Philadelphians Most Noted in the Dorsey Collection
The 36 men and women below are taken from alphabetized lists of several thousand names which occur in the Dorsey Collection. These are the ones mentioned most often, a minimum of twelve times each. They do not include mentions in other sources used in this book such as the New York papers, Carl Bolivar's columns in the Tribune, the materials in the Leon Gardiner Collection in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Mentions in Dorsey scrapbooks numbers 55 and 70 have also been omitted. While the notices may be in any connection, inclusion of the omitted sources would have weighted them in favor of purely social or entertainment functions, raising the relative number given to men like the convivial Doctor Edwin C. Howard, for example, and lowering those of the sober William Still. In counting the references, only one was allowed per story or event, even if a given person was mentioned in different papers or on different days in connection with the school desegregation battle of 1881, for example, or the Douglass Hospital Ball of 1897.
Following each name the total number of mentions is included in parentheses. After that the total is broken into periods: Number of mentions through 1880 follow "A"; from 1881-91, "B"; after 1892, "C." The entries after that refer to the person's dates and birthplace; occupation; education; church affiliation; marital status and number of children if known.
The biographical information is varied both in terms of how much is known-- church affiliation is not always clear, for example--and in terms of how reliable it is. The most unreliable information concerns number of children and death dates. The number of children is sometimes taken from biographies or obituaries, sometimes from the census. But the census, in addition to its inaccuracies, at best lists children resident every ten years--with 1890 missing. The effect is to undercount somewhat, an undercount partially balanced by informal adoption arrangements or the mis-attribution of children in a household to its head or most dominant couple. The death date in some cases is taken simply from the last year in which a person was listed in the Philadelphia City Directories; this is usually fairly accurate, but in the case of William Henry Dorsey himself would have been three years off, just as counting children from the census alone would have been one short.