Music of Antebellum Philadelphia

Music historian Jack McCarthy returns to Laurel Hill Mansion 2 p.m., Sunday, August 16, 2015 to present his third lecture program, Music of Antebellum Philadelphia.

Philadelphia had an active and diverse musical life in the years leading up to the Civil War, says McCarthy. Although it was no longer the preeminent American musical city it had been at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Philadelphia was still an important music center in the antebellum period and home to many active musicians and musical organizations.

Musical Fund Hall

Musical Fund Hall

Jack McCarthy’s presentation, which focuses on the years between 1820-1860, combines lecture, archival images, and recorded examples to highlight the leading performing artists and composers, musical organizations and ensembles, and concert halls and music venues of the period. Among other interesting stories, the presentation features the founding of the nation’s oldest continuously active musical fund society, the Philadelphia bandleader and composer who was the first African-American to have his music published and first American to lead a musical ensemble on a tour of Europe, the establishment of the city’s first major orchestras, and the rise of grand opera and building of the nation’s oldest opera house, still in use today.


Jack McCarthy

A long-time archivist and historian, Jack McCarthy has a master’s degree in music history and specializes in Philadelphia music history. He has served as consulting archivist/historian to the Philadelphia Orchestra and for the 2013 radio documentary Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. Jack gives walking tours on Philadelphia music history and writes on the topic for the on-line magazine Hidden City Daily. He is project director for Historical Society of Pennsylvania‘s Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR).

The 2015 lecture series is hosted by the City of Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation (PP&R) Department and held at various historic house museums in Fairmount Park. Cost of the program is $15; free for students with accompanying adult. Light refreshments are served. Free parking is available. Plus, the mansion is easily reached via public transit.

Program fees are tax-deductible and go toward hosting future educational programs at the Fairmount Park mansions.

Laurel Hill Mansion, located at 7201 Edgley (Randolph) Drive, East Fairmount Park, is one of six historic mansions in the Park managed by the City of Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation (PP&R) Department that is open for scheduled public tours and programs. The historic mansion was restored in 1976 by the Women for Greater Philadelphia. The non-profit organization’s volunteers have been active in preserving and maintaining Laurel Hill Mansion ever since, while also presenting public programs that teach people about Philadelphia’s rich cultural history.

Laurel Hill Mansion

Laurel Hill Mansion



George & Edgar

EA Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

George Lippard

George Lippard

George Lippard and Edgar Allan Poe toiled in the trenches of Philadelphia newspaper and magazine journalism in the early 1840s.

One writer achieved enormous success, while the other struggled bitterly, only to have his star rise to the highest heights after his death, says literary critic Edward G. Pettit. 

Pettit will talk about the close friendship between George and Edgar in a program 2 p.m., Sunday, July 19, 2015 at historic Laurel Hill Mansion in East Fairmount Park.


Edward G. Pettit, The Philly Poe Guy

Witty and engaging, Edward G Pettit is a respected authority on Lippard, Poe and other Philadelphia Gothic authors. In addition, he served as the Charles Dickens Ambassador for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s year-long Bicentenary celebration of the author’s birth in 2012 and wrote the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion’s 2013 murder mystery play, Twisted, where he played Dickens.

…In 2009, the Philadelphia Library Company hosted the literary exhibit Philadelphia Gothic: Murders, Mysteries, Monsters, and Mayhem Inspire American Fiction 1798-1854. The exhibit can be viewed on-line.

Music of Colonial Philadelphia


Jack McCarthy

Historian Jack McCarthy explores the music of Colonial Philadelphia from the 1670s to 1770s in a program on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 2 p.m., at Laurel Hill Mansion, an historic house museum in East Fairmount Park.

Philadelphia’s early music culture was greatly affected by the prevailing influence of the founding Quakers, who were a decidedly unmusical people, says Jack McCarthy. Fortunately, the city also become home to many other religious and ethnic groups for whom music was important, and, eventually, a lively music culture took shape in the City. By the late 18th century, Philadelphia was the music capital of America, a position it would hold until the 1820s.

Jack McCarthy’s presentation, Philadelphia Lost Sites and Sounds: Music of Colonial Philadelphia, combines lecture, archival images and recorded examples featuring the music of the day, created by individuals, events and sites that shaped the city’s emerging musical culture of the Colonial period.



Laurel Hill Mansion Hosts Archaeologist Rebecca Yamin

The corner of 3rd & Chestnut Streets is the future home of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Right now, all that can be seen at street level is an enormous pit. But within this pit, dozens of feet deep, thousands of artifacts have been discovered, revealing the wonderful history of this old city that still lies beneath our feet.

For the past couple months, Dr. Rebecca Yamin, lead archaeologist at the site, has published a weekly update about these discoveries. For those that can make the date, every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dr. Yamin can be found on the front steps of the historic First Bank of the United States at 116 South Third Street talking about the archaeological excavation underway across the street. (Update: The dig is over and construction is well underway at this location.)


Rebecca Yamin

October is Archaeology Month and in honor of International Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 Dr. Yamin will be guest speaker at historic Laurel Hill Mansion in Fairmount Park, where she will discuss her team’s findings at this site and at other excavations that she’s conducted as an urban archaeologist.

The title of Rebecca Yamin’s presentation is From Chaos to Context: Urban Archaeology in Philadelphia.

While recovering artifacts from long-abandoned privies and wells is very exciting, the finds only become meaningful when they are connected to the people whose possessions they once were, says Dr. Yamin. She will discuss the urban archaeological experience from beginning to end, using Josiah Eddy, an Afro-American barber whose privies were found on the Convention Center Expansion site, as an example of a person “we get to know” through the archaeology, as well as revealing current findings at the excavation site at 3rd & Chestnut Streets.

Dr. Yamin has been doing urban archaeology in Philadelphia for the last 15 years. As an employee of John Milner Associates, Inc. she directed excavations on the sites of the Independence Visitor Center and the Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall, on many sites in Independence National Historical Park, on Franklin Square, and on the Convention Center Expansion site at 13th Street.

Rebecca Yamin has also done extensive work in New York and New Jersey including the Five Points site in Lower Manhattan, many projects at Raritan Landing in N.J., and a major excavation in New Brunswick. She has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from New York University. Her book, Digging in the City of Brotherly Love, was published in 2008.9780300100914