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