While transcribing my section of the Christian Recorder Information Wanted Ads in early July, I was struck by the number of advertisers who listed addresses in Philadelphia. Seeing residences located on streets such as Pine or Spring Garden piqued my curiosity as to what the daily experience was like for these African Americans who lived in the City of Brotherly Love during the 1860s. I then decided that I would explore the neighborhoods in which these Christian Recorder subscribers lived for my final project. I used a Google Fusion Table in order to create a map and a pie chart that showed where African American communities tended to exist in mid-nineteenth century Philadelphia. I aimed to answer the following questions with the aid of my visualizations: Where specifically in Philadelphia did the Christian Recorder advertisers live? What are the demographics of these neighborhoods today? Were there any Churches or facilities existent in these communities that explained popularity? Although I successfully answered some of my initial inquiries, completing this analysis also gave me a greater cartographic understanding of Philadelphia rather than simply a sociological one. Many residential streets of nineteenth century Philadelphia have since undergone name changes or demolition which led me to research on how the infrastructure of the city itself has changed since these advertisers sought information from the Christian Recorder Information Wanted ads.
The first challenge I faced when starting this project was determining how I would use the data generated from our very large class spreadsheet. I decided that my initial step would be to sort the Mailing City column in alphabetical order so that I could see what advertisements directed responses toward Philadelphia. I then copied this information into a new spreadsheet which I titled “Philadelphia Resident Advertisers of the Christian Recorder.” After creating a new spreadsheet, I sorted the Advertiser City Column in order to reflect which advertisers actually lived in the city rather than simply used a Philadelphia address for mailing responses. If there were advertisers whose listed residences were not in Philadelphia then I removed those rows from my spreadsheet. However, I did make one exception for a woman named Mary Dickerson because she listed a mailing address of 631 Pine Street – a popular address. Since two other advertisers claimed this as their residence and mailing location, I figured it would not skew my data to allow Mary Dickerson to remain in my spreadsheet. I also wanted to include her information because I was curious as to why three different and seemingly unrelated people listed this as their address.
My next decision involved deleting information that was extraneous to a geographic inquiry into where Christian Recorder advertisers lived. Therefore, any column that focused more so on the relationship between searchee and advertiser was removed. I then deleted all rows related to different family members but posted by the same advertiser. For example, if Mary Jones was looking for her seven children then she would have had seven rows in our class spreadsheet. However, I did not need to map Mary Jones’ address seven times and so I deleted all subfields. After whittling down my information, I was left with columns for item numbers, year, date, advertiser name (one column rather than separate ones for first, middle and last names), advertiser address, advertiser city and advertiser state.
After I had extracted my data set from our class compilation, I researched the zip codes for the addresses of thirty-six Philadelphians who posted advertisements in the Christian Recorder. At this point in my project, I needed to start researching where places like Lisle Street or Raspberry Alley existed in nineteenth century Philadelphia and to what addresses these locations correspond to today. After adding a column for Advertiser Address Zip Code, I then added four columns titled 21st Century Address, 21st Century City, 21st Century State and 21st Century Zip Code. I would use the 21st Century Address and 21st Century Zip Code in order to geocode the locations of the Christian Recorder subscribers in my Google Fusion table. Although I cannot be certain that the block of the historical address is perfectly identical to what I listed as the modern address, I approximated to the best of my ability.
Here is what I found when I researched the following addresses that are no longer existent in our modern day city:
Christian Recorder Address: Ruth Henson, 240 Raspberry Alley
Current Address: Ruth Henson, 240 Hutchinson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
While researching the location of Raspberry Alley, I found an article posted on
Philadelphia CityPaper in November 2012. The article was titled PHILAPHILIA Empty Lot of the Week: Benezet Raspberry Lot. The article described that at the corner of Locust and Hutchinson Streets stands the now abandoned Benezet School which was a Quaker-affiliated institution for African Americans founded by Anthony Benezet in 1770. Hutchinson Street is now the name of what was then Raspberry Alley. In order to verify this information, I used the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network’s mapping tool to see if the intersection of Hutchinson and Locust Streets used to be home to Raspberry Alley. G.M. Hopkins’s 1875 Philadelphia Atlas shows that Raspberry Alley did in fact exist in this vicinity. The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Name Change Index also lists that Raspberry Alley was changed to Hutchinson Street between Spruce and Walnut and west of 9th Street.
Christian Recorder Address: Daniel Tate, 248 Currant Alley
Current Address: 248 S. Warnock Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
A great resource that I frequently used when looking for references to old street
names were digitized versions of nineteenth century City of Philadelphia Journals of Common Council. In the appendix to these journals, streets would often be mentioned in relation to a major intersection that still exists today. In the appendix of the November 1857-May 1858 Journal of the Common Council, Currant Alley is described as existing near the intersection of 11th and Locust Streets. On the 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, Currant Alley exists between 10th and 11th Streets above Spruce Street. Today, Warnock Street is the name of Currant Alley, although the construction of Thomas Jefferson University meant that the road no longer could run all the way to Locust Street. The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Name Index also confirms that Currant Alley was changed to Warnock Street in 1897.
Christian Recorder Address: Jane Birton, 20 Acorn Alley
Current Address: 200 S. Schell Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
While researching Acorn Alley I found that Bryn Mawr College published a historical website dedicated to contextualizing a watercolor painting by artist James Taylor of 814 and 816 Locust Street. The caption of this painting lists that the buildings are located at Locust Street and Acorn Alley. The authors of this website later determined that by 1917, Acorn Alley had been renamed S. Schell Street. Although this section of the 1875 Atlas is not incredibly clear, it gives a general idea of the two hundred block of Schell Street where Acorn Alley may have been located today. The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Name Index also confirms that Acorn Alley was changed to Schell Street in 1897.
Christian Recorder Address: Ephraim Allen, 322 Griscom Street
Current Address: 322 Lawrence Court, Philadelphia, PA, 19106
Initially, I left this address as 322 Griscom Street, which exists in the Frankford
section of the city. However, the 1875 Atlas showed that no development existed in that region of the city and therefore I decided that Griscom Street must have existed elsewhere. The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Change Index confirmed that in 1897, the area of Griscom Street which ran between Pine and Spruce Streets and west of 4th Street changed its named to Lawrence Court.
Christian Recorder Address: Chraney Neal, 3 White Court
Current Address: 1050 Waverly Place, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
Unfortunately, I could not find White Court on the 1875 Atlas. However, Neal made it relatively easy to find the location of her home because she included the facts that her street was located on the block between 10th and 11th Streets to the west and east and Pine and Lombard Streets to the north and south. Today, Waverly Place runs right through the middle of this block. I decided to code Neal’s address as 1050 Waverly Street because her description of location seems as though it would have to be located adjacent to or below where Waverly Street is located today. I did consult the Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Name Index; however, the site lists that White Street became Kenilworth, but only south of Bainbridge. Therefore, this section of the city could not be where Neal lived according to her directions.
Christian Recorder Address: Clola Butler, 729 Lisle Street
Current Address: 729 Mildred Street, Philadelphia, Pa, 19147
The 1895 version of the Journal of City Council states that Lisle Street ran from Bainbridge Street to Fitzwater Street and was located west of 8th Street. The 1875 Atlas shows that Lisle street ran perpendicular to Bainbridge and Fitzwater Streets and is now deemed S. Mildred Street. The Philadelphia Department of Records Historical Street Index also confirms that Lisle Street was changed to Mildred Street in 1897.
Christian Recorder Address: William Allen, 622 Ronaldson Street
Current Address: 622 S. Delhi Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19147
The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Index confirmed that in
1897, Ronaldson Street was changed to Delhi Street. The 1875 Atlas depicts Ronaldson Street as located across the street from Ronaldson’s Cemetery, a historic Philadelphia Cemetery which no longer exists.
Christian Recorder Address: Sandy Wilson, 6 Poplar Court
Current Address: 6 Poplar Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Poplar Court was the hardest location to locate – Poplar was changed to a variety of
different names in 1897; however, many of the new streets no longer exist or exist in regions that were not developed in 1875 according to Hopkin’s Atlas. Therefore, I am taking an educated guess and assuming that Wilson may have lived on 6 Poplar Street, part of the 19123 zip code.
Christian Recorder Address: J. W.H. Cathcart, 10 Stratford Place
Current Address: 10 St. James Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Index noted the street name change from Stratford to St. James Street in 1897; however, the 1875 Atlas does not show a clear location of Stratford Place.
Christian Recorder Address: Ann Hilburn, 1044 Vernon Street
Current Address: 901 Reno Place, Philadelphia, PA 19123
The Philadelphia Department of Records Historic Street Index noted that Vernon
Street between 10th and 11th Streets and North of Brown Street changed to Reno Street in 1897. Today Hilburn’s address would have been at about 901 Reno Place.
After I updated all of my street names and zip codes, I then uploaded my information into a Google Fusion Table and created two visualizations: a map and a pie chart. The map displayed where in Philadelphia the Christian Recorder advertisers lived.
The pie chart gave a breakdown by percentage of which zip codes were most populated by these subscribers. My results showed that the 19106 zip code (what we would think of as Old City) and the 19147 zip code (neighborhoods such as Bella Vista, Queen Village, Passyunk Square and Hawthorne) tied for the most popular areas among Christian Recorder subscribers.The next two most heavily populated areas were the 19107 zip code (Center City Philadelphia) and 19123 (Northern Liberties section).
It is somewhat interesting to note that in 2010, according to City-Data.com, the 19147 and 19106 zip codes are nowhere near as diverse seeing as both areas are occupied primarily by Caucasian groups.
Yet it is not surprising that many of the Christian Recorder advertisers would chose to live in the 19147 section of Philadelphia because this is where the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (the organization that published the Christian Recorder) was located. The Mother Bethel A.M.E. is still located today on 419 S. 6th Street and the Church states on their website that they have been assisting African Americans in the area since their establishment in the 18th century. The Christian Recorder also listed that they could receive mail at their 619 Pine Street address, which is located in the 19106 zip code. Also, while attempting to find more information on 631 Pine Street (the supposed home of both Rhodes, Dickerson and Anderson) I learned through a Southern Methodist Handbook that this address was listed as the location of the editor of the Christian Recorder. Although this house may have rented out rooms, it is also probable that subscribers knew they could use this location as a safe mailing address.
While researching African American populations in the 19106 and 19147 zip codes, I found a digital article titled “Philadelphia and Its People in Maps” from The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, which was published by Professors Paul Sivitz and Billy Smith. These authors write, “Black Philadelphians congregated in two major groupings. A few blocks north of State House (subsequently named Independence Hall), a sympathetic white Quaker was willing to rent housing to free black people. Another group settled on Fifth Street, in the city’s southwestern section.” Both of these two areas would today be encompassed by the 19106 and 19147 zip codes. Furthermore, Sivitz and Smith discuss the establishment of the A.M.E. Church in what was then the southwestern section of the city. The authors also note that most African Americans tended to live in larger households, arguably because they would have rather lived with members of their own race even if not related. Perhaps this could explain why some advertisers seemed to use the same address even if they did not appear to be related.
Unfortunately, although African Americans may have established their own communities, this did not mean that they had any more success in locating lost family members. One advertiser, Mary Ann Sipple, posted multiple addresses to be contacted at by her son, Joseph Sipple. Although my classmate noted that Sipple’s address of either 1529 Arch or 1129 Arch could have been an Accessible Archive transcription error, it is also possible that Sipple could have moved. However, Sipple also offered that her mailing contact could be the Bethel A.M.E. Church or that she could be reached at 1024 Barley Street. Historical records indicate that Sipple did in fact live on 1024 Barley Street as per the 1871 City Registry and also show that a Joseph Sipple, a shoemaker, lived in the area. However, I could find no records to completely verify that this Joseph Sipple was Mary Ann Sipple’s son. Although these African Americans may have found comfort in friends from their Church community, it probably did not mitigate the pain felt from many fruitless searches for lost family members.