Philadelphia culture in 1776

Abolitionism

Few parts in America and boast abolitionist heritage as rich as Philadelphia. By the time By the time Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison(1805-79) launched The Liberator in 1831, the Philadelphia area’s fight with human bondage was nearly 150 years old.

 

The first mention of formal protest against slavery was the 1688 Germantown protest which challenged the Society of Friends to treat African-descended people as brethren and not slaves.

Lucretia Mott helped build the Free Produce Society, which disavowed slave-derived goods, into a powerful movement aimed at undercutting slavery’s economic standing in northern households.

Almshouses (Poorhouses)

From the late seventeenth century to the early twentieth century, almshouses offered food, shelter, clothing, and medical care to the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, often in exchange for hard labor and forfeiture of freedom. Those who entered the Philadelphia region’s almshouses, willingly or unwillingly, rarely accepted this exchange and often protested their treatment or blatantly defied authority.

Before Poorhouses, in the early colonial era, poor, infirm, and mentally ill Philadelphians were cared for privately by the community. Once the population in Philadelphia and other cities began to grow out of control, these poor houses were erected to lighten the burden of the community from the poor, sick and widowed.

An example of an Philadelphia's poor houses. built in 1713. 

Anatomy and Anatomy Education

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, dissection and study of human corpses became the primary method for medical students to gain intimate visual and tactile knowledge of the body and prepare to perform surgery on the living. Philadelphia was chief medical city in the U.S during this period, and because of this Philadelphia became the leader of anatomical  education. during this time, medical schools began to collect human specimens of diseased and healthy organs and bones to study ad preserve. 

 

The best remnant of this time is the mutter Museum where thousands of specimens are on display. the mutter museum was one of the largest American anatomy museums in the nineteenth century. Today, thousands of people come to the Mutter museum to marvel at the vast collection of complete animal and human skeletons.  

This vast collection of skulls is one of the many pieces that make up the mutter museums vast collection.

Artisans 

As skilled laborers who hand-crafted their goods on a per-customer basis, artisans played a central role in the formation of Philadelphia’s prerevolutionary economy: producing essential goods and services and providing social stability within households composed of immediate family, journeymen and apprentices. American independence brought artisans new economic opportunities as the city expanded and new markets emerged. With the maturing of a market economy, however, artisans, and journeymen in particular, faced the loss of both social and economic status as the economy that supported such work became more volatile and contentious.

Elfreth’s Alley was once home to a small community of artisans, who often operated workshops in the front rooms of their homes.

Cemeteries 

Cemeteries have been integral features of Philadelphia's landscape since the earliest European settlements of the mid-1600s. Over the centuries, and along with developments such as epidemics, immigration, industrialization, war, and suburbanization, the region’s cemeteries matured from small, private grave sites, potter’s fields, and church burial yards to rural cemeteries, national cemeteries, and memorial parks. From the colonial period to the present, cemeteries reflected the area’s religious, economic, and cultural diversity. As Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) once remarked, “Show me your cemeteries and I will tell you want kind of people you have.”

70 years after his death in 1790, Benjamin Franklins tomb was altered so that the public could view it easily.

Temple Anthropology Laboratory and Museum 

Gladfelter Hall- Lower Level, Temple University

1115 Polett Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19122

anthlab@temple.edu

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