William Dorsey's Philadelphia and Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America

By Roger Lane | Go to book overview

APPENDIX IV
"Elite" Philadelphians, 1860s and 1890s

The list of elite black Philadelphians described in Chapter 10--confined to males for ease of tracing ancestry through surnames--was compiled from six others. The intent is to create two representative although not quite complete rosters of leading black citizens from two decades about a generation apart. The lists for both the 1860s and the 1890s are each made up of three smaller ones, each involving somewhat different activities and groups of men.

For 1860 there is a list of mostly young to middle-aged admirers who signed a petition to the singer Mary Brown, matched in 1898 by those who played some role in the Frederick Douglass Hospital Grand Charity Ball. The community's most distinguished notables joined with Frederick Douglass in 1863 to sign an open "Call to Arms" in the midst of the Civil War, as a parallel group joined the American Negro Historical Society in 1897. Finally the young men who formed the first three teams of the Pythians Baseball Club may be matched with the gallants who went to the DECAGON ball of 1899.

Some 17 men appear on two or more of the lists from the 1860s, 14 from the 1890s. The total of 130 for the earlier period includes just 107 surnames, on account of the duplication of such common ones as Wilson and Turner; the 137 for the 1890s have 113 different surnames. A few men appear in both generations, including three Joneses, Andrew, F. J. R., and Robert; other long-lasting citizens include Ebenezer Bassett, Alfred Cassey, Thadeus Manning, T. J. Minton, the Reverend John B. Reeve, Isaiah Wears, and Jacob White, Jr.

What keeps either list from being a full roster of the contemporary elite, instead of a representative sample, is that a few important men are left out. Neither Robert Purvis nor William Still, for example, appear in the 1860s; too old to play ball, too serious to petition Madame Brown, and perhaps because of their Garrisonian or Quaker connections unready to sign the "Call to Arms," they appear only in the 1890s, Still as patron of the Douglass ball, both men as members of the ANHS.

The 1860s list includes the following names, with a (1) following the names taken from the Madame Brown petition, a (2) from the Call to Arms, and a (3) from the Pythians Baseball Club.

Robert M. Adger (2), Joshua Adkins (3), William Allen (1), Rev. William Alston (2), James Ash (3), Reverend J. Asher (2), Edward Augustine (1), James

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