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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Philadelphia:

The Great Escape of Ellen and William Craft

Ellen and William Craft were slaves from Georgia who escaped to the North, where slavery had been abolished, in 1848. As the light-skinned daughter of a mulatto slave and her white master, Ellen used her appearance to pass as a white man, and William posed as her servant.

Ellen cut her hair and bought appropriate clothes, traveling in jacket and trousers. She wore her right arm in a sling to hide the fact that she did not know how to write. Over the next four days:

  • Ellen found herself sitting next to a friend of her master on the train. She feigned deafness to discourage his attempts to engage her in conversation.
  • A slave trader offered to buy William, and a military officer scolded Ellen for saying “thank you” to her slave.
  • In South Carolina a ticket seller insisted on seeing proof that Ellen owned William. A passing captain intervened and sent them on their way.
  • In a Virginia railway station a white woman confronted William, mistaking him for her own runaway slave.
  • An officer in Baltimore threatened again to detain them without proof of ownership, but relented. [Source]

On December 21, they boarded a steamship for Philadelphia, where they arrived on Christmas Day. Threatened by slave catchers in Boston after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Crafts escaped to England, where they lived for nearly two decades and reared five children.

[Read their book, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, online here] [Image 2 Source]

(Source: Wikipedia)

The “Soap Woman” is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Her story is truly bizarre. Sometime in the 19th century, a woman who was rather fat died of yellow fever. After her burial in a Philadelphia cemetery, the fat of her body turned into adipocere. This is a fatty wax composition similar to lye soap. She became saponified in this way when her body fat reacted to the combination of chemicals in the soil. She has been on display at the Mutter Museum since 1874 when Dr. Joseph Leidy, a prominent University of Pennyslvania anatomist, donated her body to the museum. According to Dr. Leidy, the “Soap Woman” died in 1792 in Philadelphia. Her body was uncovered by workmen removing bodies from an old burial yard. In 1942, the museum curator, Joseph McFarland, determined that the “Soap Woman” actually died much later. Eight pins and two four-hole buttons of the clothing she was wearing when buried were dated as being from the early 19th century. A “Soap Man” who was buried alongside the “Soap Woman” is sometimes displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Soap on a Rope…

The “Soap Woman” is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Her story is truly bizarre. Sometime in the 19th century, a woman who was rather fat died of yellow fever. After her burial in a Philadelphia cemetery, the fat of her body turned into adipocere. This is a fatty wax composition similar to lye soap. She became saponified in this way when her body fat reacted to the combination of chemicals in the soil. She has been on display at the Mutter Museum since 1874 when Dr. Joseph Leidy, a prominent University of Pennyslvania anatomist, donated her body to the museum. According to Dr. Leidy, the “Soap Woman” died in 1792 in Philadelphia. Her body was uncovered by workmen removing bodies from an old burial yard. In 1942, the museum curator, Joseph McFarland, determined that the “Soap Woman” actually died much later. Eight pins and two four-hole buttons of the clothing she was wearing when buried were dated as being from the early 19th century. A “Soap Man” who was buried alongside the “Soap Woman” is sometimes displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Soap on a Rope

(Source: canada.com)

In 1839, a year after the first photo containing a human being was made, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius made the first ever portrait of a human being. The Daily recently published an interesting piece on Cornelius’ story:

On a sunny day in October, Robert Cornelius set up his camera in the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. After removing the lens cap, he sprinted into the frame, where he sat for more than a minute before covering up the lens. The picture he produced that day was the first photographic self-portrait. It is also widely considered the first successful photographic portrait of a human being.
[…] the words written on the back of the self-portrait, in Cornelius’ own hand, said it all: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”

In 1839, a year after the first photo containing a human being was made, photography pioneer Robert Cornelius made the first ever portrait of a human being. The Daily recently published an interesting piece on Cornelius’ story:

On a sunny day in October, Robert Cornelius set up his camera in the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. After removing the lens cap, he sprinted into the frame, where he sat for more than a minute before covering up the lens. The picture he produced that day was the first photographic self-portrait. It is also widely considered the first successful photographic portrait of a human being.

[…] the words written on the back of the self-portrait, in Cornelius’ own hand, said it all: “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”