Philadelphia Stories

People and Their Places in Early America

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Pub Date 07 May 2021 | Archive Date 11 Jun 2021

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For the average tourist, the history of Philadelphia can be like a leisurely carriage ride through Old City. The Liberty Bell. Independence Hall. Benjamin Franklin. The grooves in the cobblestone are so familiar, one barely notices the ride. Yet there are other paths to travel, and the ride can be bumpy. Beyond the famed founders, other Americans walked the streets of Philadelphia whose lives were, in their own ways, just as emblematic of the promises and perils of the new nation.

Philadelphia Stories chronicles twelve of these lives to explore the city's people and places from the colonial era to the years before the Civil War. This collective portrait includes men and women, Black and white Americans, immigrants and native born. If mostly forgotten today, banker Stephen Girard was one of the wealthiest men ever to have lived, and his material legacy can be seen by visiting sites such as Girard College. In a different register, but equally impressive, were the accomplishments of Sarah Thorn Tyndale. In a few short years as a widow she made enough money on her porcelain business to retire to a life as a reformer. Others faced frustration. Take, for example, Grace Growden Galloway. Born to an important family, she saw her home invaded and her property confiscated by patriot forces. Or consider the life of Francis Johnson, a Black bandleader and composer who often performed at the Musical Fund Hall, which still stands today. And yet he was barred from joining its Society. Philadelphia Stories examines their rich lives, as well as those of others who shaped the city's past.

Many of the places inhabited by these people survive to this day. In the pages of this book and on the streets of the city, one can visit both the people and places of Philadelphia's rich history.

For the average tourist, the history of Philadelphia can be like a leisurely carriage ride through Old City. The Liberty Bell. Independence Hall. Benjamin Franklin. The grooves in the cobblestone are...

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Featured Reviews

Thank you for the advanced copy of this book!
I did not read the entire book, but I would still like to give feedback on the bits that I did read. The book was about select people in Philadelphia, and how their lives in the past help shape the present-day city as we know it. It appeared to be well researched and very detailed. I do not normally read Historical books on random cities that I have no connection with, but I thought I would give this one a try. It was no fault of the book that I did not finish it, I just did not keep a strong enough desire to finish it without some connection to my life. I would definitely recommend it to any History buff that I know. I felt like I knew everything there was to know about certain characters, and how they felt within their time periods.

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The more you read about Philadelphia stories, the more you want to know. The clever display of extracts of letters from legendary people and explanations about the time is simply ..; great ! It allows emotions, the emotions to acknowledge great figures but also how they are close to us, and so real !
All opinions are mine, I received a copy from NetGalley;

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Nicely done. This is a bit of a niche title, but it's well written, and has a little more weight than fictional characters since these are real people and places, many of which you can visit if you're inclined. These seem like good historical accounts (plus snippets of correspondence) and there's some drama in places that help keep it interesting. Recommended for history fans.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!

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Philadelphia was the epicenter of the American government until it moved to Washington, D.C. in 1800. The city has a rich history of prominent citizens who helped shape the character of the nation. This story is artfully told in the book Philadelphia Stories: People and Their Places in Early America by C. Dallett Hemphill. Ms. Hemphill died in 2015 without completing the manuscript for the book. Several editors and researchers helped complete the work which will release in May.

Philadelphia Stories includes profiles of twelve city residents beginning just before the American Revolution to the Civil War. Divided into four sections, the people featured include members of the religious community, female influencers during the American Revolution, wealthy merchants and philanthropists, and people who reflect the city’s growing liberalism prior to the American Civil War. Many of the names will be unfamiliar to most Americans, but each of their lives intersected with notable Founders and causes that shaped America. This includes people like Charles Willson Peale, who is famous for his paintings of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other luminaries of his time, and William Darrah Kelley, a Member of Congress and abolitionist.

One of the notable characteristics of Philadelphia Stories is its depiction of how difficult life was for even the most wealthy residents during this point in American history. All of the individuals profiled in the book were either extraordinarily wealthy or at least upper middle class, yet they often suffered terrible hardships like infant mortality, premature death of parents and spouses, or the brutality of war.

Consider the story of Grace Growden Galloway, who was married to wealthy Loyalist Joseph Galloway and ultimately lost her home when the Pennsylvania legislature allowed forfeiture of loyalist assets during the Revolutionary War. Her husband and daughter fled to England while she stayed behind and fought until her final days to preserve the rights to her property. In the meantime, she had to suffer the emotional trauma of seeing others enjoy her home and personal belongings. Accomplished musician Francis Johnson was often subject to overt racism despite the fact he was internationally known for his musical talent.

Studying and reading about significant events in history like the Revolutionary and Civil War can desensitize people to the impact these events had on the daily lives of civilians. Philadelphia Stories provides a touching glimpse of colonial life in one of the nation’s most prosperous cities in a way that makes readers feel tremendous empathy for the privileged and victims of this period in time. The diversity of characters profiled makes the book feel like twelve short stories that keep the reader engaged until the very end. The book will be an excellent addition to any summer reading list.

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I'm about half way through so far, but I'm really enjoying it. One of the great things about living in Philadelphia is its abundant history. I love being able to walk around the city and discover the history of buildings and the people who made the city what it is today. This book helped give additional color to the city that I call home, and just makes me appreciate it all the more. Thank you for sending me an advanced copy of this book,and thank you for writing this book. You will enjoy this book if you have a connection to Philadelphia or if you enjoy American history.

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This is the kind of history book I hope we will see more and more of--that which highlights exceptional people who were not generals or presidents, etc. The individuals Hemphill writes about are fascinating, coming from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. The author makes a point of conveying these Philadelphia stories with a modern consideration for not just racial but religious diversity as well. I was moved to note the dedication to values displayed by people like Jean Etienne, Americanized into John Steven. Moreover, Modern readers may be inspired to see how clubs and associations helped answer societal needs. In this fascinating assortment of individuals, it is hard not to be gripped by the heartbreak of Nancy who married the rich suitor rather than the poor ardent Frenchman whom she truly loved. What a great book to read before going to Philadelphia!

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Fascinating Picture of Philadelphia and its Citizens in the Years Following the Revolutionary War

The Philadelphia Stories: People and Their Places in Early America was written primarily by C. Dallett Hemphill, a Professor of History at Ursinus University. Unfortunately, Professor Hemphill died before she could complete the book and it was completed by several of her colleagues that were familiar with her work. The book did not suffer from this unusual authorship. It was well edited and I found it to be an enjoyable and informative read.

The Philadelphia Stories is a series of narratives about the lives of 12 individuals that lived in Philadelphia between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. These individuals are not the Founding Fathers or any other famous personages. Instead, to most people, the names of all 12 are totally unfamiliar. Professor Hemphill chose these 12 individuals because, together, they illustrate what life was like in Philadelphia during their time.

The first group of narratives is about three clergyman of different faiths, Anthony Benezet, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and William White. Through the stories of these men Professor Hemphill shows that Philadelphia was somewhat unique during colonial times in that it was not dominated by a single religion. As a result, Philadelphians of different religions were forced to learn to cooperate with each other.

The second group of narratives is about three women, Grace Growden Galloway, Anne Shippen Livingston and Deborah Norris Logan. Through the stories of these women Professor Hemphill shows the lack of power over their own lives held by women during the late 18th and early 19th century.

The third group of narratives is about three men, Charles Wilson Peale, Stephen Girard and Joseph Hemphill, who took full advantage of opportunities made available to industrious men in early Philadelphia. Peale became a famous painter, Girard was a merchant and banker who became the richest man in America and Hemphill was a successful lawyer, judge and legislator.

The final group of narratives is about three people, Francis Johnson, Sarah Thorn Tyndale and William Darrah Kelley, who overcame disadvantages in their own lives and fought for the rights of others. Johnson was a Black bandleader who had to deal with the rabid racism of the early 19th century, Sarah Johnson built a successful business and fought for women’s rights and William Kelley rose from poverty to become a judge and legislator that fought for workers rights.

I read numerous historical narratives. But they usually deal with famous people and/or famous events. Reading this book about not so famous people, how they fit into the life around them and how they dealt with their circumstances was something of a departure for me. And I am very glad that Professor Hemphill and her associates made this possible. Through the lives of her 12 individuals Professor Hemphill drew a picture of life in late 18th century/early 19th century Philadelphia that could not have been done by simply trying to describe the era. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it for anyone interested in the history of Philadelphia or in life in general in the early days of America. I give this book 4.5 stars.

Thanks to #netgalley and to University of Pennsylvania Press for my early release copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Philadelphia Stories, People and Their Places in Early America by C. Dallett Hemphill and edited by Rodney Hessinger and Daniel K. Richter was received directly from the publisher and I choose to review it. Philadelphia, a city I live several hours from but manage to go there a couple of times a year, just because I like it. There should be more books like this about places that tourists flock to but people like me gain interest in from reading an aged plaque on a wall or using DuckDuckGo to find "interesting off the wall things to do in Philidelphia." If you, or someone you buy books or gifts for finds Philadelphia interesting or may find it much more so after reading this book, give this book a read.

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Philadelphia Stories by C. Dallet Hemphill, edited by Rodney Hessinger and Daniel K. Richter is an interesting, well written book which highlights individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. While many other history books on Philadelphia and the post-Revolution United States of America focus on major generals, presidents, and "important" leaders of the time, Hemphill chooses to focus on other remarkable people of the era. "Philadelphia Stories" brings more life and color to the history of the city of Philadelphia. You will enjoy this book if you are fascinated by American history, Philadelphia, or people of the past.

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Philadelphia Stories is not an ordinary history book. Rather than focusing on a single theme throughout a span of time (like Hemphill's earlier Bowing to Necessities) or one specific event or person, this text gives a picture of Philadelphia before, during, and after the American Revolution through the biographies of twelve Philadelphians: three religious men, three women, three "self-made" men, and three people from outside of this white elite. To some extent they intersect and interconnect, reflecting the smallness and tightness of the city's society.

I focused on the section about women of Philadelphia as it comes the closest to my own subject, and what struck me was that these were generally not women that other people would write about. Grace Growden Galloway, Anne Shippen Livingston, and Deborah Norris Logan neither accomplished grand things nor left behind exceptional records along the lines of Martha Ballard's diary. The reconstructions of their lives are necessarily sparse. Yet - it is still important to know these unremarkable women, to see how they got along with problematic husbands or left them, and to understand their situations.

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Philadelphia Stories is written by C. Dallett Hemphill. It was interesting to know that the author passed away before this was published. Her colleagues helped to finish the book after her death. The book is well researched. This book has narratives 12 individuals that lived in Philadelphia between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. These are two of my favorite time periods. It is actually where I did my master thesis on the use of women and African Americans as spies during this war.
I enjoyed reading about these individuals. They are different people, different walks of life. It is well written and well researched.
Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of this book

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