From The Book of Philadelphia,
by Robert Shackleton
Illustrated with Photographs and with Drawings
by R.L. Boyer and Herbert Pullinger
(The Penn Publishing Company: Philadelphia) 1918

CHAPTER XVII

A COLLEGE TOWN WITHIN THE CITY

HE University of Pennsylvania is unique in its location, among American universities, for it is not only within the limits of one of the very largest cities, but it is actually within a mile and a half of the very heart of the city, City Hall Square. It has, too, great amplitude of grounds although so near the center of a great city, for its buildings and campus cover well over one hundred acres, in West Philadelphia. People like to refer to the university as being "on the Schuylkill," but it is difficult to see why, for between its grounds and the river is a district of factories and railway tracks, which are not in evidence from the sweeping, peaceful university grounds, nor is even the Schuylkill itself in evidence except that it is crossed, on the way.

It is a great college town within the city, for there are not only its own broad acreage and its many buildings, but, round about are clubhouses and fraternity houses, and students' boarding houses, in profusion, and shops that cater to the students' needs. With its thousands of students scattered about among college buildings, and libraries and dormitories, and museum, and campus, and also permeating the entire surrounding neighborhoods it is a college town, complete in itself. And Philadelphia feels that her very identity is concerned in it, so much has it meant to the city, and so many of the city's best have for generations been educated there.

It has been, in name, the University of Pennsylvania, since far back in 1791, before that being a college and before that an academy. It was founded, as most of the old institutions of, the city that have lived were founded, by Benjamin Franklin.

His method was interesting. He felt such an interest in advanced and systematized education that he talked the matter with "a number of active friends," as he expresses it, especially his friends of the Junto. Then he wrote and printed and distributed without charge to the "principal inhabitants" a pamphlet entitled, "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." This was in 1749. Next, as soon as he "could suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal of the pamphlet he "set on foot a subscription for opening and supporting an academy"; and secured the sum, very large for those days and for a city the size of Philadelphia at that time, of five thousand pounds. He presented the plan as that of "some publick-spirited gentlemen, avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting myself to the publick as the author of any scheme for their benefit."

The first buildings were what would now be deemed very far downtown, for they were at Fourth and Arch streets. Here, in a court behind old buildings which are not so old as those of the university, two tablets have been put up as a reminder that the university beginnings were there, in structures long since destroyed; but as a matter of fact here seems to be part of one building still standing, from as far back in the university's history as 1762, or perhaps earlier. It is reached by an unattractive and dilapidated little court, opening off North Fourth a little south of Arch, but it is itself only an unattractive and dilapidated fragment, after all, and is not, as it stands either a dignified or picturesque fragment; nor is it altogether to be identified, with perfect satisfaction.

The college, so soon to be a university, shifted its quarters here and there, even taking at one time the so-called Presidential Mansion which the city built where the post-office now stands; it was hoped that the national capital would be retained here, and so a great house was put up for the occupancy of the successive Presidents; but in those days there was no provision for the household expenses of the President, on the part of the Government, and as President Washington thought he could Dot afford, personally, to keep up such a large establishment as the great house would demand, he courteously declined its use, as did President Adams in his turn.

The vital removal of the University was in the 1870's, and it was to the present location, in West Philadelphia. It has, therefore, no old-time structure among its many buildings, to add the gentle luster of age for the eye to observe, to accompany the honored luster of age that comes from a long line of distinguished graduates.

The period of its removal to West Philadelphia, its present location, was not a period of good architecture. It was the period of Queen Victoria, of President Grant, of President Hayes; and no matter how worthy, as rulers, were Victoria and Grant and Hayes, the periods of their rulership were marked by bad architecture. So the buildings of the University, still cluttering the campus, were of greenish stone, laid in painful, smooth-face regularity. The stone itself is unbeautiful, and unbeautiful is the architecture. But vines are beginning to beautify by hiding.

And a now era has come. A large area has been covered, in recent years, with a number of buildings of extreme distinction and of beauty and charm to equal the distinction. These -new buildings are of delightful Tudor style, with quadrangles and balustraded terracing, with differences in ground levels which are suggestive of Haddon Hall, with mullioned windows, with felicitous passages, with oriel windows, with towers standing four-square, remindful, in their serene strength, of the towers of Cardinal Wolsey at Hampton Court. And these buildings, new as they are, are already acquiring the aspect of serene age.

It has been so customary for a famous Philadelphian to be a University of Pennsylvania man, that it has almost been taken for granted. And many a distinguished man from other parts of the country has also graduated here.

When Tench Tilghman is mentioned, in a Philadelphia book, one expects to find it first set down that, Maryland-born though he was, he was a graduate of this university, with the class year named, and only after that to find the statement that he was a particularly trusted member of Washington's staff, with the title of colonel. And when, continuing, one finds that Tilghman was ordered to gallop to this city of Philadelphia with news to deliver to Thomas McKean he almost expects to find it first mentioned that McKean was an A.M. of 1763 and afterwards president of the board of trustees of the university, before stating that he was President of Congress and that it was on this account that Tilghman went galloping to him, rousing him out of bed in the middle of the night with the news that Cornwallis was taken, and getting the bells all ringing and all the people pouring out into the streets in the darkness, weeping, laughing, almost frantic with joy that the long agony was over.

A century after the death of Stephen Girard, the university is trending toward the opinions of Girard in an important point; for Girard, with his own institution of learning. expressed strong disapprobation of the study of Latin and Greek, although he did not actually forbid it; and the University of Pennsylvania has gone far, in recent years, towards the elimination of these studies, if not by official action, at least by a great f ailing off in the number of students of the classics. But, after all, it was a man still more distinguished than any of those of this university, who got along, according to rare old Ben Jonson, with "small Latin and less Greek."

Some mile or so to the southward is a curiously interesting spot, known as Bartram's Garden. The house and the garden belonged to John Bartram, who was born near Philadelphia in 1699, and settled himself in this garden when a young man. He won distinguished fame as a botanist, his name becoming known not only in this country but in Europe; so far did his fame reach, that his name was called to the attention of King George the Third, who appointed him a Court Botanist, with the very practical and very thoughtful concomitant of an actual salary.

The quaint and curious house of stone that Bartram built here, far back in 1731, is delightful in its general effect. It is of no particular style; it is a cozy, rambling, individual house, which only a man of quaint originality could have built.

Bartram was satisfied with the way in which his, life ran on, for it ran smoothly and happily, in a quiet current; and, devout Quaker that he was, he carved on a stone, and set it in over one of the windows, when he had lived in his house for forty years:

" 'Tis God alone, Almighty Lord,
The Holy One, by me adored."

And this lettering is still there, with his name added, "John Bartram, 1770."

But more important than his house was his garden, of five or six acres, sloping down to the edge of the river, for within it he set out great numbers of rare and interesting plants and flowers, and shrubs and trees. Some of his planting still exists, but year by year the plants dwindle out of existence, though the city has taken charge of the estate, house and garden together, and called it Bartram Park..

At this old house, Bartram received, as friends, the most distinguished men of his time, and Benjamin Franklin was one of them.

It was in the big convention hall in West Philadelphia that McKinley was nominated for his second term; a convention that was a maker of history, for if Roosevelt had had his way he would not have been Vice-President on the ticket, and the entire history of our country might have been different.

For Roosevelt knew that the vice-presidency had become a shelf upon which to lay presidential aspirants, and he was determined not to be shelved. And he repeated over and over his refusal to consider the vice-presidency, even from the depths of his bathtub, on the side of which he vigorously pounded, just a few hours before the nomination.

And there were political leaders who had determined to take advantage of this feeling on his part by putting his name in competition with that of McKinley for the nomination for the presidency itself. I do not know whether or not Roosevelt was aware of this, or whether it was deemed safer to go ahead without his permission. It is not improbable that he deemed it better to wait four years. But some leaders opposed to McKinley were determined to force a conflict. So the night before the nomination, there came to Mark Hanna, who was managing the entire McKinley movement, the news that the name of Roosevelt was formally to be put in nomination the next day; that the direct battle was to be precipitated.

Hanna instantly began to work. That night was the hardest of his hard-working life. Message after message was sent; conference after conference was held; he ordered, directed, advised, cajoled, finessed, threatened, promised, used all the arts and weapons at the command of a successful political manager of men. And, inspired by his tremendous earnestness, his lieutenants worked with tremendous earnestness under his control. Hanna knew that McKinley would probably win, in a direct fight, but he also knew that there was a possibility that Roosevelt could win. And he knew that at least there would be bitterness and schism if a conflict should come.

He did not sleep that night. He threw ever particle of his immense virility into his struggle. And he won. When the convention met he knew that it was to be McKinley, unopposed, and that Roosevelt had been induced to consent to the vice-presidency after all. Hanna watched, ready and resourceful for any possible slip, while the nomination of McKinley went through as smoothly as if no one had ever thought of precipitating a gigantic battle.

Hanna watched it all with a grim happiness. I was beside him on the platform as the tumult and the shouting died and knew somewhat of the night's experience. It was a fiercely hot day, and the sun was beating through a skylight directly upon him. He stood there, silent, as if on the verge of a fever-chill; he was cold and gray, holding himself together by a mighty effort, and a more utterly wearied man I never saw. But he had won.

In West Philadelphia is Woodlands Cemetery, one of the large cemeteries of the city, presenting another example of how Philadelphia preserves noble examples of architecture of the past. A Philadelphian of wealth, William Hamilton, who loved to drive in a carriage with four horses at a time when carriages were few, and who also loved the aristocratic display of postilions, built a fine mansion, before the Revolution, and called it Woodlands. The house and the fine estate around it were secured by the city some three quarters of a century ago, the estate to be maintained as a city cemetery, and the house itself to be preserved. And it stands there a splendid example of the fine and impressive in Colonial architecture, with large pillar-fronted portico, and general effectiveness.

The quaint and whimsical author, Frank R. Stockton, who was a native of Philadelphia, lies buried in Woodlands Cemetery. He who wrote so humorously of water adventure, in "Rudder Grange" and "Mrs. Leeks and Mrs. Aleshine," is buried here, near the Schuylkill, but it is no longer an attractive river in this vicinity, but dismally ruined by appearance of factories and smoke; and his funeral was on a dismal day of early spring, not at all fitting for a man who had given the world so much of honest cheerfulness; but distinguished men had gathered, from this city and from New York, to walk as pallbearers beside his body and thus do him the last possible honor.

In Woodlands is also buried the gallant seaman, Admiral Porter; adding another to the astonishing list of notable men of the navy who are buried in one or another of the cemeteries of the city.

As worthy of note as any of the brilliant admirals and commodores, is plain Joshua Humphreys, a Philadelphian, whose ancestry ran far back to the earliest days of the city, and whose descendants are still Philadelphians. As a young man, he assisted in making ships of war for our Revolutionary fighters. But it was in the early 1790's that he came into prominence. There was much talk of a needed navy at that time, and Humphreys attracted the attention of General Knox, Secretary of War, whose department in those days included the navy, as the place of Secretary of the Navy had not been created. Through Knox, the ideas of Humphreys were put before Washington, who also was deeply impressed. Then the matter was laid before Congress.

The result was that Congress authorized the building of six battleships, and this Philadelphian, Joshua Humphreys, was directed, in 1794, to prepare plans for all of them, in accordance with the ideas that he had outlined and expressed in his proposals to Knox.

The ships were to be built, from his plans, at various ports: the Chesapeake at Norfolk, the Constellation at Baltimore, the President at New York, the Constitution at Boston, the Congress at Portsmouth, and the United States at Philadelphia; this last to follow not only his plans, but to be constructed under his personal direction; and it is a pleasure to know that Washington, profoundly interested, frequently visited his Southwark shipyard, on the Delaware, at the edge of the city, and watched the development of the battleship.

A letter from George Washington Parke Custis, written in 1844, to a grandson of Joshua Humphreys, says, of the first of these visits, "I well remember visiting with Washington the United States frigate at Southwark when her keel was laid, and stern and stern-post only up. The Chief expressed his admiration at the great size of the vessel that was to be;" and the letter goes on with details, concluding with: "Washington expressed himself, on his return in his coach, much gratified with all he had seen and heard in this, his First Visit to an American Navy Yard."

For his ships, Humphreys loved live-oak and red cedar. He was a master of lines, for speed and maneuvering, lines that were sharp and clear and clean, so that his ships cut the water like a knife. And never was there another man who had so much to do with so many famous ships. The Constitution won enduring fame as Old Ironsides. The President fired the first shot in our second war with England. The Congress, after a brilliant record in the War of 1812, remained in existence until destroyed by the Merrimac in 1862. The Chesapeake should never be forgotten, as the ship of the gallant Lawrence. The United States was sailed by the famous Barry, whose statue is prominent beside the old State House, and Barry wrote to Humphreys in regard to her that "no ship ever answered her helm better, and in all probability she will surpass anything afloat," and he said that Decatur (one of the many who are buried in Philadelphia!) was of the opinion that she would equal, in sailing, "anything that floats."

A letter written by Knox refers to Humphreys as "Constructor of the Navy of the United States," but he informally won the more delightful title of "Father of the American Navy."