphia to find her family. In the fight for her survival, she discovers how to care for others while also achieving the maturity she eagerly sought. Mattie’s character demonstrates the power of perseverance and determination in the face of sickness and sometimes death, and readers experience some of the dangers of illness in eighteenth-century America from a child’s perspective.

Throughout the novel, Anderson describes Philadelphia of the 1790s, when the city served as capital of the United States. She portrays the effects of the rampant fever in Philadelphia as well as important historical landmarks such as Christ Church and influential people like Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), who advocated bloodletting patients in an effort to cure them. She quotes archival accounts of the fever and writes about places like Bush Hill, an estate used as a hospital for those affected by the fever. In the novel, Mattie finds herself at the mansion, where she learns about the French doctors’ methods, which were more effective than some approaches of American doctors. Anderson also uses the character Eliza to recount the important acts of the Free African Society, founded by Richard Allen (1760-1831) and Absalom Jones (1746-1818). Readers see how this society assisted people affected by the fever by bringing resources, burying the dead, and caring for orphaned children.

Recommended by the publisher for grade levels 5-9 (ages 10-14), Fever 1793 has often been assigned in schools following widespread, favorable reviews that called attention to its potential uses in the classroom. Publisher’s Weekly emphasized the quality of its research, useful for students studying eighteenth-century America. A review for junior and senior high school librarians in the journal Book Report suggested teachers could pair the novel with a historical-fiction unit and identified it as essential for every school library. In The New York Times Book Review, Constance Decker Thompson wrote that Anderson tells a “gripping” story that “rages like the epidemic itself.”

Fever 1793 encourages readers to envision a significant time in Philadelphia's history. The novel introduces students to research using primary sources and nonfiction texts, correlates with subjects such as history and science, and promotes discussion of contemporary issues related to health and medicine. Mattie’s character development and the historical context of the novel give readers a glimpse into eighteenth-century Philadelphia during a deadly time that most could otherwise never have imagined.

Megan Walter is completing her M.A. in English at Rutgers University-Camden. While in elementary school, she wrote her first-ever book report on Fever 1793 and the historic significance of the epidemic. After receiving her B.A. in English Education, she assigned the novel to her own students while teaching high school English at a public school near Richmond, Virginia.

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