The question: In his classic Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, Penn sociologist E. Digby Baltzell — the chronicler of the ways of the elite who introduced the acronym "WASP" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) into the language — noted with some lament that Philadelphia's old-money families didn't support its local universities, most notably Penn, of course.
However, some of Philadelphia's new money did go all-out for a school in another city: Harvard, whose main library is named for the would-have-been scion of one new-money family. Who was this person, and why was the library named for him?
Bonus question: Another member of this same family did devote his life to supporting local higher education. One of the schools on whose boards of trustees he served renamed itself in 1972 in honor of his family. Name that descendant.
The answer(s): Harry Elkins Widener. The bibliophile grandson of streetcar magnate Peter A.B. Widener, the 1907 Harvard grad perished along with his father, businessman George D. Widener, when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. His mother, Eleanor Elkins Widener, donated Harry's large library to Harvard, which named its main library for him in return.
Bonus question: Fitz Eugene Dixon. Better known as the man who brought "Dr. J" to town when he owned the Philadelphia 76ers, he also served on the board of the Pennsylvania Military College and its civilian sibling, Penn Morton College, in Chester for four decades, including serving as its chair. An unverified local legend has it that his contributions to the school saved it from closing in the 1970s, leading the board to rename it in honor of his mother's mother, Eleanor Elkins Widener — Harry's mom. Another fun fact: were it not for him, LOVE Park wouldn't be LOVE Park: When the city couldn't come up with the purchase price sculptor Robert Indiana wanted for his iconic work, Dixon bought it from Indiana and donated it to the city.
The Philadelphia Junto.
Celebrating The PJ's 48th Year as a Charivari of the Lit'ry Life | PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com | Richard Carreño, Editor | No. 229 December 2022 | Meeting @ Philadelphia © MMXXI I WritersClearinghouse. | See us @ "PJ" via Facebook. Donations via Philabooks@yahoo.com @ Venmo. Dedicated to the memory of Ralph J. Carreño. Nothing herein may be published in any other media without the permission of the Editor. Est. 1976 in Fabyan, Connecticut
Wednesday, 21 December 2022
Wednesday, 14 December 2022
W R I T E R S C L E A R I N G H O U S E * Philadelphia
Sunday, 7 August 2022
John O'Hara Weighs in
Saturday, 18 June 2022
McFADDEN GOES TO CAMBRIDGE
Friday, 4 March 2022
ƒ ON UKRAINIAN REFUGEES ƒ
Whether Black, White, or Brown,
THEY LOOK LIKE US
Sunday, 27 February 2022
LONG LIVE A FREE UKRAINE!
Sunday, 6 February 2022
JOHNSON OR TRUMP?
Tuesday, 25 January 2022
I LIKE IT
Wednesday, 1 December 2021
The Corner House...
Letter from Latvia
A HOUSE OF HORRORS
On a recent foray to Riga, I visited what is referred to as “the
Corner House” – the former headquarters of the Soviet KGB secret
police in Latvia, also known as Cheka. I thought this was going to be
another exhibit and tour of spy gadgetry and historical operations
much like the Spy Museum in Washington, DC, but this was nothing of
the sort. Rather it was a poignant and emotional look into the horror
of totalitarianism and repression.
We entered the imposing structure that blended in just like any other
art nouveau building in Riga. It could be an apartment house, or an
office building, or anything else. Built in 1912, it, in fact, was
originally an apartment building, but the interior was modified into a
As I entered it appeared to be an abandoned building inside. There was
no heat, and so cold I, along with my friend, and the others on the
tour, continued to wear our jackets, scarves, and gloves through the
visit. We bought our tickets for 10,00€ each from a young woman behind
a window. She said the (English-language) guided tour started at 11am,
and we had about 30 minutes, so she suggested we look at the exhibits
in the main hall during our wait.
Wednesday, 20 October 2021
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Sunday, 3 October 2021
SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL
Thursday, 30 September 2021
The PJ depends on reader support. Please help us by contributing financially to Philabooks@yahoo.com via Venmo, or by contributing editorial content via PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com.| Established 1976 Richard Carreño, Editor © MMXXI WritersClearinghouse All Rights Reserved.
Friday, 17 September 2021
The PJ depends on reader support. Please help us by contributing financially or by contributing editorial content via PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com. Empowered by WritersClearinghouse | S.P.Q.R. 1976 Richard Carreño, Editor Copyright MMXXI. All Rights Reserved.
Friday, 3 September 2021
Liverpool Learned Society Praises New Book on Local Art Collector John H. McFadden
John H. McFadden and His Age: Cotton and Culture in Philadelphia
Richard Carreño 304pp.19 black and white illustrations. Camino Books, Philadelphia, 2021. Available from Amazon £18.69 hardback. ISBN: 978-1680980394.
I consider myself a reasonably well-read amateur Liverpool historian but confess that, until recently, I had never heard of John H McFadden. And, I suspect, neither had any of my fellow local history friends. This despite the fact that he and brother George headed up the biggest firm of cotton dealers not just in Liverpool during the late Victorian and early Edwardian era when the city was indisputably “King Cotton”, but on both sides of the Atlantic.
Like John Howard McFadden’s life itself, this is a book of two halves covering his early and later years in Philadelphia and his two decades or so in Liverpool when he was at the height of his cotton dealing powers. In spite of his business success and the great wealth that went with it, McFadden largely lived his life under the radar. So, it is thanks to Carreño that he has managed to tease out so much of the detail of his life. Aside from dealing in cotton futures, McFadden had three main passions, and the money to indulge them: medical research (of which Liverpool was a major beneficiary), polar exploration (and in particular Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton) and assembling an outstanding private collection of 18th and 19th century British paintings by the great masters, including one by Liverpool horse painter George Stubbs.
Thursday, 26 August 2021
LIVERPOOL'S LITTLE-KNOWN ART WORLD
Friday, 20 August 2021
Tuesday, 17 August 2021
PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE RAVES!
Friday, 13 August 2021
GENERATION GAP? SPECIAL REPORT BY MATTHEW DAVIS
|SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS |
Thursday, 12 August 2021
FOOD & WINE — AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS
Friday, 11 June 2021
NEW FOR SUMMER FROM CAMINO BOOKS
THE UNTOLD STORY OF HOW JOHN H. MCFADDEN “WILLED” THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART INTO EXISTENCE.
In a city permeated by Benjamin Franklin’s legacy, it is easy to believe that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is another of Philadelphia’s ancient and legendary cultural institutions. But the museum, in its current iteration, is actually a relative youngblood. Now, on the 100th anniversary of John H. McFadden’s death, JOHN H. MCFADDEN AND HIS AGE: Cotton and Culture in Philadelphia ($29.95, Hardcover, Camino Books, July 6th 2021) not only weaves together the tale of McFadden’s international legacy, but puts it in context of the fascinating history of events and people behind the founding of Philadelphia’s great museum.
John H. McFadden (1850–1921) was America’s “Cotton King,” overseeing a multimillion-dollar empire of cotton, from its baling in Memphis to its immensely lucrative sales in Liverpool. In his native Philadelphia, he was the city’s undisputed “cultural czar.” In his spare time, he was a museum administrator and hospital trustee, a property developer and a philanthropist, and he even financed an exploration of the Antarctic. Then McFadden got serious—
His collection of English art, the largest of his age outside of the British realm, situated
McFadden as a key player in the founding of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The John Howard McFadden Memorial Collection was offered as a tantalizing donation to the city of Philadelphia, with one major caveat: that a building must be constructed to hold it. This provision ensured that the museum in progress would indeed open to the public.
Ranging from sweaty sales rooms in Memphis to posh sales offices in Liverpool, from the life of luxury and high culture in London to the domestic life of Philadelphia’s rich and privileged, this book explores McFadden’s world in fascinating detail.
John H. McFadden and His Age, the first full-length biography of the Philadelphia cultural titan, adds McFadden’s often-forgotten name to the pantheon of great nineteenth-century art collectors.
In every way, John H. McFadden was a “Proper Philadelphian”—from his silk top hat and his ivory-handled walking stick to his mansion on Rittenhouse Square. But he was also among the most beguiling improper Philadelphians as well.
PRAISE FOR JOHN H. MCFADDEN AND HIS AGE:
"In this contemporary moment, when impact feels so transient, Richard Carreño's John H. McFadden and His Age reveals the inside story of the creation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and how through guile, vision, insistence and persistence, McFadden, Philadelphia's 'cultural czar,' literally willed the place into existence. Through McFadden's story, meticulously researched and narrated, Carreño has focused a much needed lens on a cast of characters whose cultural and social impact remains yet dominant today."
Executive producer of History Making Productions and a former candidate for mayor of Philadelphia
“Finally, through Richard Carreño's engaging book, John H. McFadden is transformed from a credit line on the walls of the British galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to a three-dimensional portrait of a major art and rare book collector, philanthropist, and international businessman.”
- David R. Brigham, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard Carreño is a longtime art critic in England and the United States. For many years, he was a journalist and university lecturer in London. He lives in Philadelphia.
To obtain a complimentary copy or to schedule an interview with the author, contact Edward Jutkowitz, 215-413-1917; firstname.lastname@example.org
Available at bookstores or directly from the publisher, Camino Books, Inc., P.O. Box 59026, Philadelphia, PA 19102, www.caminobooks.com. $35.90 postpaid.
JOHN H. MCFADDEN AND HIS AGE:
Cotton and Culture in Philadelphia
6 inches x 9 inches
23 b/w photographs
ISBN (ebook) 978-1-68098-040-0
Wednesday, 9 June 2021
AT THE MOVIES
Rethinking Philly's Historic Districts
By David S. Traub
In the effort to save the historic fabric of Philadelphia, there are a range of tools available to preservationists. Among these are historic designation of individual properties, façade easements, special incentives including tax credits, adding staff to the Historic Commission, a city-wide survey of historic sites, and the recently proposed demolition review policy. There is no one answer to the complex problem of ongoing demolition of old and historic buildings and all the tools listed are essential.
It would seem, however, that the most effective tool is the enactment of Historic Districts which protect entire neighborhoods, or smaller stretches of buildings such as the one currently being considered for six blocks of Christian Street west of Broad in South Philadelphia. Instead of the slow moving, pain-staking process of designating buildings one by one, here is method that protects scores or hundreds of building with one sweep
I am reminded of the value of historic districts by an event in the Rittenhouse-Filter Historic District where I live. Recently, a TV series was filmed in the enclave around Fitler Square. Why were the film crews there? Simply because the old, picturesque district provides the kind of suggestive backdrop that movie makers often want.
Monday, 24 May 2021
'JOHN H. McFADDEN AND HIS AGE: COTTON AND CULTURE IN PHILADELPHIA' NOW AVAILABLE AT BARNES & NOBLE
Monday, 17 May 2021
A Funny Thing
Sunday, 16 May 2021
Sir Henry "Chips" Channon
Hosts: The Life of Sir Henry 'Chips' Channon I read, "Yet he fared better than most. Unlike many households that early on in the conflict lost key staff to the war effort, Chips was able to hold on to his Italian chef well into 1942. 'I am having domestic difficulties with my staff,' he moaned, 'as the Ministry of Labour wish to call up both my butler and the cook. I mustn't grumble, as I have had three years and three months of comfort, even luxury....'"
"Faced with austerity, Chips put on a brave face. Nevertheless, coupon rationing and shortages didn't quite seem to apply to him, and Chips spent as freely as ever. Delicacies were less than plentiful. Still, a typical menu at Scholss Chips, even as London tightened its belt, might include oysters, salmon, dressed crab and minced chicken, or blinis and platefuls of caviar, served with Swedish schnapps. In between, brandy and Champagne, Chips' favorite party drink at £3 a bottle, flowed."
Monday, 3 May 2021
Friday, 30 April 2021
McFADDEN: IN BOOKSHOPS IN LATE JUNE
Wednesday, 24 March 2021
FLY ON THE WALL ...
March 23, 2021
Saturday, 20 March 2021
It was 1998 and the second summer I was working for the University of Connecticut Environmental Research Institute (UConn ERI) as a student employee. ERI, established in 1987 and located on UConn's Mansfield Depot campus, not far from the main campus, was a center of basic and applied environmental sciences and engineering within the university. It conducted research in the environmental sciences and engineering for state and federal agencies, industry, and educational institutions.
ERI was located in the Langley School Building on the western edge of Mansfield, a town two miles from the main UConn campus. It is the site of the former Mansfield Training School and Hospital for the mentally handicapped, opening in 1860 as the Connecticut School for Imbeciles. It was closed in 1993, at which time the property was transferred to the University without appropriate resources to improve deteriorating building and site conditions.
Tuesday, 16 March 2021
JOHN H. McFADDEN AND HIS AGE By Richard Carreño JUNE 6 PUBLICATION
Sunday, 21 February 2021
BREAKING RACIAL BARRIERS
in Arlington, Virginia
To understand the story of African-Americans and firefighting in Arlington, it’s important to first know the history of African-Americans in the County during the Reconstruction and Industrial eras. It begins as far as back as May 1862. This was eight months before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January 1863, when slaves in the District of Columbia were freed by an act of Congress. Fugitive slaves fleeing from the South soon flooded into Washington, DC, many of them moving into camps set up by the federal government. When smallpox swept through the overcrowded sites, however, Lt. Col. Elias M. Greene proposed that some of the freed men could farm nearby land, and recommended the “pure country air” south of the Potomac in Arlington County (then Alexandria County). With this recommendation, the government established Freedman’s Village (some say by an act of payback) on a tract of land seized by the Union on the estate of General Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House, where today Arlington National Cemetery is located.
The government promotion of Freedman’s Village caught the eye of real estate developers, and through the 1890s began touting land in what is now Arlington County, luring Washington residents with promises of “quiet and repose from the stir and bustle and noise” of the city. Amid mounting public pressure, in 1900, Congress offered the people of Freedman’s Village $75,000 (approximately $2.5 million in 2021). This financial settlement was divided among the residents, and the village was torn down. In the early 1900s, Arlington was approximately 38 percent Black compared to today's Black population of 8.5 percent. When the government disbanded the village, many of these 38 percent of residents formed Arlington’s four historically African-American neighborhoods, including Green Valley (also known as Nauck), Johnson’s Hill (now Arlington View), and Butler Holmes (now Penrose) in the areas around Columbia Pike, and High View Park-Hall’s Hill.