In the 1895 advertisement above, Mathew Schmid offers to relieve customers of a feature common in cities like Philadelphia. He does not have to explain that the classic up-to-the sidewalk rowhouse blocks of the late nineteenth century typically featured canted or diagonal first-story entrances at each end. The businesses that usually occupied canted-corner buildings could be seen from either side of the corner, and more readily seen as one approached them on either side–good for business. Dozens of of intersections still feature canted entrances on all corners. Very often an elaborate cast-iron column stood in the place of the lost corner. Schmid says that such “objectionable” columns were used almost universally. To this I would respond, first, that his invention must have transformed the construction of canted corners, because, to make a guess, fewer than half of the old canted corners in Philadelphia feature columns. Second, I would respond that the columns are not objectionable (though perhaps inconvenient on moving or delivery day), but attractive and even informative.
Here are some photographs of columns that display the names of their manufacturers, getting them under the bar as advertisements, and some advertisements for companies that made columns. (Unfortunately, the two groups don’t mesh as well as one would like.)
As you can see, many of the columns have been freshly painted. They clearly formed, and form, part of the decorative scheme of their buildings. But many columns were lost to the revenge of the rectilinear, when owners decided to favor one street over another, or wanted the building to be a house without a canted living room. To judge from surviving buildings, many of the restored corners never featured columns at all. Many of them are so heavily paneled or resurfaced that only old photographs can tell us whether there might be a column imprisoned inside. But sometimes we see columns that have survived the change from a diagonal entrance. Sometimes the old doorway is blocked and the column remains, no longer objectionable because it has no activity to block. Then it becomes abstracted, like a piece of stage scenery. (See the photograph below.) Or the column may be imprisoned in the new corner, sometimes with a little breathing space, and sometimes mashed into the new construction like Ariel in the cloven pine. I like to find these “captive canted-corner columns.” You can find screen captures of both varieties in the albums of my Facebook page Philadelphia Particulars:
I urge you to look at the gallery, which has had several additions. If you cannot, here is a list of the intersections where imprisoned columns can be found (as of the 13th of February 2018): Addison and South 60th/Annin and South 8th/Brown and North Newkirk/Carpenter and South 5th/Carpenter and South 6th/Catharine and South 24th/Cayuga and North 19th/C. B. Moore and North Taney/Chester and South Alden/Chestnut and South 8th/Cumberland and North Bancroft/Fairmount and North 3rd/Fleming and Roxborough/Huntingdon and North 23rd/Kater and South 6th/Loudon and North Mascher/Luzerne and North 7th/Moore and South 21st/Moore and South Cleveland/Olney and North American/Pacific and North 19th/Pierce and South 21st/Poplar and North 30th/Price and Crittenden near 65th Avenue/Snyder and South Chadwick/St. Luke and North 5th/Tasker and South 24th/Tioga and North Water/Venango and North Percy/Waverly and South 24th/Wharton and South 22nd/Wilder and South 22nd/Wilt and North 19th/York and North 6th.
The romance of Kitty Foyle and Wyn Strafford intensified as they worked together on Wyn’s Philly magazine project. (Please see my page on the novel: https://philadelphiaasadvertised.com/kitty-foyle-and-philadelphia-the-grand-homey-old-town/) Philly was to be “something like” the New Yorker, full of “wisecracking stuff about football, and hunting, and cricket, and the Orchestra, and famous food and drink, and little articles about picturesque history.” It seemed sure to be a hit with students at the many colleges in the area. But Kitty had her doubts, and so did her friend Molly, who did not believe that Philadelphia shared New York’s passion for “being In the Know.” The upper classes were serenely indifferent to innovation, and the lower classes knew that an appearance of sophistication would not lead to acceptance. Kitty knew that “Sankatown” wanted above all to be comfortable, not to be bothered, and saw in the magazine’s few issues a demonstration that the Main Line could not make fun of itself; that required an outsider. Even Wyn’s mother was aware that Philadelphia did not enjoy “that sort of persiflage” and was happy when her son gave up “that dreadful magazine.” To be fair, we should note that the first issue of the magazine was published just as the stock market crashed, causing his father to cut off his support of the project.
What might Philly have looked like? There is a ready answer in Town Crier of Philadelphia, “Philadelphia’s smart, new, humorous weekly,” as it was called in the issue of May 19, 1930. Here are some pages from that issue. Is the style familiar?
The magazine, appealing to “the cream of the Philadelphia market,” was to present “outstanding work . . . in a fresh and telling manner,” providing “smart Philadelphians” with “an amusing reflection of their tastes.” That sounds a bit like the build-up for Philly. And Morley must have been familiar with Town Crier. It was familiar with him, predicting that he would write a book “containing a whimsical loveliness and a description of the smell of doughnuts.” (This prediction itself may be nothing but whimsy, but, for what it is worth, in both Travels in Philadelphia and Kitty Foyle Morley seems to be drawn to doughnuts.)
Town Crier must have folded very quickly. It scarcely appears in online searches, though we learn that a similar magazine, The Chicagoan, lasted from 1926 to 1935. (Kitty says that another such magazine, intended for the “Detroit smart set,” might be willing to buy and adapt material no longer needed by the defunct Philly.) If Town Crier seems to have left few traces, why not find out what happened to the magazine’s writers and artists? Please see also The TOWN CRIER and the Talkies: Jay Emanuel and Other Reel Fellows.
Kitty did not seem impressed by the staff of Philly magazine, the Main Line youngsters who treated the project as a lark and the legions of “broke cartoonists” (to the magazine’s lawyer, “bohemians sitting on the stairs”) and “newspaper paragraphers” with material to sell. As for Town Crier, the names of the writers and artists might not leap off the page, and some appear only as initials (E.H.S., S.N.F., T.R.B.), brief names (Meg), or likely pseudonyms (Criton, Mary Scrapple, Philadelphia West). Some names have not been found, or were too generic to be pinned down: Francine von Schneeberg, Inigo Owen, William A. Armstrong. But the Alphonse B. Miller who wrote a biography of Thaddeus Stevens, as well as many book reviews on U.S. history, is probably the man who contributed an article about Hoover. We find a Harry M. Klingsberg who published fiction on legal subjects, a George H. Eckhardt who wrote about television and clocks, and a Harold W. Brecht who wrote novels. Rae Norden Sauder produced nonfiction for magazines and newspapers. Many continued in journalism: at the Evening Ledger, Sidney Lear, Henry T. Murdock (who became the Inquirer drama critic in 1950 and worked long enough to praise Barbra Streisand), and Eric M. Knight (who was also at the Public Ledger). While Knight was at the Town Crier, as we see in the ad below, his beat was “The Talkies.” Later, he wrote Lassie Come-Home.
TOWN CRIER OF PHILADELPHIA, 19 May 1930
Ivan H. “Cy” Peterman continued his sports reporting, at the Evening Bulletin and the Inquirer, and became a respected war correspondent for the Inquirer during World War II. Samuel Lipshutz is likely the writer of the same name, working around that time at the Record, who went to the New York Post, after being induced by his boss to change his last name to the more Anglo-Saxon Grafton, and became a widely syndicated columnist.
As for the artists, Bainton has not been identified, and two others should be identifiable as locally known artists, were it not for differences in styles and signatures: Angelo (perhaps Emidio Angelo) and Russell Henderson Esq. (perhaps Russell S. Henderson). NOTE: In the small print at the bottom of the second page above, we see that Emidio Angelo was the art director of Town Crier–that would seem to settle the matter!) Styles and signatures can change; E. K. Bergey, the cover artist, could well be the man who (using more than one version of his name and signature) went on to specialize in less stylized, more representational (“realistic” is not quite the word) covers for magazines with names like Spicy and Thrilling Wonder Stories. And two of the Town Crier artists, Richard Decker and George Shellhase (see “This Week” above, and the clown on the next featured page), went on to draw for the New Yorker itself.
The International Exhibition of 1876 can be seen as a Philadelphia story. It went up in West Philadelphia, honored the secular shrines in Old City, and showcased the culture, institutions, and burgeoning industrial might of the city.
But it could be said that Philadelphia was one thing, and the Centennial another. The Exhibition was set apart in a park, though linked by transit to the grid. It was bordered by temporary facilities for housing and amusement, though many visitors stayed in Center City and bought guidebooks that described the city as well as the Centennial. The Exhibition was itself designed to be, for the most part, temporary.
One could also say that Philadelphia was one thing, the Centennial another, and a burlesque like One Hundred Years a Republic or Our Show; AHumorous Account of the International Exposition (Philadelphia, 1876), by Daisy Shortcut, Arry O’Pagus, and A. B. Frost (that is, David Solis Cohen and his illustrator, H. B. Sommer), yet another. Cohen, writing in 1875, had fun with the past, from Columbus to the earnest women who had raised money for the celebration and the officials who had been planning it. But when he moved on to what might happen in 1876, he was free to invent tall tales, the more startling and unlikely the better. In one, the Colosseum is brought over and made the scene of a gladiatorial combat between Bismarck and the pope. And then there is the sad story of the Sphinx.
The fantasies in Our Show can be bizarre, the text and illustrations full of stereotypes we find offensive. It might seem better to stick to the official record, until we think what it must have been like to get dressed up and swelter through a Main Building with eleven miles of aisles and walkways and twelve thousand exhibits (Richard R. Nicolai, Centennial Philadelphia [Bryn Mawr, 1976], 58), and then confront Memorial Hall and its annex, with their thousands of works of art. No wonder C. D. Richardson offered the Centennial Cane and Chair Combined, “Especially Valuable for LADIES, who cannot possibly endure the fatigue without one.”
The solemn Centennial visitors shown in wood engravings look as though they could use a laugh, and the book is often funny—just look at the “reviews” and the running heads.
Another reason to enjoy Our Show is that its fantasies are tethered to the streets of Philadelphia by local references, references that are set off at a slight angle from reality by altered names and strange contexts: the Alms House, Bedford Street Mission (unlikely scene of an “opium banquet”), Broad and Prime [Washington] Station, Cape May Diamonds, Darby, Richard J. Dobbins (a contractor who worked on Centennial buildings; he is given tongue-in-cheek credit for inventing Dobbins’ Electric Soap), lawyer Daniel Dougherty, Doylestown, Cherry Hill (N.J.), the City Troop, Egg Harbor (N.J.), Mrs. [John W.] Forney (the Forneys were a Centennial power couple), the German Hospital, Girard Avenue Bridge, Horticultural Hall on Broad Street, the House of Corrections, Jefferson Medical College, Manayunk, the Market Street Passenger Railway and other lines, former mayor Morton McMichael, rough and tough alderman William McMullin, Media, the Navy Yard, the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, Point Breeze Park (a horse-racing site used in Our Show to shelter the family of Brigham Young), Poplar Street Wharf, the Sawyer Observatory at the Exhibition, Schuylkill Falls Park, the Schuylkill Navy, Seybert’s Bell in Independence Hall, the Spring Garden Soup Society, the State Fencibles, Mayor William S. Stokley, the U.S. Mint, Walnut Street Dock, and West Chester.
He also mentioned well-known products and firms. Some, like Herring’s Hay-Making Machine, the Slawson fare box, Spalding’s Glue, and the Phoenix Iron Works, were not from Philadelphia. But many were. These references were not product placements. There are advertisements at the end of the book, but they are not for the firms mentioned in the book. No surprise there—respectable business owners might not have enjoyed being featured in a satire. The skeletal closing image of Alfred Timothy (i.e., Alfred Traber) Goshorn, the director-general of the Exhibition—
—was credited to F. Gutekunst, a prominent, award-winning photographer. The most extravagant fantasy involving a Philadelphia firm was the tale of the modern “Sphynx.” The original monument, placed on display on Belmont Avenue, was destroyed by “relic fiends.” A diplomatic crisis was averted when the firm of Robert Wood & Company created a modern version in bronze.
We can well believe that Cohen, a young proofreader and writer for local newspapers, including the Public Ledger, was known for “his successful and brilliant efforts as an interpreter of the main role in comedies and farces produced at the Amateur Drawing Room” and “[h]is rare gifts as a comedian . . . the means of delight to numerous auditors.” By the way, the efforts in the Amateur Drawing Room were made “to assist work in connection with the Centennial Exhibition” (Henry S. Morais, The Jews of Philadelphia , 315).
Our Show has been made available online by the invaluable Internet Archive. The illustration of the Sphynx was improvised to join picture and text.