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Great Talks at Gloria Dei
56 minutes | 2 months ago
Ask Us Anything [Bonus]
In this bonus episode, Rev. Dr. Kim-Eric Williams, Jeanette Woehr, Michael Schreiber and Amy Grant answer questions about the New Sweden Colony, Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church and Early Philadelphia.
57 minutes | 3 months ago
Philadelphia’s Early Maritime History
In this episode, researcher and journalist Michael Schreiber describes the period when Philadelphia’s port was the largest in North America. He also discusses the situation of Black seamen, as well as women, who went to sea.
69 minutes | 5 months ago
The Carpenters’ Company and Religious Buildings in Old Philadelphia
In this episode, Alex Palma, Assistant Director of Carpenters’ Hall, shares the history behind America’s oldest trade guild — the Carpenters’ Company — and its impact on Philadelphia’s religious architectural landscape.
57 minutes | 9 months ago
The Confinement of John Herriges
In this episode, psychologist and author, Dr. Paul Grant, recounts a scandalous event in 19th century Philadelphia involving the confinement of an individual who suffered from mental health challenges. TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Dr. Paul Grant. Hundreds gathered at the corner of Fourth and Lombard. It was June 1870. “Burn the house down,” they cried, “Bring out the infernal wretches! Lynch them!” Stones began flying at the house in question, owned and occupied by Joseph Herriges and his mother. The mob had assembled after hearing that Joseph’s brother, John, had been confined to a small room for nearly two decades. The Day newspaper headline from the next morning captured the moral outrage that stirred the crowd, “A Poor Idiot Caged Up for Many Years in a Filthy Room.” John’s family was seen as depraved people lacking basic human decency. How else to explain why they treated their relative “worse than a wild animal?” While we certainly would not condone these actions, I think it is fair to say that the Herriges had a much more complicated situation than it might seem. John was described as insane. Today we would say he was experiencing serious mental health challenges, and a modern psychiatrist might give him the diagnosis of schizophrenia. His family describes John’s change as coming about age 20, which is typically when disorders like schizophrenia emerge. It began with a change in his diet. John refused to eat certain things. As his condition worsened, John refused to eat just about anything, and he also refused to drink. The family had to feed him like an infant. When John was 26, his family placed him in the custody of Philadelphia Almshouse. Stretching back to the early 1700s, the treatment for “the insane” has been polarized in Philadelphia. Those able and willing to pay could send their relatives to a private institution, such as Friends Hospital (in the Northeast) or The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital (in West Philadelphia), both vanguards of the latest treatment approaches. The only option for the poor was the Almshouse, located on the western banks of the Schuylkill River. Not surprisingly, John’s mother found the conditions there unacceptable, her son having become so emaciated that she feared for his life. So they brought him back home to Lombard Street. But, taking care of John was a challenge. The mother explained that she worried he would be harmed in public. He seemed different and hard to understand. He may have behaved in a manner that seemed inappropriate for the situation, and he likely looked disheveled and smelled bad. All these factors, which have long been observed in those experiencing serious mental health challenges, would put him at risk in public. Unable to protect John outside the house, his family locked him away. Given what we now know about the effect of un-stimulating environments for people like John, being locked in the room with minimal contact with others likely exacerbated his condition. He might have had an even harder time motivating himself to eat, take care of himself, to move about. He might have attempted to regain control of his situation by defecating on the floor and smearing feces on the walls. So, it’s easy to imagine his family’s blaming him for acts like these, thinking he was intentionally acting out. It might have been a slippery slope to outright neglect that lasted two decades, a period in which he had very little human contact and did very little, developing the “Van Winkle” look that he had when the police freed him. After John was discovered, he was transferred back to The Almshouse, where he was confined to a cell no bigger than the room he had occupied in his family’s house. Reporters went to see him. They describe a completely socially disconnected man who did not take notice of their questions and who emitted words about burglars and murderers and laughed frequently. At one point, they observed an excited outburst in which he had to be restrained from moving toward another Almshouse resident. His physician, Dr. Richardson, characterized John as hopelessly and incurably insane. John’s inability to care of himself was part of his condition. Every other night, John would smear feces on the walls of his room – to the utter disgust of the whole staff. John refused to move under his own accord, so he was wheeled around The Almshouse. John wouldn’t eat, so he was fed. John lived this way until February 1885, when a fire broke out at The Almshouse. Sixteen of the 682 residents perished, including John Herriges. He died in his locked cell. This unfortunate life from more than 130 years ago has parallels today. The Almshouse was ultimately replaced by Philadelphia State Hospital or “Byberry,” which was famously closed in the early nineties. Individuals like John are now supported by Medicaid and may live in the community, live with their families, or live in an institution. Theses individuals likely have a psychiatrist and some form of case management. Families continue to be vexed, like John’s was, by serious mental illness. John’s mother was unable to explain the change in her son. Maybe it was his switch to vegetarianism that was the cause, she thought. The family tried to manage the public outcry and probably could not explain its behavior toward John. When your loved one changes and begins acting in ways that are hard to understand, you don’t know what to do, and it is easy, ultimately, to blame yourself. Despite many advances in research and treatment, there are individuals today who still show the same social disconnection as John – who find little energy or motivation for basic tasks, who are concerned about being harmed or killed, who laugh at surprising times. However, these same people have another side, which comes out when music is playing, when they are dancing, when they are playing a game, when they join a party or participate in an activity that they have expertise in. In these situations, they are connected, understandable, funny, and enthusiastic. The modern treatment for these individuals is to empower them to develop “at their best” moments by active participation in meaningful social activities in the community – to help them see they are capable of getting the life they want, to thrive, to make a difference. And, at the same time, to develop resiliency, to master stress that can lead anyone away from the best things in life. In short, treatment helps them identify their best self and to live that meaning every day. What I find missing from the account of John Herriges is what he was like at his best. What was he like before he changed and was confined to small spaces for upward of thirty years? What was truly neglected — John’s humanity. In my experience, people like John are full of incredible potential. They can surprise themselves and their loved ones. And be an inspiration for us all. “Great Talks at Gloria Dei” is sponsored by the Historic Gloria Dei Preservation Corporation, a non-profit organization that supports the preservation and restoration of Philadelphia’s Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church and its graveyard. We do not have any paid staff. All of the work that we do — including the creation of this podcast — is produced by of our board of volunteers. To learn more about our organization and how you can support our efforts, please visit preserveoldswedes.org. We’d like to thank our guest, Dr. Paul Grant, for reading from his forthcoming book and answering our questions. CT-R is the treatment he began developing in 1999 with Dr. Aaron T. Beck that empowers individuals to be their best selves. The home for CT-R is the Beck Institute, an organization that improves lives worldwide through excellence and innovation in Cognitive Behavior Therapy training, practice, and research. To learn more, please visit beckinstitute.org. Music for this episode was provided by The Jazz Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that promotes American’s greatest music invention — JAZZ — by hosting free concerts and supporting music education in the Philadelphia area. You can learn more about this organization by visiting their website at thejazzsanctuary.com.
30 minutes | a year ago
A Raging Fever Killed Thousands in 1790s Philadelphia
In this episode, author and historian Michael Schreiber tells us about a mysterious killer — yellow fever — which ravaged Philadelphia and its adjacent suburbs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Transcript This transcript was generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Intro Amy Grant. Hello, history friends. Welcome to Great Talks at Gloria Dei. [Music: Sonata a 2 by Antonio Bertali performed by Filament] Amy Grant. In this episode, author and historian Michael Schreiber tells us about a mysterious killer — yellow fever — which ravaged Philadelphia and its adjacent suburbs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This podcast is presented in two parts. In part one, Michael will read an article that was adapted from portions of his 2016 book, “Unsinkable Patriot: The Life and Times of Thomas Cave in Revolutionary America.” Here we will learn about the history of yellow fever and how this disease continues to wreak havoc today in some parts of the world. In part two, Michael and I will discuss the impact that the yellow fever epidemic had upon Philadelphia’s economy, how the medical community of the time responded, and the parallels to what is happening today with COVID-19. I’m Amy Grant. Stay tuned. Part 1: Michael Schreiber reads from “Yellow fever devastated Philadelphia at the end of the 18th century” Michael Schreiber. Slightly over 200 years ago, Philadelphia was devastated by recurring waves of yellow fever. The epidemic of 1793 wiped out a tenth of the population of the city and adjacent areas, and thousands more died from outbreaks of the disease throughout the next decade. In the district of Southwark (now called Queen Village), the incidence of infection was quite high. In the epidemic of 1797, proportionally far more died in Southwark than in the city of Philadelphia itself. People living in the cramped houses and narrow streets of our neighborhood, generally the families of sailors and laborers, did not have the means to flee the city as wealthier people could do. In Christian Street, for example, an old Revolutionary War soldier, Felix Fenner, died from the yellow fever in August 1793. Thirty years earlier, Fenner had built a house at what is now 228 Christian Street. He and his wife Maria had raised a family there and cultivated an orchard in the rear. Since he was not listed among the inmates at the Bush Hill hospital, it is probable that Fenner died at home. But if that were the case, he might have died alone and without care, having sent his family into the countryside. After her husband’s death, Maria inherited the land and house, and earned some income by renting out the brick house next door to tenants. Tragically, Maria Fenner lost her life when yellow fever revisited Philadelphia in 1798—along with two of her adult children. A large stone embedded in the wall of Old Swedes’ Church memorializes Adelaide A. Celestis DeLormerie, who was only 16 when she died in the 1798 epidemic. The inscription notes that “she was mowed down in the flower of her age … regretted by all who knew her talents, beauty, and mildness.” Adelaide and her father had arrived in Philadelphia just a few years earlier as refugees, having fled France following the revolution. They were taken in by John McMullin, a master silversmith in Southwark, who paid for Adelaide’s monument. In heartfelt thanks for his benevolence, Adelaide’s father gave the silversmith a carpet and a painting of a hunting scene—perhaps the two most valuable possessions that he had been able to carry from France. When the epidemics of 1797 and 1798 arrived, the authorities already had some experience in caring for the stricken population. The 1793 epidemic, however, hit Philadelphia like a tsunami, without warning and without the least expectation. In fact, in the spring of that year, the mood in Philadelphia had been quite optimistic and gay. The burgeoning population of French-speaking refugees only added to the feeling that this city, the capital and metropolis of the United States, was on the cusp of new prosperity. During the whole of July, French colonial families, refugees from the Black revolution in Saint Domingue (Haiti), continued to pour into the city—accompanied by whatever house slaves they had been able to muster. But toward the end of the month, ghastly stories began to circulate concerning some of the vessels that had come into port carrying the fugitives, as well as vessels that had returned from other islands of the West Indies. It was whispered that several passengers and members of the crews had become feverish and died soon after arriving. Some in the city, such as the physician William Currie, claimed that an infection had spread from the Sans Culottes de Marseilles, a French privateer that was tied up at Race Street, together with her British prize, the Flora. This was bolstered by the account of the French merchant Peter LeMaigre and other inhabitants of Water Street, who reported that they had seen dead bodies carried out of the cabins of both vessels and deposited onto the wharf. In the middle of August, the physician Benjamin Rush was called to the bedside of Peter LeMaigre’s wife, Catherine, who was suffering with a fever that had lingered for some days. After consulting with other doctors, Rush learned that an unusual number of their patients in the tight canyons of Water Street and its nearby alleys had recently succumbed to fevers. Symptoms shared by many of the victims included bloodshot eyes, sallow skin, clammy hands in the early stages, and raging fever and black vomit in the day or two before death. By consulting old medical texts, Rush noted that the observations made by his colleagues seemed to match the descriptions of a fever that had not been seen in Philadelphia for over 30 years. That pestilence of 1762 had been popularly named the Barbados Fever for its supposed source; doctors generally referred to it as the bilious remitting yellow fever. In the meantime, the residents of Water Street and its environs had complained to the city authorities about an acrid odor that rose far above the usual stench of the neighborhood. The source was not difficult to locate, however. Some days earlier, the sloop Amelia had come into port carrying a cargo of coffee that had rotted on its voyage from the West Indies. The coffee bags had been dumped at Ball’s Wharf, above Arch Street, allowing the mass to putrefy in the heat. Benjamin Rush and other doctors became convinced that a miasma, or vapor, emanating from the coffee had carried the fever throughout the dockside neighborhoods and even northward some miles to the village of Kensington—where the sailors on the Sans Culottes had died. This was the outset of a bitter public debate among physicians and amateurs alike concerning the sources and nature of the disease, and the most efficacious preventatives and cures. The debate had strong political repercussions. Supporters of the Federalist Party tended to endorse the theory that the contagion had been carried here by French refugees and sailors. They considered the fever to be one more instance of how the pollution generated by the too radical French Revolution was now wafting over American shores. Jeffersonian Democrats, on the other hand, tended to line up with Rush’s view that the yellow fever had risen from conditions of filth and putrefaction in Philadelphia. Doctors who agreed with Rush pointed to the graveyards as a source of the “corrupted air.” Other supposed sources were the tan yards and starch manufactories along the creeks, and the ditches that surrounded the city, from which clay was extracted for bricks and which were often filled with stagnant water. Nobody could deny, of course, that the ditches were also spawning areas for the prodigious swarms of mosquitoes that summer. An uncommonly wet springtime had been followed by two months of drought, leaving numerous pools for the insects to breed in. Although some people felt, almost instinctively, that the mosquitoes had something to do with the disease, none of the doctors of the time assigned any importance to the matter. It took over a century for medical science, especially through the work of the Cuban scientist Dr. Carlos Finlay and a later U.S. Army team led by Dr. Walter Reed, to conclude that yellow fever is a virus spread by the female of several species of mosquito, especially the Aedes aegypti. Yellow fever still causes misery today. The World Health Organization estimates that some 200,000 yellow fever cases occur each year, with 30,000 related deaths—despite the existence of a vaccine. Most cases occur in tropical regions of Africa and South America, but with persistent global warming due to climate change, the range of yellow fever is likely to spread—along with other mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and Zika. Could Philadelphia once again be standing in the crosshairs of a raging epidemic? [Music: Sonata a 3 by Johann Michael Nicolai performed by Filament] Credits [Music: Sonata a 2 by Antonio Bertali performed by Filament] Amy Grant. “Great Talks at Gloria Dei” is sponsored by the Historic Gloria Dei Preservation Corporation, a non-profit organization that supports the preservation and restoration of Philadelphia’s Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church and its graveyard. To learn more about our organization and how you can support our efforts, please visit preserveoldswedes.org. We’d like to thank our guest and fellow board member, Michael Schreiber, for reading from his book and answering our questions. A number of Michael’s articles appear on our website and have been published in our bi-annual magazine called Founders. If you are interested in reading more of Michael’s works, please visit his website at philahistory.org. His 2016 book “Unsinkable Patriot” is available at Amazon.com. We’d also like to thank Filament for providing the music for this episode. Filament is a chamber ensemble, formed in 2019, of Philadelphia-based period-instrument soloists. Comprising a core trio of violin, viola da gamba, and keyboards, its respective founding members are Evan Few, Elena Smith, and John Walthausen. The excerpts you heard came from Filament’s recent performance at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church, a program featuring 17th-century music from the Royal Court in Stockholm. To find out more about Filament and to connect, find their page on Facebook.
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