Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Greenwich, Where?

{Greenwich NJ}
Greenwich NJ

If you sail north up the Delaware Bay, you would go past Rehoboth, Lewes, Dover, New Castle, Wilmington -- on the left, or Delaware side. On the right, or New Jersey side, it's a long way from Cape May to Salem, the first town of any consequence. That is, the Jersey side of the riverbank is still comparatively uninhabited. When the first settlers came along, with vast areas to choose among, it might have seemed attractive to settle on the Delaware side, because the peninsular nature of what is now called Delmarva (Del-Mar-Va) would provide land access to two large navigable bays, the Delaware, and the Chesapeake. To go all the way up the Delaware to what is now Pennsylvania would give trading access to a whole continent, so that eventually proved to be where immigration was headed. But as a matter of fact, the marshy Jersey shore seemed more attractive for settlement by the earlier settlers.

A settler has to think about starving the first year or two, because trees have to be cut down, and stumps pulled up before the land can even be plowed. After that, comes planting and growing, then finally harvesting. Trees, behind which Indians can hide, are a bad thing all around in the eyes of a settler. The flat swampy meadows of the Jersey bank were just exactly what the Dutch knew how to manage. Dam up the creeks and drain the ground, and you will soon have lots of lands ready for the plow, without any confounded trees. By the end of the seventeenth century, the English who had made the mistake of settling in rocky Connecticut finally saw what the Dutch were able to do, and came down to take it away from them.

{Greenwich scenery}
Greenwich scenery

That's why there is a Salem, New Jersey, and also a Greenwich, New Jersey. Greenwich ( around here they pronounce it green-witch) had 870 residents at the last census. It is one of the cutest little colonial villages you are likely to encounter. The local historians refer to it as an unreconstructed Williamsburg, drawing prideful attention to the fact that these houses were really built in the colonial period, and are in no way imitation reconstructions. The isolated charm of this place is in large part due to being surrounded by a maze of wandering creeks, so visitors by land travel don't get there in time for lunch unless they take great care to follow a local road map. If you arrive by water, it's no problem; just navigate up the crooked and twisting Cohansey River.

Although pioneer settlement was much earlier, the oldest house still standing in that rather damp area was built in 1730. Things are pretty much the way they were before the American Revolution because the Calvinists who settled here were not prepared for the Jersey mosquito, which obviously is abundant in such a marshy area. With the mosquito comes relapsing (Vivax, malaria, black water (Falciparum) malaria, and Dengue Fever (graphically known locally as break-bone fever). As a matter of fact, encephalitis is also mosquito-borne. When you don't understand the insect carrier situation, survival in such an environment depends on local fables and lore, like going to the mountains for the summer after the planting season, and only returning at harvest time. That sounds to a New Englander newcomer like a superstitious cloak for lazy living, especially since masses of fish come up the river in teeming waves, looking for mosquitoes to eat. So, Greenwich is charming, but it never was thriving.

Working hard to find something to say about the town, it would appear that Paul Revere himself came riding into Greenwich in December 1774, urging the town to join their Boston relatives in the destruction of tea belonging to the British East India Company. Greenwich accordingly had a public tea burning on December 22. Since the more notorious Boston tea party took place on December 16, 1773, and the British Tea Act was passed in May, 1773, it is not exactly accurate to say the rebellion spread like wildfire. One has to suppose that the inflammatory tale told to the local farmers by Paul Revere was likely a little enhanced, since a careful recounting of the events in Boston suggests a number of ways the uproar might have been avoided if Samuel Adams and his friends had been less provocative. Or if Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson had been less flighty. Or for that matter, if Benjamin Franklin had restrained himself when he got hold of Hutchinson's letters at a critical moment when he was in London. In retrospect, the best model for behavior was provided by the Royal Navy; the whole Boston Tea Party was surrounded by armed British naval vessels, who did not lift a finger throughout the demonstration.

Anyway, little Greenwich had its minute of fame with a tea burning. Otherwise, it has had a very quiet existence for three centuries. The point behind bringing it up is to emphasize that New England was at least two years ahead of the Quaker states in rebellion against England, and needed to stir those pacifists up.


Paul Revere & The World He Lived In Amazon

A Toast To J. William White, MD

JWilliam White left a legacy to the Franklin Inn, the income from which was to pay for an annual dinner, with all the trimmings. Good as its word, the Inn holds the J. William White dinner every year on Benjamin Franklin's birthday, although inflation and fluctuations of the stock market require it to make a modest charge for attendance. White also created the J. William White Professorship in Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, a chair which was once occupied by Jonathan Rhoads.

William J White MD

These trust-fund memorials do little to convey the wild and glamorous image of Bill White. White was a member of the First City Troop and fought the last known honest-to-goodness duel on Philadelphia's field of honor (in the accidental "wedge" of disputed land between Delaware and Pennsylvania). The right and wrong of the argument about wearing the City Troop uniform are in dispute, but the details boiled down to White at the critical moment raising his gun to the sky and firing at the stars. That it was not a meaningless gesture was then brought out by his opponent ( a fellow Trooper named Adams) taking slow and deadly aim -- but missing him.

White was an academic in the sense that he was the first, unpaid, Professor of Physical Culture at the University of Pennsylvania. Active in the Mask and Wig Club, he was a chief surgeon at Philadelphia General Hospital, chief surgeon to the Philadelphia Police, and chief surgeon to the Pennsylvania Rail Road. He is the surgeon actually operating in Thomas Eakins' Agnew Clinic, while Agnew himself stands as the "rainmaker", to use a term from legal circles. He was Chairman of the Fairmount Park Commission, and numerous other positions where political contact was more important than surgical skill. When World War I came along, he was off to France with the University of Pennsylvania Hospital Unit, writing two books with Theodore Roosevelt. Although his friendship with Henry James suggests greater literary talent, he was supportive of Adams' transfer of citizenship in protest of America's staying out of World War I; but nonetheless, Roosevelt published more than thirty books. What emerges from the history of Bill White is flamboyance and lots and lots of unfettered energy. He might feel a little out of place at one of his endowed dinners today, but he was probably always a little out of place in any company -- and didn't care a whit.


Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class: E. Digby Baltzell ISBN-13: 978-0887387890 Amazon

Germantown Nurses the Yellow Fever, 1793

{yellow fever Phila}
Yellow Fever, Phila

The French Revolution continued from 1789 to 1799 and created the opportunity for a second revolution in the New World which a second overstretched European country would lose. The slaves of Haiti just about exterminated the white settlers, except for the few who escaped, taking Yellow Fever and Dengue with them. Both diseases are mosquito-borne, so they flare up in the summer and die down in the winter, although the Philadelphians who welcomed the exiles didn't know that. Yellow Fever in Philadelphia was bad in 1793, came back annually for three more years, and flared up once again in 1798. It could be easily observed to be more frequent in the lowlands, absent in the hills. Seasonal, it reached a peak in October, disappeared after the first frost. In the early fall, people died a horrible yellow death, jaundiced and bilious.

{Dr. Rush}
Dr. Rush

The Yellow Fever epidemic had a profound effect on many things. It was one of the major reasons the nation's capital did not remain in Philadelphia. It made the reputation of Dr. Benjamin Rush who announced a highly unfortunate treatment -- bleeding the victims -- thus provoking numerous anti-scientific medical doctrines based on the relative superiority of doing nothing at all. In Latin, Galen had capsulized the doctrine of Hippocrates in the "Epidemics" as premium non-nocere ("At least do no harm.") It took a full century for American scientific medicine to recover from this blow to its reputation. Whatever criticism Rush may deserve for his Yellow Fever blunder, it definitely is not true that he was a scientific lemon. Medical students are regularly surprised to learn that he is the physician who first identified and described the tropical disease of Dengue, or "break-bone fever", which was a somewhat less noticed feature among the Haiti exiles in Philadelphia. In still other scientific circles, Benjamin Rush is often referred to as the "Father of American Psychiatry". He was one of the founders of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest medical society in North America. Medical colleagues who today scoff at the yellow fever episode seem to forget that Rush stayed behind to tend the sick during a devastating epidemic, while many of his more cautious colleagues fled for their lives. An unhesitating signer of the Declaration of Independence, whatever Rush did, he did courageously. Non-academic physicians have sarcastically referred to this episode ever since, as proving that "some people" think it is "better to publish than to perish".

One very good non-medical thing the Yellow Fever epidemic accomplished was to put an abrupt end to the torch-light parades of window-breaking rioters agitating, with Jefferson's approval, for an American version of the guillotine and the terror. Federalists like John Adams and William Bingham never forgave Jefferson or his admirers for this, so the class warfare movement might likely have got much worse if everyone had not suddenly dropped tools, and headed for the hilly safety of Germantown.

The President of the new republic, George Washington, was in Mt. Vernon in the summer of 1793, wondering what to do about the Yellow Fever epidemic, and particularly uncertain what the Constitution empowered him to do. He finally decided to rent rooms in Germantown and called a cabinet meeting there. His first rooms were rented from Frederick Herman, a pastor of the Reformed Church and teacher at the Union School, although he later moved to 5442 Germantown Ave, the home of Col. Franks. Jefferson chose to room at the King of Prussia Tavern.

During this time, Germantown was the seat of the nation's government. As was fervently hoped for, the cases of yellow fever stopped appearing in late October, and eventually, it seemed safe to convene Congress in Philadelphia as originally scheduled, on December 2.

Although Germantown was badly shaken by the experience, it was a heady experience to be the nation's capital. Meanwhile, a great many rich, powerful and important people had come to see what a nice place it was. Germantown then entered the second period of growth and flourishing. Walking around Germantown today is like wandering through the ruins of the Roman forum, silently tolerant of visitors who would have never dared approach it in its heyday.


Benjamin Rush: A Discourse delivered before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia: Thomas A. Horrocks ASIN: B0006FCBXS Amazon
Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague Of Yellow Fever In Philadelphia In 1793: J.H. Powell ISBN-13: 978-1436715881 Amazon
Germantown and the Germans: An Exhibition from the Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia: Edwin, II Wolf ISBN-13: 978-0914076728 Amazon

Germany Before Germantown

A breezy summary of European geopolitics, including many rough inaccuracies, will possibly irritate residents of that region who read it but may help Americans understand the history and composition of the Germantown area of Philadelphia.

The Western World was defined as a province of Rome, and all roads led there. A better unifying concept would be, the Alps are the center of Europe and all roads had to go around those mountains. At the northern end of the Italian boot are the Swiss Alps, forcing even Romans to go through what is now Provence in France to get around them. Rivers run off the tops of mountain ranges, of course, and then trickle away to some sea. An old jingle defines the river system of Switzerland as The Rhine, the Rhone, Danube and Po--arise in the Alps, and away they go!"

Rhine River

So northward-bound Romans, Julius Caesar and all, went West around the Alps up the valley of the south-flowing Rhone, eventually portaging over to the north-flowing Rhine River flowing to Rotterdam, which in turn is just across the English channel from mouth of the Thames leading to London, or Londinium as they called it. The crossover between the Rhone and the Rhine was at Strasbourg where the European Parliament now meets. For two thousand years, the main highway from Rome to London was via the Rhone-Rhine-Thames river complex.

Essentially, residents to the West of the Rhone-Rhine were Roman Catholic, and residents to the East were Protestant. At least, that was as true in the Sixteenth Century as reciprocal genocide might accomplish. The head of the Rhine River in Switzerland was Calvinist Protestant, and the mouth of the river in Holland was Reform Protestant. Along the main part of the river, Alsace, Lorraine, Palatine, Luxembourg,divided East and West but for centuries pieces of land shifted control back and forth. The reformation movement started by Martin Luther ended up as the Thirty Years War, from which the region took another hundred years to recover, and more hundreds of years to forget and forgive. You might call it a religious Mason-Dixon line, remembering of course that the American Civil War was mostly fought on the Potomac, not the Mason Dixon.

George Fox

Professional soldiers teach military students that there is no war more remorseless than a religious war. Lots of people, probably thousands, were burned at the stake during the religious wars along the Rhineland. Rape and pillage were common practice. And so, if you lived in a little farming village in this region, and some Englishman named William Penn came around with an offer to emigrate to his peaceful kingdom in America, it sounded wonderful. Religious toleration was an important part of the attractiveness, and nowhere to be found in Europe.

William Penn's mother was Dutch. It is likely he spoke the local languages. For a number of years in his youth he had traveled in the Low Countries and the Rhineland, preaching the ideas of George Fox The Quaker. And then, one day he arrived with a brand new idea. The King of England had given him a huge stretch of uninhabited land in the New World, no doubt influenced by the idea that Quakers were a nuisance and this was a good way to get rid of them. Whatever. Penn was selling land grants, and he could be trusted. Why not give it a try?

Keeping Lunaticks Off the Streets

{Pearls on the String}
Benjamin Franklin 1767
One of the functions for America's first hospital was proposed by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond to be the humane treatment of Lunaticks, who would otherwise be wandering the streets of Philadelphia. Nearly three hundred years later, it is possible to look back on the topic and see an uncertain history.

Essentially, the pendulum swings between a humane goal of bringing these poor victims inside, out of the weather, on the one hand, and getting them out of those snake pits so they can enjoy the benefits of being part of the community, on the other. Every couple of decades, the disadvantages of one approach attract attention, and public opinion demands the opposite. Even the era of effective treatment, which began with Thorazine in 1960, has not relieved the central difficulty, because these people often or usually rebel and stop taking their pills; it is not clear that forcing them to take pills is any greater denial of liberty than forcing them to live in a small room. In 2006 and for the prior five years, a grizzly, disheveled old man who talks to himself has pulled old cardboard around him and slept on the steam grate across the street from the Pennsylvania Hospital. Occasionally, someone summons a passing patrol car which sometimes does and sometimes does not, haul him away.

{Pearls on the String}
Pennsylvania Hospital Asylum

In March 1765, a remarkably neat and tidy sailor was admitted to the Hospital as insane, and was kept among the other insane patients in the basement rooms. He wandered out, however, and was chased around until he took refuge in the glass cupola that still adorns the roof of the East wing, facing Eighth Street. It was obvious that he would soon have to come down to eat, but the Quakers who ran the hospital at that time would have none of it; they didn't starve their patients. So a mattress was passed up to him, and regular meals. Nothing much could be done about the cold, which must have been pretty severe, but the patient was allowed to remain in the cupola until 1774 when he died. Nine years of room service in the cupola.

{Pearls on the String}
Stephen Girard

In 1790, the wife of Stephen Girard, the richest man in America, became insane and was admitted. The hospital felt she could go home in a couple of months, but her husband insisted that she stay. She died there, twenty-five years later. At today's rates, comparatively few people could afford that approach, even if the ethical issues could be settled. However, for over a century a great many people were essentially domiciled in the chronic psychiatric unit at Market and 44th Streets

For fifty years after that, a subacute psychiatric unit was maintained at 49th and Market, but ultimately the Federal Government found a smokescreen of confusion, sufficient to hide the awkward political backlash. One by one, the huge human warehouses at Byberry, Philadelphia General Hospital, Bellevue in New York and similar places, went out of business. The public wouldn't stand for "snake pits", even Medicare couldn't afford to put millions of insane people into luxury hotels like 49th and Market. And even though there were a few hundred or even a few thousand families that could afford to pay for humane domiciliary care, they had to be sacrificed. A government medical system, essentially run as a political pork barrel, can not afford to permit the continued existence of a visible rebuke by a two-class system.

So, now we're giving these people the benefit of integration into community life, right?

American Philosophical Society

Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827)
The Artist in His Museum
1822, Oil on canvas
(The Joseph Harrison Jr. Collection)
Courtesy of the
Academy of Fine Arts

all of the red brick buildings on Independence Square look as though they were part of Independence Hall, but there is one exception. The building facing Fifth Street is Philosophical Hall, one of the four buildings of the American Philosophical Society. Right now, Philosophical Hall is used as a museum. It could be called the first museum in America, but not the oldest, because it had interruptions and different proprietorships. Charles Wilson Peale started his museum of curiosities there and then moved it to the second floor of Independence Hall, where he painted the famous portrait of himself holding up the curtain. In recent years, Philosophical Hall has again become a museum, holding treasures and curiosities belonging to the Philosophical Society itself. The docent is pleased to alternate between calling it America's new oldest museum, and America's oldest new museum. And, yes, the newell post has an Amity Button.

{American Philosophical Society building}
Philosophical Society

Patents were established by the Constitution when it was a piece of parchment lying on a table fifty feet away from here, and the early patent office required the submission of a working model of every application for patent. After a while, that got to be a lot of working models lying around, and many of the more interesting ones are on display in the museum. Like the model of Fitch's first steamboat or the gadget Jefferson used, to make simultaneous copies of documents he was writing. That's right near the Gilbert Stuart copy of Washington's portrait, and von Neumann's first algorithm to be stored in his stored program machine, or computer, and Neil Armstrong's speech on the moon, concerning one step for mankind and all. It's a splendid museum, full of the real stuff, in a handsome Georgian building with sparkling immaculate marble staircases.

John Fitch received a US Patent
for the Steamboat August 26, 1791

In the Eighteenth Century, Natural Philosophy was what we now call science. That's why PhDs get a degree of Doctor of Philosophy when they study chemistry and physics. The idea for forming a scientific society in America apparently originated with John Bartram. As so often happens, the originator couldn't quite get it established and had to call on Ben Franklin that impression of publicity, to get it off the ground. To be fair about it, Franklin was probably the more distinguished scientist of the two. To be even more fair about it, the organization struggled a bit until Thomas Jefferson (that's the one who was President of the United States) gave it a real publicity shove. During the depths of the 1930s depression, one of the members left it several million dollars with the stipulation that the investments should focus on common stock. Since buying stock in 1935 was widely regarded as about the stupidest thing an investor could do, this little episode reinforced a strong impression that membership in the APS is given to people who are very smart, not merely famous. The four buildings, the many fellowships, and the big endowment were largely made possible by this contraries investment decision.

There are eight hundred members, of whom 93 have won Nobel Prizes. Over the years, two hundred members have been awarded Nobel Prizes, but you must remember that the organization existed for 150 years before there was such a prize. Several U.S. Supreme Court justices are members and lots and lots of people who are famous. The docent comments that they look pretty much like everyone else. There's a rumor that Bill Gates turned down the offer of membership, so now we will just see. He's young enough to have several decades' opportunity to reconsider an offer, although the APS might just be old enough to lack interest in any second chances.

Defeat and Disaster: Philadelphia Falls to the Enemy


Helen of Troy had launched a thousand ships. Lord Howe only launched four hundred and thirty, but they were bigger. It is estimated a thousand oak trees were cut down to build just one man o' war. To repeat what happened next, this flotilla was parked in lower New York harbor while forty thousand redcoats conquered Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan, Washington Heights, Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Princeton, Trenton -- and then Washington promptly made fools of Howe and Cornwallis, at Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick. Howe, and Cornwallis, in particular, were raging mad. The first year of the two-year siege of Philadelphia was over, and at half-time, the British team was popped up.
Lord George Germaine

The grand plan laid out in London by Lord Germaine was for Howe to capture New York, and maybe Philadelphia if it would be useful, while Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne took an army from Canada along that giant cleft in the earth which starts at the St. Lawrence River, down Lake Champlain, then down the Hudson from Albany to New York. The Hudson is very wide, and the British Navy would have no trouble sailing upriver to Albany, landing an army to meet Burgoyne coming south, with the effect of cutting New England off from the rest of the Colonies. Burgoyne got his orders in London shortly after Howe's January disaster in Trenton arrived in Quebec in May and started on his campaign June 20. Nothing dilatory about him. Howe, however, had six months to get to Albany before that, and several months more before Burgoyne would get to Saratoga, tromping through the woods and black flies. From Staten Island, it might have taken Howe ten days to sail to Albany in plenty of time.

{Chesapeake Bay}
Chesapeake Bay

Instead of that, Howe solitary and without advice, decided to take Philadelphia. Although the British never dwelt much on the fine points, the actual rebellion was only taking place in New England at the time the fleet set sail. It was the arrival of the fleet which triggered the Declaration of Independence, not the other way around. Lord Howe therefore probably felt some justification in revising the agreed plans and orders under which he set sail. As has been described already, the initial foray to Trenton ended embarrassingly. So, the capture of the enemy capital would now help people forget Princeton, and it would be sweet to whip Washington.

Unfortunately, they wasted a lot of time doing it. Finding Delaware too well fortified, and almost as snaggy as Henry Hudson had found it more than a century earlier, he sailed all the way to Norfolk, came up the Chesapeake and landed at the head of Elk, and marched for Philadelphia. The Brandywine Valley has deep sharp cliffs off to the right, so Cornwallis was sent off to the left as a flanker past Dilworthtown while Howe attacked Washington head on at Chadd's Ford. It was to be the largest battle of the whole Revolutionary War. When Washington found himself facing encirclement, he had to order a withdrawal. To skip a few events now memorable to the Main Line suburbs, Philadelphia was essentially then occupied without a further fight, with the British set up their defenses at Germantown, seven miles from the center of town. Three weeks later, Washington attacked Germantown in a three-pronged assault that mainly failed because two of his formations attacked each other in the fog. That was October 4, 1777. The news soon reached them that Burgoyne had surrendered the other British army --starving in the woods -- at Saratoga, New York on October 17. Howe had in effect abandoned Burgoyne in order to take Philadelphia, but it was probably as much a result of getting drawn into a tangle, as a single decision to disregard the grand plan.

In retrospect, it was quite a bad choice. All the world -- and the King of France in particular -- could see that Washington had beaten Howe at Trenton and then Gates and Benedict Arnold had soon beaten Burgoyne at Saratoga. General Gates, of course, was in charge at Saratoga, but Arnold was the flamboyant hero. Adding to his earlier exploits in Quebec and later providing the captured cannon of Ticonderoga for General Knox to drag over the mountains to Boston, thereby allowing Washington to drive the British fleet to safer distances, Arnold now essentially won two more battles at Saratoga. The first was to defeat Leger, who had been sent down Lake Ontario to come back up the Mohawk Valley to Albany. Then, turning his troops through the woods, Arnold joined Gates at Saratoga and defiantly led the charge that smashed the British line, when Gates would have been satisfied with containment. Arnold, like Alexander Hamilton, was a flamboyant man after Washington's heart.

Meanwhile, Howe settled down to enjoy winter at Philadelphia. His court jester and chief entertainer were Major Andre, who took wicked pleasure in using Ben Franklin's Market Street home as his own. There was additional satisfaction in knowing that Washington was freezing at Valley Forge.

Rentier Class

{top quote}
To hope to retire is to hope to be prosperous without working. Those who must work can grow sullen about it. {bottom quote}
Dr. Fisher

Rentier income is passive income, such as interest on savings accounts. Lord Keynes gave the term a nasty rap by defining rentiers as "functionless investors". That suggested Keynes shared some sentiments about passive investing with Karl Marx, who seems to have invented the term; both authors apparently judged the rentier class by the standards of novels by Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, or perhaps movie stars depicted in the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. That is, not gainfully employed, mainly occupied with debaucheries and expensive luxuries. This envy-based image dies hard but may subside if rentier life becomes everyone's goal. Or it may turn vicious, if a majority of voters see themselves as Jacobins in the water with the sharks, looking hungrily at the lucky few in the lifeboat. Guillotine, anyone?

Lord Keynes

To a certain degree, these attitudes can be managed, as possibly illustrated by bankers. After all, bankers extend credit to financially secure borrowers at the lowest interest rates and refuse credit to the penniless clients who need it most. It is thus frustrating to discover that you can't have any borrowers unless you have some lenders, too. In the main therefore, the public remains tolerant of the differential cost of taking risks. However, the public is often intolerant of the true value of a banker's role: simultaneous exchanging of capital between those with a surplus, and those with a need. That's unforced barter; forced relief of need requires the use of political majorities, responding to political viewpoints. If votes were all that mattered, however, the growing proportion of the population in retiree status could afford to be more complacent than they are. So 30-35% of American GDP would now qualify as the spending of passive income, although the varying degrees of risk within such investment are hard to evaluate. The risk is sure to rise as more labor-intensive work gets globalized away. Observers notice a paradox: passive income seemingly increases as the labor to achieve it diminishes, quite the opposite of the 19th-century Communist idea of work as the source of all wealth. Rentiers are never far from the need to defend the value of non-work income, at the same time everyone seeks to avoid hard labor, except as recreation. Our inconsistency does need some fine-tuning.

{William Bingham class=}
F Scott Fitzgerald

In the future, one thing seems certain: a greater proportion of our population will be retired persons, living on pensions, rentier income from savings, and government handouts. As it becomes the universal expectation of everyone that thirty years of rentier life awaits in the retirement stage of life, there will be less chance for Keynes, Marx, and Fitzgerald to seem so congenial to the voting class. But take care; young people, particularly unemployed young people, are never far from asking, "And what have you done for us, lately?", as if fairness were something to be measured with a spoon.

Karl Marx

Curiously, one implication about rentier income has almost disappeared. Interest is paid by a debtor to a creditor; as Marx would have it, the poor workingman is paying the rich rentier. Dividend income represents the profit from a business to its owner or a farm to its farmer. But emotionally, that is hardly so. We have so sterilized the investment process that we seldom think of debtors and creditors but speak of "fixed income" and "fixed income investors". The income from ownership, or "equity", is now thought by economists to bear a definable relation to the "prevailing return from fixed income". To them, it's all the same thing. Future attitudes can be hard to predict, but although everyone seems destined to be both a creditor and debtor at the same time, the two are surely not the same thing.

It's also hard to predict Americans attitudes if passive income becomes say eighty percent of GDP. Or fifty percent of the population become rentiers. Eighty percent rentiers, if you exclude children. Americans worship work; even labor leaders cry out, "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Western Europeans, however, seem willing to sacrifice luxury in order to live without work as threadbare rentiers. Is that the product of brain-washing, or have they discovered some evil in work that Americans are unable to see? The ancient Romans once aspired to more luxury, fewer soldiers. Unsympathetic barbarian neighbors then wiped them out. Better do some thinking about this because the Law of Gravity will not save the situation, any more than history lends much comfort to it.

America in 1767

{dekalb exhibition}
Johann de Kalb

Baron Johann de Kalb was to die a hero of the American Revolution in 1780, but in 1767 he was a spy for France, scouting out potential French opportunities in America. He made the following report to the French minister of foreign affairs, duc de Choiseul:

"Everywhere there are children swarming like broods of ducks, large fertile farms, flourishing industries, and harborsbarely able to hold the and fishing and Merchant Fleets

"Whatever may be done in London," judged de Kalb, "this country is growing too powerful to be much longer governed at such a distance."

- as cited by Walter A. MacDougall, Freedom Just Around the Corner


Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History: 1585-1828: Walter A. McDougall ISBN-13: 978-0060197896 Amazon

Riverline: Camden and Amboy Revival


The RiverLine, a sort of diesel-powered overgrown trolley car line, has just re-opened on the Conrail tracks from Camden to Trenton. It runs every 30 minutes in both directions but unfortunately stops at 10 PM to let Conrail run freight trains at night. That's almost a perfect fit for the two operations, although it could leave baseball fans stranded at a night game at Campbell Park (now closed), or concertgoers at the Tweeter Center. The trains are running fairly full, partly because of their novelty, and partly because of the initial decision not to collect the $1.10 fare on Sunday, but mostly because the Riverline proved to be a better idea than anyone realized it would be. It's considerably cheaper for Philadelphia commuters to Wall Street to take the Riverline and transfer to New Jersey Transit at Trenton, for one thing. Even Amtrak encourages that, because high gasoline prices have filled up the Amtrak trains.

It's well worth a historical excursion on the RiverLine, which runs on the former right of way of the first railroad in New Jersey, chartered in 1830 by Robert L. Stevens. A genius of many talents, Stevens invented the iron rail which looks like an inverted "T," held in place by a system of plates and broad-headed spikes. The system is still in use today. Stevens also devised the use of wooden cross ties rather than granite ones, finding they resulted in a smoother ride. In 1834, he joined forces with another many-talented genius, Robert F. Stockton, who had earlier constructed a canal from New Brunswick to Trenton. Stevens then built a railroad beside the canal, subsequently extending it from Trenton to Camden. Stockton ran ferry boats from Perth Amboy to New York, and from Camden to Philadelphia. The full trip from New York to Philadelphia took nine hours, a remarkable improvement over the horse-drawn competition.

The partnership also got the Legislature to confer monopoly rights, so the arrangement was highly profitable as well as an engineering marvel. Sixty years later, the Sherman Act would declare such monopolies to be crimes, but in 1830 they were considered a clever way for Legislatures to stimulate risky investment. The Pennsylvania Railroad bought the partnership and its monopoly in 1871, but preferred to bridge the Delaware River at Trenton, so the towns and track along the Jersey side of the river soon dwindled away. The RiverLine now provides a pleasant one-hour excursion along the riverbank, down the main streets of some cute little towns, past some remarkable woods and wilderness up near Trenton, and past Camden's urban revival at the southern end.

Poor Richard Plays Hardball 628 :

Several distinguished biographies of Benjamin Franklin have recently skirted his January 1774 confrontation with the British government in the "Cockpit" of Whitehall. Presumably, the exquisite details are too fancy and complicated for easy description, or possibly the cardinal significance of this intellectual duel is underestimated. It seems possible the American Revolution was declared by one man's making up his mind. A mind made up in one particular hour in one particular room, irrevocably, in front of the whole British Establishment.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was there, and so were Edmund Burke and Joseph Priestley. So were all the Privy Council, and most of British high society, giggling and hissing at his discomfort. Poor Richard stood there silent and impassive. The Enlightenment thought they were deciding his fate, but he was deciding theirs.

Lord Alexander Wedderburn

Franklin had published some letters he had promised not to publish, but they showed the British government in a very bad light. Alexander Wedderburn the Solicitor-General had deliberately orchestrated the meeting to shift the emphasis to Franklin's broken promise and away from British provocation of it. The room had been packed with highbrows promised a delicious treat, and Wedderburn's speech was meticulously planned as an entertainment for the intelligentsia. The man who discovered electricity was mocked as "conducting" the letters. And a famous man of letters was reminded that the ancient Athenians would brand three letters on the back of the hand of a thief: FUR, the name for a thief, an elaborate 18th Century pun making reference to fur hats and collars, which were the traditional symbol of printers. Wedderburn roused himself to the climactic announcement that the famous Roman, Plautus, had invented the famous derivative epithet, "Homo, triumph literarum," portentously meaning a three-letter man. The galleries of Whitehall tittered and applauded this thrilling attack. Franklin continued to stand, his face perfectly inscrutable to the end.

Deplessis Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

In his report back to the Massachusetts Legislature, Franklin used dismissive understatement to show he had not been asleep while he was impassive. He had been, he said, "the butt of his invective ribaldry for nearly an hour." After that, Poor Richard seemed to disappear from British society for nine months, seeing only close friends in his house, and then he sailed home to America, becoming a member of the Continental Congress the day he stepped off the boat. Meanwhile, he had arranged to have his portrait painted by Duplessis, the most distinguished painter in France, eventually to have it hang next to a painting by the same artist, of the King of France. To the original sketch for the portrait had been added a fur collar, the traditional emblem of the painter's guild. At the bottom, where a motto ordinarily would be found, was the single, three-letter Latin word, "VIR," or man, which would today be equivalent to he-man. And just so everyone would get the point, Franklin sent an otherwise anonymous letter to the newspapers, signed "Homo Triumph Literarum" in which he taunted that the friends of Mr. Franklin would have to agree he was a thief, as in the famous line of poetry that "He stole the lightning from the skies." But old Ben wasn't just bragging. Anticipating the baseball player Dizzy Dean by two hundred years, he was in effect saying "It ain't braggin' if you really have done it."

On Feb. 6, 1778 he and Silas Deane went over to the French palace to sign the Treaty of Alliance with the King of France. Instead of his usual brown suit, Franklin was wearing a faded blue one, and Deane questioned why he wore old clothes to such an important ceremony. "To give it a little revenge," was the answer. "I wore this suit on the day Wedderburn abused me at Whitehall." The true depth of Franklin's feelings would never have been known if Deane had not asked.

As a reminder, the Treaty they were signing said, "The essential and direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, sovereignty, and independence of the said United States. . . ." All in all, not a bad academic performance for a man who never went past the second grade in school.


The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution,and The Birth of America, Steven Johnson ISBN: 978-1-59448-852-8 Amazon

Tom Paine: Rabble-Rousing Quaker? 692:: Blog 692:

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born of Quaker parents, which makes him a "birthright" Quaker. Children born into Quaker families are accustomed to the subtleties of speech and behavior of that religious sect, ultimately growing up to be the main nucleus of tradition. Knowing what they are getting into, however, they are more likely to rebel against it than others who, coming to the religion by choice rather than by birthright, are commonly described as "Convinced Friends."

These stereotypes may or may not explain some of Tom Paine's paradoxes. He certainly was not a pacifist, a quietest, or a plain person. He was an important historical figure; Walter A. McDougall, the famous University of Pennsylvania historian, feels the American colonists might have sputtered and complained about Royal rule for decades, except for Paine. The American Revolution happened when it happened because Tom Paine stirred up a storm.

Common Sense

According to the traditional way of telling his story, Tom Paine was a ne'er do well failure in London. He ran into Benjamin Franklin, who advised him to emigrate to America in 1775, and within a year his pamphlet called ""Common Sense"" had sold 150,000 copies (some even claim 500,000), galvanizing the public and the Continental Congress into action on July 4, 1776. George Washington read Paine's writings to his troops on the eve of the Battle of Trenton. After that, Paine got mixed up with the French Revolution, and apparently became a severe alcoholic, proclaiming atheism all the way. Although Thomas Jefferson remained friendly to the end, Benjamin Franklin essentially told him to go leave him alone, and Washington would cross the street to avoid him. According to the usual line, Tom Paine was a big-mouthed rabble-rouser and a drunk, who traveled the world looking to stir up revolutions.

However, that cannot possibly be a fair recounting of the whole story. Thomas Alva Edison, whose opinion certainly counts for something, regarded Tom Paine as one of the greatest American inventors, creating the first steel bridge, the first hollow candle, and the principle of central drought in heating. Paine early became a close friend of the Hicks family, the central figures in modern Quakerism; it seems a little unclear how much Tom Paine was reflecting the views of Elias Hicks, and how much Hicksite Quakerism can be said to have originated in the thinking of Thomas Paine. Paine was very far from being an atheist. In fact, both he and Hicks believed so fervently in the universality of God that both of them scorned the rituals, paraphernalia, and transparent superstitions of -- religion.

Furthermore, Paine was able to reach the rationalists of The Enlightenment with arguments which cut to the heart of Royalist loyalties. America was too big and too remote to be ruled by a king, particularly one who abused his privileges behind a claim of divine right. href="">William the Conqueror, for example, never denied he was a usurper. One way or another, every king must earn his throne. So, as for feudalism and hereditary aristocracy, what was King George doing with all those German mercenaries? After two centuries of democracy, most Americans are too far from feudalism to appreciate the legitimacy of military meritocracy. Whatever King George was up to, he didn't stand for empowerment of the best and the brightest Englishmen, who in fact might well be opposed to him. If you wanted to get to Virginia aristocrats, Boston sea captains, and Kentucky backwoodsmen, that was exactly the line to take in Common Sense.

Unfortunately, Citizen Tom Paine was a freethinker and couldn't be quiet about it in his later books. He didn't like the way the Old Testament Hebrews hungered for a king. He didn't like the way the New Testament sprinkled miracles on top of unassailable moral principles, and he particularly didn't like the claim that God got an unmarried girl pregnant. He antagonized almost every established religion by proclaiming that no one should make a living from religion. He wrote a book called href="">Age of Reason proclaiming all these freethinking ideas, which struck Ben Franklin as such a stupid thing to do that he would not discuss it, beyond saying that even if he should succeed in convincing people to abandon religion, just imagine how much worse they would probably behave without it. George Washington, who hadn't a trace of intellectualism about him, more accurately portrayed the typical American revulsion at anyone who was so unprincipled as to say such unorthodox things in public. Jefferson distanced himself for political reasons rather than intellectual ones. Franklin thought Paine was a fool. Washington and the rest of the country thought he was a viper.

It would have to be conceded -- by anyone -- that Tom Paine was self-destructive, even sassing Robespierre while in a French prison. How is it such a loose cannon could get the American public off dead center and make the Continental Congress grasp the nettle of revolution, in less than a year? Let's go back to how he came to America in the first place. Franklin sent him.

Then he promptly got a job as editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette, which Franklin had owned for thirty years. And then, in an era when the largest city in America had a population of twenty-five thousand, and the printing presses of the day were able to turn out three or four pages a minute, he sold 150,000 copies of the fifty-page "Common Sense." Who but Franklin, in private partnerships with sixty printers, could have possibly authorized, financed, and printed 150,000 copies of a colonial pamphlet? In order to find that much printing capacity in colonial America, a great deal of other printing had to lose its place in the queue.

Even today, a best-seller is defined as a book that sells 50,000 copies, and it generally takes three years to get it done. In the Eighteenth Century, for an unknown alcoholic to get off the boat and find a publisher for a best seller in a few weeks is hard even to imagine. Unless he had important help.

Edward Hicks: Peaceable Kingdoms

{Peaceable Kingdoms}
Peaceable Kingdoms

Edward Hicks (1780-1849), the most important folk artist of American art, was born and lived all his life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. About a hundred of his paintings survive, 62 of which are versions of "The Peaceable Kingdom". Recently, his Peaceable Kingdoms have been selling for more than $4 million apiece, and the other works at more than a million. As is so often the case, he was born in poverty and spent his life in poverty, so the financial benefits have all gone to middle-men.

Hicks had to overcome an additional handicap. Quakers disapproved of painting things up just for show, and they strongly disapproved of the vanity underlying the act of having a portrait painted of yourself. In fact, the early Quakers would not even permit their names to be placed on their tombstones.

Hicks was apprenticed into the wagon business and showed a talent for painting them. From that, entirely self-taught, he migrated into the business of painting business signs in an age of limited literacy. The Blue Anchor Tavern, the King of Prussia Inn, the Crossed Keys Tavern and the signs of various tradesmen were an essential part of conducting business. It is easy to see these tradesmen signs in the easel paintings of Hicks' later career, which reduce themselves to rearrangements of such individual sign paintings to make a coherent canvas.

If you have seen one "Peaceable Kingdom" you haven't seen them all, but you only need to see one to be able to recognize the others at sight. They generally form a group of wild animals and an occasional child in the right foreground, with a grouping of Quakers and Indians in the left background, taken from Benjamin West's famous portrayal of Penn signing the treaty of peace with the Delaware Indians. The scene is taken from Chapter 11 of Isaiah, in which the lion lies down with the lamb.

Hicks was not a successful farmer, and he had to overcome Quaker resistance even to sell religious paintings with a Quaker moral. No doubt the resistance was strengthened by the fact that his cousin Elias Hicks had split the Quaker church into two (Conservatives and Hicksites) in 1827, and Edward was himself a strong itinerant preacher. Although the plain message of the Peaceable Kingdom is reconciliation between the two branches of Quakerism, he probably encountered a fair amount of coolness among the Conservative opposition.

Hicks was neither an educated nor a sophisticated man. It is forgivable that he made such a strong Old Testament statement when he and his cousin represented a dissenting sect that was gravely doubtful about the wisdom of allowing your life to be ruled by biblical verses.


Function to make inserting new rows into a database table easier (and safe because quote_smart logic is included inline)

thanks to R. Bradley @; I have fixed a number of bugs and added quote_smart functionality

My own contribution to is here: george at georgefisher dot com

function mysql_insert_assoc ($my_table, $my_array) {
// Insert values into a MySQL database
// Includes quote_smart code to foil SQL Injection
// A call to this function of:
//  $val1 = "foobar";
//  $val2 = 495;
//  mysql_insert_assoc("tablename", array(col1=>$val1, col2=>$val2, col3=>"val3", col4=>720));
// Sends the following query:
//  INSERT INTO tablename (col1, col2, col3, col4) values ('foobar', 495, 'val3', 720)
    global $db_link;
    // Find all the keys (column names) from the array $my_array
    $columns = array_keys($my_array);

    // Find all the values from the array $my_array
    $values = array_values($my_array);
    // quote_smart the values
    $values_number = count($values);
    for ($i = 0; $i < $values_number; $i++)
      $value = $values[$i];
      if (get_magic_quotes_gpc()) { $value = stripslashes($value); }
      if (!is_numeric($value))    { $value = "'" . mysql_real_escape_string($value, $db_link) . "'"; }
      $values[$i] = $value;
    // Compose the query
    $sql = "INSERT INTO $my_table ";

    // create comma-separated string of column names, enclosed in parentheses
    $sql .= "(" . implode(", ", $columns) . ")";
    $sql .= " values ";

    // create comma-separated string of values, enclosed in parentheses
    $sql .= "(" . implode(", ", $values) . ")";
    $result = @mysql_query ($sql) 
              OR die ("<br />\n<span style=\"color:red\">Query: $sql UNsuccessful :</span> " . mysql_error() . "\n<br />");

    return ($result) ? true : false;

mysql_update_assoc is a similar function that updates existing records.

Also thanks to for encoding

Date Math

Figuring out how many days there are between two dates is either built in to the system you are using or else you will tear your hair out what with leap years, floating leap days, etc.

There are two ways to do this fairly simply:

  1. Using Julian Date Counts
  2. Using the system clock functions

Julian Date Counts

Julian Date Counts are not related to Julius Caesar's calendar. They are a way to assign a sequential number to every date going way back into antiquity. Convert any two dates to their Julian Date Count number and the difference is the number of days between the dates.

See Julian Day Numbers

In C++ ...

long int GregorianToJulian(int gregorianMonth, int gregorianDay, int gregorianYear)
	// this function calculates the Julian Date Number from a Gregorian date
	// astronomers and others use these numbers becasue the difference between two
	// Julian Date Numbers is the number of days between the dates
	// see

	long int A;
	long int B;
	long int C;
	long int E;
	long int F;
	long int JD;

	long int Y, M, D;

	Y = gregorianYear;
	M = gregorianMonth;
	D = gregorianDay;

	if (M <= 2)
	  Y = Y - 1;
	  M = M + 12;
	A = Y/100;
	B = A/4;
	C = 2-A+B;
	E = 365.25*(Y+4716);
	F = 30.6001*(M+1);
	JD= C+D+E+F-1524.5;

	return JD;

void JulianToGregorian (long int julianDateNumber, int& gregorianMonth, int& gregorianDay, int& gregorianYear)
	// Convert a Julian Date Number to a Gregorian Date
	// see

	long int Z;
	long int W;
	long int X;
	long int A;
	long int B;
	long int C;
	long int D;
	long int E;
	long int F;

	Z = julianDateNumber+0.5;
	W = (Z - 1867216.25)/36524.25;
	X = W/4;
	A = Z+1+W-X;
	B = A+1524;
	C = (B-122.1)/365.25;
	D = 365.25*C;
	E = (B-D)/30.6001;
	F = 30.6001*E;

	gregorianDay   = B-D-F;
	gregorianMonth = ((E-1) > 12) ? E-13 : E-1;
	gregorianYear  = (gregorianMonth>2) ? C-4716 : C-4715;

Using the system clock functions

Again in C++ ...


Find the days between two dates

Found at

The sources were helpful but I had to extensively modify/hack to make this actually work


#include <time.h>
#define SECONDS_PER_DAY (24 * 60 * 60)

time_t time_from_date(int year, unsigned int month, unsigned int day)
    // Return the time from the year 1900 to the date entered
    struct tm a = {0,0,0,day,month - 1,year - 1900};
    time_t x = mktime(&a);

    return x;

int days_between(int year0, unsigned month0, unsigned day0,
                 int year1, unsigned month1, unsigned day1)
	// The difference in seconds between two dates,
	//   divided by the number of seconds in a day ...
	//     is the number of days between the dates

    return difftime(time_from_date(year1, month1, day1),
                    time_from_date(year0, month0, day0)) / SECONDS_PER_DAY;

(my thanks to for HTML encoding)

Ampersand Madness: Convert & to &amp; to prevent XHTML errors

The whole subject of "encoding" gives me a headache.

Encoding In General

The first thing you have to know is: what is HTML encoding ... so look here:
or here:

(These are HTML encodings; URL encoding is something else again ... look here:

Ampersand Encoding and Conversion

Later on, you'll find out that the ampersand is a huge source of XHTML errors because it has to be written

but you will struggle endlessly with how to get the darn thing to stay converted. First of all, content providers feel justifiably justified in including bare naked "&"s wherever they please; second of all, you will find that encoded ampersands get stripped back to their bare naked selves by browsers and other well-meaning sorts.

So, my undying thanks to Michael Ash's Regex Blog for providing the regex pattern in the following bit of PHP code:

$pattern = '/&(?!(?i:\#((x([\dA-F]){1,5})|(104857[0-5]|10485[0-6]\d|1048[0-4]\d\d|104[0-7]\d{3}|10[0-3]\d{4}|0?\d{1,6}))|([A-Za-z\d.]{2,31}));)/i';
$replacement = '&amp;';
$string = preg_replace ( $pattern, $replacement, $string);

I don't know how it can possibly work, and I may yet eat my words, but for the moment it seems to do the trick.

Ampersand Encoding In RSS

Another thing: &#x26; is the only ampersand encoding form acceptable to both RSS and Atom. So, look at the souce of this page and you will find that I use this encoding in the title ... that's because the title goes into the Title field of my RSS and Atom feeds.

Font Families

The following link shows the results of a survey done to find out which font families are installed on Windows machines. This should help determine which fonts to use.

Identifont is a site that helps identify good font choices.

RSS Feeds

RSS 2.0rss.xml
Atom 1.0atom.xml
Yahoo! urllisturllist.txt
Yahoo! IDIF pointeridifpointer.txt
Google Sitemapsitemap.xml
A9/Amazon siteinfositeinfo.xml
Add to Yahoo! {Add to My Yahoo!}
Add to Google {Google}
{[Valid RSS]} {[Valid Atom 1.0]}

Geo Positioning

Geo Tagging refers to adding latitude and longitude information to websites and photographs. This has been around for a long time but it has taken the advent of Google Earth for it to really start to catch on.

This blog entry has geo meta tags that you can see if you look at the HTML source ("View > [Page] Source"). The input was as follows:

Address: 82 Devonshire St Boston MA

Lat: 42.3578 Lon: -71.0577

Descriptive Place Name: Fidelity Investments headquarters

Region: US-MA Country Code: US Country Name: United States

This creates meta tags in the HTML Header as follows:

<!-- geo tags for 82 Devonshire St Boston MA -->
<meta name="ICBM"          content="42.3578, -71.0577" />

<meta name=""   content="US" />
<meta name="geo.region"    content="US-MA" />
<meta name="geo.placename" content="Fidelity Investments headquarters" />
<meta name="geo.position"  content="42.3578; -71.0577" />

<meta name=""      content="Fidelity Investments headquarters" />
<meta name="tgn.nation"    content="United States" />

The Region, Country Code and Country Name can be found here: ISO-3166-1 Country Names

geo.placename and are often rendered as the city name but are intended to describe the geographical feature ("Pyramids of Giza" or something). This tag is optional.

HTML geo meta tags can be validated here: {geo tag validation}

There is a search engine of long standing that reads HTML geo meta tags and indexes the website based upon its location; for searching, it groups sites based on their geographic proximity: GeoURL.

Photographs can also contain geo meta data, so-called EXIF data (Firefox has an EXIF viewer AddOn).

JPEG is the most common image format and the easiest to deal with. The combination of Picassa2 and Google Earth allow you easily to add this information to your own photos.

The process of adding lat and lon to your photographs is this:

1. Select one or more photos in Picassa
2. Select Tools > GeoTag > GeoTag with Google Earth ...
3. This starts Google Earth and you can "fly" to the location of the picture

4. A small Picasa window will appear in Earth's lower-right corner displaying thumbnails of the pictures you selected; press the "Geotag" button.
5. When all of your pictures are tagged, press the "Done" button

Slowly, camera manufacturers are providing GPS capability. Some few have GPS devices built in and some others allow an external GPS device to be attached, although both Canon and Nikon are way behind the curve ... if you own either, you can essentially forget it: the best - lousy - solution is to carry around a GPS with you and synchronize the times ... ugly.

The Google Maps API allows maps to be embedded in a website as is done here. Google Maps API

The JavaScript required to embed the map on this page can also be seen in the HTML source ("View > [Page] Source"). In addition to JavaScript, you need a DIV with an ID of "map" or whatever is specified in the JavaScript document.getElementById entry, which specifies the height and width of the map to be displayed.

To embed these maps you must register with Google

In addition, there are extensions to ATOM and RSS to include lat and lon in your syndication feeds; there are three standards that I have found: GeoRSS (ATOM example) , W3C Geo (RSS example) and an "ICBM RSS Module". This website extends the namespaces of both its ATOM feed and its RSS feed to include all the tags.

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all now support GeoRSS as a feed to their map programs. My sense of it is that KML is a richer protocol, allowing more features, but fundamentally all these XML variants do mostly the same thing.

Google Sitemaps can include links to KML files (and ATOM, now, too). Part of the sitemap generation on this site is some code that picks up every *.kml and *.kmz file in the /kml/ folder and adds them to our sitemap.xml file.

Google Earth is filled with delights, not the least of which is a Flight Simulator! Google Earth Flight Simulator Keyboard Controls

KML ( Keyhole Markup Language, Keyhole being the predecessor to Google Earth) is an XML protocol that allows you to incorporate Google Earth into graphical presentations. Google KML Overview

Google Earth Outreach helps you get started: Google Earth Outreach

An extraordinary collection of KML files you can view is found here: Spectacular satellite images of the world

I found a KML editor here: NorthGates' KML Editor for Windows. It's rudimentary but very handy for what it does do.

Here's the Google Earth tools list where I found the KML editor: EarthPlot Software Tools For Google Earth

The way we serve the KML in the link that connects to Google Earth from individual blogs uses the following PHP script as its base:


// See Google Earth's KML 2.1 Reference

$lat			= $_GET['lat'];
$lon			= $_GET['lon'];
$placename		= $_GET['placename'];
$altitude		= $_GET['altitude'];
$range			= $_GET['range'];
$heading		= $_GET['heading'];
$tilt			= $_GET['tilt'];
if ($altitude	== NULL) {$altitude	= 0;}
if ($range	== NULL) {$range	= 1000;}
if ($heading	== NULL) {$heading	= 0;}
if ($tilt	== NULL) {$tilt		= 0;}
$description	= "<h3><font color=\"#ea9f20\"><a href=\"\">
		<p>The musings of a Philadelphia physician who has served the community for six decades.</p>";
header('Content-Type: application/');
header('Content-Disposition: inline; filename="philadelphia-reflections.kml"');

echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>'; 


<kml xmlns="">

    <name><?php echo $placename; ?></name>
        <![CDATA[<?php echo $description; ?>]]>
      <longitude><?php echo $lon; ?></longitude>
      <latitude><?php echo $lat; ?></latitude>
      <altitude><?php echo $altitude; ?></altitude>
      <range><?php echo $range; ?></range>
      <tilt><?php echo $tilt; ?></tilt>
      <heading><?php echo $heading; ?></heading>
      <coordinates><?php echo "$lon,$lat,$altitude"; ?></coordinates>


Of course, GPS devices are an integral part of this process of Geo Positioning. GPS devices are supposed to support the open-source protocol GPX,
which is an XML-based description of waypoints and routes. Wikipedia describes GPX here: GPS eXchange Format

The GPX protocol's official website is here: GPX The GPS Exchange Format

Google Earth supports raw GPX (File > Open ...) and when you open a GPX file in Google Earth, it converts it to KML. But if you want stand alone programs to do this:

If you have non-standard GPS data, you may want to have a look at GPS Babel for conversion of native GPS formats as well as the GPS Utility and G7ToWin

A nice blog on these things relative to Google Maps is here: Using XSL to Transform Google Earth (KML) and GPX to Google Maps API

At Philadelphia Reflections, we are creating tours by carrying a GPS and a camera around on our travels. The GPS track becomes a path and waypoints become placemarks. When you come home, download the GPS data in GPX format and open up the GPX file in Google Earth. Use Google Earth to edit the placemark balloons, including pictures and text.

There are many, many sightseeing blogs around that take you to interesting places on Google Maps and Google Earth. A place to start looking is Sightseeing with Google Satellite Maps

Somehow, the concept of "mashup" is related to all of this but it sort of sounds like the term "multimedia" a few years ago ... fancy in concept but somewhat vague in reality.

Google has a Mashup Editor and Wikipedia has a definition but it's not clear what it all adds up to.

(my thanks to for HTML encoding)

Process .htm and .html as php

It is sometimes helpful to include php scripting in files that do not have the file extension of php.

There is quite a lot of discussion on the web about this but at least on this server the answer is not what most people think.

In the .htaccess file in the root folder include these two lines:

AddType application/x-httpd-php .html .php .htm
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .html .php

HTML Forms

How do you (a) open a form when a radio button is clicked (b) in a new window?

Here's how it's done on this website.


<script type="text/javascript">

	/* javascript function called by the radio buttons 
	     to submit the form when clicked */

	function formSubmit()


  <form name="form_x" id="form_x"

	<legend>legend surrounding the form</legend>

	<input type="radio" name="key" value="1269" onclick="formSubmit()" />



(my thanks to for HTML encoding)

Regex URL Matching

On this site we check for the existence of a URL whenever an entry is updated

There are two key technologies at work

function url_exists($url) 
// checks whether a URL actually exists on the Internet
$handle   = curl_init($url);
if (false === $handle)
    return false;
curl_setopt($handle, CURLOPT_HEADER, false);
curl_setopt($handle, CURLOPT_FAILONERROR, true); 
curl_setopt($handle, CURLOPT_NOBODY, true);
curl_setopt($handle, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, false);
$connectable = curl_exec($handle);
return $connectable;

function aExists($matches)
// function called by preg_replace_callback
// $matches[0] is the complete match
// $matches[1] the match for the first subpattern
//	enclosed in '(...)' and so on

// checks to see if a regular link exists
// something similar is done for img src= also

$srcURL = $matches[3];
if (url_exists($srcURL)) {do something; return "";}  
else {do something else; return "";}

$foo = preg_replace_callback(
            '/(.*?)(<a .*?href=")([^"]*)("[^>]*>)(.*?)(<\/a>)/i',

(my thanks to for HTML encoding)

Parsing name-value pair attributes in an HTML tag

Not only do the attributes in an HTML tag come in random order but many are optional

Here's a regex solution:

function tagAttr($matches) {print_r($matches);}

$string = '<img src="/images/picture.jpg" width="300" class="left" alt="alt keywords" />';

$foo	= preg_replace_callback(

Produces the following:

    [0] => <img src="/images/picture.jpg" width="300" class="left" alt="alt keywords" />
    [1] => alt keywords
    [2] => left
    [3] => 
    [4] => /images/picture.jpg
    [5] => 
    [6] => 300

The regex is a series of alternating sequences; so, add href="([^"]*)"| in front of alt="([^"]*)" to select an additional attribute.

$matches[0] is the complete match
$matches[1] is alt=
$matches[2] is class=
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My thanks (a) to Flagrant Badassery for putting me onto the idea and (b) to for HTML encoding

SQL To Exclude A List Of Items

Let's say you have a table "Primary" that contains an "Email" field.

You would like to select all the email addresses in Primary except for the list of email addresses in the Email field in a table "Exclude".

This SQL will exclude the emails in "Primary" based on those contained in "Exclude".

SELECT * FROM Primary WHERE ((Primary.Email) Not In (SELECT Email FROM Exclude))

Virginia Invades Pennsylvania

Map of Pittsburg

Pittsburgh is situated at a water gap, where a prehistoric North-South river broke through the mountain to the West. Thus, the southerly Monongahela river joined the northerly Allegheny to form the Ohio river at the "Golden Triangle". Virginian explorers saw the Monongahela as their path to the mid-West, the French in Canada saw the Allegheny as their path from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi, while William Penn had an awkward charter saying he owned the whole territory. To make matters worse, the region was largely settled by semi-barbarian Scotch-Irish squatters, while the equally fierce Indian tribes were pretty outraged by the white men. Benjamin Franklin added his bit to uproar by buying the territory from the Iroquois at the 1754 Albany Conference, when it belonged to the Delaware tribe, who promptly became the main exterminators of General Braddock's army. Lord Dunmore also bought the Ohio territory from the Iroquois, in spite of the fact that it traditionally belonged to the Shawnees. The whole region was a seething cauldron of massacres and assassinations, betrayals and vengeance. Not exactly a place to welcome pacifist Quaker governance.

Young George Washington

It would be interesting to know George Washington's later thoughts about this region since he was the young officer who started the French and Indian War in 1753. The Governor of Virginia had learned the French were fortifying Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio and sent Washington to warn them to desist. He barely escaped with his life, and soon accompanied General Braddock's English troops to their own disaster in 1755. In 1758 the British sent General Forbes with a British army to wipe out Fort Duquesne, which he did, establishing Fort Pitt on the ashes. Fort Pitt somehow remained under the control of -- Virginia -- until 1777.

Delaware River

The Penn proprietors were vigilant, but patient when they had to be. Presumably through influence with the British crown, the Penns gave their consent to the Forbes expedition only on condition their ownership rights were recognized. Their argument was a difficult one to maintain in the face of military realities, since their charter read that the western boundary of Pennsylvania was to be five degrees west of the Delaware River, a rather vague concept in the wilderness of Appalachia. It was maintained that such a boundary would naturally parallel the twists and turns of the Delaware, at a distance of several hundred miles west. Such a preposterous boundary was soon abandoned for the cubist idea of several straight lines with bends at major levels of the Delaware River. With all disputants rather befuddled, it was finally established that any possible variation of language and interpretation would still put the boundary at least six miles west of the forks of the Ohio. Seeing the main point of the sophistry was lost in any event, Virginia gave up.

It might be possible to be sympathetic with Virginia's claim, except for Lord Dunmore the Governor. After all, Virginia had shed blood for the area, surveyed it, built roads, and persuaded the British Ministry to support them militarily. The Pennsylvanians only had a piece of parchment, carelessly engraved with an unworkable depiction of vague boundaries in the woods which totally ignored the most important natural landmark. But Lord Dunmore was too clever by half.

It would appear that his scheme was to make the region uninhabitable by stirring up the Indians and settlers into ferocious massacres. With these competing claims eliminated, it would be far easier to negotiate with other competitive claimants. Virginia was by far the largest of the thirteen colonies, and Pennsylvania was notoriously the most unwilling to meet force with force. It would be interesting to see studies of the inside pressures and negotiations which eventually made Virginia back off. But it seems safe to believe that the necessity for the colonies to unite in their common struggle for independence was in one form or another, the definitive force.

At any rate, at the end of a long career, in 1794 President George Washington personally led an army into Pennsylvania's Appalachia to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion at a town called Monongahela. It would be immensely revealing to know what his thoughts and reflections were, as he jiggled along on his horse.

Franklin Declares Independence a Year Early

Joseph Priestly became a close friend of Benjamin Franklin almost as soon as they met. Priestly was an Anglican clergyman who broke loose and formed the Unitarian Church, and meanwhile, his scientific discoveries also entitle him to be called the Father of Chemistry. Franklin, of course, was the discoverer of electricity; it would be hard to be sure which of the two was more brilliant. In July, 1775, Franklin wrote the following letter to Priestly, which makes a trenchant case that the American colonies should, and would, break away from England. Since some legal authorities, following Lincoln's lead, maintain that Jefferson's manifesto "informs" the United States Constitution, it might be well to begin referring to this letter as an even clearer statement of the mindset of America's founding leaders.

General Thomas Gage

" Dear Friend (wrote Franklin),

"The Congress met at a time when all minds were so exasperated by the perfidy of General Gage, and his attack on the country people (i.e. Of Lexington and Concord), that propositions of attempting an accommodation were not much relished; and it has been with difficulty that we have carried another humble petition to the crown, to give Britain one more chance, one opportunity more of recovering the friendship of the colonies; which however I think she has not sense enough to embrace, and so I conclude she has lost them forever.

"She has begun to burn our seaport towns; secure, I suppose, that we shall never be able to return the outrage in kind. She may doubtless destroy them all; but if she wishes to recover our commerce, are these the probable means? She must certainly be distracted; for no tradesman out of Bedlam ever thought of increasing the number of his customers by knocking them on the head; or of enabling them to pay their debts by burning their houses.

"If she wishes to have us subjects and that we should submit to her as our compound sovereign, she is now giving us such miserable specimens of her government, that we shall ever detest and avoid it, as a complication of robbery, murder, famine, fire, and pestilence.

"You will have heard before this reaches you, of the treacherous conduct to the remaining people in Boston, in detaining their goods, after stipulating to let them go out with their effects; on pretence that merchants goods were not effects; -- the defeat of a great body of his troops by the country people at Lexington; some other small advantages gained in skirmishes with their troops; and the action at Bunker's-hill, in which they were twice repulsed, and the third time gained a dear victory. Enough has happened, one would think, to convince your ministers that the Americans will fight and that this is a harder nut to crack than they imagined.

"We have not yet applied to any foreign power for assistance; nor offered our commerce for their friendship. Perhaps we never may: Yet it is natural to think of it if we are pressed.

"We have now an army on our establishment which still holds yours besieged.

"My time was never more fully employed. In the morning at 6, I am at the committee of safety, appointed by the assembly to put the province in a state of defense; which committee holds till near 9, when I am at the Congress, and that sits till after 4 in the afternoon. Both these bodies proceed with the greatest unanimity, and their meetings are well attended. It will scarce be credited in Britain that men can be as diligent with us from zeal for the public good, as with you for thousands per annum. -- Such is the difference between uncorrupted new states and corrupted old ones.

"Great frugality and great industry now become fashionable here: Gentlemen who used to entertain with two or three courses, pride themselves now in treating with simple beef and pudding. By these means, and the stoppage of our consumptive trade with Britain, we shall be better able to pay our voluntary taxes for the support of our troops. Our savings in the article of trade amount to near five million sterling per annum.

"I shall communicate your letter to Mr. Winthrop, but the camp is at Cambridge, and he has as little leisure for philosophy as myself. * * * Believe me ever, with sincere esteem, my dear friend, Yours most affectionately."

[Philadelphia, 7th July, 1775.]


The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution,and The Birth of America, Steven Johnson ISBN: 978-1-59448-852-8 Amazon

Lansdowne: John Penn: Franklin: Robert Morris:

Lansdowne Map

The Granville, or Lansdowne, family had so many members important in English history, that the Lansdowne name adorns countless schools, boroughs, colleges, museums and other monuments around the former British empire. It would require undue effort to sort out just why each memorial is named after just which member of the family. In the Philadelphia region, Lansdowne is the name of a small borough in Delaware County,


often annoyingly confused with Lansdale, a small borough in Montgomery County. However, it really seems more appropriate to focus reverence on the Lansdowne mansion, which from 1773 to 1795 was the home in now Fairmount Park of the last colonial Governor. That would have been John Penn, who was one of several Penns who still shared the Proprietorship until 1789, and who shared in the miserly payment which the Legislature of the new Commonwealth made as compensation for expropriating twenty-five million acres of their property. The French Revolution was going on at that time, so there were probably some patriots who would scoff that John Penn was lucky not to be guillotined.

The Penn family could see the Revolution coming, and like everyone else was uncertain who would win. Real decision-making for the Proprietorship rested with Thomas Penn in London, a close friend of the King and his ministers. The strategy employed in this difficult situation was to surrender the right to govern the colony conferred by its original charter and to become mere real estate owners with John their local representative pledging local allegiance. That might have worked for a while, until General Howe's troops captured Philadelphia. Soldiers were dispatched to Lansdowne to tell John Penn he was under detention, to reduce his potential utility to the occupying army.

Horticultural Hall

As matters eventually worked out, some of the Penn descendants remained fairly wealthy after the Revolution, especially those whose wives had inherited substantial assets from other sources. But some were severely impoverished. The stately Georgian mansion burned down in 1854, and the site was then occupied by the Horticultural Hall of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Perhaps because of misplaced patriotic fervor, it is now difficult to find a picture of Lansdowne.

The elegance of the place, on 140 acres, is suggested by the fact that William Bingham, the richest man in America at the time, apparently acquired it from James Greenleaf the partner of Robert Morris, and the nephew by marriage of John Penn, who acquired it from Penn's estate but probably had to give it up in the financial disasters of Morris and his firm. Lansdowne was still a grand manner when it was briefly acquired by Joseph Bonaparte, the former King of Spain. In view of the fact that Bingham had provided President Jefferson with the gold to finance the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon Bonaparte, and earlier had practically forced the Congress to call off an impending war with France, there was likely a connection here.

And to some extent, the ill-treatment which John Penn received from the Pennsylvania legislature (roughly fifteen cents an acre) in the Divestment Act of 1779 can possibly be traced to the unrelenting hatred by Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania's icon. History does not tell us what made these two former friends fall out in 1754, sufficient to make Franklin willing to spend years in London trying to get the colony away from the Penns. The feeling was surely mutual. When John Penn was offered the patronship of the American Philosophical Society, he declined, just because Franklin was its president. In retrospect, that sounds unwise.

Logan, Franklin, Library

{The Library Company of Philadelphia}
The Library Company of Philadelphia

Jim Greene was a librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and one of the leading authorities on James Logan, the Penn Proprietors' chief agent in the Colony. Since Logan and Ben Franklin were the main forces in starting the oldest library in America, knowing all about Logan almost comes with the job of Librarian. We are greatly indebted to a speech the other night, given by Greene at the Franklin Inn, a hundred yards away from the Library.

{James Logan}
James Logan

Logan has been described as a crusty old codger, living in his mansion called Stenton and scarcely venturing forth in public. He was known as a fair dealer with the Indians, which was an essential part of William Penn's strategy for selling real estate in a land of peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, Logan was behind the infamous Walking Purchase, which damaged his otherwise considerable reputation. Logan must have been a lonesome person in the frontier days of Philadelphia because he owned the largest private library in North America and was passionate about reading and scholarly matters. When he acquired what was the first edition of Newton's Principia, he read it promptly and wrote a one-page summary. Comparatively few people could do this even today. It's pretty tough reading, and those who have read it would seldom claim to have "devoured" it.

{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin

Except young Ben Franklin, who never went past second grade in school. The two became fast friends, often engaging in such games as constructing "Magic Squares" of numbers that added up to the same total in various ways. For example, Franklin doodled off a square with the numbers 52,61,4,13,20,29,36,45 (totaling 260) on the top horizontal row, and every vertical row beneath them totaling 260, as for example 52,14,53,11,55,9,50,16, while every horizontal row also totaled 260 as well. The four corner numbers, with the 4 middle numbers, also total 260. Logan constructed his share of similar games, which it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the colonies doing at the time.

Logan and Franklin together conceived the idea of a subscription library, which in time became the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1732. The subscription required of a library member was intended to be forfeited if the borrower failed to return a book. Later on, the public was allowed to borrow books, but only on deposit of enough money to replace the book if unreturned. We are not told whose idea was behind these arrangements, but they certainly sound like Franklin at work. More than a century later, the Philadelphia Free Library was organized under more trusting rules for borrowing which became possible as books became less expensive.

Logan died in 1751, the year Franklin at the age of 42 decided to retire from business -- and devote the remaining 42 years of his life to scholarly and public affairs. He first joined the Assembly at that time, so he and Logan were not forced into direct contention over politics, although they had their differences. How much influence Logan exerted over Franklin's plans and attitudes is not entirely clear; it must have been a great deal.

Addressing The Proprietors' Dilemma:Thomas Penn:Franklin:

William Penn

DURING the century which elapsed after Charles II gave away Pennsylvania to William Penn, several hundred thousand people moved in and changed the place. Transformation of the wilderness explains why the terms of the grant seemed logical at one time, but proved almost impossible to manage at the time of the Revolution. The Penns with thirty million acres was the largest landholders in America but, in fact, by 1776 only five million acres had been sold in a century. The land they held was simply too much for one family to handle without an army, and although the original settlers were pacifists, the later ones were combative.

Charles II had written in the Charter that the Penns could have the land if they could maintain order there, retaining the legal right for the King to recover the land if they didn't. This fall-back provision certainly reflects some doubt about the ability of pacifists to shoot the necessary number of Indians, Frenchmen, and Spaniards. On the other hand, the motive for a King delegating away his authority in the first place became clearer when the Penns experienced severe financial strain defending the Northeast corner of the state against the Connecticut invaders. It furthermore helps us understand why Benjamin Franklin received such a cold reception when he was sent to London by the colonists to request the crown to reassert civil authority over the state. That did not necessarily imply stripping the Penns of their land; by this time, it was clear that the Penn Proprietors were mainly interested in selling it to someone. The charter of the King's grant included the offer to make William Penn a King; and although the offer was declined, the Penn Proprietors retained some degree of legal power to govern the territory. Franklin for all his persuasive power was, unfortunately, the one man Thomas Penn didn't want to see, because of the threat he had posed by raising a militia in King George's War, and later his expansiveness at the Albany Conference. And Thomas was a good friend of the King. The King didn't want these problems and particularly didn't want the expense. Ambiguities were, of course, shared all around. William Penn had quite shrewdly seen it was more sensible to treat the Indians decently than to fight with them, and cheaper too; the lesson was not lost on the British crown. But the French Kings posed a much larger world-wide threat to the British colony, finding for their part, it was rather economical to supply munitions to the Indians on the frontier and stir them up emotionally. The French and Indian War was a small component of the Seven Years War, which proved to be a costly adventure for both sides. Its local cost certainly overwhelmed the ability of one family to underwrite local governance in a large wartime colony, and it jeopardized the finances of the British Monarch to carry the rest. The resulting need to tax the colonies for their defense sent things downhill, eventually to the Stamp Act, the Townshend duties, and the Tea Tax. Everyone made lots of mistakes as the whole structure underwent revision, just as pacifists are certain will happen in any war. But when a pacifist utopian colony was prospering while successfully dealing with the Indians, it's all sort of a big pity.

Thomas Penn

With much to lose, the Penn family did pretty well with the resources at hand. By the time of the Revolution, three generations of Penns had divided up ownership shares of the Proprietorship. When French and Spanish ships were marauding the Delaware River, Benjamin Franklin the local printer took it on himself to organize a militia which persists today as the Pennsylvania National Guard, the Twenty-eighth Division. Franklin was suddenly a local hero to everyone, except to one man, Thomas Penn. Thomas was the dominant figure in the Penn family for many years and worried deeply about Franklin, a man who could stir up ten thousand armed volunteers with a poster proclamation. Such a man could mean trouble, as indeed events later proved to be the case.

John Penn was the Governor of the state, residing in his mansion on the Schuylkill called Lansdowne, doing his best to ingratiate the locals. He struggled to be diplomatic when arguing for the decisions actually made by his Uncle Thomas in London. Thomas Penn, on the other hand, was an important friend of the British Ministry, and a notable person in aristocratic England. As the Revolutionary War approached, the problem transformed into how to hold on to 25 million unsold acres, while remaining unsure who was going to win the impending war.

John Penn

The strategy the Penns adopted was to get out of the business of running a local government, as Franklin had proposed but in a different way. John Penn the Governor became a private citizen, just a local real estate agent. He took an oath of allegiance to the Revolutionary government, which in the chaos of the time was equivalent to becoming an American citizen. Meanwhile, other members of the family remained in England, ready to revise the arrangement if the British won the war. It was all fairly transparent straddling of the issues, which was only even remotely likely to be effective because of the enormous store of Penn goodwill built up over a century. In 1789 revolutionary France, for example, such sentimentality would not have delayed the tumbrels to the guillotine for five minutes.

Meanwhile, an unexpected difficulty was created. By withdrawing from control of the local government, the Penn family also withdrew from the defense of state borders against neighboring colonies. Under the circumstances, the Penns were afraid to appeal to the King, while the new government of Pennsylvania found the Articles of Confederation were merely a wartime tribal compact. The Articles stabilized boundaries mainly for the purpose of conducting a united war, and did not seriously contemplate a continuing judicial role for disputes between colonies. When the Revolution was finally over, the Penn Proprietors were not left with much of a bargaining position. The new State of Pennsylvania offered, and they accepted, about fifteen cents an acre to surrender their claims. In Delaware, they got essentially nothing for those three counties. Only in New Jersey did the Proprietors' claims remain durable after the new nation was established. The Proprietorship of East Jersey survived into the late 20th century, and the Proprietorship of West Jersey continues to return a small profit even today. The New Jersey curiosity is treated in a separate essay.

A Pennsylvania Farmer in Delaware: John Dickenson

{over Air Force Base}
John Dickinson

It is difficult to have a coherent view of the mind of John Dickinson. Seriously offended by the Townshend Acts, he rightly perceived them to be the work of a few malignant personalities in British high places who would mostly soon be replaced. Later on, he refused to be troubled by the inconsequential Tea Act, which he appraised as a face-saving gesture of reconciliation, but more recent historical information demonstrates was more likely aimed at avoiding an unrelated vote of no-confidence in Parliament. Unfortunately, Dickinson was too remote from these events and additionally could not comprehend reckless hotheads among his own neighbors. Reckless hotheads in turn seldom comprehend the measured meekness of Quakers. In any event, although Dickinson played a major role in the Declaration of Independence, he refused to sign it when the time came, evidently sensing an opportunity to separate the three lower counties from Pennsylvania and its Proprietors. A few months later when the British actually invaded the new State of Delaware on the way to capturing Philadelphia by way of Chesapeake Bay, Dickinson enlisted as a common soldier and fought at the Battle of Brandywine. Obviously, he was seriously conflicted.

{John Dickinson's Farmhouse}
John Dickinson's Farmhouse

Dickinson had become internationally famous for twelve letters he had meant to publish anonymously. The Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer were written about 1768 out of resistance to the Townshend Acts. Because the three counties which were to become the State of Delaware were then still part of Pennsylvania, many school children have become understandably confused about the actual location of the man who became governor of both states, simultaneously.

The causes of the separation of the two colonies are still a little vague. Delaware schoolchildren are taught the two states separated, but often report they didn't retain much information about why it happened. The Dutch and Swedes who originally settled southern Delaware were not sympathetic with Quaker rule, which could be seen as a reaction to their living here for generations as Dutchmen before William Penn arrived, but then saw the colony sold out from under them. As a further conjecture, there might have been friction with the Quakers over slavery, similar to the hostility of other Dutch settlers in northern New Jersey when William Penn purchased that area. This pro-slavery attitude resurfaced in both areas during the Civil War. One alternative theory which has considerable currency in Delaware is local dissension about Quaker pacifism during the Revolutionary War. On a recent visit to Dickinson's home outside Dover, a school teacher was overheard to instruct his flock that the Dutch Delawarians wanted to fight the British King, but the Quakers wouldn't give them guns. "We value peace above our own safety," was the unsatisfying response they received from the Pennsylvania Assembly. But that line of reasoning bumps up against Dickinson's role in local affairs, his ambiguity over the Declaration, and his vacillation in warfare. One would suppose the simultaneous Governor of both states would play a major role in the separation of the two.

{over Air Force Base}
over Air Force Base

Dickinson's plantation, quite elaborately restored and displayed, is tucked behind the Dover Air Force Base. Perhaps all that aircraft noise will discourage sub-development in the area of Dickinson's plantation and the rural atmosphere may persist for years. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, your correspondent happened to be driving past, observing the sky filled with bombers, just circling and circling until the diplomats settled matters. Since eight-engine bombers are seldom seen around Dover, it has always been my presumption that they came from elsewhere to be refueled at Dover; but that's just a presumption. One of the pilots later told me he was carrying nuclear "eggs" and was completely prepared to take a long trip to deliver them.

To get back to Dickinson's wavering about the Declaration, maybe there was a good reason to waver. Joseph J. Ellis (in His Excellency, George Washington) relates that after the devastating British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga, Lord North made an offer to settle the war on American terms. In a proposal patterned after the concepts of the separatists in Ireland, America could have its own parliament as long as it maintained trade relationships with England. As an opening offer, that comes pretty close to what the colonists had been demanding. Governor Morris was active in disdaining this offer, although it is unclear whether he was acting alone or as the agent of others. The offer came too late to be accepted, but it might have shortened the war by six years, and we might now have a picture of the Queen on our postage stamps.


His Excellency: George Washington: Joseph J. Ellis: ISBN-13: 978-1400032532 Amazon
Letters From A Farmer In Pennsylvania To The Inhabitants Of The British Colonies (1903): John Dickinson: ISBN-13: 978-1163969533 Amazon

Pembertons: Ralph: Israel: King of the Quakers: John Clifford Pemberton

Many Quakers suffered imprisonment or exile for their pacifism, but one Pemberton is the highest-ranking wartime general buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. He was a Confederate.:

Israel Pemberton, Ben Franklin satire l

Ralph Pemberton was an English Quaker well before 1650; he may have been a Quaker before William Penn was one. As an old man, he accompanied his son Phineas to Pennsylvania in 1682. They established a farm on the banks of Delaware in Bucks County called Grove Place, and Phineas soon became one of the chief men in the colony. In the next generation, Israel Pemberton became one of the best educated, richest merchants in the colony. But it was Israel's son also called Israel, who earned the title of King of the Quakers. He was one of the founding Managers of the Pennsylvania Hospital along with Benjamin Franklin and one of his brothers, James Pemberton, and was a generous philanthropist and leader of a number of other civic organizations. Just exactly what provoked his famous political disputes with Franklin is not clear, but he was a leading friend of the Indians, whom Franklin never much liked. Israel Pemberton strongly and effectively argued William Penn's policy of friendship with the Indians, particularly insisting that sales of land to colonists should be prevented until there was a clear agreement with the Indians about the ownership. Unfortunately, pressures built up as Europeans immigrated faster than this policy could accommodate smoothly, and Franklin mostly sided with the impatient immigrants -- and squatters. This disagreement came to a head in 1756 when Pemberton negotiated a treaty of peace with the Indians at a conference at Easton. Although this treaty seemed to settle matters, it came against a background of the descendants of William Penn abandoning Quakerism. They, however, remained the proprietary owners of the Province with a more narrow focus on speeding up land sales to maximize their investment. Much of the internal dynamics of these quarrels before the Revolutionary War remain unclear and possibly somewhat misrepresented.

Shenandoah Valley

When the Revolution came, Pemberton viewed it with disfavor, mostly for pacifist rather than purely Tory reasons. Feelings ran high since the Pembertons were influential citizens with the potential to dissuade wavering neighbors, which made it difficult to tolerate them as invisible bystanders. However that may be, the three Pemberton brothers and twenty other wealthy and influential Quakers were arrested and, without hearing or trial, thrown in the back of an oxcart and sent into exile in Virginia for eight months. Their journey was a curious one, along a trail up the Schuylkill to the ford at Pottstown, and then down the Shenandoah Valley, an area in which they were well known and highly respected, greeted with great sympathy as they traveled. Isaac's brother John, who had spent several years as a missionary, died during this exile.

John Clifford Pemberton

In some ways, the most curiously notable Pemberton was John Clifford Pemberton, who applied to West Point on his own initiative and was appointed by Andrew Jackson who had been a friend of his father. In itself, it is curious that so combative a person and so vigorous an enemy of the Indians -- as Jackson certainly was -- would have Quaker friendships. But he did not misjudge John Clifford, who became a diligent professional warrior for his country in a number of military incidents with the Indians, the Mexicans, and the Canadians, rising to the rank of captain in the regular Army at the opening of the Civil War. In spite of personal efforts by General Winfield Scott to dissuade him, he resigned his commission and volunteered in the Confederate army. He was quickly promoted to major, then a brigadier general and eventually to Lieutenant General. As such, he was the commanding Confederate officer at the fifty-day siege of Vicksburg where he was finally forced to surrender to Grant's army. In a prisoner exchange, he was returned to the Confederate side, which they had no openings for Lieutenant Generals. He resigned and re-enlisted as a common soldier, but was quickly promoted to the rank of Colonel, in charge of the artillery at the final siege of Richmond. After the war, he became a farmer in Warrenton, Virginia, but was visiting at the family home in Penllyn when he died in 1881. John Clifford Pemberton, the highest-ranking general on the grounds, lies buried in Laurel Hill cemetery right next to Israel Pemberton. In some sort of triumph of the South, he here out-ranks George Gordon Meade, the hero of Gettysburg. Just how his pacifist family reconciled itself to his heroism can only be imagined.

ZNOTE: Articles of Confederation

Click Here to Go On to The American Constitution

New blog Franklin Forebears TITLE 4286

CONTENTS: this is the main body of text

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Website Statistics

This collection of articles documents some of our experiences and we hope that people surfing the web looking for solutions to problems we've encountered will benefit.

The primary purpose of this website is to deliver high quality content on the subjects of Philadelphia, Philadelphia History, medicine, medical economics and other subjects of interest to its author, Dr. George R. Fisher.

However, early in 2006 the site was attacked by spammers who broke in using security holes in the previous implementation of PHP. In the subsequent reconstruction of the site, there's been an opportunity to try out lots of new technology and techniques, some of which are detailed here.

Today's Philadelphia Reflections was born in June 2006. It had a prior incarnation but it was hacked by Nigerian spammers who took it over and turned it into an email factory.

We scrubbed everything down and rebuilt from scratch, implementing as many PHP and MySQL security features as we could find.

We have done all of the standard things to improve our search engine standings but we are really at a loss to explain the inflection points that can be seen in the graphs.

  • We make an effort to produce clean XHTML 1.1 or HTML 4.01 depending on the user's browser, for both the tags and content.
  • We have keywords, description and other relevant meta tags for every page.
  • The content is rich, varied, relevant and frequently updated.
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  • A current Google sitemap is maintained programatically along with robots.txt, RSS, ATOM and a few other more obscure syndication file types.
  • Both the sitemaps, etc. and the URLs themselves have been submitted to the search engines.
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  • These and other techniques we've picked up along the way are described in the topic "Website Development"

Our home page has a Google Page Rank of 5/10 and the pages vary as follows (as of December 2008):

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Google Images is by far the largest source of referrals but we also have many visitors who come to us via the search engines and who like what they see and come back; we would like to express our appreciation to all of our visitors.

{website total visitor statistics}

The dips in the Unique Visitors graph were the result of problems with our ISP ... once they were simply off the air and twice they made software changes without notification or testing.

{website returning visitor statistics}


Boundary Disputes Before 1776 : New Blog 2334 Set by King or his courts.: Blog 2334 ; Topic 703 :

{4 Corners of Pennsylvania}
Four Corners of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania always had its best lawyer in William Penn. Until 1776, the boundaries between the American colonies were settled in London, either by the King or the British courts.: After 1787, disputes over boundaries were settled in the United States Federal Courts, acting under Section III brieflyof the Constitution. Generally speaking, boundaries were originally created by treaties, Kings, and briefly by Congress. Boundary disputes were then settled in the courts, first in England, and briefly in Federal Courts. Between 1776 and 1787, however, the Articles of Confederation governed. The immediate problem was that the Articles were not finally ratified until 1781. A technical problem was that surveying instruments were improving during this period. The judicial problem was that a body of law was evolving about when to use the deepest channel of a river or when to use the half-way point between the two banks of a river, and whether to use just one bank of the river or the other. The political problem was that major immigration made everyone less care-free about boundaries of the land which were steadily growing more valuable. The American period under the Articles of Confederation were just one big argument about state borders.

A century earlier, when British kings were handing out charters to those adventurous enough to accept them, there was plenty of cheap land if someone could defend it. The common approach to granting charters was to pick two points along the Atlantic, and from there to extend lines westward as far as they could go. When the lines bumped into lines given to other colonies, there were countless lawsuits and occasionally little wars.

Only the three Quaker colonies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware were formed late enough in the colonial period to enjoy practical ways even to define a western border. Virginia, the largest colony, officially extended itself to include what is now Kentucky and West Virginia, and had reasonably defensible claims to all the land of the Northwest Territory, on the western side of the defined Pennsylvania western border, all the way north to the Great Lakes. When the Indians finally woke up to what was happening, they rebelled under the leadership of Pontiac and Tecumseh and were helped in their massacres of white settlers by the French, later by the British.

Peaceful rectangular Pennsylvania experienced armed nibbles at each of its four corners; from Maryland in the southeast, Virginia in the southwest, Connecticut in the northeast. On its northwestern corner, Pennsylvania had the award of the Erie connection to the Great Lakes to settle an overlapping conflict between Connecticut and New York.

The Articles of Confederation, composed mostly with common defense against England in mind, were deliberately inadequate to govern disputes between allies within the revolters. Discovering remarkable subsidence of such disputes after the installation of the Constitution, this might well have become a major reason for replacing the Articles of Confederation if it had been foreseen. But that was scarcely the case. The American colonists simply had no idea the Union would make such disputes immediately seem trivial if still remaining fairly numerous. When the advantages of peaceful unification are considered by other nations on other continents, consideration really should highlight the sense of delight America felt at the discovery of this unexpected bounty. At a minimum, it helped us ignore the many fumbles we also experienced.

William B. Willcox, the editor of volume 22 of Yale's collected works of Benjamin Franklin, prefaces that 706-page book about Franklin's pre-Revolution activities with a long essay of his own. In it he attributes Franklin's frenzy to his early perception that war with England was inevitable, while it is equally arguable that failure to mention it (and land speculation) was due to the secrecy he learned as Grand Master of the Masons. Certainly George Washington was a Mason, Mozart was a Mason, and Franklin frequently used this wide and powerful association to advance his friendships with people far above a printer's social status. And yet neither mentions freemasonry. The index to this collected work about it, although 47 pages long, makes no mention of Masons (or related phrasings), in spite of Grand Master Franklin's portrait hanging next to the portrait of Washington in the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia. Franklin's strange silence may well prove the insignificance of the matter, while freemasonry might just as well be regarded as proof of exaggerated secrecy, and the undeniable land wealth of his estate as proof of land speculation. "Poor Richard" indeed. He died one of the richest landholders in America. To cite a later editor who says, "Franklin is always straight in what he says, he just doesn't tell us everything".

Armonica, Momentarily Mesmerizing

{Ben Frnklin Glass Armonica}
Ben Franklin's Glass Armonica

Everyone knows Ben Franklin spent a lot of time holding a wine glass. Evidently, he noticed a musical note emerges if you run your finger around the open mouth of the drinking glass, and systematically studied how the tone can be varied by varying the level of liquid in the glass. The same variation in emitted tone relates to variations in the thickness of the glass. So, he set up a series of different sized glasses impaled on a horizontal broomstick, enough to cover three octaves, rotated the broomstick with a treadle like those used for spinning wheels -- and made music. The tone has a haunting penetration to it, which induced both Beethoven and Mozart to write special compositions for the harmonica, and the Eighteenth Century went wild with enthusiasm.

Glass Armonica

Unfortunately, a number of the young ladies who played the armonica went mad. We now recognize that since the finest crystal glass was used, with very high lead content, the mad ladies were suffering from lead poisoning after repeatedly wetting their fingers on their tongues. As a matter of fact, port wine at that time was stored in lead-lined casks, resulting in the same unfortunate consequences, which included stirring up attacks of gout. Franklin himself was a famous sufferer from gout, which was more likely related to the port wine than playing the harmonica, in his particular case.

Anyway, the reputation for inducing madness added to the spooky sort of sound the instrument made, attracting the attention of a montebank named Franz Anton Mesmer, who falsely claimed to be the father of hypnotism. Mesmer enhanced the society of his stage performances by hypnotizing subjects while an assistant played the harmonica, meanwhile relating all sorts of wild tales about animal magnetism. This was pretty sensational at the time until a young man in an audience suddenly died. It is now speculated that the victim probably had an epileptic seizure, but the news of this public fatal event pretty well finished Mesmer as an evangelist and the harmonica as a musical instrument.

Franklin Court

There's a replica of an armonica on display in the Franklin Court Museum around 3rd and Chestnut, which we are vigorously assured is not made with leaded crystal glass. The Park Rangers put on two daily performances by request, at noon, and 2:30 PM.

Benjamin Franklin: Chronology

{Ben Franklin on the cover of Time magazine}
Ben Franklin on the cover of Time magazine

January 17, 1706 Born in Boston, the thirteenth child of a candle maker; only went through 2nd Grade, Apprenticed to his brother as a printer, ran away to Philadelphia age 17.
1723 Arrived in Philadelphia penniless, readily found work as a printer.

1725-26 First trip to England. Researched printing equipment, but probably lived a riotous life.

1726-1748 Returned to Philadelphia to found his own print shop and bookstore. Wrote and printed Poor Richard's Almanack organized local tradesmen into the Junto, formed partnerships with sixty printers throughout the colonies, obtained the print business of local governments, became postmaster. Able to retire at the age of 42 by selling his business for 18 annual payments, which offered him comfort and ease for considerably longer than his life expectancy.


1751 Helped found Pennsylvania Hospital. Entered the legislature.

1751-1757 Active in legislature, rising to leadership during the French and Indian War, Pontiac's Rebellion and the uprising of the Paxtang Boys.

1754Took a noteworthy carriage trip to the Albany Conference, accompanied by fellow delegates Proprietor Penn and Isaac Norris at which he proposed unification of the thirteen colonies to fight against the French. Composed the first political cartoon "Join or Die" for that purpose. Notes for the trip on the blank pages of "Poor Richard's Almanac", now at Rosenbach Museum. The other delegates rejected the plan.

1757-1762 Second time in England. Acted as representative of both Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. After his electoral defeat, he returned to England for a total of eighteen years, suggesting hidden British sympathies may have been present.

1764-1775 Third British visit. Although unsuccessful in his lobbying, his fame as a scientist made him welcome among the famous members of the Enlightenment, like Hume, Adam Smith, Mozart. Meanwhile, the colonies became considerably more rebellious than he was. His blunder with the publication of some letters gave the British Ministry an opportunity to humiliate and disgrace him in public, probably as a warning to the mutinous New England leaders. It irreconcilably alienated Franklin, who sulked, the en packed up and joined the Continental Congress the day he arrived back home. The Masonic connection (Franklin was the Philadelphia Grand Master) is just now coming to light.


Brief but fateful return to America. Battle of Lexington and Concord Aril 19, 1775. Franklin returned to Pennsylvania Assembly on May 6,1775 after a 6-week voyage from England. His unpopular agitation for replacing the Penn Proprietors with direct Royal government had once led to his electoral defeat and the seeming end of his elective career. The defeated but determined Quaker party sent him to England to lobby against the Penn family and for the rule of Pennsylvania by the King. The Masonic connection under all this is their secret.

March, 1775-October, 1776 Decisions were made in London to put down the colonists by as much force as necessary. Meanwhile, Franklin persuaded the Continental Congress they must declare independence from England if they expected help from the French.

July 4, 1776, Independence is declared within days after the arrival of a massive British fleet in New York harbor. Franklin dispatched to France to secure the assistance he was confident he could get.

1777-1785 France. Franklin served admirably as American ambassador, his wit and charm persuading the French to overextend themselves with ships, supplies, and money, and very likely contributing to the French Revolution by popularizing the American one.

1785-1790 Returning as a national hero for his final five years of life, Franklin loaned his personal influence to the constitutional convention, became President of Pennsylvania, worked for the abolition of slavery.

April 17, 1790 Died, probably of complications associated with kidney stones.


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37 Blogs

Greenwich, Where?
A charming little colonial village in the Pine Woods of New Jersey has a long history, few visitors, and nothing reconstructed. It's the real thing.

A Toast To J. William White, MD
Franklin Inn holds the J. William White dinner every year on Benjamin Franklin's birthday. A surgeon, author, politician, athlete, cavalryman, and duelist, Bill was a real Philadelphia gentleman.

Germantown Nurses the Yellow Fever, 1793
Refugees from Haiti slave revolts brought Yellow Fever to south Philadelphia.

Germany Before Germantown
Foraging French soldiers had ravaged the German Rhineland, so the Germans who fled to America were anti-French. That pleased the British, even the nominally Catholic Stuart kings.

Keeping Lunaticks Off the Streets

American Philosophical Society
/>Charles Wilson Peale started his museum of curiosities here and then moved it to the second floor of Independence Hall, where he painted the famous portrait of himself holding up the curtain.
                    <p class= Defeat and Disaster: Philadelphia Falls to the Enemy
Howe was to take New York (and Philadelphia if there was an opportunity) and then go up the Hudson to join an army under Burgoyne, which was coming down from Quebec. Howe, who was related to the King, decided on his own to take Philadelphia and leave Burgoyne to his own devices. The plan was too ambitious, and although he conquered the enemy capital, he lost his war.

Rentier Class
Eventually, everyone can hope to be a member of the rentier class. Ideally, they will have first spent equal time as workers.

America in 1767
/>Baron de Kalb was a spy for France in 1767, correctly predicting that growing American strength would create opportunities for France to make trouble for England, there.
                    <p class= Riverline: Camden and Amboy Revival
One of the oldest rail lines in America is coming back to life, and maybe bringing the towns along with it back to life, too.

Poor Richard Plays Hardball 628 :
Tom Paine: Rabble-Rousing Quaker? 692:: Blog 692:
Tom Paine is the one who mainly set the fires of revolution burning, and Franklin sent him here, got him a job, circulated his pamphlets. In spite of Franklin's sponsorship, Washington would cross the street to avoid Paine, and fellow Quakers would have no part of his violence. His later life showed him to be a rebel without a cause.

Edward Hicks: Peaceable Kingdoms
This uneducated Bucks County farm boy has steadily risen in reputation as a painter of primitive art, just as he and his cousin have become spiritual leaders of non-dogmatic religious thought.

How to make MySQL insertions easier (and safe)

Date Math
If the function to calculate the number of days between two dates isn't built in, it's a pain to figure out

Ampersand Madness: Convert &#x26; to &#x26;amp; to prevent XHTML errors
A regex solution to the huge problem of ampersand encoding in XHTML

Font Families
A survey of the most-commonly installed fonts found on Windows machines

RSS Feeds
RSS (syndication) feeds come in many flavors. We provide the most common.

Geo Positioning
With the advent of Google Earth, the tagging of websites, blogs and photographs with latitude and longitude information has taken a great leap forward.

Process .htm and .html as php
How to include php scripts in html files

HTML Forms
How to open a form in a new window when a radio button is clicked.

Regex URL Matching
On this site we check for the existence of a URL whenever an entry is updated. A Regex (regular expression) string was the breakthrough.

Parsing name-value pair attributes in an HTML tag
Regexp HTML Attribute Parsing: Pulling out the value of numerous attributes in an HTML tag is a mind bender

SQL To Exclude A List Of Items
How do you select everything from one table except for a list contained in another table?

Virginia Invades Pennsylvania
Virginians always lusted for "Ohio" which in their mind stretched from Pittsburgh to the Pacific Ocean. The chaos of the Revolution provided an opportunity for Lord Dunmore the Governor to move in on the Ohio Valley, but it proved too much of a stretch.

Franklin Declares Independence a Year Early
Franklin made no secret of his goal of national independence, at least a year before the Continental Congress voted and Thomas Jefferson composed his rather rambling declaration.

Lansdowne: John Penn: Franklin: Robert Morris:
John Penn, the last of the Penn Proprietors, lived in a mansion near what is now Horticultural Hall in Fairmount Park.

Logan, Franklin, Library
James Logan and Benjamin Franklin were at the opposite ends of the social scale in Colonial Philadelphia and were to adopt strongly differing political views. But each recognized the intellectual power of the other, and they were fast friends.

Addressing The Proprietors' Dilemma:Thomas Penn:Franklin:
King Charles II gave Pennsylvania to William Penn on condition he defends the place and fuss with neighboring states about its boundaries. A century later, it proved more than a private citizen could handle.

A Pennsylvania Farmer in Delaware: John Dickenson
John Dickinson achieved national fame in 1773 by publishing twelve letters written earlier denouncing the Townshend Acts. They were published anonymously as Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer. His farm, curiously, was in Delaware.

Pembertons: Ralph: Israel: King of the Quakers: John Clifford Pemberton
One of the oldest, most prominent Quaker families contained a multitude of famous, rich, distinguished leaders.

ZNOTE: Articles of Confederation

New blog Franklin Forebears TITLE 4286
DESCRIPTION: this is where you put a small summary blurb which appears in the little boxes.

Website Statistics
Philadelphia Reflections' popularity has grown quite dramatically over two and a half years.

Boundary Disputes Before 1776 : New Blog 2334 Set by King or his courts.: Blog 2334 ; Topic 703 :
Before 1776, colony boundaries were set by King or his courts.: Blog 6.html: Blog 2334: Topic 701 :

Armonica, Momentarily Mesmerizing
{}The harmonica was a musical instrument invented by Ben Franklin, who else. Beethoven and Mozart wrote music for it. It made people sick and may even have killed someone.

Benjamin Franklin: Chronology
Franklin retired at age 42, and spent the other half of his life in public service. Only 33 scattered years of that 82-year life were spent in Philadelphia, but he was here for the French and Indian War, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitutional Convention. He was a scalawag kid in Boston, a wealthy scientist in London, and a diplomat in Paris.