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October Program from the Historical Society of Frabkford

The October program of the Historical Society of Frankford will be live-streamed at 7:30 on October 12, 2021.  Political Science Professor Stephen E. Medvec, Ph.D., of Holy Family University, will discuss the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

After President Jefferson purchased the French claim to a substantial portion of North America, he commissioned fellow Virginians Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to go exploring, and report back on the native tribes, wildlife, and terrain.

This turned out to be one of the great non-military adventures of American history, and also a Tale of Two Cities, because while the expedition was to set out from Charlottesville, only Philadelphia had outfitters with sufficient supplies and equipment. Furthermore, as Mr. Jefferson was President of the American Philosophical Society (APS) at the same time that he was President, the Journals of the Expedition ended up in the Special Collections Library of APS in Philadelphia, where Prof. Medvec studied them in order to produce this talk.

This program will remain available as a video on both Facebook and YouTube indefinitely.

 

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Historical Society September Program

The Historical Society of Frankford (HSoF) will present its September program, live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, at 7:30 pm on September 14, 2021.

John Buffington will discuss some of the current activities at HSoF, and then read a paper, “The History of the Dummy Car,” by Thomas Creighton, first delivered to the Society on January 28, 1916. Dummy cars were self-propelled, powered by steam engines, and they replaced horse-drawn street cars for transportation between Frankford and Philadelphia in 1863. They served that purpose until they were replaced by electric trolleys in 1893. Thomas Creighton had first-hand recollections of the dummy cars in operation, and also collected stories from the operators.

This program will remain available as a video on both Facebook and YouTube indefinitely.

 

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Historical Society Program May 11th

For our May meeting, presented via live stream on Facebook and YouTube on May 11 at 7:30 pm, John Buffington will talk about the history of Frankford Arsenal, a National Historic Register site, which also has 9 buildings specifically listed on the Philadelphia Historic Register, from the near-disaster of American military inadequacy in the War of 1812, through base closure in 1971 and privatization in 1977, to current status, threats, and opportunities.
As always, we invite you to comment and post questions in either platform’s comment section, however this time we will do something a little different. At the close we will invite viewers to post questions and comments to be addressed live about the potential for the Historical Society of Frankford to intervene more aggressively in situations like the current lamentable state of Buildings 2 and 3 at the Arsenal. So please stay tuned to the end, especially if you think that we aren’t doing enough on preservation emergencies.
Find it on their Facebook page or follow this link to YouTube:  link
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The Story of Wistar Park

The Historical Society of Frankford live streamed Fred Prescott’s presentation of the Story of Wistar Park last night in place of their regular monthly in person meeting.

Fred is our former neighbor from Griscom Street and his roots go way back in Frankford history.  He packed a lot of history into this video.  Take a look.

 

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The Cowden Drum and the Battle of Gettysburg

The Cowden Drum

From the time the first William Cowden immigrated from Ireland in the 1840’s, the Cowden family has played a prominent role in the history of Philadelphia generally, and in the Northeast section of the city in particular.

The elder William Cowden joined the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War, and his son, also named William, while only in his early teens, enlisted as a drummer boy, as was customary at the time.

During one of the Virginia campaigns in 1862, the marching band of the 114th Regiment, to which the younger William Cowden belonged, after spending the night sleeping in a ditch unseen by the rest of their compatriots, missed the call to evacuate their newly won turf. The band members awoke to the bayonets of their Confederate captors, and were taken to the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond—their instruments confiscated. The 114th Regiment wore the exotic Zoave uniform, as seen in the photograph from 1864.

Marching band of the 114th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers

The imprisoned musicians of war were eventually repatriated in a prisoner of war exchange. The people of Frankford magnanimously took up a collection to replace the instruments appropriated by the band’s Confederate captors. This drum is believed to be one of those replaced instruments, and its later use by the younger William Cowden at the Battle of Gettysburg is documented in our acquisition records at the Historical Society of Frankford (HSF).

The drum was donated to the HSF by the Cowden family in 1963—exactly one hundred years after the Battle of Gettysburg—along with the musket used by the elder William Cowden at the landmark Battle.

The younger William Cowden later went on to join the newly reorganized Philadelphia fire department, and right up to the present, several of his descendants have distinguished themselves as local firefighters. He died in 1913—fifty years after the Battle of Gettysburg— while still a resident of Frankford.

The Benjamin Rush Chapter of Questers visited The Historical Society of Frankford and became aware of this drum and it’s history. The idea of conserving the instrument was discussed and raising of funds began.

The Questers is an organization devoted to studying, preserving, and sharing knowledge of history and antiquities. An estimate of work needed to bring the drum back to it’s former condition was obtained by HSF from Lara Kaplan, object conservator. A matching grant from the Pennsylvania Questers was applied for and received.

On July 1st 2020 the check from Pa. Questers was handed to HSF President Jerry Kolankiewicz from Benjamin Rush Quester Mildred Noonan.

The drum was handed over to Lara to begin the restoration.


It is unknown when the repair will be completed at this time. Many months of detailed restoration work are required. When it is returned to the HSF, It will be on permanent display. The exhibit is being planned and lecture in the future will be scheduled.