June 21, 2005
You enter into a large room where the floor looks like an ordinance map of the greater Philadelphia area. Everyone who was there spent time trying to locate either their hometown or streets or highways in Philly. It is a very interesting concept; you do feel a little guilty and like a giant as you step on South Philly. Godzilla, look out!
The walls of this room are covered with exhibits about Philadelphia. But this is more about the people and immigration than about the whole independence thing. We see where they came from and the types of jobs they were and are doing. From the Northern Europeans, the Africans, and South and Eastern Europeans to the most recent Russians and Hispanics, Philadelphia has become a melting pot of many nations.
Philadelphia after the Civil War is compared to the British Midlands; it developed as an industrial area. The first oil ever exported from the United States was shipped from Philly to England in 1861. In 1891, 35% of all petroleum exports were from Philadelphia. It is amazing how things have changed in 100 years.
One exhibit that we particularly liked was a Dutch map of the area from the 1600s. It covered as far north as New England. We had a blast trying to identify the towns in Connecticut (Conittekock) with their unique Dutch spelling. The town I work in, Old Saybrook, is Zeebroeek, and New Haven was Nieuhaven.
There is also an exhibit on local government, which covers from the time of William Penn to the current officials. There is a four-portrait picture gallery of people important to Philadelphia. William Penn was obvious, but you will need to come to find out why the other three are Andrew Hamilton, Margaret Mercer, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts.
On the second floor there is a gallery of Norman Rockwell covers. It is quite an eye-opener to read of 1947 cover that asks "Should husbands be babysitters?" No one would dare ask such a question today.
Until September 2005, there is a special exhibit, "Love that Hat." I bet you thought that John B. Stetson was a Texan, or at least produced his famous hats out West. Nope, they were manufactured right here in Philadelphia, which has a long history of hat manufacture. In the 1900 census, 83,000 people, one in every thousand, worked in the hat industry in the United States.
This is a small but very interesting museum, and if you have an hour, a very worthwhile stop.
From journal Phlashing in Philly