Favorite ReflectionsA famous scholar of Ben Franklin's many letters observed:/> Franklin didn't tell us everything, but what he did tell us was straight./> Same here. >
Georgetown, Delaware is a pretty small town, but it's the county seat so it has a courthouse on the town square, with little roads running off in several directions. The courthouse is surprisingly large and imposing, even more, surprising when you wander through cornfields for miles before you suddenly come upon it. The county seat of most counties has a few stores and amenities, but on one occasion I hunted for a barbershop and couldn't find one in Georgetown. This little town square is just about the last place you would expect to run into Sidney Pottier and all the top executives of Walt Disney. But they were there, all right, because this was where the Delaware Court of Chancery meets; the high and mighty of Hollywood's most exalted firm were having a public squabble.
Only a few states still have a court of Chancery, but little Delaware still has a lot of features resembling the original thirteen colonies in colonial times. The state abolished the whipping post only a few decades ago, but they still have a chancellor. The Chancellor is the state's highest legal officer, and four other judges now need to share his workload, which was almost completely within his sole discretion seventy-five years ago. In fact, the Chancellor usually heard arguments in his own chambers, later writing out his decisions in longhand. The Court of Chancery does not use juries.
Going back to Roman times, the Chancellor was the highest office under the Emperor, and in England, the Lord Chancellor is still the head of the bar in a meaningful way. Sir Francis Bacon was the most distinguished British Chancellor and gave the present shape to a great deal of the present legal system. A court of Chancery is concerned with the legal concept of equity, which is a sense of fairness concerning undeniable problems which do not exactly fit any particular law. The Chancellor is the "Keeper of the King's conscience" concerning obvious wrongs that have no readily obvious remedy. You better be pretty careful who gets appointed to a position like that, with no rules to follow, no supervisor, no jury, dealing with mysterious issues that have no acknowledged solution.
Delaware's Court of Chancery evolved in steps, with several changes of the state Constitution over a span of two hundred years. As you might guess, a few powerful chancellors shaped the evolution of the job. Going way back to 1792, Delaware changed its Supreme Court from the design of its Constitution, and George Read was the new Chief Justice. However, it was all a little embarrassing for William Killen, who had been the Chief Justice, getting a little old. Read refused to have Killen dumped, and in this he was joined by John Dickinson, who had been Killen's law clerk. So Killen was made Chancellor, and a court of Chancery was invented to keep him busy.
Under a new 1831 Constitution, the formation of corporations required individual enabling acts by the Legislature and limited their existence to twenty years. However, the 1897 Constitution relaxed those requirements and permitted entities to incorporate under a general corporation law and allowed them to be perpetual. By this time, other states were distributing equity cases to the county level, but Delaware was too small to justify more than a single state-wide Court. That court was attractive to corporations because it could become specialized in corporate matters, but retained a pleasing number of equity cases among common citizens, thus retaining a folksy point of view. In unique situations or those without a significant history of public debate, it was thought especially desirable to strive for unchallenged acceptance of the court's decision.
But other states thought they could see what Delaware was up to. In 1899 the American Law Review contained the view that states were having a race to the bottom, and Delaware was "a little community of truck farmers and clam-diggers . . . determined to get her little, tiny, sweet, round baby hand into the grab-bag of sweet things before it is too late." However, that may be, corporations stampeded to incorporate in the State of Delaware, and the equity of their affairs was decided by the Chancellor of that state. In one seventeen year period of time, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Chancellor only once.
Chancery's jurisdiction was complementary to that of the courts of common law.
It sought to do justice in cases for which there was no adequate remedy at common law.
| A. H. Manchester|
Modern Legal History of England and Wales, 1750-1950
Some legal scholar will have to tell us if it is so, but the direction and moral tone of America's largest industries has apparently been shaped by a small fraternity or perhaps priesthood of tightly related legal families, grimly devoted to their lonely task in rural isolation. The great mover and shaker of the Chancery was Josiah O. Wolcott (1921-1938), the son and father of a three-generation family domination of the court. Most of the other members of the court have very familiar Delaware names, although that is admittedly a common situation in Delaware, especially south of the canal. The peninsula has always been fairly isolated; there are people still alive who can remember when the first highway was built, opening up the region to outsiders. Read the following Chancelleries quotation for a sense of the underlying attitude:
"The majority thus have the power in their hands to impose their will upon the minority in a matter of very vital concern to them. That the source of this power is found in a statute, supplies no reason for clothing it with a superior sanctity, or vesting it with the attributes of tyranny. When the power is sought to be used, therefore, it is competent for anyone who conceives himself aggrieved thereby to invoke the processes of a court of equity for protection against its oppressive exercise. When examined by such a court, if it should appear that the power is used in such a way that it violates any of those fundamental principles which it is the special province of equity to assert and protect, its restraining processes will unhesitatingly issue."
That is a very reassuring viewpoint only when it issues from a person of totally unquestioned integrity, a member of a family that has lived and died in the service of the highest principles of equity and fairness. But to recent graduates of business administration courses in far-off urban centers of greed and striving, it surely sounds quaint and sappy. And many of that sort have found themselves pleading in Georgetown. Just let one of them a bribe, muscle, or sneak into the Chancellor's chair someday, and the country is in peril.
|Margaret of Anjou|
Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) died and was buried two centuries before William Penn arrived on the Delaware River. She'd been Queen of England as the wife of Henry VI from 1445-1471, and a central figure in the so-called War of the Roses. Not a name plausibly associated with Philadelphia.
Until, of course, you understand that the Shakespeare Society of Philadelphia, world's oldest continuously meeting Shakespeare club, is making her a current focus of attention. It was the idea of Robert Thomas Fallon, the vice-dean of the society, that Margaret of Anjou appears in four Shakespeare plays. The three histories of >Henry VI and Richard III all get relatively little present attention, but perhaps parts could be extracted and fused into one great play about Margaret. Think of that, a new Shakespeare play after all these centuries.
|English-occupied France at the time of Henry VI|
Disconcertingly, when you examine what the new play would be all about, there's more material than you can handle. Margaret starts out as the most beautiful girl in France and ends up as a scolding, vicious old hag; is that the story, or is it really two plays? The Duke of Suffolk had it in his power to make this starlet into Queen of England if she perhaps cared to visit his casting couch. Her answer was she had to ask her father, and if you believe that, you will believe anything. With the right stage directions you might imply she was a remarkably dutiful victim unless the stage directions strongly implied: OK, buddy, you've got a deal.
That's just the beginning, almost the preliminary. You can go on to portray her quite another way, as the ambitious mother of the Prince of Wales, about to lose his title to the throne because his cuckolded father was a useless coward. She wasn't going to let that happen, no matter who got stabbed to prevent it.
Or, Margaret the Survivor, losing battles with the York faction, then like Saint Joan rallying the hesitant Lancastrians to lose yet another battle and get killed some more. Then fleeing over the channel, to see if the King of France couldn't be sweet-talked into supporting her cause. Thanks, pal; and then she lost his army, too. As we say in South Philadelphia, that dame is Big Trouble.
The Shakespeare (be sure you spell it right) Society meets regularly in a cobble-stoned alley near the Philadelphia theater district. The tables don't have carved initials on them, like Mory's, but they don't have tablecloths, either. They admit a new member every few years when someone dies, and they take their Elizabethan literature pretty seriously. The Variorum Shakespeare was created by this group. It was founded by Horace Howard Furness, the brother of Frank Furness the architect. That name is pronounced a little funny, too, which if you are from Philadelphia I don't need to instruct you about.
|the battles and kings associated with the War of the Roses|
Laboring under the burden of this intellectual heritage, the society has to consider some broader implications of the story of Margaret of Anjou. The deconstructionists who have recently achieved university tenure tend to challenge most of the settled views on Shakespeare, but in this matter, we start with a fresh slate. Doesn't the chaotic period of the War of the Roses stand between two strong Kings, Henry V of Agincourt, and Henry VIII? Wouldn't Shakespeare, that stalwart defender of anointed majesty, have approved the moral that any strong king is better for the nation than any weak one? Maybe that's a theme that should run through our new Shakespearean play. Maybe our play ought to start with Henry V on a high step behind a stage screen, giving his speech to rally the English longbows (We happy few, we band of brothers); and end with Henry VIII, always ready to rise above principle.
Or perhaps the play might make English-French relationships be the core, from William the Conqueror through five centuries, until the English finally do discard the Continent, and Britannia rules the waves. It's a little hard to imagine Shakespeare, the ultra-English patriot, as an apologist for a united Europe, but perhaps it could be managed.
If that seems too partisan, perhaps Philadelphia could find a peaceful theme. What, after all, was accomplished by the War of the Roses? Does anyone really care who got promoted from earl to Duke, or whose great-grandfather had which great grand nephew? One is reminded that the two branches of Philadelphia Quakerdom, the Hicksites and the Orthodox, for a century scolded each other bitterly over doctrinal matters of little present concern. And then Rufus Jones brought them together for annual luncheons, giving a white rose to members of one faction as they entered the door, and a red rose to members of the other. The rules of the luncheon were always the same: nobody could sit next to a person wearing the same color of rose.
There's a growing sense of alarm among loyalist Philadelphians that the Mummer's Parade may be in decline, possibly even in a fatal spiral of decline. Only 10,000 people participate in this folk ritual, while a few decades ago 25,000 people were participants of some sort. A great many people who don't participate, and don't attend, are having a lot to say about whose fault it is.
Much of the commentary is contradictory. The consensus among participants is that moving the parade from Broad to Market Streets, and then back again to Broad Street, somehow broke some vital strands of tradition. On the contrary, say some former viewers, the problem is that once you have seen the Mummers, you have seen them; there's no variety. If you take either argument seriously, you have to conclude that what seems appealing to the participants - continuity and stability - unfortunately turns off the spectators. If that's the situation it's hard to know how the parade ever got popular in the first place. So one or the other of these comments is wrong, maybe both are wrong. Unless both are right but insignificant, not the root of the issue.
Where everyone agrees is that the parade on New Year's Day is too doggone cold. Years ago the leaders tried to shift the parade to the Fourth of July, since in fact, it may have originally begun as an Independence Day celebration. What we now call "comics" were then called "shooters", because they carried and shot off guns. Since alcohol has always been an important attraction for these parades, it is easy to imagine the concern of the Quaker City about drunks lurching around the streets, firing real weapons. With the coming and going of Prohibition, sales of liquor on the street vanished, although there remains plenty of evidence it is still popular. On a political-social level somehow it is possible to sell beer at baseball games, whereas it is almost politically inconceivable to sell beer, or hot toddies, on Broad Street. No one could argue with a straight face that alcohol violates tradition.
As for that doggone cold, it isn't any colder today than it was when the Mummers parade was thronged, is it? Well, yes, it's a lot colder. Skyscrapers cast dark shadows at the end of short winter days. And tall buildings block the wind at their tops, with the wind then scooting down the side of the building to the sidewalk. That's the "Marilyn Monroe effect," and it's plenty real. So, it has to be noted that the parade migrated up from South Philadelphia to center city, at the same time center city became climatically inhospitable. To get a little technical, there's also the "sundown wind." As the shadow of nightfall moves from East to West, the warm air in the sunlit area rises up over the cold air in the darker region, creating a sundown wind. Add to this the early sunset of winter, throw the sundown wind against skyscrapers, and it's time to go home. To television.
It's my view that television, which I never watch by the way, has a lot to answer for in the deterioration of the Mummers parade. If people who never watch the Mummers parade are allowed to criticize it, surely people who never watch television are also entitled to some surly comment. Back in the fifties and sixties, getting featured on television was a big thrill for the mummers. If the cameramen preferred a performance in one place so they needn't move their equipment, their request was eagerly agreed to. There might even have been the prospect of big bucks, since everyone knows show biz commands top dollar. Let 'em perform at City Hall, where the judges can keep warm on elevated benches, and politicians can accidentally walk in front of the cameras. But notice that all of the successors in the parade line are backed up from City Hall to Locust street, not performing for the sidewalks. And all of the performers, having strutted their stuff at City Hall will then disband, instead of continuing up to Vine Street, as they once did. It's no longer a parade, it's a performance at City Hall. For television, you might say, except that television has used up the material and is abandoning it.
For completeness, we should mention the bad luck of snow and rain for a few years in a row. And the discomfort with black face, but the absence of black people. The absence of Jewish and Oriental brigades in an ethnic extravaganza deserves notice. You will occasionally see people at Philadelphia upper-crust dances showing off the Mummers Strut, but you aren't likely to see that on Chinese New Years. Whether newer ethnic groups were excluded from participation by the hard-core South Philadelphia Italian, Polish and Irish groups is not immediately obvious. In fact, it could well be the reverse, a sour-grapes rejection by the newer arrivals or their leaders. But all such sullen opinions are somehow unsatisfying, particularly when the parade retains such a noticeable tolerance for transvestite behavior.
My main suspect for the culprit of the parade's decline is television. It was sure a nice parade before that thing came along. The leaders of the mummers parade must either find a way to cope with the monster or - fuhgeddaboutit.
The Nov. 23, 2004 Wall Street Journal writes that "Elite High Schools Drop AP (Advanced Placement) Courses," thus taking me back to 1943, when I guess I started the idea now being dropped.
The then Head Master of The Lawrenceville School, Allan V. Heely, came around to Yale to visit recent graduates in their college freshman year. For secondary school principals that would, in itself, be quite a novelty today. We certainly considered it a novelty to have him actually buy us a beer, since six months earlier we would have been instantly dismissed from school without hope of appeal, just for one provable beer. The alcohol issue to one side, I can see in retrospect that the Head Master made a serious effort to socialize with his senior students, inviting them to tea every afternoon, and coffee after Sunday chapel. What might sound like quaint Victorian ceremonies to an outsider were in fact conscious efforts to create a role model of the mythical Renaissance Man. He and the school chaplain played piano duets and sang witty songs of their own composition. He brought in famous guests from New York and Philadelphia and made them perform as conversationalists. Jacques Barzun and John Erskine were memorable examples. I can even see in retrospect he was displaying his elegant talented wife as an example of the sort of woman we were urged to marry. To visit his graduates in their early formative years in college was entirely in keeping with his concept of education as the basis for character development. There was even a quote from J. P. Morgan: "Brains don't make success, character does."
Well, for all his effort to be friendly, when the Head Master visits you at college it's a little hard to know what to talk about. So, to be helpful, I pointed out that the science courses were not smoothly integrated between secondary school and college. An example was the contrast between my roommate (Peter Max Schultheiss, now Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Yale) and me. Pete had scored 100 -- no mistakes on any quiz, all year -- in both Chemistry and Physics, whereas I had not taken either course at Lawrenceville at all. Yet, here were both of us in the same Freshman introductory courses at Yale, required before more advanced courses could be taken. Naturally, Pete had an easier time of it, but at the end of the year we were at the same point, and we both felt he had wasted his time taking the same courses twice. Why couldn't Lawrenceville make an arrangement with Yale to waive the requirement for some introductory courses, saving educational time for something else?
Mr. Heely did a lot better than that. At that time, ninety seniors from Lawrenceville went to Princeton every year, a hundred seniors from Andover went to Yale, and about the same number went from Exeter to Harvard. A pleasant dinner was arranged for the three headmasters and the three University presidents, at the conclusion of which the deal was done. Advanced placement was put into effect. As I understand it, the AP system gradually spread, and last year 14,900 secondary schools offered Advanced Placement courses. You could play around with those numbers and conjecture several million college person-years of education were put to better purposes over the last 62 years. It's a really nice feeling to believe that one twenty minute conversation by two eighteen-year-old boys could have such a useful effect.
So, now what's the problem with these elite high schools, that want to drop AP courses? It's hard to speak on their behalf, but I'm in a unique position to know the original idea has twisted out of shape a little. The original purpose was to eliminate mandatory repetition of introductory college courses, but nowadays competition for admission is so ferocious that repetition is considered a very smart thing, to beat the system. It works up and down the educational system, awarding a high score for coasting through a course the second time. Advance placement thus becomes a bribe not to do that, and the power of the bribe is prestige for admission to some higher level. With 15,000 high schools (like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon) claiming to provide superiority, there has to be accreditation, and for that, there has to be a standardized test. Before long, the curriculum is dominated, not by what the teacher thinks is superior, but by what is likely to be on the accreditation test. In effect, we get a French-like system in which the bureaucracy dictates what is best for the Leaders of Tomorrow. That's quite different from the time when outstanding secondary schools produced an unusually good product, and colleges were asked to recognize it. It's hard to say who's been corrupted here; probably everybody, because it's mass-produced accreditation. If you want to evaluate whether to permit more or fewer waivers for a certain school, you need to evaluate earlier waivees when they reach Junior or Senior level in whatever college had previously done some waiving. Only at that longitudinal point in the process is it possible to conclude whether the waiving of repetitious introductory courses had been useful or harmful.
Underneath all of this is the self-fulfilling prophesy that graduation from a handful of elite colleges will assuredly lead to success in life. If what we need are leaders who are vicious competitors, practiced in circumventing hurdles on the way to getting to the top, credentialism is perhaps a regrettable necessity. But if, as Mr. Morgan said, it's character that matters, gaming the system is not a completely ideal way to promote it.
In 1940, the Barnes Foundation disturbed its Philadelphia's Main Line neighborhood in a way that had nothing to do with art. Dr. Barnes was still alive and running the place at that time so there can be no question about the testamentary intentions of the donor. He hired Bertrand Russell for a five-year contract to teach philosophy at the Foundation, under highly lurid circumstances. By doing so, he put his thumb in the eye of religions generally but especially the Roman Catholic Church, into the eye of the Main Line neighborhood that prized its privacy, and into the eye of the judiciary, although the judiciary found a way to get back at him.
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
Under the circumstances, hiring anyone at all would have been socially defiant, but Barnes went out of his way to offer a position to a man who was already internationally famous for sticking his own thumb in everybody's eye.
Lord Bertrand Russell was the third Earl, the son of a Viscount and the grandson of a British prime minister. He had such a brilliant mathematical mind that no less an observer than Alfred North Whitehead regarded him as the smartest man he ever met. He burned up the academic track at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society at an early age. There was absolutely no one in the academic world who could look down on him, particularly no one in any American community college. His association with Haverford Quakers was established by marrying Alys Pearsall Smith, a rich thee-and-thou Quakeress then living in England, whose brother was the famous author Logan Pearsall Smith. Many early letters of Bertrand Russell contain instances of what the Quakers call "plain" speech.
If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it.
If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.
By the time of World War I, this odd mixture of Quaker pacifism and English aristocratic arrogance seems to have unhinged Russell from social moorings, and he began a lifelong career of defiance mixed with a rapier wit that made just about everybody his enemy. He went to jail for pacifism, got divorced three or four times, openly slept with the wives of famous people like T.S. Eliot, and proclaimed that monogamy was not a natural state for anybody. He wrote ninety books, and his denunciation of religion was sweeping. All religious ideas were, in his view, not only false but harmful. Accordingly, everybody in polite society kicked him out, and although he was entitled to a seat in the House of Lords, by 1939 he was nearly impoverished. In desperation, he went to (ugh) America to seek his fortune. He didn't last at the University of Chicago, and even California eased him out. Finally, he was reduced, if you can imagine, to accepting an offer to teach Philosophy at the City College of New York. That proved to be totally unacceptable to Bishop Manning, who led a public outcry against using public funds to support such a radical, known to have held long conversations with Lenin. When a CCNY student was induced to file suit along those lines, an especially hard-nosed judge overturned the College appointment, with the rather gratuitous declaration that Russell's appointment would establish a Chair of Indecency. At that point, Albert Barnes stepped in and offered Russell a five-year contract to teach philosophy at the Barnes Foundation on Philadelphia's main line.
|Bertrand Russell in 1960s regalia.|
Bertrand Russell the bomb-thrower accepted the offer and came down to that quiet little lane where the neighbors object to the traffic coming to look at pictures. The five-year contract only lasted three years, when even Barnes got fed up, and summarily dismissed him. The circumstances have not been extensively documented, but they were sufficient to enable Russell to win a lawsuit for a redress of grievances. During that three year period on the Main Line, he had produced a book called History of Western Philosophy, which became a best seller and permanently relieved his financial difficulties, and was the basis for his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. He spent the rest of his ninety-odd years leading demonstrations against the atom bomb, the Vietnam War, monogamy, religion and so on. There are those who regard Bertrand Russell as the role model for the whole Sixties generation, and, unfairly, the 2004 Democrat candidate for President. However, all that may be, his activity at the Barnes Foundation undoubtedly was a factor in the firm but the unspoken tradition of the Merion Township neighbors that they wanted to get that Art Gallery out of here.
There's no statue of Ken Gordon at Valley Forge National Park, although it would be appropriate. No building is named after him; it's probable he isn't even eligible to be buried there. But there would be no park to visit at Valley Forge without his strenuous exertions.
One day, Ken's seventh-grade daughter came home from school with the news that the father of one of her classmates said that Valley Forge Park was going to be turned into a high-rise development. That's known as hearsay, and lots of things you hear in seventh grade are best ignored. But this happened to be substantially true. At that time, the Park was owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Governor Shapp was finding the upkeep on the Park was an expense he needed to reduce. The historic area had two components, the headquarters area, and the encampment area. One part would become high-rise development and the other would become a Veteran's Administration cemetery. Although any form of rezoning has the familiar sound of politics to it, Dr. Gordon (a child psychiatrist) had the impression that Sharp was mostly interested in reducing state expenses, and had no particular objection to some better use of the historic area. At any rate, when Gordon went to see him, he said that he would agree to a historic park if Gordon could raise the money somehow. The Federal Government seemed a likely place to start.
Well, the sympathetic civil servants at the National Park Service told him how it was going to be. You get the consent of the local Congressman (Dick Schulze) and it will happen. If you don't get his consent, it won't happen. It seemed a simple thing to visit that Congressman, persuade him of the value of the idea, and it would be all done; who could refuse? After the manner of politicians, Schulze never did refuse, but somehow never got around to agreeing, either. It takes a little time to learn the political game, but after a reasonable time, the National Park employees told Gordon he was licked. Too bad, give up.
He didn't give up, he went to see his Senators, at that time Scott and Clark. They instantly thought it was a splendid idea, and instead of going pleasantly limp, they sent Citizen Gordon over to see Senator Johnson of Louisiana, the chairman of a relevant committee. Johnson also thought it was a great idea, and called out, "Get me a bill writer!" A bill writer is usually a government lawyer, tasked with listening to some citizen's idea and translating it into that strange language of laws -- section 8(34), sub-chapter X is hereby changed to, et cetera. Bill writers have to be pretty good at it, or otherwise, they will misunderstand the intent of the original idea, modified by the personal spin of the committee chairman, the comments of the authorizing committee, and later bargains struck in the House-Senate conference committee. Having negotiated all those hurdles, a bill has to be written in such a prescribed manner that it won't be found to have multiple loopholes when it later reaches the courts in a dispute. A good deal of the time of our courts is taken up with making sense of some careless wording by bill writers. That's what is known as the "Intent of Congress", an ingredient that may or may not survive the whole process.
Ken Gordon had to go through this process, including testimony at hearings, for three separate congressional committees. To get everybody's attention, he organized several hundred supporters to write letters and get petitions signed by several thousand voters. These supporters, in turn, influenced the media and started a lot of what is known as buzz. All of this is an awful lot of work, but there is one thing about this case that can make us all proud. Not once did a politician suggest a campaign contribution was essential in this matter.
In time, ownership of the Park did in fact migrate from the Commonwealth to the U.S. Department of the Interior, hence to the National Parks Service. Everyone agrees it has been well managed, and increasing droves of visitors come here every year. It is now clearly a national treasure. Unfortunately, the encampment area got away and has been commercially developed, although not nearly as high-rise as originally contemplated. Along the way, many discouraging words were spoken about the futility of fighting against such odds. The outcome, however, is the embodiment of two slogans, the first by Ronald Reagan. "It's amazing what can be accomplished, if you don't care who gets the credit for it." The other slogan is older, and Quaker. All you need, to accomplish anything, is leadership. And leadership -- is one person.
One day Ken Gordon, the very busy doctor, was asked how much of his time was taken by this effort. His answer was, ten hours a week, every week for five years.
Delaware is a pretty small state to be divided into two civilizations, and in fact, it seems safe to predict that division will soon become meaningless. New Castle County and Wilmington are up north in DuPont country, with more Ph.D.'s than anywhere else in America, chateaux in the suburbs, plenty of Porsche's and other elements of the finer life. The other two counties, "South of the Canal," are rural, marshy, or beach front. Wal-Mart country. Aside from a distinct difference in the weather patterns, all of this is destined to change, and soon. A limited-access toll road, probably mostly intended to carry people to the slot machines of Dover Downs, makes it breezily simple to go from one end of the state to the other in an hour. A ferry from Cape May to Cape Henlopen makes sailing across the mouth of the bay a shorter simpler way to go from the urban areas of New York to and from Washington, Norfolk and points South. And changes in the tax laws make Delaware a great place to avoid sales taxes, estate taxes, business taxes, usury laws and lots of other things. That brings in businesses, and they, in turn, will bring in a swarm of home builders. It looks very likely Delaware will go the way of Luxembourg, urbanized from border to border.
The Corbit-Sharp House|
Built in 1774
Located in Odessa, Delaware.
Little Odessa (population 280) sits right at the pivotal point in this transformation. Here is the very narrowest point of the peninsula between the Delaware and the Chesapeake bays. In the Seventeenth Century, there was only a five-mile portage from the head of one creek to the head of the other; the town there was called Cantwell's Bridge. Just why the two Delaware-Chesapeake canals were built a few miles further North is an engineering question, but they tended to shelter Cantwell's Bridge from Northern influences. The neck was so narrow, however, that the road couldn't avoid the town, and for a century it was a pleasure to find a little Colonial town, a little Williamsburg so to speak, popping up among the fields of clover bordering a drive to Dover. A few miles to the West, a very fine boy's boarding school adds to the tone of the place, and it's only a short 9-mile commute to the University of Delaware. The finest 18th Century country house, the Corbit-Sharp House sets the tone for the area, and Christmas season in Odessa is quite memorable. Rodney Sharp was the son of the local school teacher who acquired financial substance, private jet airplanes and all that, on the other side of the canal, and then restored his old home the Corbit house into the Corbit Mansion, bringing the whole farm village up to an elegant level. A visit to Odessa at Christmas, touring the open houses and visiting the festivities, is well worth the trip.
You have to hold your breath to see what is going to happen to real estate in the area. The toll road sweeps around the edge of Odessa, and now the people going to the slot machines and the beaches can hardly see it as they race past. But that's mostly weekend traffic, and during the week all of those cornfields are quickly turning into easy commuter villages, full of McMansions. They are going to fill up the schools, demand better ones, demand traffic signals to protect the kiddies, demand retail outlets for all those upscale stores with catalogers, demand to be noticed. Eventually, all those three-car families will choke up the toll-road, and it will become a great big congested parking lot at rush hour. Sad.
One final comment about the origin of Odessa. It's named after the city in Russia because both of them were wheat exporting cities at one time, although it is doubtful if they were ever comparable in the steamy nightlife. However, the one in Delaware is actually the older of the two. Cantwell's Bridge, Delaware was founded in 1731. For reasons unclear, its name was changed to Odessa in 1845, perhaps in the mistaken idea that the Russian city was where Odysseus once landed. That's what many Russians claim, but the place they have in mind was really in Bulgaria. The place the Russians call Odessa was founded by Catherine the Great in 1794, some sixty years after Cantwell began collecting toll at his bridge in Delaware. When the Bulgarian mistake was pointed out to Catherine the Great, she wouldn't change the name; she sort of liked it that way.
From time to time, someone denounces big-city political machines, making the mistake of describing them as invariably Democrat. Debaters duly object, pointing to Philadelphia's Republican city machine lasting seventy-five years. It was, indeed, a very tough and corrupt organization. Whether it was Republican, is more debatable. The question might be re-phrased: How is it, with Democrats running every other big-city political machine, Philadelphia alone produced a Republican version? The explanation is buried in complex national politics just before the Civil War, when the last and final Whig convention was held in Philadelphia, following which the successors, the Republicans and also the Know-Nothing (American) parties, held their very first conventions here four years later.
To stir the Philadelphia pot still further, the person who actually won the 1856 Presidential election was James Buchanan, a Democrat from Lancaster County. Just about everything political was happening right here, all at once. Lots of deals were made. The Pennsylvania Republican delegation emerged as Abraham Lincoln's king-maker, and Lincoln as President rewarded Pennsylvania for its keen insight. Appointing cabinet members from Pennsylvania, the new administration naturally steered war contracts to our local industries. Philadelphia politics immediately became Republican in a big way, and after the war, the Republicans were then in charge of the national government for fifty years. Philadelphia had created a political machine, and it made no sense patronage-wise for many decades, for it to profess allegiance to any other party than the one it started with.
There thus exists a simple and coherent explanation for Philadelphia's exceptional behavior. A more difficult question to answer beyond dispute is: Why do big-city political machines almost invariably develop a Democrat affiliation? We're going to take a pass on that one, falling back on the observation that municipal politics usually have very little to do with national politics, no matter what Tip O'Neill may have said. Indeed, local politicians mostly wish national politicians would go back to Washington and leave them alone. National politicians certainly reciprocate that feeling, especially if they have a safe district.
But Party unity is periodically stimulated (some would say simulated) when the national figures must come back home from Washington seeking voter approval, searching out support in the clubhouses, fire stations and taprooms that are firmly in control of local warlords. Those warlords care little about foreign affairs, interest rates at the Federal Reserve, or globalization, becoming uneasy when the national politicians to whom they owe nominal fealty drag them into messy subjects like abortion and civil rights. In the clubhouses, there is a tendency to measure national leaders by patronage and pork barrel. In return, the national representative wants to be re-elected. He wants voter turnout, campaign funds, and gerrymandered districts. It's mostly the same in both parties, and in all regions.
Washington Avenue was called Prime Street before the Civil War and was an important trans-shipment center for the whole country. Rail traffic, coming down from New York and New England, came through New Jersey on the Camden and (Perth)Amboy RR, disembarked, and ferried over Delaware to the foot of Prime Street/Washington Avenue. Passengers then took horse-drawn cabs up Prime Street to Broad, or else they walked. At that point, travelers bound for further South would enter the imposing Rail terminus of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore RR, to re-embark. Philadelphia hotel operators hoped they would stay overnight; Philadelphia merchants hoped they would just transact their business locally, then go back home. Taking nine hours from New York, it was an inefficient transportation method by today's standards, but the Prime Street interruption served local economic purposes, which Chicago keeps in mind, even today.Sketch map showing the area between Philadelphia and Baltimore
The interruption also worked the other way, inducing Southerners to go no further North with their business, thus strongly contributing to pro-Southern sympathies before the Civil War. Philadelphia was indeed the most northern of the Southern cities until the 1856 Republican convention (at Musical Fund Hall) started to remind other Philadelphians that the anti-slavery Quakers perhaps had a point. Even so, pro-Southern feeling in Philadelphia was wide-spread, even in the early months of the war.
For example, in 1859 John Brown's body was brought forth on the PWB railroad, precipitating a pro-Southern riot at the Broad and Prime Station. There was a second riot the following year.
During the Civil War itself, the PWB railroad was a major military transport, carrying military supplies and troops to the battles, and bringing the many wounded troops back home for treatment. Quite a large military hospital was built across Broad Street from the rail station. All in all, the corner of Broad and Prime was a major center of the war, and may well have been one of General Lee's objectives when he launched the invasion that got stopped at Gettysburg.
|B& O Railroad|
After the Civil War was over, attention was finally paid to the need for better North-South rail transport along the Eastern Seaboard. Up to that time, European investment had pushed American railroading in an East-West direction. The Baltimore and Ohio were aimed at the Mid-West, while the New York railroads aimed at Chicago and beyond. Local politics in the seaboard cities tended to keep the competitors from linking and thus potentially capturing trade between the manufacturing North and agrarian South.
The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore was the key link in the series of mergers which created the dominant Pennsylvania Railroad. Bringing northern traffic in through North Philadelphia to the new 30th Street Station,
and then linking it to the stub of the P, W, BRR, the way was being paved for Ascella Express trains to shoot from Boston to Washington, perhaps eventually to Florida. The side-track from West Philadelphia to Broad and Washington was allowed to wither, and of course, the whole Camden and Amboy RR became scarcely more than a trolley line All that was left as a challenge to the Pennsy was to get past B and O obstructionism in Baltimore. This last step was finally accomplished with the discovery of some legal loopholes related to an existing right of way for a local commuter line in Baltimore, where permission for a branch line was broadly interpreted, and a surprise tunnel dug to link it up to the other parts of the Pennsy. Amtrak passengers nowadays usually move through the Baltimore tunnel systems without noticing them, but occasionally a train breaks down inside the tunnels. Then, they prove to be rather dark and damp as the passengers with their laptops are transferred to another train.
The RiverLine, a sort of diesel-powered overgrown trolley car line, has just 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 can leave baseball fans stranded at a night game at Campbell Park, 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 Camden and Amboy RR, 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 other end.
A fair lady's image depends, Bernard Shaw told us, not on how she acts, but on how she is treated. The case in point is a beautiful Main Line heiress in The Philadelphia Story, who can choose any man she wants. What she cannot do, is escape grief for a wrong choice.
When Broadway and Hollywood paint your image, not believing your own press releases takes strength. Toward the end of the Great Depression around 1938, show business turned full and nasty attention to Philadelphia high society. Earlier, while author Christopher Morley was at Haverford College, Katharine Hepburn at Bryn Mawr College, and Grace Kelly at school on Schoolhouse Lane, Hollywood had picked up just enough authentic detail to be dangerous. Kitty Foyle and The Philadelphia Story are two fairly accurate snapshots of a complex society, but one cannot be fully understood without the other. Indeed, the real-life trivialities of Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Ginger Rogers sharpen the outlines of the graceful gentlefolk they attempted to portray.
In 1938, Hepburn was a smash hit on Broadway with Philip Barry's Philadelphia Story, which essentially tells of the agonized turmoil of a Main Line princess, facing a three-way choice between a charming but worthless blue-blood, a self-made dullard, and a poor but noble New York magazine writer. (Just guess who the author was rooting for.) In real life, of course, Ms. Hepburn chose to spend four years with movie producer Howard Hughes the dare-devil Texan with a hundred starlets in his bedroom. Most of her competitors wanted a movie contract and/or a diamond bracelet, but Katy wanted the movie rights for Philadelphia Story, which Howard readily bought for her. Although other actresses played the role, she made herself into the image of a Philadelphia heiress, thereby nudging that Main Line image toward her own. At the time the image did not include much mention of Howard Hughes or actor Spencer Tracy, another long-time companion.
Meanwhile, Ginger Rogers, who was also engaged to Howard Hughes at one point, was making a great name for herself as the star of Christopher Morley's Kitty Foyle. Morley's Haverford experience taught him somewhat more respect for the Philadelphia Gentleman than Barry ever had, while his experience at the Curtis Publishing Company also made him appreciate the smart and plain-spoken Philadelphia girls from working-class districts. Highborn Philadelphia women are only sketchily imagined by Morley, except they somehow fail to appeal to his manly fictional cricket-player from the Main Line.
As matters turned out, Katy lost to Kitty. Although Hepburn was surely the more talented actress, eventually winning five Academy Awards, Ginger Rogers walked away with the 1940 Oscar for her interpretation of a working-class Philadelphia lady. Either way it turned out, of course, Howard Hughes was bound to be a happy fellow.
And yes, in 1956 Grace Kelly was the star of High Society, a renamed version of the Philadelphia Story for which, remember, Katherine Hepburn still controlled the rights. The film was a mediocre performance, just a little short of embarrassing. But however inexact all three of these portrayals may have been, there is little doubt that Philadelphia society moved a bit in their direction, involuntarily living up to an image created by three observers who seemed to their own observers to retain hostility traceable to their own undefined turmoils.
Philip Barry stacks the deck somewhat, portraying the leading lady as movie audiences during the Depression were likely to fantasize, indulging a luxury only a rich girl would supposedly be careless about. She rejects the colorless rich suitor out of hand. But while her remaining choice between a charming magazine writer and a charming playboy is made to seem a closer call, it really never makes our Philadelphia Cleopatra hesitate very long. In the single editorial comment, the play's author permits himself, is tucked the snarl, "She's a lifelong spinster, no matter how many times married." That's New York talking. Bitter, bitter.
|Philadelphia Gentlemen: The Making of a National Upper Class: E. Digby Baltzell ISBN-13: 978-0887387890||Amazon|
In 1950, an elderly retired gentleman named Witherbee paid me a visit when I was temporarily covering practice for a doctor in Woodbury, New Jersey, in locum tenens, as we say. His medical problem was easily tended, and we chatted.
He told me that he had attended Harvard Divinity School many years before, and one day was about to graduate as an ordained minister. His family, and many other proud families were gathered on folding chairs on the lawn in Cambridge to watch the graduation ceremonies. The graduates were called up one by one, in alphabetic order.
Since Witherbee is at the end of the alphabet, he had a lot of time to think over the significance of what the members of his class were doing. In time, thinking over the personal defects of each classmate who preceded him, he became overwhelmed with a personal question. "How can I tell others how to behave, when I don't know how to behave, myself?"
And so, when his turn came, his name was called out, and he rose in his seat. "I decline to graduate."
The consternation of his family can be imagined, along with the stir in the audience, the astonished face of the Dean, and his own confusion about the uproar he had just caused. But although the die was cast, and the action a final one, it had a surprising outcome. The next day, he received a telegram from the Girard College in Philadelphia, inviting him to be considered for the position of Director of Religious Studies. It seems that Stephen Girard had provided in his will that no ordained minister might set foot within the walls of Girard College, and yet they felt they needed someone to oversee religious study. Witherbee was perfect: he had the credentials, but he did not have the ordination curse.
And so he happily remained in that capacity for the rest of his employed life.
|Girard College It's Semi Centennial of Girard College: George P. Rupp ASIN: B000TNER1G||Amazon|
George Washington had plenty of other problems to contend with in 1778, but an Indian uprising led by Loyalists was too much. He singled out General John Sullivan, a celebrated Indian fighter from New Hampshire, gave him four thousand troops, and told him to eliminate this Indian threat to the Continental Army's rear, remove the safe haven for Loyalists, and assist the new Indian allies which LaFayette had befriended in the Albany area before the battle of Saratoga.
From long experience, Sullivan knew what to do, and did it without remorse. Ignoring skirmishes and ambushed sentries, he marched his troops from the scene of the massacre straight into the heart of Iroquois homeland, destroying every source of food or Indian settlement he could find. He was not interested in winning battles, he was determined to starve the Indians into extinction, once and for all. After these two slaughters, a white one in the Wyoming Valley (the Connecticut squatters in Wilkes-Barre), and now a red one in upstate New York, the entire frontier north of Pennsylvania was left a scene of devastation. Not much was heard of Indian fighting on this frontier for the rest of the Revolutionary War. Indeed, only the novels of James Fennimore Cooper make much subsequent mention of the Iroquois in American history.
In 1947, Howard Hughes was summoned to Washington to testify at a Senate hearing. Claude Pepper, Democrat of Florida, was in the chair, clearly angry about Hughes' conduct of munitions contracts, including flagrant non-performance. Three wooden flying boats had been commissioned for $18 million but not produced, people had been killed in crashes of test planes, and the newspapers were full of obscure allusions to unspecified wrong-doing in high places. Although the Hughes hearings were front page news for weeks, in those days it was only necessary to walk in and sit down if you wanted to watch them.
Under the circumstances, it would have been understandable if Hughes had been reduced to a trembling mumbler, probably advised to "take" the Fifth Amendment with every question. Congressional chairmen, particularly Claude Pepper,
quite regularly grandstand and bully the helpless witness at hearings like this, since it portrays them to the voters as heroic defenders of the public interest, and could even forward their chances of becoming a Presidential candidate. Hughes the scapegoat seemed to be in for a public flogging. The first step was to haul him before the committee and then keep him waiting for an hour or so, while the members attended to important public business, maybe even had to go for a roll-call vote or something. You could tell that things were not going according to the usual script when Hughes himself arrived quite late, accompanied by quite a large staff or retainers. When Pepper still delayed the hearing, Hughes called for a newspaper and elaborately read the comic pages.
The Texas swashbuckler didn't look the part. His accent and tailoring reflected a New England boarding school, and while his mustache resembled that of his friend Errol Flynn, he had a voice like a lion and lightning retorts that would do credit to Bill Buckley. Reminding the Chairman that he had been deafened in the crash of a racing plane, he asked him to repeat the question. Sorry, please repeat it again. And again, and again. Pepper was beside himself.
|The Spruce Goose|
Flustered, Pepper tried to reverse the treatment. Senator, I have already answered that question. Well, answer it again. No, I stand on my previous testimony. I forget what you said. Have the stenographer read it to you. Her transcript is not complete. Very well, my own secretary will read it back to you.
As if to demonstrate that he hadn't defrauded the government, Hughes, who always test-piloted his own planes, flew the H-4 about a mile in less than a minute during what was supposed to be a taxiing test on November 2, two months after his congressional testimony.
In another strange and unexplained footnote, the Glomar Explorer was a ship built in Philadelphia and used in Project Jennifer in an attempt to salvage a sunken Russian nuclear submarine and discover any secret technology it might contain. This was long past the time when Hughes was supposed to be disgraced and banished from Government contracts. The Senate hearings obviously had no effect on his status, and indeed might even have been entirely staged to mislead the Russians and others. Like so many things in his life, this episode has no readily obvious explanation.
Only in retrospect is it possible to see that Hughes was involved in lots of top-secret matters, and the bravado of his defiance -- not to say contempt of Congress -- might have had roots in some sure knowledge Pepper would not dare touch him. The CIA commissioned him to build the Glomar Explorer to find a sunken Russian submarine, using a phony story of manganese recovery. The supposed political victim of the much later Watergate break-in, Larry O'Brien, is said to have once been a Hughes employee; on the other hand, Hughes was very close to the Nixon Administration. There were inevitably many ties between his Las Vegas gambling empire and Cuban underworld figures, as well as Hollywood figures. Hughes was an owner of the Dallas movie theater where John Kennedy's murderer Lee Oswald tried to hide and was captured. It is not possible to judge Howard Hughes by the usual standards; this eccentric billionaire was capable of doing unimaginable things and it will be remarkable if spectacular news about him ends with his death.
|Salem Witch Trials|
When trials for witchcraft are mentioned, most people think of Salem, Massachusetts, where 19 people were hanged as witches and hundreds were imprisoned, in 1692. The Salem trials were apparently provoked by a minister from Barbados, and it is thought the uproar about witches in America was in part related to encountering the spiritualism of the Indian tribes. Whatever its origins, the issue has been in the background for a long time, and occasionally even surfaces today in accusations of "Satanic rituals."
There were trials for witchcraft in New York in 1664, in West Chester in 1672, and in Princess Ann county of Virginia. But the trial of central interest to Pennsylvania occurred in 1683, when Governor Penn presided over it, himself. Pennsylvania had adopted British laws, including one from James I concerning the crime of witchcraft, so Penn probably had little choice but to hold the trial. His fellow judges were his Council; there is little doubt the outcome reflects his opinion.
The accused were two Swedish women, Margaret Mattson and Yeshro Hendrickson, who pleaded not guilty. Numerous witnesses told vague stories, and Mattson's daughter expressed her conviction of her mother being a witch. Governor Penn finally charged the jury, which brought in a memorable verdict. The defendants were found guilty of "having the common fame of a witch" but not guilty in the manner and form.
There are times, and this was one of them, when it is not useful to be overly precise in your meaning.
Two things uniquely characterize the work of the Friends Service Committee (AFSC): it's often both dangerous and unpopular. That's not required for relief following Indonesian tidal waves perhaps, but the work that really needs someone to do is often both dangerous and controversial.
The Service Committee was founded in 1917, mostly by Rufus Jones and Henry Cadbury, as a way of helping conscientious objectors to World War I. The Mennonites, the Brethren, and the Quakers were opposed to all wars, not just that particular one, but two of those religions are of German ancestry, and lacked the same credibility of the English-origin Quakers in a war with English allies against the Huns, Boche, and Kaiser enemies. The early focus of the Committee was on the Field Service, or Ambulance Corps; which was plenty close to the action, and plenty dangerous. After the War, the defeated German population was starving, and the Quaker Herbert Hoover directed the relief effort with great credit to the Quaker name, and immense European gratitude.
After that, when German Jews were suffering persecution by the Hitler administration, the Quakers initially responded in a uniquely Quaker way. Rufus Jones and two other Quakers went to see Reinhard Heydrich, to tell him the world disapproved of his behavior. They fully realized they represented a pool of important world opinion, particularly within Germany, and it was time to speak truth to Power. The Germans left the room to confer, and the three Quakers bowed their heads in silent prayer. Apparently, the room was tape recorded, and when the German officials returned, they did promise some efforts to improve matters. As the situation for the Jews soon got much worse, many Quakers risked a great deal to shelter and rescue the persecuted exiles. Relief to the defeated German populace had to be repeated after that war, as well. Each effort built up more credibility to be able to switch sides for the next effort, and the sincerity has seldom been seriously questioned.
The Japanese were also our hated enemies in World War II, and once more a long history helped the relief effort. Nearly 100,000 American citizens of Japanese origin were interned on the West Coast as potential traitors in 1941, often under deplorable conditions. Clarence Pickett was a director of AFSC at the time, and his sister had spent years in Japan as a missionary, so his remonstrations with the American government were prompt and credible. One of the more active workers was Esther Rhoads, sister of the famous surgeon, who had spent time in Japan earlier. One of the ingenious efforts with the Nisei was to assist 4,000 of them to get into college and find them hostels and jobs while they were away at school. Many of these college students later became prominent in various ways, greatly assisting the post-war reconciliation between the two countries.
|Prince Akihito and Elizabeth Gray Vining|
Two Quaker ladies at the AFSC made a totally unique contribution when a request was received to provide a suitable tutor for the Crown Prince, now Emperor. He didn't convert to Christianity, but he later married a Christian, and you can be sure he got a plenty good dose of Quaker style and belief from Elizabeth Gray Vining. This tall, strikingly handsome Philadelphia woman had Bryn Mawr written all over her and turned heads whenever she entered a room. When she went back home, she was followed as a tutor for seven years by, guess who, Esther Rhoads who by then was the director of the Tokyo girls school. It remains to be seen, of course, what the final outcome of this deeply emotional situation will prove to have been. At the moment, the main sufferer seems to be the immensely talented American-educated woman who married the Emperor. But we will see; these are all powerful women in a very quiet way, unaccustomed to losing. One wishes the royal family all the best in their sometimes difficult position.
And then the Service Committee did its work in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Zimbabwe, and Somalia on the unpopular side, in every case. There are stories of venturing into war zones with hundred-dollar bills scotch-taped to their torso, where every fifty feet there was someone who would cut your throat for a dime. One worker in Laos entertained a group of us tourists with tales of living for weeks with nothing to eat but grasshoppers and cockroaches. Dangerous, unpopular, and uncomfortable. It sounds like a wonderful outlet for someone who is a perpetual rebel without a cause, but if you can find one of those at the Service Committee, you must have done a lot of looking.
The Service Committee, like the Quaker school system, is mostly run by non-Quaker staff. That means that neither of them exactly speaks for the religion itself. This little religious group of 12,000 members is stretched thin to provide a vastly greater world influence than its numbers imply. Hidden in the secrets of the group is an enduring ability to attract sincere non-member adherents to their work. And a quiet watchfulness to avoid losing control to any wandering rebels without a cause.
|Window for the Crown Prince: Akihito of Japan, Elizabeth Gray Vining ISBN-13: 978-0804816045||Amazon|
The American myth of the cowboy has much more Philadelphia flavor than one would suppose, considering the far-western location of the cows, the New York origins of Teddy Roosevelt, and the implication of southern aristocracy running through the dispossessed gentlemen riding the purple sage. The myth of the noble cowboy is behind much of what elected Ronald Reagan, the Californian.
Nevertheless, the Homer who started this epic Iliad was Owen Wister of Seventh and Spruce, Philadelphia.His book The Virginian might be summarized in a single quotation, "When you say that to me, smile." Behind that, of course, was Wister the lion of the Philadelphia Club rebuking his peers. The real theme was "I searched the drawing rooms of Philadelphia and Boston for the gentleman. And I found him on the frontier."
|James Fenimore Cooper|
Part of this complex theme is the underlying outdoors fraternity linking cowboys and Indians, tracing back to James Fenimore Cooper of Camden, NJ ennobling the noble savage in the Last of the Mohicans. Fair treatment for the natives has long been a strong Quaker theme, tracing back to William Penn's deep wisdom about colonization, and also personified in Corn planter the thoughtful Chief of the Iroquois, or Joseph Brant the scholarly Indian leader who translated the Bible, charmed the English monarchy, and then returned home to massacre the town of Lackawaxen. There's a theme here of shooting the circling Indians off their ponies, take no prisoners, mixed with the tragic white woman who falls in love with the equally tragic Indian brave, all doomed from the start. There's the sheriff with a shady past, going forth to shoot it out with outlaws while his Quaker wife watches out the window, because he is true to the Code of the West. Grace Kelly was surely no Quaker, but the Philadelphia hint is unmistakable.
It may take a century or more, but some American Homer is surely going to write the definitive epic based on this story. Meanwhile, Zane Grey tried his best. His version has a lot of Philadelphia in it, and not only because he went to the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. He graduated from Penn as a dentist, practiced in New York for six years, and hated every minute of it. Writing cowboy stories in his spare time, he gladly quit dentistry after his first publishing success, and moved over to Lackawaxen, PA to write in the woods. Lackawaxen is a great fishing spot, and was once a flourishing resort community at the confluence of the railroad and canal systems, now long since decayed and gone. He lived there for fifteen years, and asked to be buried there. His home is now a museum.
Pearl Grey became Zane Grey by way of P. Zane Grey, DDS. He had been born in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of a Quaker mother who belonged to the founding Zane family, and a preacher-farmer father who had insisted on the dentistry idea. All his life, Zane Grey was a vigorous sportsman, most unlikely to warm to an effeminate name like Pearl. Or gentle Quaker ways, either; but like his cowboy heroes he was obedient to his code. Most of his life he managed to go fishing more than two hundred times a year, and produced two thousand words of writing almost every week. He wrote a hundred thousand words a year, and kept it up for thirty years. He published sixty books in his lifetime, and thirty more of his books have appeared since his death. His material was the basis for forty movies, and many short stories. Six of his books are about fishing, but mostly he wrote sophisticated variations on the theme of the wild West, the cowboy true to his code, and the noble savage. He was the first American author to become a millionaire from his writings. It seems sort of a pity that he was overtaken by the pressures of commercial success, and consumed by his extraordinary drive and diligence to the point where very little time was left for the Great American Epic of the West. He lived in California for many years, but it seems unlikely there were enough hours in his day to shake loose from Quaker origins.
The same is true of Ronald Reagan and his Iowa origins, but somehow that does not capsulize what the American cowboy represents. Somehow there is something in common about the former Confederate cavalrymen who were the early cowboys, the Quakers befriending the Indians, and the Iowa boy who was to negotiate the end of the Cold War with the Evil Empire. It is somehow a matter of remaining true to your roots while dealing fairly with strangers. It lies in Reagan's motto as much as the Virginian's barroom warning. Trust, but verify.
Helis the beluga whale, male, 12 feet long, said to be 30 years old in a species with a life expectancy of about 35, made an appearance in the upper Delaware River in the spring of 2005. A scar on his back was recognized as having been seen on the St. Lawrence River, where Beluga whales are more commonly observed. Needless to say, there was a local sensation, with crowds of whale-watchers along the banks of the river, sharing binoculars, and buying special whale cookies, t-shirts and the like from opportunistic vendors. Helis arrived April 14, 2005, in time to pay income taxes, go to Trenton, cruising Trenton to Burlington and back, eating shad. Experts saying he is happy as a clam, shad fishermen grumbling a little. Crowds of excited people tried to take snapshots of themselves with Helis in the background.
He stayed with us another week, going back and forth between Burlington and Trenton. Not many other events took place, so the newspapers had front-page stories by Beluga whale experts, sought out for fifteen minutes of fame. Will he come back? How big do Belugas get to be? Frantic calls by reporters obtained the information that Belugas like icy arctic waters, seldom travel alone or this far south. The suggestion was made that Helis may have been banished by the male whales he usually swims with, but others pointed out the unusually good shad run this year and conjectured Helis was an adventurous loner who had discovered a private river of goodies.
|Cape May NJ|
We were informed that lots of whales are sighted off Cape May every year; there's a rather large whale sight-seeing industry. Mammals don't breathe the Delaware pollution, but like other mammalian swimmers, they swallow some. So here's a sign that river pollution maybe can't be too bad.
The French Canadians call him "ee-lus" but don't expect that to catch on around here. What's helis mean, anyway? This seems to be the most southern sighting of a Beluga. Reminds us that Kingston New York, a hundred miles up the Hudson, used to be a big whaling port. that Ahab of Melville's Moby Dick was a Quaker, Nantucket variety. Cape May Quakers are related to them more than to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. After all, Philadelphians are whale-lovers.
Unless someone harpoons Helis, we are all hoping he will bring back lots of his friends next year. Even the shad fishermen recognize that if the whales are searching for shad, there have to be a lot of shad to be attractive. And the whale-memento industry will surely be ready for them.
It's a source of some regret never to have attended the Georgetown Oyster Eat. It occurs in the middle of February when the days are dark and short, and the weather is uncertain for driving.
Local citizens of Sussex County, Delaware, report no one alive remembers when or how the custom began. In the nature of such things, a certain amount of historical inaccuracy is thus to be expected. It certainly did start out as an all-male event, taking place in the firehouse. One inflexible requirement is that a participant must bring his own oyster knife, which is a very heavy chunk of iron with a short blade attached, sort of like a screwdriver. The ones I have seen are all one piece of iron, suggesting they have been hammered out in a blacksmith shop. The flattened-out blade serves as an eating utensil, as well as a wedge to pry open the oyster shell. The oysters are eaten raw and whole, often with some sort of condiment, like horseradish sauce. Some eaters favor a whole lot of ground pepper, and various other ancient remedies are said to make an appearance. The main beverage is beer, lots of beer.
Beyond that, not much is known or divulged to the public, although a party attended by nearly a thousand tipsy people can't keep very many secrets. Before the party, the windows of the firehouse are covered with brown wrapping paper, sealed with tape. Kegs of oysters and kegs of beer are rolled into the firehouse before other things get rolling, and a lot of loud noises and laughter emerge almost all night. The sponsors claim to bring a thousand bushels of oysters to each party, although it is hard to imagine very many people eating their quota of a bushel apiece. The per-person beer consumption is a statistic kept confidential. The ladies of the neighborhood report numerous husbands eventually returning home, with their glasses broken, and suspicious red bruises on their faces. Aside from that, nobody knows nothing'.
About ten or fifteen years ago, feminism reached the Delmarva Peninsula, and the ladies started their own brawl. Renting the Grange Hall and brown-papering the windows, they make a lot of noise come out all night. Because of some sort of oyster virus, oysters are not nearly so plentiful any more. There's a more elaborate accusation that excessive fertilizer on the farm fields runs off and stimulates a bloom of algae, which depletes the oxygen of the river and kills a lot more than oysters. Anyway, the oysters are in short supply. If the local firehouse custom dies out, it won't be from lack of enthusiasm, however.
Tales of the Sea abound, even a hundred miles from the ocean.
We are indebted to the President of the Maritime Law Association of the U.S., Richard W. Palmer, Esq. (who unfortunately died in March 2017 at the age of 97), for both a strange definition and an amusing story. An "allusion" is a collision between a ship and a stationary object, such as a bridge or a dock. As you might imagine, the ship is almost invariably at fault, mainly through errors of the pilot, although hurricanes and other severe weather conditions can make a difference. Moving ships have been running into stationary objects for many centuries, and almost every allision contingency has been explored. Ho hum for maritime law.
The Delair railroad drawbridge over the Delaware River at Frankford Junction is just a little different. It was built in 1896 when the Pennsylvania RR decided it needed to veer off from its North East Corridor to take people to Atlantic City. For reasons relating to the afterthought nature of the bridge, the tower for the drawbridge is located half a mile away, out of a direct vision of the ships going through. Also, a late development in the history of the river was the construction of U.S. Steel's Morristown plant, bringing unexpectedly huge ore boats from Labrador to the steel mill. The captains of the ships pretty much turned things over to the river pilots, for the last hundred miles of the trip.
|Delair Railroad Drawbridge|
Shortly after this iron ore service was begun, the inaugural ore boat Captain had a little party with some invited guests. So it happened that the Commandant of the Port, the Admiral in Charge of the Naval Yard, and other equally high ranking worthies like the head of the Coast Guard were on the bridge of the ore boat, taking careful notes of the procedure.
The ship tooted three times, the shore answered back with three toots. In real fact, they were connected by ship-to-shore telephone for most of the real business, but this grand occasion called for an authentic nautical ceremony. Three toots, we're approaching your bridge. Three toots back, come ahead, the coast is clear. The admirals scribbled it all down.
As the ship approached the point of no return, beyond which it could no longer stop or turn in time to avoid an "allusion", the people on the bridge were appalled to see a train crossing the bridge ahead. Several toots, loud profanity on the ship to shore phone.
No worry, answered the bridge, we'll lift the drawbridge in plenty of time. But half a minute later the bridge controller made the anguished cry that the drawbridge was apparently rusted and wouldn't open, to which the captain shouted, "This ship is going to take away your blankety-blank bridge and sail right through it".
At this point, the pilot took matters into his own hands, and violently threw the rudder hard left, swinging the ship sideways, soon nudging the bridge with some damage, but nothing like the damage of a head-on allision. The lawsuit, as one might imagine, was the outcome.
The attorneys for the railroad were pretty high-powered, too, and had piles of legal precedents to cite. But they were quite unprepared for Dick Palmer to put the Commandant of the Port on the witness stand, reading slowly and painfully from his very detailed notes about the conversations on the bridge, about the approaching drawbridge.
And so, Philadelphia can now claim to have experienced one of the very few instances where a ship ran into a bridge -- and the court found the bridge to be entirely at fault.
|The Wyoming Massacre|
The six nations of Iroquois dominated Northeastern America by the same means the Incas dominated Peru -- commanding the headwaters of several rivers, the Hudson, the Delaware, and the Susquehanna, as well as the long finger lakes of New York, leading like rivers toward Lakes Ontario and Erie. They were thus able to strike quickly by canoe over a large territory. Iroquois were quite loyal to the British because of the efforts of Sir William Johnson, who settled among them and helped them advance to quite a sophisticated civilization. It even seems likely that another fifty years of peace would have brought them to an approximately western level of culture. Aside from Johnson, who was treated as almost a God, their leader was a Dartmouth graduate named Brant.
Brant, The Noble Savage
The mixed nature of the Iroquois is illustrated by the fact, on the one hand, that Sachem Brant translated the Bible into Mohawk and traveled in England raising money for his church. On the other hand, his biographers trouble to praise him for never killing women and children with his own hands. British loyalty to these fierce but promising pupils was one of the main reasons for the 1768 proclamation forbidding colonist settlement to the West of what we now call the Appalachian Trail, which on the other hand was itself one of the main grievances of the rebellious land-speculating colonists. The Indians, for their part, saw the proclamation line as their last hope for survival. After Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, the Indian allies were free to, and probably urged to, attack Wyoming Valley.
It is now politically incorrect to dwell on Indian massacres, but this one was both exceptionally savage, and very close to home. The Iroquois set about systematically exterminating the rather large Connecticut sub-colony and came pretty close to doing so. Children were thrown into bonfires, women were systematically scalped and butchered. The common soldiers who survived were forced to lie on a flat rock while Queen Esther, "a squaw of political prominence, passed around the circle singing a war-song and dashing out their brains." That was for common soldiers. The officers were singled out and shot in the thigh bone so they would be available to be tortured to death after the battle. The Wyoming Massacre was a hideous event, by any standard, and it went on for days afterward, as fugitives were hunted down and outlying settlements burned to the ground.
It's pretty hard to defend a massacre of this degree of savagery, but the Indians did have a point. They quite rightly saw that white settler penetration of the Proclamation Line would inevitably lead to more penetration, and eventually to the total loss of their homeland. The defeat of a whole British Army under Burgoyne showed them that they were all alone. It was do or die, now or never. Countless other civilizations have been extinguished by provoking a remorseless revenge in preference to a meek surrender.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia annually sponsors a lecture by a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. There is never any doubt of the high quality of any such lecture, but it does add an element of local pride whenever the Nobel Laureate comes from Philadelphia, as he did this year. Michael S. Brown, MD graduated from Cheltenham high school in 1958, received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962, and his M.D. degree in 1966. Nineteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in describing the cholesterol pathways, and the human defects in it which lead to heart attacks, strokes and other consequences of atherosclerosis. Almost immediately, Japanese investigators found the so-called stain drugs being produced by relatives of the penicillin mold for no, particularly obvious purpose. The patents have not yet expired on most of these drugs, but many millions of people have already been spared death or disability from hardening of the arteries, the commonest killer in modern life.
The speaker, now a gastroenterologist practicing in Texas, chose to organize his talk around the manner in which biochemical discoveries are currently being made. Physicians in medical research endure news media presentations, usually in silence, of scientific research performed by basic scientists with Ph.D. degrees, with MDs then merely dispensing the drugs. It sometimes happens that way, but in general, the basic scientist is too highly focused on the techniques of the scientific cutting edge to be well positioned to see the direction that should be taken next. The physician-scientist, on the other hand, is aching to find a solution to current problems, but often lacks the necessary technical skills to perform the experiment. James Shannon, one of the early directors of the National Institutes of Health, recognized this mutual deficiency was impairing progress and set about establishing training programs for cross-fertilization between the scientific approaches. Dr. Brown was one of the early trainees of that program, and now describes its glories, going from the patient bedside to the scientific laboratory bench, and then back to the bedside to test the results. Competition has morphed into collaboration.
Some day, someone will conduct a study of Nobel Laureates, seeking out the traits which characterize them. The next step after that would probably be cloning them, although public opinion will first have to catch up with that thought. From an observers point of view, Nobel prize winners all seem gifted with the ability to give a logical, entertaining and succinct description of a complicated matter. Almost all of them are located in very large research environments, where news of small scientific discoveries in obscure scientific journals is quickly picked up by a hundred eyeballs, filtered for the benefit of the local enthusiast of the topic, and often fitted together with something which that enthusiast has discovered but not published, or published too recently to be well known. Research is not just expert marksmanship, it is marksmanship within a boiling cauldron of undigested facts. One other thing about Nobel Laureates: as a group, they tend to drive over the speed limit, even when going to the local supermarket.
Anyway, it's really nice to take the statin drug and watch your cholesterol go down, secure in the knowledge that invisibly your longevity is improved. There's just nothing more attractive than having more longevity. At least, it's hard to imagine what would ever replace it in attractiveness.
|George Ross Fisher M.D III|
One evening in 1979 my visiting son, puzzled by health financing, asked me to explain. A decade of asking myself the same question led to the prompt reply that there seemed to be two central problems, both of them man-made. It's axiomatic in our family that man-made problems can have man-made solutions.
I believed you adequately understood health care financing if you understood the price reduction which hospitals give to subscribers of Blue Cross but not to subscribers of their competitors, and if you also understood the income tax dodge which the Federal government gives to salaried, but not to self-employed people who buy health insurance.
He asked how in the world these two subsidies were defended, and I told him. He then asked how these monopoly-inducing subsidies related to other weird quirks of health finance, and I told him that, too. He listened quietly for thirty minutes, and then exclaimed, "Wow. That's really the Hospital that Ate Chicago!"
So he went to bed, while I stayed up and wrote a short fancy for the New England Journal of Medicine, called, "The Hospital That Ate Chicago". Next morning I polished it a little and sent it off to the editor. Within a few days, it was accepted. Six weeks later it was in print.
It wasn't Ronald Reagan on the phone, it was John McClaughry, Senior Policy Adviser. I'm not sure how important you are when you are a Senior Policy Adviser, but it rates you an office in the Executive Office Building that has fireplaces and sofas, conference tables, and -- off in one corner-- a desk. I knew at a glance that we were going to be friends, because his desk had a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer on it, too. Seeing that, emboldened me to stuff my temporary White House identification badge in my pocket, because a guy with a computer in 1980 was certainly a member of the brotherhood, and would get me out of trouble if the guards caught me taking souvenirs. I still have the badge.
John was and is a master networker; maybe that's the job description of a senior policy adviser, I wouldn't know. He knew everybody who had anything to do with health financing, in all the branches of government, including one I hadn't known about, the neighborhood Think Tanks. Everybody is forever passing out business cards to new acquaintances and sweeping them into the left-hand breast pocket in one continuous motion. In Japan, everybody passes out cards but makes a big bowing ceremony of receiving them; what then happens to them in Japan I don't know, but in Washington, they go into Rolodexes and everybody invites everybody to some gathering or other. One evening, I was the entertainment at such a gathering, and have usefully kept up with quite a few people who attended. It's a different atmosphere from some other functions, particularly in the State Department with the other party, where everyone pretends to be meeting you for the very first time when they really aren't.
A few days after our first meeting, John wrote me a short note. Senator Roth of Delaware was pushing something called IRA, or Individual Savings Accounts. Did I think the idea could be applied to health care financing? I suddenly felt as though someone had shoved a stick into my skull and was stirring it around. Of course, just perfect! Add that to a high-deductible or so-called catastrophic health care policy, and out would emerge individually owned health insurance policies, with the same tax shelter as Blue Cross gets, and the added kicker of earning compound interest while you are well, in anticipation of high costs when you are older. It gets rid of pay-as-you-go, it puts an end to "job-lock" and all sorts of other bad things. Perfect.
Because of the difference in our previous backgrounds, I was in a little better position than John was to see how many medical pieces would fall in place if you made this simple provision, which after all was only giving to self-employed people what salaried people had been getting for decades. Yes, it had a small cost, but no more than the amount self-employed people (like doctors) were being cheated out of. We were only asking for a level playing field.
John and I had our project, the Medical Savings Account, and although we kept in touch, we went our separate ways to sell it. John's field was the Republican Party, and mine was the medical profession. It might take a year or two, but the arguments were unassailable.
In the European view, the French and Indian War was a mere skirmish in the many-year conflict between France and England. But the Atlantic is a wide ocean. The local Pennsylvania politics of that war concern the land-hungry settlers striving for Indian lands, the Quaker Assembly doing its best to maintain William Penn's formula for peace ("No settlements without first buying the land from the Indians."), and William Penn's far-from-idealistic Anglican sons, focused on profit from a land rush. Western Pennsylvania belonged to the Delaware tribe, but the Delawares were subject to the Iroquois nation. The year is 1754. The following pro-Quaker description is given by Isaac Sharpless, president of the Quaker Haverford College between 1887 and 1917 (Political Leaders of Colonial Pennsylvania,
Isaac Norris was appointed to another Albany treaty with the Indians in 1754. The commission consisted of John Penn and Richard Peters representing the Proprietors, and Benjamin Franklin and himself, the Assembly. Indian relations were becoming difficult. The Five Nations still claimed the right to the ownership of Pennsylvania and insisted that no sale of land by the Delawares was permissible. In an evil hour the government of Pennsylvania recognized this claim and this Albany meeting was for the purpose of effecting a purchase. By methods that were more or less unfair, taking advantage of the Indian ignorance of geography, they bought for 400 pounds all of south-western Pennsylvania. When the Delawares found their land had been sold without their consent, they threw off the Iroquois yoke, joined the French, defeated Braddock's army a year later and for the first time in the history of the Colony the horrors of Indian warfare were known on the frontiers.
Although Sharpless goes directly to the unvarnished truth of the situation, he reveals the depth of his bitterness by openly discarding Franklin's cover story about being in Albany to propose political unity among the British colonies.
It was on this expedition that Franklin presented to his fellow delegates his plan for a union of the Colonies, of course in subordination to the British Crown which was a precursor of the final union in Revolutionary days. Sixty years earlier William Penn had proposed a somewhat similar scheme.
The war came, French intrigue and the unwisdom of the Executive branch of the government of the Province (the Penns) drove the Indians, who for seventy-three years had been friendly, into the warpath. Cries came in from the frontiers of homesteads burnt, men shot at their plows, women and children scalped or carried into horrible captivity, and a growing sentiment among the red men that the French were the stronger and that the English were to be driven into the sea.
Curtis Publishing Company once covered a full city block of Philadelphia, from Sixth to Seventh Streets, Walnut to Chestnut. The northern half of this complex was the Public Ledger Building, once housing a failed diversification move into newspaper publishing and later rented out as commercial office space after the newspaper died. On the top floor of the Ledger Building was the Down Town Club, quite a palatial meeting place for the whole publishing industry which stretched for blocks around. Both Curtis-owned buildings have the same architectural design and together make a massive looming presence next to Independence Hall on one street and Washington Square on the other. To build from Walnut to Chestnut means shutting off Sansom Street in the middle, and that permits the jewelry trade to nestle in a cul de sac on the West side of the publishing complex.
So Curtis was once a little city within a city, and most of the rest of the town only saw its facade and the crowds of people coming and going through the entrances. To a neighborhood doctor on an emergency call, however, it was almost exclusively inhabited by young women. Kitty Foyles, you might say. I certainly formed that impression after having a medical office two blocks away, getting occasional calls.
So far as I can remember, Curtis had only one medical problem, repeated over and over. An anguished call would come that someone at Curtis was unconscious, come immediately, take the elevator to the third or fourth or fifth floor. At the elevator, the doctor would be met by a somewhat older woman, obviously the den mother of the working girls. Into the ladies room, we would go, where a young woman was usually sitting on a couch looking sheepish, although occasionally she was still passed out. The key finding was a very slow pulse. She had fainted, she was better, and now what. It was Curtis policy to send the fainters home after the faint, and I never could see any particular objection to that.
For me, there were never any men to be seen, at Curtis. Surely there must have been dozens of writers and editors and advertising people, but somehow they would vanish when one of these fainting things happened. Curtis was nothing but women when I was there, mostly watching me like a beach full of seagulls, watching a fisherman.
The legislation removes the hampering restrictions of the 1995 Law. What follows is a brief outline of the main features of the HSA/MSA clause in the 2003 law,
as published by the main authorizing committee, the House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means. From this point forward, more specifics of the program will probably be written by the Executive Branch and published in the Federal Register. The Ways and Means Committee will continue to exercise oversight authority, however, in conjunction with the Senate Finance Committee. As a consequence, statutory modifications of the program are likely to appear in future annual budget reconciliation acts, or else in any new Medicare amendments. The legislative route map becomes more understandable when it is recalled that Medicare itself is considered to be an amendment (Title XVIII) of the Social Security Act.
Working under the age of 65 can accumulate tax-free savings for lifetime health can needs if they have qualified health plans.
A qualified health plan has a minimum deductible of $1,000 with $5,000 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for self-only policies. These amounts are doubled for family policies.
Preventive care services are not subject to the deductible.
Individuals can make pre-tax contributions of up to 100% of the health plan deductibles. The maximum annual contributions are $2,600 for individuals with self-only policies and $5,150 for families (indexed annually for inflation).
Pre-tax contributions can be made by individuals, their employers, and family members.
Individuals age 55-65 can make additional pre-tax "catch up" contributions of up to $1,000 annually (phased in).
Tax-free distributions are allowed for health care needs covered by the insurance policy. Tax-free distributions can also be made for the continuation coverage required by Federal law (i.e., COBRA), health insurance for the unemployed, and long-term care insurance.
The individual owns the account. The savings follow the individual from job to job and into retirement.
HSA savings can be drawn down to pay for retiree health care once an individuals reach Medicare eligibility age.
Catch-up contributions during peak savings years allow individuals to build a nest egg to pay for retiree health needs. Catch-up contributions allow a married couple to save an additional $2,000 annually (once fully phased in if both spouses are at least 55.
Tax-free distributions can be used to pay for retiree health insurance (with no minimum deductible requirements), Medicare expenses, prescriptions drugs, and long-term care services, among other retiree health care expenses.
Upon death, HSA ownership may be transferred to the spouse on a tax-free basis.
Contain rising medical costs- HSA's will encourage individuals to buy health plans that better suit their needs so that insurance kicks in only when it is truly needed. Moreover, individuals will make cost-conscious decisions if they are spending their own money rather than someone else's.
Tax-free asset accumulation- Contributions are pre-tax, earnings are tax-free, and distributions are tax-free if used to pay for qualified, medical expenses.
Portability- Assets belong to the individual; they can be carried from job to job and into retirement.
Benefits for Medicare beneficiaries- HSA's can be used during retirement to pay for retiree health care, Medicare expenses, and prescription drugs. HSA's will provide the most benefits to seniors who are unlikely to have employer-provided health care during retirement. During their peak saving years, individuals can make pre-tax catch-up contributions.
Chairman Bill Thomas Committee on Ways and Means 11/19/2003 12:56 PM
Although the Art Museum now dominates the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the earlier focus of the acropolis once called Fair Mount is just down the hill behind it, in the old Grecian complex of the Philadelphia waterworks. When the Schuylkill was dammed at that point, the effect was to calm the rapids, drown the falls at Midvale Avenue upstream, and turn this portion of the river into a placid fresh-water lake. Fairmont Park was then created upstream in an effort (originally stimulated by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia) to reduce pollution of Philadelphia's water supply going into the pumps at the Waterworks, by replacing, with parkland, the wards, and industrial slums at the terminus of the canal bringing anthracite from upstate. The result was the creation of an ideal place for public boating and skating.
The transformation of this area can be seen in retrospect as an impressive civic response to economic upheaval. The War of 1812 (by cutting off ocean access to bituminous via the Chesapeake) had first forced Philadelphia to use anthracite hard coal, and the discovery of anthracite's superiority in making steel caused a continuing reliance on it and the canals
that brought it here. By 1850, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad made the canals obsolete and created this splendid opportunity for urban renewal. The waterfalls had created a natural boundary between industry oriented to upstate coal and other industry oriented to oil and commerce coming up Delaware. It is a great pity that the lower section of the Schuylkill, once so famously beautiful, has never stimulated the same vision and imagination in response to the eventual decline of the industrialization which defaced it.
To return to Boathouse Row, a large azalea garden starts the Park, and then the East River Driver winds along the attractively landscaped riverbank. Just beyond the azalea garden, the first of ten Victorian-style boathouses starts the home of the Schuylkill Navy, an association of rowing clubs which are now a century and a half in residence there. When the Schuylkill auto expressway was created on the other side of the river, someone had the bright idea of decorating the rowing houses with lights along their edges in the manner used for Christmas decorations in South Philadelphia, especially on Smedley and Colorado Streets. Ever since the entrance to Philadelphia from the West has become one of its most arresting beauties.
Add a few cherry blossom trees in the spring, and you have quite a memorable centerpiece. Rowing sometimes called crewing, or sculling, is a central focus of Philadelphia society, and is curiously not something in which the city can claim to be first or the oldest. As you might expect, "regatta" is a word invented in Venice five hundred years ago, there are records of rowing races as far back as 400 BC, and New York -- ye Gods! -- had the first American boating club. The Philadelphia Schuylkill Navy was formed as an association of rowing clubs in 1858, and the oldest member, the Bachelor's Barge, was only formed in 1856. The development was largely spontaneous and is said to have been briskly stimulated by a beer garden nearby, run by a former Philadelphia sheriff. About the same time, the British became crazy about the sport, having the Henley Races as the most famous regatta in the world, and both the Australians and the Bostonians occasionally have the largest, most expensive, most widely advertised regattas. Foo. Philadelphia has the Schuylkill Navy, and it is central to our existence.
There are a couple of things which are unique about rowing. In the first place, it is hard to think of a way to cheat. You can hire engineers to redesign the shape and size of your boat, but engineering really doesn't make a lot of difference once the basic development of oarlocks and movable seats was perfected. A good boat can cost as much as $30,000, but that is large because all boats approach the limit of speed. If you have heavier or stronger oarsmen, it doesn't make that much difference. What matters is coordination, and in the longer boats, teamwork. Pull up with your shoulders, push with your legs, don't start with your buttocks, the art of rowing involves your whole body. The greatest champion of all time, Edward "Ned" Hanlan,
only weighed 155 pounds. Not only was he world champion from 1876 to 1884, he was undefeated in any race during the last four years. True, he was born in Toronto, and eventually he was thrown out of polite Philadelphia racing for deliberately ramming another boat, but those are private Philadelphia comments, not something you want to talk too much about. The whole secret of rowing is to manage the fact that the boat travels farther between strokes than while the oars are in the water; if you row too fast, you actually slow the boat. There are two other Philadelphia names associated with the Schuylkill Navy. One is Thomas Eakins, the great American painter, one of whose most famous pictures is that of Max Schmitt in a Single Scull (on the Schuylkill). The other name is Kelly.
John B. Kelly of Philadelphia won two Olympic gold medals in 1920 and did it within one hour. He won a Third Olympic gold medal in 1924. But when he tried to race in the Henley Regatta, he was declared ineligible to row, because he had worked with his hands (summer work as a bricklayer), and thus could not really be called a gentleman. Anyone who has ever heard Irishmen talk about Englishmen can imagine the reaction this caused in the Kelly family. The resentment took the form of pushing his son, Jack, into racing, and in 1947 John B. Kelly, Jr. won the Diamond Sculls at Henley. Meanwhile, the father vindicated himself in other ways. The firm of Kelly for Brickwork was an enormous financial success, right up there next to Matthew H. McCloskey and John McShain, the political builders of the Pentagon and numerous other government buildings. John B. Kelly unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Philadelphia in 1935 during the 75-year period when Philadelphia Mayors were always Republicans, but for decades was in the much more powerful position of head of the local Democratic party. The Republicans at that time would meet for lunch at the Union League, and so John Kelly reserved a lunch table at the Bellevue Hotel, next door, where he could be seen holding court every day.
The result was not entirely favorable for the Bellevue; more than one wedding reception was rescheduled to some other hotel in order to avoid the Democrat taint. But you always knew where you could find Kelly at lunch, and it was fun to watch the various minions come forward to the table, almost as if they were in chains, to pay homage which involved provoking loud laughter from the great man with a salacious joke. The rowing clubs are mostly big barns with old boats high up on the walls, and silver cups and wooden memorial plaques lower down. They have lockers and showers, but no dining rooms, except at catered in the evening for parties. For a century, no women came there, but now almost half of the rowers are female. Membership is not difficult to obtain, although you have to be good to get on the club teams, and the dues are not expensive. If you show promise, you are expected to spend most of your waking hours working at it. Jack Kelly was famous for rowing three hours every morning, going to lunch, and then coming back for a couple of hours of more rowing. That doesn't leave much time in your life for anything else, so the friendships developed among active club members are very strong, just like the horsemen over at the City Troop. They sort of life in the past a little, with many anecdotes about a skull that broke apart and sank in the midst of a race, or a race that was lost because of too much recreation the night before. The lingo has to do with the fine points. A race can be between "eights" or "fours", or doubles, or singles. It can have a coxswain, or not, and be coxed or unboxed. When a pair of rowers have two oars apiece, it is the normal arrangement. A much more difficult boat to control has two rowers, with one oar apiece. Like Hercules or Achilles, stories are told of Hanlan, great Hanlan, who sometimes would win a one-mile race by eleven lengths. Or who would get so far ahead of his competitors that he would lie down in the boat and wait for another boat to catch up -- and then race ahead to beat him. This sort of person can be a little hard to take, and it is privately muttered that Hanlan was sent off to Australia, where people do that sort of thing more commonly.
The story of Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) comes in two forms, one from the Philadelphia Quaker community, and the other from his home, in Japan. One day in Philadelphia, a well-known ninety-year-old Quaker gentleman, rumpled black suit, very soft voice -- and all -- happened to remark that his Aunt had married a Samurai. A real one? Topknot, kimono, long curved sword, and all? Yup. Uh-huh.
That would have been Inazo Nitobe, who met and married Moriko, nee Elizabeth Elkinton, while in college in Philadelphia. He became a Quaker, and when the couple returned to Japan, the Emperor then found himself confronted with a warrior nobleman who was a pacifist. You can next perceive the hand of his Quaker wife in the deferential diplomatic suggestion that there were vacancies for Japan at the League of Nations and the Peace Palace in the Hague. Perhaps, well perhaps, there could be service to his Emperor as well as his new religion in such an appointment for her new husband. Good thinking, let it be done. As far as Philadelphia is concerned, Ambassador Nitobe next appeared when Japan was invading Manchuria. The Emperor had sent Nitobe on a tour of America to explain things. At the meetinghouse then on Twelfth Street, Nitobe adopted the line that Japan was only bringing peace and order to a chaotic barbarian situation, actually saving many lives and restoring quiet. After a minute of silence, Rufus Jones rose from his seat on the "facing bench": He was having none of it. And that was that for Nitobe in Philadelphia.
The other side of this story quickly appears if you go to Japan and ask some acquaintances if they happen to have heard the name Inazo Nitobe. That turns out to be equivalent to asking some random American if he has ever heard of Abraham Lincoln. To begin with, Nitobe's picture appears on the 5000 Yen ($50) bills in everybody's pocket. He was the founder of the University of Tokyo, admission to which now is an automatic ticket to Japanese success. He wrote a number of books that are now required reading for any educated Japanese. A number of museums, hospitals, and gardens are named after him; one of them outside Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia.
Nitobe's father, Jujiro Nitobe, had been the best friend of the last Shogun, deposed by the return of the Emperor to effective control after Perry opened up Japan to Western ideas. The Shogun was beheaded, of course, and the tradition was that the victim could ask his best friend to do the job because he would do it swiftly. Jujiro was unable to bring himself to the task, refused, and his family was accordingly reduced to poverty. Subsequently, the Samurai were disbanded by the newly empowered Emperor, given a pension, and told to look for peaceful work. Inazo Nitobe was in law school when the Emperor's emissary came and said that Japan did not need culture, it had plenty of culture. The law students would please go to engineering school, where they could help Japan westernize.
Nitobe later wrote a perfectly charming memoir, called Reminiscences of Childhood in the Early days of Modern Japan , which dramatizes in just a few pages just how wide the cultural gap was. For example, Nitobe's father brought home a spoon one day, and this curious memento of how Westerners eat was placed in a position of high honor. One day, a neighbor ordered a suit of western clothes, and hobbled around it, saying he did not understand how Westerners are able to walk in such clothes. He had the pants on backward.
One of Nitobe's greatest achievements was to struggle with his appointment as Governor of Formosa (Taiwan). Japan acquired this primitive island in 1895, and Nitobe got the uncomfortable role of colonist in Japan's first experience with colonization. He sincerely believed it was possible for Japan to bring the benefits of Westernization to another Asian backwater, but just as the British found in their colonies, there was precious little gratitude for it. Although he was undoubtedly acting dutifully on the Emperor's orders when he later came to Twelfth Street Meeting, he surely knew -- perhaps even better than Rufus Jones -- that there was something to be said on both sides, no matter how conflicted you had to be if you were in a position of responsibility. This most revered man in his whole nation almost surely saw he had been a complete failure in Philadelphia.
Occasionally prisoners must be taken to the hospital, and that's a problem for the authorities. Philadelphia General Hospital had a special prison unit on its grounds, so the problem for the guards was merely to transport the prisoner to the locked hospital ward and bring him "home" after his medical problems were fixed. The State of Delaware doesn't have a prison unit in any hospital, so the security risk must be addressed by sending at least two guards, night and day, to some hospital, and securely manacle the prisoner to the bedstead. Nobody likes this situation, particularly the head nurses, but no one has a better solution to offer.
When prisoners have to make an outpatient trip for an x-ray or similar, there is usually an iron rule: no one is to know about it in advance. In one particular case, however, a convicted Delaware murderer had to have an x-ray of his gallbladder, which in those days required swallowing some large pills the night before. That was the tip-off.
On the specified morning, he was bundled into a patrol car with manacles and guards, and whisked off to the Delaware Hospital, now the Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center. The x-ray department was at the end of a long corridor, with the diabetic clinic on the right and the bathrooms on the left side of that corridor. The entrance was on the side of this corridor, right next to the office for visiting consultants. Things were busy but peaceful that morning when a commotion arose. Three prison guards came marching through the door, surrounding their manacled prisoner. They turned left, and down the long hall to the x-ray department.
As they passed the men's room, the prisoner begged his guards to let him relieve himself, so they took him into the bathroom, removing the handcuffs. He washed his hands, dried them with a paper towel, pushed it into the waste container. Then quick as a flash he thrust his hand deeper into the crumpled waste paper, got the loaded revolver his accomplices had put there, and emerged from the wastebasket -- shooting. The guards got down on the floor, a bullet went into the Diabetic Clinic were a very prominent society lady was working in a pink volunteer's uniform, and another bullet went into the consultants' office, which on other days I might have been using. The escapee was running hard, fired one final bullet into the ceiling at the door, and was out in a second to the waiting getaway car where his buddies were ready. He got away clean, as they say.
There's nothing like an episode of that sort to bring people together. We were survivors of an exhilarating experience, having something in common that no one could take away. For a couple of years afterward, the bullet hole remained unobtrusively in the ceiling by the entrance. The nurses told me that workmen had arrived several times to patch it up, and the society lady, who was a trustee of the hospital, wouldn't let them fix it. That was our bullet hole.
The Strittmatter Award is the most prestigious honor given by the Philadelphia County Medical Society and is named after a famous and revered physician who was President of the society in the 1920s. There is usually a dinner given before the award ceremony, where all of the prior recipients of the award show up to welcome to this year's new honoree.
This is the reason that Henry Bockus and Jonathan Rhoads were sitting at the same table, some time around 1975. Bockus had written a famous multi-volume textbook of gastroenterology which had an unusually long run because it was published before World War II and had no competition during the War or for several years afterward; to a generation of physicians, his name was almost synonymous with gastroenterology. In addition, he was a gifted speaker, quite capable of keeping an audience on the edge of their chairs, even though after the speech it might be difficult to recall just what he had said. On this particular evening, the silver-haired oracle might have been just a wee bit tipsy.
Jonathan Rhoads had likewise written a textbook, about Surgery, and had similarly been president of dozens of national and international surgical societies. He devised a technique of feeding patients intravenously which has been the standard for many decades, and in his spare time had been a member of the Philadelphia School Board, a dominant trustee of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, and the provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Not the medical school, the whole university, and is said to have been one of the best provosts of the University of Pennsylvania ever had. When he was President of the American Philosophical Society, he engineered its endowment from three million to ten times that amount. For all these accomplishments, he was a man of few words, unusual courtesy -- and a huge appetite in keeping with his rather huge farmboy physical stature. On the evening in question, he was busy shoveling food.
"Hey, Rhoads, wherrseriland?". Jonathan's eyes rose to the questioner, but he kept his head bowed over his plate.
"HeyRhoads, Westland?" The surgeon put down his fork and asked, "What are you talking about?"
"Well," said Bockus, "Every famous surgeon I know, has a house on an island, somewhere. Where's your island?
"Germantown," replied Rhoads, and returned attention to his dinner.
James Michener seemed headed for a recognizably Quaker life until show business rearranged his moorings. He was raised as a foundling by Mabel Michener of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, under circumstances that were very plain and poor. Many of his biographers have referred to his boyhood poverty as a defining influence, but they seem to have very little familiarity with Quakers. When the time came, this obviously very bright lad was offered a full scholarship to Swarthmore College, graduated summa cum laude, went on to teach at the George School and Hill Schools after fellowships at the British Museum. And then World War II came along, where he was almost but not exactly a conscientious objector; he enlisted in the Navy with the understanding he would not fight.
While in the Pacific, he had unusual opportunities to see the War from different angles, and wrote little short stories about it. Putting them together, he came back after the War with Tales of the South Pacific. Much of the emphasis was on racial relationships, the Naval Nurse who married a French planter, the upper-class Lieutenant (shades of the Hill School) who had a hopeless affair with a local native girl that was engineered by her ambitious mother, as central characters. Michener himself married a Japanese American, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, whose family had been interned during the War. There are distinctly Quaker themes running through this story.
And then his book won a Pulitzer Prize, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein made it into a Broadway musical hit, then a movie emerged. The simple Quaker life was then struck by the Tsunami of Broadway, Hollywood, show biz and enormous unexpected wealth. Just to imagine this simple Bucks County schoolteacher in the same room with Josh Logan the play doctor is to see the immovable object being tested by the irresistible force. Michener retreated into an impregnable fortress of work. He produced forty books, traveled incessantly, ran for Congress unsuccessfully, and was a member of many national commissions on a remarkably diverse range of topics. Although he lived his life in a simple Doylestown tract house, he gave away more than $100 million to various charities and educational institutions.
In his 91st year, he was on chronic renal dialysis. He finally told the doctors to turn it off.
There are two ways of looking at the love affair of Pinkerton, the dashing Philadelphia naval officer, and Madame Butterfly, the beautiful Japanese geisha. John Luther Long wrote about it one way, while Puccini somehow portrays it differently, even though Long collaborated on the Libretto of the opera. Puccini, of course, was himself a famous libertine, tending to follow the typical belief of such men that women somehow enjoy being victimized. Long in real life was a Philadelphia lawyer, trained to keep a straight face when people relate what messes they have got into. If you know the story, you can see Long in the person of Sharpless, the consul. Sharpless is definitely meant to be a Philadelphia name.
Long was one of the early members of the Franklin Inn, and it is related he wrote much of his successful play at the tables of the club on Camac Street. David Belasco was the "play doctor" who knew how to make a good story fill theater seats. Even after Belasco's polishing, the play came through as a portrayal of the well-born gentleman who had been trained to regard foreign girls as just what you do when you are away from home. His real girlfriend, the beautiful Philadelphia aristocratic woman in a spotless white dress, was the sort you expected to marry. In just a few sentences of Long's play, this woman comes through as just about as distastefully aloof to foreign women as it is possible to be while remaining rigidly polite about it. Butterfly sees this at a glance, knows it for what it is, and knows it is her death. Her duty immediately is "To die honorably, when one can no longer live with honor".
It is Puccini's genius to take this story of how two nasty Americans destroy an honorable Japanese girl and using that same story with the same words, make it into a romantic woman being destroyed by a hopeless, helpless love affair. The power of the music overwhelms the story and sweeps you along to the ending. Even if you feel like Long/Sharpless, dismayed and disheartened by watching some close acquaintances doing things you know they shouldn't.
When Puccini's opera comes to Philadelphia every year or so, the Franklin Inn has a party for the cast, one of the great events of the Philadelphia intellectual scene. Somehow, the full intent of Luther Long's work never seems to come out.
Among the many churches centered in Philadelphia, the Swedenborgian is probably the least typical and most difficult to understand. The church does not actively seek out a new membership, but it welcomes everyone, in the spirit of Emanuel Swedenborg's observation that "All people who live good lives, no matter what their religion, have a place in Heaven." Without attempting to define the teachings of Swedenborg (1699-1772), who was quite able to speak for himself, it can be approximated that Heaven plays a central role in this belief system, and predestination does not. Although the ceremonial features of this religion are very similar to the Episcopal Church, its main emphasis is on good works as a way of attaining the reward of Heaven. In some ways, that is an unexpected position for a noted scientist like Swedenborg to take, since generally scientists lean toward Calvinism, with the mechanistic view that if God is all-powerful, then human free will must be impossible.
There are at least four divisions of the Swedenborgian religion, but the Bryn Athyn branch is most notable in the Philadelphia region. A very wealthy adherent of Swedenborg named John Pitcairn bought a large tract at Bryn Athyn and gathered the local church to live around a perfectly magnificent cathedral and church school. It is hard to think of any church in the Philadelphia region which approaches the magnificence of the Bryn Athyn cathedral. It has a special character that it was conceived and built during the crafts movement of the early twentieth century, with imported European workmen deliberately organized like medieval craft guilds. The central features of this workmanship reflect and then project the belief in personal individuality within the whole religion. No two windows, or doorknobs, or carvings are the same in the cathedral, reflecting the wish for each workman to devise his own unique creation and show the way of personal responsibility to the faithful. This cathedral is one of the things in the Philadelphia region most worth visiting, but to appreciate its quality you have to know what you are looking at.
Everybody in this church is unexpectedly hard to characterize. The Pitcairn Foundation was such a successful investor that it formed a mutual fund for others to share in its good fortune. Its central philosophy is to invest only in corporations which have been dominated by a single family, preferably the founding family, for at least fifteen years. There are about six hundred eligible corporations, and recent management scandals in the newspapers illustrate the Pitcairn's exactly knew the dangers of handing your assets over to a hired manager. This family-centered investing approach consistently yields better than the S & P 500, which in turn beats ninety percent of investment managers. You sort of get the idea you know where this family is coming from when you meet a courtly, meek, retiring but friendly person, who can say, "My mother is the only person I ever met who looked perfectly at home seated under a sixty-foot ceiling."
Two other famous Swedenborgians illustrate the unusual individualism of this religion. Helen Keller, the deaf-blind girl who overcame her handicap by going to Radcliffe and becoming a successful author and lecturer, for one. The other would be Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845), whose real name was John Chapman. Grammar school legends would have this bearded, barefoot vegetarian adopting a life of poverty like St. Francis, but in fact, he was an extremely shrewd businessman who died rich. He developed the business plan that American settlers would be going West into what was then the Northwest Territory, and having a tough time getting enough to eat the first year or two. So, he anticipated the paths of frontier settlement, and went ahead among the Indian tribes, planting apple trees. When the settlers arrived in the region, he sold them young apple trees and showed them what to do with them. Apples grown from seed are not the tasty morsels we know today but tend to be rather shriveled and bitter. So Johnny showed them how you make cider, and if you let it sit around a while, hard cider. The settlers would use the pulpy squeezing for compost, and he would be back to collect the seeds from them so he could continue his business plan in the next county. In short, he showed them how to drink the apples. He also let the Indians pick the apples, so they liked him and spared him the common troubles of the frontier.
If you are going to boil apples, you need a pot, and Johnny often carried his like a hat. He wasn't a nut, at all, he was a showman. In his backpack, he was also carrying a Bible. And in his head, he carried a motto, "All religion has to do with life, and the life of religion is to do good."
The official position of the Pennsylvania Medical Society on the topic of abortion is, we have no position on abortion. I ought to know because I was the author of this position, proposed at a moment when the PA Medical House of Delegates was obviously going nowhere. After two hours of angry debate, we had to stop before we split into two warring medical societies. The Pennsylvania delegation to the AMA was then obliged to hold the same no-position on a national level. As I recall, our position was likewise greeted by the AMA House of Delegates with great relief, and word quickly circulated in the corridors that Pennsylvania had a position everyone could endorse for the good of the organization. For several years, this no-position position was widely referred to whenever the topic threatened to arise. It almost invariably stopped the discussion in its tracks, as it was intended to do. In going back over the minutes, it would appear the AMA never actually voted to adopt a no-position motion, a discovery that surprised but did not change the basic determination to let the rest of the nation settle this. We were going to stay out of it.
Because, one hundred forty years earlier, we started it. If you actually read Justice Blackmun's opinion for the majority in Roe v. Wade, as very few agitated proponents seem to have done, the original medical origin is clearly laid out. Blackmun had been a lawyer for the Mayo Clinic before his appointment to the Supreme Court, acquiring unusual medical resources and experiences for a lawyer. Now prepare for a logical leap, to the The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins masterpiece painting of Philadelphia's pre-eminent surgeon in a black frock coat, holding a dripping crimson scalpel in his bare hand, encapsulates the original situation. Note carefully that anesthesia is being given to the patient, but the surgeon is not wearing a cap, mask, gown, or rubber gloves.
In 1850 medical science had progressed into a forty-year time window when anesthesia made abortions painless, but Pasteur had still not identified bacteria, and Lister had not devised a way to cope with them. Abortions, common in ancient Greece but forbidden by Hippocrates, suddenly were widely demanded by 19th Century women in a situation when their judgment was vulnerable. Abortions were easy to do, all right, but women died like flies from the resulting infections, and the American Medical Association was distraught about it. The Oath of Hippocrates was brought forward to emphasize its prohibition of abortion, and the performance was made unethical for a member of the Association, sufficient cause to warrant expulsion. When that proved inadequate, the delegates agreed to go to their local state legislatures and seek legislation prohibiting the performance of abortion by anyone, member or non-member of the Association. These laws were quickly passed, and it was the Texas version which was overturned by Roe v. Wade as an unconstitutional denial of privacy. Roe was a pseudonym for the patient, and Wade was then Attorney General of Texas, the officer charged with enforcing Texas law. By 1900 abortions became both easy and safe for the mother, and by 1911 the AMA had reversed its position. The scientific surgical situation is well illustrated by a later famous painting about Philadelphia surgery by Thomas Eakins, the Agnew Clinic, in which the surgical team is portrayed in its modern costume of sterile gowns and rubber gloves. But it didn't matter since by that time various churches had hardened their doctrines. Religious leaders and their constituent politicians simply no longer cared what the medical profession thought about it. For at least the following century, ideological combatants were plainly only interested in whether physician opinion might advance one side or the other of their argument with useful official statements. Our real position, if anyone cares, is that we started out seeking protection for the safety of the mother, but the issue got twisted by others into disputes about the welfare of the unborn fetus.
Since this is the case, there plainly may be a reason for state legislatures to reconsider the state laws they passed in the 19th Century, during that forty-year window of time when the scientific facts were in transition. But when a leap is made by the appointed referees of the federal government to overturn state laws, even about a basically medical issue, there has to be some legal reason to intervene; a medical reason somehow doesn't count. Justice Blackmun's discovery of an unnoticed right to "privacy" in the Constitution, where the word does not appear, is just too hard for us non-lawyers to deal with. Suppose we leave the fine points of the Bill of Rights to those constitutional lawyers. What's at stake here, among other things, of course, is whether the Federal Courts are justified in overturning well-intentioned state laws which had served well for at least fifty years -- simply out of impatience with the sluggishness and political timidness of state legislatures to revise obsolete laws. That's unbalancing the Constitution for a comparatively minor cause. Even major cause is something we have agreed to adjust in other ways, by amendment, not judicial opinion. And that's my opinion, having comparatively little to do with abortion.
Local attitudes always somewhat persist among migrants from home. What's distinctive about the Philadelphia diaspora is how unconscious most of them are about still carrying the hometown mark. Philadelphia leaves a prominent birthmark, but it's sort of back between your shoulder blades and you forget it's there. What occasions this observation is a Christmas call from a prominent California surgeon who was once my roommate, back in the days when residents were actually resident in the hospital. More than fifty years ago Bill Doane also served as best man at my wedding. Our conversation turned to clots in the lung, and he related a story. He had once fixed a hernia for a 22-year old girl in the days when it was customary to keep hernia cases in bed for a while. Getting out of bed for the first time, she coughed and turned blue, suddenly on the edge of death. Taken back to the operating room, her chest was opened, and Bill removed a clot which was essentially a cast of the blood vessels of one entire lung. As surgeons like to say, she then did very well.
One doctor can tell such a story to another doctor in four sentences, while lay people who overhear it miss the whole point. The fact is, not one surgeon in ten thousand today could carry this off. Nowadays we train thoracic surgeons to open lungs; they never repair hernias. Conversely, we train hernia surgeons to fix a dozen hernias daily through a little telescope; they never open a patient's chest. So it is hard to imagine many contemporary surgeons who could recognize this disastrous complication of hernia repair, then fix it themselves in time to rescue the patient. Although this disheartening decline into repetitive super specialties has been forty years in the making, it has been recently popularized with the general public by Regina E. Herzlinger, a Harvard business professor. Writing books and speaking to businessmen groups, she has popularized the proposal to outsource the general hospital into what she calls "focused factories." She rightly characterizes the medical profession as reluctant. She's a nice person, and undoubtedly sincerely believes focused factories will save money, improve quality. But we must not let this idea take hold.
Specialty hospitals have actually been given more than a fair try. About a hundred years ago, the landscape was peppered with casualty hospitals, receiving hospitals, stomach hospitals, skin and cancer hospitals, lying-in hospitals, contagious disease hospitals, and a dozen other medical specialty boutiques. With a few notable exceptions, they all failed for the same reason. Sooner or later they found they could not adequately service their specialty without the backup of a full hospital service. Children's hospitals do thrive, but they have patients who are generally of the wrong physical size to fit adult hospital facilities and equipment. There are plenty of things to regret about general hospitals' design, but the inescapable fact is they all must have a very wide range of services to perform any mission, no matter how discrete. It would be still better if the doctors had an equally wide range of skills in their own heads, but the avalanche of innovation and lawsuits has forced sub-specialization, compartmentalizing, and narrowness of viewpoint. Circumstances have forced the profession to hunker down, but that trend must be resisted, not celebrated.
The instant and successful repair of pulmonary embolism makes a dramatic illustration, but the reasons for broad medical training are more extensive than that. In the first place, it is much cheaper to use the generalist office than to bounce people to a gastroenterologist for heartburn, a psychiatrist for anxiety, and a dermatologist for pimples. The American employer community is desperate for a way to reduce its burden of employee health costs, and flocks back to their nurturing business schools for advice. They would do better to seek repeal of the tax dodges which tempted them into their present muddle, of course. But in any event, they must be persuaded to recall the disaster of managed care and at least, avoid meddling in hospital design.
That's the cost issue, where specialization surely raises costs. Constant repetition of the same procedure seems superior to first-time fumbling, although it is questionable how long it takes a well-trained surgeon to pick up a new procedure and do it well. But for this system to work, the referring physicians need to be more skillful, not less, in choosing a good one to refer to. There's just nothing like the experience of working for a few weeks in the specialty as a rotating intern, to tell you what to look for and what to avoid. If every doctor in a hospital is making a dozen internal referrals a day, the cumulative effect on the quality of the whole institution is dramatic -- when they have had sufficient past involvement in the specialties to which they now only refer patients. Some specialists will become popular and rich; others will sulk around unnoticed for a while, then go elsewhere. This process, of course, occurs everywhere; what's institutionally distinct is the culture underlying the standards for preferences.
We'll talk later about the Doane brothers of Bucks County, who were judged to be too handsome to hang. Right now, the point of this story can be summarized by the old Pennsylvania Hospital adage, that you must first be a good doctor before you can be a good specialist. Not only was the Pennsylvania Hospital the first in the nation. For sixty years it was the only hospital in the nation, and for decades after that, it was the only hospital in Pennsylvania. In medical history circles, it is said that the history of American medicine, is the history of the Pennsylvania Hospital.
Home is the sailor, wrote A. E. Housman, Home from the sea. In this case, the sailor is the Battleship New Jersey. The U.S.S. New Jersey rides at permanent anchor in the Delaware River, tied to the Camden side. You can visit the ship almost any afternoon, and with reservations can even throw a nice cocktail party on the fantail. It's an entertaining thing to do under almost any circumstances, but the trip is more enjoyable if you spend a little time learning about the ship's history. The volunteer guides, many of them still grizzled veterans of the ship's voyages, will be happy to fill in the details.
In the first place, the ship's final bloody battle was whether to moor the ship in the Philadelphia harbor, or New York harbor, when the U.S. Navy had got through using it. You can accomplish that and remain in the state of New Jersey either way, but there's a big social difference between North Jersey and South Jersey, so the negotiations did get a little ugly. Because of the way politics go in Jersey, it wouldn't be surprising if a few bridges and dams had to be built north of Trenton to reconcile the grievance, or possibly a couple of dozen patronage jobs with big salaries but no work requirement. The struggle surely isn't over. Battleships are expensive to maintain, even at parade rest; if you don't paint them, they rust. Current revenues from tourists and souvenirs do not cover the costs, so the matter keeps coming up in corridors of the capitol in Trenton.
Battleship design gradually specialized into a transport vehicle for big cannon, ones that can shoot accurately for twenty miles while the platform bounces around on the ocean surface. Situated in turrets in the center of the vessel, they can shoot to both sides. That's also true of armored tanks in the cavalry, of course, with the history in the tank's case of the big guns migrating from the artillery to the cavalry, causing no end of a jurisdictional squabble between officers trained to be aggressive for their teams. Originally, the sort of battleship which John Paul Jones sailed was expected to attack and capture other vessels, shoot rifles down from the rigging, send boarders into the enemy ships with cutlasses in their teeth, and perform numerous other tasks. In time, the battleship got bigger and bigger so in order to blow up other battleships had to sacrifice everything else to sailing speed and size of cannon. Protection of the vessel was important, of course, but in the long run, if something had to be sacrificed for speed and gunpowder, it was self-protection. There's a strange principle at work, here. The longer the ship, the faster it can go. Almost all ocean speed records have been held by the gigantic ocean liners for that reason. If you apply the same idea to a battleship, the heavy armored protection gets necessarily bigger, and heavier as the ship gets longer, and ultimately slows the ship down. As a matter of fact, bigger and bigger engines also make the ship faster, until their weight begins to slow them down. Bigger engines require more fuel and carrying too much of that slows you down, too. Out of all this comes a need for a world empire, to provide fueling stations. Since the Germans didn't have an empire, they had to sacrifice armor for more fuel space and more speed, to compensate for which they had to build bigger guns but fewer of them. Although the British had more ships sunk, they won the battle of Jutland because more German ships were incapacitated. When you are a sailor on one of these ships, it's easy to see how you get interested in design issues which may affect your own future. An underlying principle was that you had to be faster than anything more powerful, and more powerful than anything faster.
The point here is that the New Jersey, as a member of the Iowa class of battleship, was arguably the absolutely best battleship in world history. At 33 knots, it wasn't quite the fastest, its guns weren't quite the biggest, its armor wasn't quite the thickest, but by multiplying the weight of the ship by the length of its guns and dividing by something else you get an index number for the biggest worst ship ever. The Yamamoto and the Bismarck were perhaps a little bigger, but the New Jersey was at least the fastest meanest un-sunk battleship. Air power and nuclear submarines put the battleship out of business so the New Jersey will hold the world battleship title for all time. Strange, when you see it from the Ben Franklin Bridge, it looks comparatively small, even though it could blow up Valley Forge without moving from anchor.
One story is told by Chuck Okamoto, a member of the Green Berets who was sent with a group of eight comrades into a Vietnamese army compound to "extract" an enemy officer for interrogation. When enemy flares lit up the area, it was clear they were facing thousands of agitated enemy soldiers, and Okamoto called for air support. He was told it would take thirty minutes; he replied he only had three minutes, and to his relief was told something could be arranged. Almost immediately the whole area just blew up, turned into a desert in sixty seconds. The guns of the New Jersey, twenty miles away, had picked off the target. The story got more than average attention because Okamoto's father was Lyndon Johnson's personal photographer, and Lyndon called up to congratulate.
A number of similar stories led to the idea that naval gunfire might have destroyed some bridges in Vietnam which cost the Air Force many lost planes vainly trying to bomb, but, as the stories go, the Air Force just wouldn't permit a naval infringement of its turf. This sort of second-guessing is sometimes put down to inter-service rivalry, but it seems more likely to be just another technology story of air power gradually supplanting naval artillery. Plenty of battleships were sunk by bombs and torpedo planes before the battleship just went away. If you sail the biggest, worst battleship in world history, naturally you regret its passing.
Tourists will forever be intrigued by the "all or nothing" construction of the New Jersey. Not only are the big guns surrounded by steel armor three feet thick, but the whole turret for five stories down into the hold is also similarly encased in a steel fortress. This design traces back to the battle of Jutland, where a number of battlecruisers were blown up because the ammunition was stored in areas of the hold not nearly so protected as the gun itself. Putting it all within a steel cocoon lessened that risk, and had the side benefit that when ammunition accidentally exploded, the damage was confined within the cocoon. It must have been pretty noisy inside the turret when it was hit, sort of like being inside the Liberty Bell when it clangs. But not so; stories have been told of turrets hit by 500-pound bombs which the occupants didn't even notice. The term "all or nothing" refers to the fact that the gun turrets are sort of passengers inside relatively unprotected steering and transportation balloon. In order to save weight, most of the armor protection is for the gun. That's a 16/50, by the way. Sixteen inches in diameter, and fifty times as long. With the weight distributed in this odd manner, the Iowa class of dreadnought was more likely to capsize than to sink. Accordingly, the interior of the hull is broken up into watertight compartments, serviced by an elaborate pumping system. Water could be pumped around to re-balance a flooded hull perforation, certainly a tricky problem under battle conditions.
Lew van Dusen was one of the great story-tellers of a story-telling city. In one continuous lunch conversation he could string together personal anecdotes about Lloyd George, Lawrence of Arabia, William Bingham, the making of the hydrogen bomb, the Croix de Guerre (which he had been awarded), Nicholas Murray Butler, several Supreme Court Justices, Harvard Law School (where he led the class), and on and on until the waitress would just go ahead and clear the table. He even told of his own great suffering as a boy sitting at proper Philadelphia dinners, where it was a firm rule that acceptable topics of conversation were limited to the Wimbledon lawn tennis matches and the sinking of the Titanic.
When the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of State Oil v. Kahn came up for arguments, he and I rode together on the Metroliner down to Washington, stayed at a club there, and after the hearing took the train back to Philadelphia. During the entire time, Lew never stopped talking, and his voice was very loud. There was the time in Macao when a retired British diplomat came up to him and said he knew the history of every gravestone in the cemetery for foreigners, except five, and two of those names were on the letterhead of Lew's firm (Drinker, Biddle and Reath). Drinker, it turns out, was American consul and discovered that all of his guests were poisoned by the cook. He traveled all night, getting stomachs pumped out, but not his own, and died the next morning from the poison. Biddle, on the other hand, was also a physician interested in Yellow Fever and died of it when he contracted the disease from one of the subjects.
There was the time when he was the young guest of Nicholas Murray Butler at a luncheon with British Prime Minister Lloyd George. "Tell Mr. Roosevelt," said George, "That Social Security is nothing but a dole."
And the time when King George gave everybody the day off on his 25th Anniversary as King, so they played cricket. His teammate was Lawrence of Arabia, and after the game, Lawrence hopped on his motorcycle and rode off down the road to be killed. Lew was the last person to see Lawrence alive.
Well, when you get to the Supreme Court, the public stands in line on the steps, out in the rain. But the lawyers go around to the back door, where there are a lounge and a lunchroom. Inside two minutes, Lew was surrounded by lawyers as he told more stories. One of them tugged my sleeve and asked, "Is that who I think it is?" I said I supposed so, although who he had in mind is still a mystery to me.
State Oil turns out to have been as important to antitrust law as we supposed it would be; the fine points of vertical integration were afterward explained to me. And finally, I was told how, when he was chairman of the Ethics committee of the American Bar Association, Lew's committee caused the ABA to reverse its long-standing opposition to cameras and audio equipment in courtrooms. The effect of this has been slow, but gradually courts are permitting the televising of trials, and eventually they probably all will permit it. But not yet the U.S. Supreme Court. Non-lawyers still stand in the rain outside, and if there are no seats left inside, too bad.
Although Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is staunchly Republican, it has been home to Broadway playwrights for decades; this handful of Democrats have long been referred to as lions in a den of Daniels. One of them really ought to make a comic play out of the two weeks in August 1777, when John Moland's house in Warwick Township was the headquarters of the Continental Army.
John Moland died in 1762, but his personality hovered over his house for many years. He was a lawyer, trained at the Inner Temple and thus one of the few lawyers in American who had gone to law school. He is best known today as the mentor for John Dickinson, the author of the Articles of Confederation. Our playwright might note that Dickinson played a strong role in the Declaration of Independence, but then refused to sign it. Moland, for his part, stipulated in his will that his wife would be the life tenant of his house, provided -- that she never speak to his eldest son.
Enter George Washington on horseback, dithering about the plans of the Howe brothers, accompanied by seven generals of fame, and twenty-six mounted bodyguards. Mrs. Moland made him sleep on the floor with the rest.
Enter a messenger; Lord Howe's fleet had been sighted off Patuxent, Maryland. Washington declared it was a feint, and Howe would soon turn around and join Burgoyne on the Hudson River. Washington had his usual bottle of Madeira with supper.
A court-martial was held for "Light Horse Harry" Lee, for cowardice. Lee was exonerated.
Kasimir Pulaski made himself known to the General, offering a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, which letters Franklin noted had been requested by Pulaski himself. As it turned out, Pulaski subsequently distinguished himself as the father of the American cavalry and was killed at the Battle of Savannah.
And then a 19 year-old French aristocrat, the Marquis de Lafayette, made an appearance. Unable to speak a word of English, he nevertheless made it clear that he expected to be made a Major General in spite of having zero battlefield experience. He presented a letter from Silas Deane, in spite of Washington having complained he was tired of Ambassadors in Paris sending a stream of unqualified fortune hunters to pester the fighting army. Deane did, however, manage to make it clear that the Marquis had two unusually strong military credentials. He was immensely rich, and he was a dancing partner, ahem, of Marie Antoinette.
In Mrs. Moland's parlor, Washington sat down with Lafayette to tap-dance around his new diplomatic problem. It was clear America needed France as an ally, and particularly needed money to buy supplies. But it was also clearly impossible to take a regiment away from some American general, a veteran of real fighting, and give that regiment to a Frenchman who could not speak English and who admitted he had no military experience. Fumbling around, Washington offered him the title of Major General, but without any soldiers under his command, at least until later when his English improved. To sweeten it a little, Washington seems to have said something to the effect that Lafayette should think of Washington as talking to him as if he were his father. There, that should do it.
It seems just barely possible that Lafayette misunderstood the words. At any rate, he promptly wrote everybody he knew -- and he knew lots of important people -- that he was the adopted son of George Washington.
Well, Broadway, you take it from there. At about that moment, another messenger arrived, announcing Lord Howe at this moment was unloading troops at Elkton, Maryland. General Howe might have been able to present his credentials to Moland House in person, except that his horses were nearly crippled from spending three weeks in the hold of a ship and needed time to recover. Heavy rains were coming.
Suggested Stage Manager: Warren Williams
Delaware takes a ninety-degree turn right at about the place where the Salem nuclear cooling towers are visible on the Jersey shore, and great quantities of silt have piled up in the river there, making marshes and swamps. There is a rumor that Captain Kidd tied up among these marshy islands, and much better evidence that Blackbeard the Pirate used the Delaware marshes as a hideout. Since a high-speed highway, with limited access, now rushes visitors to the slot machines of Dover and the beaches of Lewes, no one much notices that this area hasn't changed much from what it probably looked like three hundred years ago.
But if you take the old road, Delaware Route 9, you wander through the backcountry and are only likely to meet duck hunters. At one point, with a lake to one side and the river on the other, a watchtower has been erected for bird watchers and the like. It's very beautiful there, and quiet.
So one day I drove up, parked my car at the base of the tower, and climbed a hundred steps to the top. Blackbeard was not in evidence, but it was easy to see how he might feel pretty secluded in the coves and behind the trees. There were lots and lots of birds, interesting enough but mostly unidentifiable by me. Like most big-city lovers of the environment, I mostly classify birds as little brown jobs (LBJ) and big black buggers (BBB). And then a car drove up, with some chattering teenagers.
From a hundred feet up, it was hard to tell what they were saying, and it probably didn't matter much. Until suddenly one of the girls screeched out, "Oh look! There's a big snake under that man's car! "
One of the boys in the car shouted out, "That's a copperhead snake! I've never seen one so big!"
And so, they roared off into the distance, leaving the marshy paradise to me and the snake. What do I do now?
I waited, hoping the snake would go away. But it started to get dark, and now it was even more unattractive to chase around with snakes. So, creeping to the bottom of the stairs, I made a dash for the car door, jumped in, and slammed it tight.
As I drove away, I could not see any snake on the ground under the place where I had parked. To this day, I don't know if there really was a snake there or not.
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.
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.
Charles Peterson, the famous architectural historian and preservationist, died just before his 98th birthday on August 19, 2004. It is to him we largely owe the redevelopment of Society Hill, and the design of the Independence National Park, as well as a host of restorations from the Adams Mansion of Quincy, Massachusetts, to the early French settlements along the Mississippi. He conceived of many national historic preservation projects, the most notable of which is the Historic American Buildings Survey (HASB) of the Department of the Interior.
While he was most notable for large visions and huge projects, he also had a keen appreciation for fastidious accuracy in small matters, of which the Amity Button would be a vivid example. In the surviving Colonial buildings of Philadelphia, it is common to find a plain ivory coat button nailed to the top of the newel post of the main staircase. There's one in Independence Hall, another in the grand staircase of the Pennsylvania Hospital, and there is one in Charlie Peterson's own home, the one where he was the first Society Hill gentrification pioneer, a house originally built by Stephen Girard around 3rd and Spruce.
There is a strong tradition in Philadelphia that these strange buttons are Amity Buttons, nailed there by the Quaker builder at the moment when the new owner had fully settled his construction debt, symbolizing the amity between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Countless visitors to Society Hill have been shown these curious buttons, and it always seems to produce a warm glow of appreciation for the discovery. If you have one of these in your own house, you can be very proud.
Unfortunately, Charlie Peterson couldn't find any evidence for the truth of this fable, and you can be sure he subjected the matter to a totally dedicated search. You might think there would be some notations in the deeds, or in the correspondence of the day, or in the literature of the times. You would think that someone who repeats this tale would be able to relate where he got it, and that would lead to some letters in an attic, and that if you work hard enough, you will find it. But when the button matter came up, Mr. Peterson would suddenly become grim-lipped and sad, and repeat the mantra that there is no evidence to support the story. He even awarded prizes to architectural students for essays on newel posts, banisters, and stair rails, but no student essay ever turned up any authentication of the Amity Button story. Absence of evidence is of course not the same as evidence of absence, so it is remotely possible that the story will someday be vindicated.
Indeed, you have to believe there was something or other to start the story. Victor Failmetzger and his wife, who have a notable reputation for authenticating old house parts, relate that in Colonial Virginia it was common to have hollow newel posts on the stairway, and occasionally to find the deed to the house secreted in one of them. So the search goes on.
In fact, it always seemed likely that Charles Peterson very much wanted to believe the fable was true. But until some evidence turned up, he was going to go to his grave with the declaration that there existed no evidence for it.
Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) was certainly the most famous woman portraitist of her time. She had the misfortune of being a contemporary of Mary Cassatt, who enjoyed the reputation of the finest woman Impressionist at a time when the Art world disdained traditional painting techniques in an Impressionist stampede. So, although these two temperamental artists might never have been chums, much of their famous rivalry was probably invented for them by art world politicians.
In time, the assessment will emerge that these two well-born Philadelphia ladies were each the world's female leaders of two competing schools of art. Comparisons of the two will also have to be filtered through the fact that Cassatt was a rebel who spent most of her life in Paris, while Beaux was a prominent faculty member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for twenty years. Strikingly beautiful herself, she was gifted, elegant and fiercely ambitious. Meow.
Once Beaux had established a reputation as a portrait painter, she shrewdly began to select her subjects. She wanted famous men (Henry James, for example) and beautiful women subjects. She made the mistake of turning down her niece, Catherine Drinker Bowen, because she didn't have the right kind of cheekbones. She learned, of course, that it's unwise to tell a famous author she is ugly.
Cecilia Beaux's main competitor in the portrait game was John Singer Sargent, who was if anything a better painter but a stammering social dud. Sargent remained a life long bachelor, Beaux a spinster. Her mother had died in childbirth, and it seems likely that terror of pregnancy was an important part of her personality, during the pre-antibiotic era when such fear was fairly justified. As a young woman, she turned down proposals by the dozen, and in maturity, she had a succession of apparently platonic but intense relationships with handsome men twenty years her junior. During the late Victorian era, this sort of thing was not rare, although medical advances have apparently largely eliminated it. To return to her competition with Sargent, the personality differences probably account for his haunting portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, while Beaux is notable for arresting portraits of rich, famous and beautiful women, and an equal number of well-dressed, handsome men.
Although she lived for twenty more years, in 1975 my mother was eighty years old. Nevertheless, she did not display the slightest surprise, or hesitation in answering, "Sure", when asked if she would like to have dinner with Jimmy Hoffa. One of her constant pleasures was to be doing things that other women couldn't match.
The Philadelphia County Medical Society's Center City branch was having dinner, and the program chairman had the main goal in life of attracting speakers who would bring an overflow audience. Jimmy Hoffa, the former president of the Teamsters Union, recently released from prison, certainly filled that description; one of the members of the branch had a patient who was a teamster official who happened to know that Jimmy would love to speak to the doctors about medical care in prisons. Not only was he willing, but he also paid his own expenses to fly up from Florida to give the speech. As by far the oldest lady present, my mother was not to be denied when she demanded to be seated at the head table.
Hoffa was indeed a charming person and an able proponent of his cause. He had experienced medical care in a prison, he felt mistreated, and the doctors in the audience were sympathetic to what they suspected was quite true. They generally began that evening with conflicting opinions, because it is generally known that doctors in the prison environment are often threatened, and occasionally harmed. We know quite well how reluctant the Legislature is to spend one cent on a group of people they dislike, and how they all wish the problem would just go away. By the end of the evening, Hoffa held his audience in his hand. No wonder he rose to the top of his organization.
Well, the impact of the evening was certainly heightened, even in my mother's view, by the fact that two weeks later Hoffa just disappeared, and there have been hundreds of books and articles written about his probable grisly murder by the Mafia. The latest is called I Heard You Paint Houses, in which one Frank Sheeran is quoted as claiming, or even boasting, that he had been the hit man. I wouldn't know. The title, however, is reliably known to refer to all the blood which is found splattered about, following a mob rub-out. Calling them wise guys is quite apt.
The reawakening of this topic by the book does raise some other old questions of the highest rank. Reviewing the evidence, it is possible to believe Hoffa was not guilty of precisely what Bobby Kennedy was accusing him of. At least, the prosecution failed to convince one jury of it. The FBI records do seem to indicate that J. Edgar Hoover offered him evidence of the questionable Kennedy private lives, which Hoffa refused to use in his defense in the trial. And there seems to be little doubt that he worked hard to elect Richard Nixon, or that Nixon later commuted his sentence. Generally speaking, he was on the side of the angels concerning Mafia influence in the Teamsters Union. But his strange relationship to Nixon and the Kennedy family is quite another matter, although equally obscure.
When they leave us, all the shad go to the Bay of Fundy. When Monarch butterflies leave us, they head for a thousand-acre spot in the mountains of Mexico, every single one. The butterfly performance is more remarkable since a butterfly can't make it from Philadelphia to Mexico City in one lifetime. The caterpillar that hatches in Pennsylvania knows where to go and somehow tells his grandchildren how to get there. Coming back North is somewhat easier; successive generations of butterflies follow the scent of milkweed plants, which is all they will eat.
This remarkable information was provided to us by the lifetime efforts of Professor Fred Urquhart of Toronto, with the volunteer help of the Girl Scouts. They tagged the insects, and other Girl Scouts reported back to headquarters whenever they found a tag or a a tagged butterfly; computers did the rest, and you better remember to thank them when they next offer to sell you some cookies.
Your reporter found this information irresistible, and while on a trip to Mexico hired a car and driver to go look for the Sanctuary of the Butterflies. The first tip was that drivers were remarkably reluctant to go. Although every single Monarch butterfly in Eastern North America heads for an inactive volcano that is only forty miles West of Mexico City the second largest city in the world, the trip was said to be too far to go. The roads, they are bad, the car it is old, the way it is not well marked, and several other things as well. Mexico being what it is, this implausible resistance was first viewed as a way to extract a higher fee for going there, but in fact, there was a genuine worry about banditos. What is more, the roads they were in fact bad, and the car it was definitely old. Admittedly, that did not match up with driving one-handed at break-neck speed.
When we reached a place where even Roberto could not drive the car further, we transferred to the back of a cattle truck, driven by Pedro, who also waved a cigarette with his free hand while we lurched and rattled up the mountain. At least he had one hand on the steering wheel, while we in the back of the truck had to clutch the wooden railing. Roberto had climbed into the back of the truck; he had decided he wanted to see these butterflies, too. It was hot when we started, so we wore T-shirts. But by the time the truck lurched to its final stop next to the souvenir shop, it was plenty cold. Butterflies seem to like it cold. What now? Now, you walk.
At fifteen (?) thousand feet, your feet feel glued to the rocks you are climbing, but the trees of the sanctuary are within sight. And it is well worth the climb to come to the six hundred acres on top of a mountain, where every Monarch butterfly on the continent is either present or trying to get there. Butterflies from Texas, butterflies from Winnipeg, and somewhere in that mass were butterflies from Philadelphia. The butterflies were three feet deep on the ground, and hanging in huge balls from the limbs of trees. They don't make much noise, possibly being too busy looking for the ideal mate from the personals columns. The local guide said the really remarkable sight is on a certain day in the spring, when they all take off at once, heading for home.
The sad news, unfortunately, is that the local Mexicans are cutting down the trees in the Sanctuary for the wood. We may soon see whether the butterflies go to some other hilltop, or whether we have seen the last of them.
Some day, we're going to clean up our rivers, and then maybe the shad will come back. Since every female shad produces a couple hundred thousand eggs a season, when the shad come back, there could be a lot of them. We now know some things George Washington didn't know about shad. For example, they all go to the Bay of Fundy, once a year. All of them, whether they spawn in North Carolina, the Delaware, or the Connecticut River.
By tagging them, it was learned that shad swim at a depth of several hundred feet, apparently seeking a certain amount of darkness, which is in turn related to the growth of algae and plankton, their favorite food. So, when the surviving shad go back down a spawning river to the ocean, they head North in a huge counter-clockwise ocean rotation, adjusting their depth to the degree of darkness. Just about the time summering Philadelphians start packing for Bar Harbor, the shad also reach the Bay of Fundy, which is muddy and dark. Fundy is famous for its unusually high tides, so the turbulent water achieves the shad's desired degree of murkiness at about thirty feet instead of the normally deeper waters of the cyclic migration in the open ocean. People who know about these things say that just about every shad on the East Coast passes through the Bay of Fundy in late spring. In the fall, the fish turn around and start to go South again, maybe following the sun, maybe seeking a desired temperature, or both. Somehow or other, this pattern of migration helps them escape predator sharks and seals, as judged by that wholesome entertainment, the examination of stomach contents. Look out for sharks and seals in the open ocean, but striped bass are the big enemies of fingerlings in the spawning rivers. The Hudson River curiously has lots of striped bass lurking among the abandoned piers, and so does the Chesapeake. The Delaware also has a few stripers around the mouth of the Rancocas Creek; go ahead and fish 'em out.
All of this brings us to a suggestion for our tourist bureau. Shad don't eat much when they are on a spawning run, but they will strike at a lure. That is, you don't use worms, you do fly-casting. If we ever got anything approaching the old shad runs in the Spring, you could expect thousands and thousands of eager fly-casters to flock to the Delaware, filling up our marinas, hotels, restaurants, and cabarets. You wouldn't need to advertise a river teeming with eight-pound action-eager fish; the news would spread like magic. The best proof of this claim can be found on the only river on the East Coast which continues to have a classic shad run. The existence of this river was told to me as a sworn secret, but the invitation to try it was given with the assurance that "every single cast results in a strike".
And here's the zinger. Except for that one secret stream, the Delaware is the only major river on the East Coast that doesn't have a dam between the ocean and the spawning grounds. Once these fish have picked a river, they keep coming back to it, forsaking all others. The situation positively cries out for Federal assistance, and the lure-casting fishermen of America demand no less. Presidential elections have been won and lost on less important issues than this one. But just one dedicated congressman could do it, particularly if he sits on the Committee on Fisheries. Bring back our shad and get rewarded with lifetime incumbency that even Gerrymandering can't dislodge.
Charitable institutions and other non-profit organizations occasionally assemble an endowment, and thus develop a need for an oversight committee to hire (and occasionally fire) an investment manager, to monitor the fund's management, and to assess the manager's fees. The meetings of the oversight committee could, therefore, be pretty brief, related to two numbers. How had the endowment portfolio performed, compared with some acknowledged benchmark? To these two numbers might be added a brief summary of the investment management fees, compared with the usual benchmarks (40 basis points, or .4%, would be a common standard). However, an agenda so mercilessly sparse seems an inadequate reason to convene a group of worthies for an hour, and quite commonly the committee will chat about investments in general, hoping to pick up some personal pointers. A good tip or two makes the whole effort seem worthwhile.
On one such occasion in 1987, the famous Quaker surgeon Jonathan Rhoads, Sr was chairman of the committee. The manager of the endowment was a handsome fellow whose picture had occupied a full page of the New York Times financial pages just a day or two before this particular meeting. The picture had been truly spectacular, the tailoring was remarkable, and he surely had perfect teeth. As this gentleman entered the room, the committee gathered around, slapping his back and congratulating him on his fame with great jollity. Little did the group know that within thirty days, the stock market would have its most severe drop in almost twenty years. Unnoticed at first by the merry-makers, Jonathan Rhoads had sat down at the head of a perfectly empty long mahogany table, and was intoning to the empty seats, "We will now begin by reading the minutes of the last meeting of this committee". Visibly shaken, the group immediately broke up and took their seats.
Rhoads went on. We were now to hear the report of our portfolio by our manager. Proudly, it was noted that in February we had bought xyz for 20, and in July we had sold it for 44. And in March we had bought ABCs for 60, and it now stands at 100. When he had concluded, the chairman said, "That's fine. That's just fine. But what bothers me is that point of confusion." Why, what confusion, Dr. Rhoads?
"The confusion between investment genius, and just being in a bull market." Later the same month, the stock market suddenly dropped 22% in one day, thus guaranteeing that no one in the room would ever forget the episode.
For a long time, the Philadelphia General Hospital was the largest hospital in town, even growing briefly to seven thousand patients during the Civil War, but leveling off at about three thousand at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. At the end of World War II, it had shrunk to about 1500 beds, but it was Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 which finally did it in. By 1977 it was costing the City of Philadelphia about five million dollars a year beyond its revenues to run the place with only 300 patients, while the running expenses of the local private hospitals were actually less, per patient. Titles XVIII(Medicare) and XVIV(Medicaid) of the Social Security act constituted Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, and in effect they made every patient at PGH resemble a walking government check in the mind of hospital administrators. The local hospital association made the argument to the Mayor Rizzo that everybody would be better off if the hospital closed and those government checks were directed to the local voluntary institutions. After a few years, the federal government inevitably squeezed the generosity out of the bargain they would of course now like to abandon. But that's the way it goes. PGH is gone and it isn't coming back. The eighteen acres in Blockley Township, now West Philadelphia, were given to the University of Pennsylvania next door, and gigantic amounts of federal money were contributed to the building of skyscrapers replacements for the original PGH. Ironically, the two hundred children's beds now on the location are fewer in numbers than the three hundred adults once considered too uneconomically few to maintain, and the cost per day of hospitalization is roughly ten times the PGH cost which had been described as unsupportable. The rest of the real estate is built up with buildings involved in medical research, which is also an activity dedicated to working for its own extinction. Discovering a cheap cure for cancer would quickly create a need to fill the vacancies with something else. No one regrets this system of creative destruction, but everyone should regret the diminution of the spirit of local philanthropy which underlay it.
PGH was one of a dozen or so big-city charity hospitals, like Bellevue in New York, Charity in New Orleans, or Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Of these hospitals, PGH had surely been the best, and at the turn of the Twentieth Century a Mayor's commission issued a report about the place which began, "Philadelphia can surely be proud...." Having worked in Bellevue and having visited most of the rest, I can testify that was likely true. When PGH was finally torn down, the walls and floors had such substantial construction that changing the wiring and plumbing to some other purpose had become almost impossible. The PGH nurses were famous for running. Although the alcoholic and drug-addicted patients might be called the dregs of society, the alacrity of the student nurses in running them bedpans or answering other calls, was spectacular to watch. When a doctor came on the floor, they jumped to their feet and were usually ready with the patient's charts, unmasked. Unlike Bellevue, where the floors were creaky and wooden, the open wards at PGH were spacious, clean, well maintained and equipped. At Bellevue, the forty-bed wards were crowded with sixty or seventy patients, so close together you could almost roll from one end of the room to the other without touching the floor. I can remember seeing one seventeen-year-old Bellevue student nurse tending such award at night alone, the intern sharpening needles, and the medical resident developing electrocardiograms in the darkroom. None of this would have seemed acceptable at PGH.
Old Blockley was the place where modern systems of medical education originated. Up until William Osler came to Philadelphia, medical education mostly consisted of attending eight hours of lectures a day. Osler had an electrifying personality and wandered among the sick at PGH with a train of students following him. He is much quoted, and once suggested his obituary ought to read, "Here lies the man who took the students into the wards." A somewhat more elegant statement of the value of the practical experience was included in his dedication speech at the Boston Library: "To treat patients without books is to sail an uncharted sea. To read books without seeing patients is never to go to sea at all. Osler was somewhat underappreciated during his time in Philadelphia and went on to found the medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Nevertheless, the main reason he later left John Hopkins and went to Oxford was his dismay at the adoption of the "full-time" system, which is to say the faculty stopped having a private practice of their own to act as a gold standard for their research and teaching. When all is said and done, there are some areas of discomfort in the transition of students from observers to actors. The PGH system of learning surgery was commonly reduced to a slogan, "See one, do one, teach one,"; things have progressed to the point where it is probably right for the public to insist on greater supervision and control than the old almshouse provided.
The disappearance of old Blockley ended a controversy, or even something of a mystery, about which was the oldest hospital in America, PGH or the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce. There had been an infirmary in Old almshouse at Eleventh Street, and there is no doubt the almshouse was there first. PGH grew out of the almshouse. However, there were many comments at the time of the founding of the Pennsylvania Hospital that it was now the first; that's a strange thing to say when the almshouse was three blocks away. Social historians need to look into the mindset of colonial America, which seems to have included the distinction between the worthy poor and the unworthy poor. Somehow, the founding principal of the Pennsylvania Hospital was to get people back to work who were capable of productive work, possibly even paying for itself in that way. In their minds, apparently just giving solace and help to those who were down and out was not quite the same thing.
In 1662, King Charles II of England signed a charter, giving a strip of land in America to the inhabitants of Connecticut, and that land to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. And then, eighteen years later, the same king signed a second charter, giving much the same land to William Penn. As lawyers say, these are the facts. In the many lawsuits, arguments and wars which followed, no one ever seriously raised the point that King Charles was unaware that he was giving the same land twice, so it must be assumed he knew exactly what he was doing, and did it on purpose. In fact, he did this sort of thing many times, in other cases. The legal disputes which this double-dealing inspired, are therefore entirely concerned with whether the King had a right to do it, and if so, whether that right would normally be recognized (i.e. durable) when we threw off the King and became a republic. The matter was considered by many courts many times, and in every single case, the judgment was in favor of Pennsylvania.
Consider Connecticut's probable attitude toward all this. The colony was settled by Calvinist dissenters, so-called Roundheads for their surprisingly contemporary haircuts, adherents of General Cromwell, executioners of King Charles I during English Civil War. They gave Old Testament first names to their own children, and had always known they couldn't trust that licentious King. Giving their land away after he had promised it to them was just about what they always expected. When, after seventy years of growing families of fifteen to seventeen children, they discovered that Connecticut soil was merely a pile of pebbles left by the glaciers and covered with a thin layer of topsoil, they became even more convinced they had been cheated in the first place, and the bargain was no bargain. The reverse side of this enduring religious hatred will reappear in a few paragraphs.
The Proprietors of Pennsylvania, by this time no longer pacifist Quakers, but while descendants of William Penn, converted Anglicans and great friends with the King, took the matter calmly. The Connecticut lawyers were saying that if you sell or give away some land, it is no longer yours, so you can't give or sell it a second time. That is the modern view perhaps, but the English-speaking world was changing from a feudal, semi-nomadic, culture into a settled agricultural country where fixed boundaries were only starting to be important. That's where the world was going, but at the time King Charles gave away the land, it was far more important for the King to be able to reward successful underlings, and punish rebellious tribes, as the situation warranted. Ownership of land then seemed a nebulous thing at best, and the King was the best judge of how things should be divvied up.
Oliver Wendell Holmes introduced his book on The Common Law, by warning "The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience." For life to go on and prosperity to endure, some decision must be made and held to, right or wrong. Stare decisis. That's of course fine for judges to say, but it must be observed that when people divide up on this question, where they stand depends heavily on where their ancestors stood on the English Civil War, and where their ancestors happened to be living during the so-called Pennamite Wars. As matters turned out, courts kept deciding in favor of Pennsylvania, and Connecticut kept bringing it up, again.
There are a few old Quaker Clothes in the attics of their descendants, and on suitable occasions, an old broad-brimmed hat or two will appear at a Quaker gathering, for amusement. Quakers gave up the old style of "plain dress" when it became generally agreed that such eccentric dress was not plain at all but rather drew attention to itself. On the other hand, there is a distinctly unfashionable quality to almost everything Quakers do wear. When silk and nylon stockings were fashionable for women, Quaker women often wore black stockings. When it became the style for women to sport black stockings, Quaker women usually wore flesh-colored nylons. Among men, thin metal-trimmed spectacles displayed the same counter-fashionable tendency. Nowadays, these little quirks are often public signals among strangers, a way of wig-wagging "I notice you are a Quaker, so am I." And of course, unfashionable clothes are cheaper, and that's always a good thing.
And so it happened in 1947 that the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with information passed along that white tie and tails were the expected form of dress at the ceremony. Henry Cadbury was selected to receive the award on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, and you can be sure Henry Cadbury didn't own a set of tails. Henry was also very certain he wasn't going to go out and buy a set, just for a single wearing.
The AFSC collects used clothing, to distribute to the poor. Henry inquired whether there might be a set of white tie and tails to be found in the used-clothing bin, and luckily there was. It had been collected on behalf of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra when that impoverished but distinguished group of musicians was invited to give a concert in London. One of the monkey suits more, or less, fit Henry.
So, after investing in dry cleaning and pressing, Henry packed it up and went off to Oslo, to meet the King.
Frances Anne Kemble, universally known as Fanny, was just about the most magnificent Philadelphia woman of the Nineteenth Century. She spent much of her time abroad and others claimed her, but she was ours. Coming from a famous English theater family, the niece of Mrs. Siddons and the daughter of the founder of Covent Gardens, she quickly rescued the failing family fortunes by becoming the most striking Shakespearean ingenue of the time. It took very little time for her to know Lord Byron, Thackeray, and various other luminaries of the literary and artistic world of Europe, along with Queen Victoria. One might as well say she knew everybody unless one made the point that everyone knew her.
On a theatrical grand tour of America she met and married the Philadelphian Pierce Butler, one of the richest bachelors in the nation, heir to huge estates in Georgia. She had plenty of other choices, including the most dashing and romantic devil of the century, Trelawny. That glamorous friend of Byron's had been the one to drag Percy Shelley's body from the ocean, and was surely the greatest heartthrob of the century. Toward the end of her life, Fanny demonstrated the range of her appeal by totally subjugating the intellectual novelist Henry James, who was 34 years younger than she was. Her portraits by Sully now hang in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and in the Rosenbach Museum. Although Sully was said to have glamorized her a bit, her movie star qualities are evident. But appearance alone could not have mesmerized Henry James, known in literary circles as The Master. She was evidently one of those powerfully self-assured personalities encountered from time to time, who dominates every conversation, fills every room she enters, inspiring admiration rather than jealousy. As a youth, she was enchanting, as a mature woman, magnificent. Henry James described her as having "an incomparable abundance of being."
But this was not just another Cleopatra. Fanny Kemble had two personal achievements of enduring note. Because of health limitations, she went beyond being a Shakespearean actress to inventing a style of a public reading of Shakespeare, taking all the parts herself. She and Dr. Samuel Johnson were the two successive forces transforming Shakespeare's reputation from the quaint playwright of the past into the permanent towering figure of the English language.
Her other achievement destroyed her private life. As the wife of the owner of a thousand slaves, she led the attack on slavery before the Civil War. During the War, her passionate defense of emancipation was the main factor in persuading the British Government to refuse badly needed loans to the Confederacy. However, the publication of her journals was the last straw in a tumultuous marriage, and Pierce Butler divorced her, taking custody of their daughters, exiling her to England. Southern plantation owners were always short of cash, and realistically one has to acknowledge the strain of demanding to emancipate a thousand slaves, each one worth a thousand dollars. In one of the supreme ironies of a tragic situation, the forced sale of the slaves compelled the Butlers to liquidate an asset just before it was going to be destroyed by wartime events. Butler died in 1863, but she had done him a financial favor.
Fanny's daughter married Dr. Caspar Wistar, of Grumblethorpe and the grounds of present LaSalle College. Her grandson was Owen Wister, the college roommate of Teddy Roosevelt, later the author of The Virginian. Famous for the phrase "If you say that to me, smile", Owen Wister and his roommate created the fable of the romantic cowboy which still dominates movies and fiction, and, from time to time, the Presidency of the United States.
The Walt Disney Corporation held its annual stockholder meeting on March 3, 2004, in Philadelphia's Convention Center. There were only five items of business: the re-election of directors (no names on the ballot in opposition), re-appointment of the auditors ( reappointed every year for twenty-eight previous years), and three stockholder proposals ( overwhelmingly defeated several times in the past). Typical stockholder meetings leisurely dispose of such an agenda in about twenty minutes. This one took seven hours.
There could well have been two unstated reasons for the protracted meeting. The first would be self-inflicted: direct advertising to thousands of small stockholders at an entertainment, including costumed cartoon characters, movie excerpts promoting coming attractions, and a chance at the microphone to tell the world who you are and what you think. Such promotion is even more effective if the meeting city shifts each year.
This year it was Philadelphia's turn to see the sights, including top executives in new suits and Ronald-Reagan shirt collars. Several thousand true believers in the American Dream did show up, many of them bringing little children, taking almost three hours to get through an airport-like electronic frisking by four harried security guards. The guards seemed particularly concerned to prevent live cell phones from entering the meeting.
Secondly, the meeting gave all the signs of a covert filibuster. It even had a professional: Senator George Mitchell, the former Democratic majority leader of the U.S. Senate, was on hand to advise. After all, a frivolously protracted meeting is collapsible if discussions get out of hand, because the audience has already become impatient. Comcast, with corporate headquarters only three blocks from this Convention Center, had an active offer to acquire Disney, instantly rejected by the Disney board. As soon as the offer was announced, the price of Disney stock jumped four dollars a share, enriching every shareholder in the room a collective $8 billion. Why not accept it? The new price now made the offer seem too low, by some perplexing reasoning. Allowing a succession of irrelevant speeches positions the chairman of the meeting to smother, in the interest of fairness to all, and gathering momentum for Comcast. In the event, it did actually delay this meeting's announcement of voting outcome, which was called for 8 AM, until past the close of the New York Stock Exchange in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, the message was encouraged that love of cartoons, wholesome television, and family vacations was more appealing to true stakeholders of Disney than vertical integration and short-term (read, short-sighted) profits.
It didn't go that way; hardly a word was said about Comcast. Instead, the true believers, led by the nephew of Walt Disney, made it clear that they were turned off by speeches filled with business school lingo, like enhancing the brand, protecting the franchise, and growing the business. They didn't understand all that, but they did understand that the American heartland was being asked to pay eight and nine-figure incomes, year after year, to people who obviously worshiped in the financial cultures of the East and West coasts. The most telling remark was that the company had good years and bad years, but Michael Eisner the CEO -- never seemed to have a bad year. Stockholders were urged to withhold their votes from him.
To some extent, any management engaged in a proxy battle has some justification for limiting the attendance at a stockholders meeting, because arbitragers will almost always try to support a hostile proposal. Stockholders who bought their shares a few days before the vote have interests which conflict with the long-term stockholders since a short term jump in stock price will probably evaporate if the proposal is defeated. Many of the people in the audience are only there to assess whether the proposal is likely to be successful, so as to buy more shares or sell what they have; some of the people at the microphone are potentially interested only in misleading these observers. The wise guys in the audience were agreed that Comcast had made a mistake announcing its offer after the date had passed when newly-purchased shares were eligible to vote.
In the end, over a thousand people stuck it out to hear the ballot results. After seven hours, someone moved for adjournment, the chairman heard a second, a scattering of eyes followed, and he never called for the nays. He was half-way to the door when a thousand howls were raised, demanding the results of the vote. Oops, sorry. An accountant was summoned to drone out interminable numbers, one by one. It seems that seven hundred million shares had withheld approval from the CEO, 43% of the votes cast. Mr. Eisner, to his credit, didn't show a flicker of emotion on his televised face, and duly announced that all directors had been re-elected, the auditors re-appointed, and the stockholder resolutions defeated. Maybe so, but at the board reorganization meeting which followed, Eisner was removed from the Chairmanship although retained as CEO. The more logical person to defend the Magic Kingdom against predator Comcast was Roy Disney, of course, but to appoint management's public enemy would have been a bit much. Almost all of the board had themselves experienced at least 200 million votes withheld.
The real governance crisis which this carnival dramatizes was not mentioned. With nearly two billion shares outstanding, at $26 a share this company is valued at $52 billion. There were people at the microphone who owned 200,000 shares, but even their economic power is negligible in a corporation so large. It is the managers of mutual funds and pension funds who now control big-corporation voting, and have the real power to decide on mergers and take-overs. Mutual funds and pension funds, like Ned Johnson at Fidelity who controls a trillion dollars of various stocks, are the ones with the votes. In the past, such managers have found it a bore to address five hundred or more proxy statements each spring. They find it hard enough to hire analysts who can pick a good company, let alone picking executives to make a bad company into a good one. As fund ownership has spread, however, there is uncomfortably little left to buy if a diversified fund does much selling. Diversification is almost a sure winner; picking executives is too much like picking racehorses.
So, in the end, the restless stockholders were guided by only one perception: Eisner controlled his own pay and took too much for himself. Too much diversification of stock ownership has led to the dispersion of control. And dispersed control has led to control by outcry. Those friends of capitalism who dread government regulation had better rapidly devised some alternatives.
Judge Edwin O. Lewis finally got his way, the Pennsylvania State Government acquired four blocks of Chestnut Street stretching to the East of Independence Hall, and the Federal Government acquired four blocks stretching to the North. Judge Lewis was determined that a real revival of historic Philadelphia required the clearance of a lot of lands. Those who heard him describe it will remember the emphasis, "It must be BIG if it is to serve its purpose."
The open land is rapidly filling in but for a time the movers and shaker of this town had to scratch a little to find something to put there. That's fundamentally why the historic district has a Mint, a Federal Reserve, a Court Houses, a Jail, and a big Federal Building to house various local offices of the landlord, the federal government. It's where you go to visit your congressman, or to renew your passport, or to argue with the Internal Revenue Service. If you have certain kinds of business, there's an office for the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. The mission of the Secret Service is a little hard to explain with logic.
The Secret Service is a federal police organization, charged with protecting the President of the United States, and enforcing the laws against counterfeiting money. In unguarded moments, the Secret Service officers will tell you they only have one function: to guard three-dollar bills. The President only comes to town from time to time, but the mandate extends to the President's family, and to the extended family of official candidates for election to that office. So, there is usually always a certain amount of activity relating to running behind limousines with one hand on the fender, or poking around rooftops near the speaker's platform at Independence Hall, or talking apparently to a blank wall, using the microphones hidden in their ear canals. The rest of the time is taken up with counterfeiters, but even then the excitement is only occasional, depending on business.
A few years ago, the buzz around the office was that some very good, even exceptionally good, fake hundred dollar bills were in circulation in our neighborhood. The official stance of The Service is that all counterfeits are of very poor quality, easily detected and no threat to the conduct of trade. Unfortunately, some counterfeits are of very good quality, not easily detected, and when that happens, The Service is made to feel a strong sense of urgency by its employers. These particular hundred dollar fakes were of very good quality.
One evening, a call came in. Don't ask me who I am, don't ask me why I am calling. But I can tell you that a very large bag of hundred dollar wallpaper has just been tossed over the side of the Burlington Bristol Bridge, near the Southside on the Jersey end. Goodbye.
Very soon indeed, boats, divers, searchlights, ropes, and hooks discovered that it was true. A pillowcase stuffed with hundred dollar wallpaper of the highest quality was pulled out of the river. By the time the swag was located and spread out for inspection, it was clear that several million dollars were represented, but they were soaked through and through. Most of the jubilant crew were sent home at midnight, and two officers were detailed to count the money and turn it in by 7 AM. The strict rule about these things is that all of the money confiscated in a "raid" was to be counted to the last penny before it could be turned over to the day shift and the last officers could go home to bed. After an hour or so, it was clear that counting millions of dollars of soggy wet sticky paper was just not possible by the deadline. So, partly exhilarated by the successful treasure hunt, and partly exhausted by lack of sleep, the counters began to struggle with their problem. One of them had the idea: there was an all-night laundromat in Pennsauken. Why not put the bills in the automatic drier, so they could be more easily handled and counted? Away we go.
At four in the morning, there aren't very many people in a public laundromat, but there was one. A little old lady was doing her wash in the first machine by the door. It was a long narrow place, and the two officers took their bag of soggy paper past the old lady, and down to the very last drying machine on the end. Stuffed the bills into the machine, slammed the door, and turned it on. Most people don't know what happens when you put counterfeit money in a drier, but what happens is they swell up and sort of explode with a terribly loud noise. The machine becomes unbalanced, and the vibration makes even more noise. The little old lady came to the back of the laundromat to see what was going on.
As soon as she got close, she could see hundred dollar bills plastered against the window, and that was all she stopped to see. She headed for the pay telephone near the front of the door. The secret Servicemen followed quickly with waving of hands and earnest explanations, but within minutes there were sirens and flashing lights on the roof of the Pennsauken Police car. Out came wallets and badges, everyone shouting at once, and then everything calmed down as the bewildered local cop was made to understand the huge social distance between a municipal night patrolman and Officers of the U.S. Secret Service. Now, he quickly became a participant in the great adventure and was delegated the job of finding something to do with armloads of (newly dried) counterfeit hundred dollar bills. He had an idea: the local supermarket was also open all night, and they carried plastic garbage bags for sale. Just the thing. But who was going to pay the supermarket for the bags? Immediately, everyone was thinking the same thing.
Fortunately for law and order, the one who first suggested the the obvious idea of passing one the counterfeits was the little old lady. At that, everyone came to his senses. Wouldn't do at all, quite unthinkable. The local cop was sent off for the bags, relying on his ability to persuade the supermarket clerk. And, yes, they did get the money all counted by 7 A.M.
There are people who deny that Philadelphia has any organized crime; and it certainly doesn't have a Mafia. That may be true, but still the rumors do persist. They say in the street that someone named Angelo was once the head of the mob, and that may not be true either. However, it is true that one day he had his head blown off sitting in his car, and it is definitely true that the sidewalks were swept and completely safe for several blocks around his South Philadelphia house. If there was an empty parking space along that block, no one took it.
One day before he met his untimely end, he was a patient on the seventh floor of the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the patient in the next room was a ninety-six-year-old starchy matron, whose faculties were a little impaired, and who had a daughter named Mary Stuart. As commonly happens with old ladies at sundown, one evening the matriarch became a little confused, and shouted out, "Mary Stuart!" After a brief pause, she repeated, "Mary Stuart, Mary Stuart!" This continued for an hour, and finally, Angelo put on his bathrobe and came around to see what was going on next door.
When he appeared at the door, the old lady sat bolt upright and said, "Young man, just who do you think you are?"
Angelo smiled broadly and replied, "Why, I'm Mary Stuart."
In their 1956 book "Philadelphia Scapple", Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Mrs. Henry Cadwalader give an interesting description of the evolution of the term "North of Market". In the early days of the city, almost all of the town was South of Market Street. In fact, an early 18th Century visitor once wrote that he always brought a fowling piece when he visited Philadelphia because the duck hunting was so good at the pond located at what is now 5th and Market.
When the Quaker meeting house was built at 4th and Arch Streets, many of the more important Quaker families thought it was important to build their houses nearby. In that way, Arch Street developed the reputation of being a Quaker Street. So the original meaning of the North of Market term was the Quaker ghetto. Quaker families continued to spread West along Arch Street or nearby, and this accounts for the location of the Friends Center at 15th and Cherry and related local activities. When the Free Quaker were evicted from the meeting at 4th and Arch because of their activities during the Revolution, they built their own meeting at -- 5th and Arch.
During the Civil War, a number of people made fortunes that socially upscale people over in the Rittenhouse Square area considered disreputable, so elaborate but ostracized mansions marched due North up Broad Street, where they can still be observed as stranded whales in the slums, leaders without followers. The show houses of manufacturers of shoddy war goods soon gave the meaning of parvenu to the term North of Market.
And then, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran an elevated brick structure from 30th Street to City Hall Plaza, the so-called Chinese Wall. For nearly a century this ugly looming structure on Pennsylvania Boulevard, now John Kennedy Boulevard, with its smoky engines above, and dark dripping tunnels at street level, sliced the town in half and made it very unattractive to build or to live, North of Market. The Spring Garden area had some pretty large and expensive houses, but it was cut off by the railroad trestle and has only recently started to revive. It helped a lot to tear down the Chinese Wall, but that was fifty years ago, and the area has taken a long time to recover from the earlier diversion of social flow to the South of it. And, psychologically, North of Market will take even longer to recover from the implication of -- industrial slum.
Meanwhile, of course, Oriental immigration settled along Arch Street at 9th to 12th Streets, and we now have our Chinatown there, complete with street signs in oriental lettering. In effect, we have a real Chinese Wall, a social one. Just what will happen to this group is unclear, since it is readily observable that they like to cluster together, unlike the East Indian immigrants, who head for the suburbs as fast as they can. Since the Chinese colony is physically blocked on all sides by the Vine Street Expressway, the Convention Center, and the Ben Franklin Bridge, it is hard to know where they will flow if the group gets much larger. The depressed Vine Street crosstown expressway makes a definitive border for downtown, and the contrast between the two sides of this expressway is striking. On one side is Camelot, and on the other side, almost nothing is being built. The future of North of Market, at the moment, is a little unclear.
Since 1851 Jewelers have clustered on Samson Street mostly between 7th and 8th Streets, and for a block or two in all directions. Sixty years before that, the area had been the site of the most elaborate mansion in America, commissioned by Robert Morris, the Financier of the American Revolution, and built by Charles L'Enfant, the architect of the District of Columbia. About 150 jewelry and jewelry-related businesses are now located in this district, and their outward appearance suggests progressively improving prosperity for them. Some of this reflects the fear of impending inflation (national budget deficits and all that), or a possible decline in the value of the dollar, which amounts to the same thing. During inflationary times, the value of commodities increases; gold and diamonds are the ultimate commodities. In fact, it is widely believed that the price of gold has little to do with jewelry or commodities, and is mainly dependent on the prevailing level of distrust of paper money. For their part, diamonds additionally suit themselves to be hidden in the heel of your shoe if things get tough enough.
However, J. E. Caldwell's just moved out of the center of the city, and Bailey, Banks and Biddle were sold to people from Texas or somewhere. So the jewelry trade is not universally prosperous, just Samson Street, the Jewelers' Row. Why in the world would 150 little jeweler shops want to cluster together, where people mostly can't tell one from the other, and the products look pretty much alike to anybody who isn't in love and looking for an engagement ring? You would think a competitor next door on either side, and another competitor upstairs, and still others across the street would be something a shrewd merchant would flee, not seek out. Come to think of it, the same thing is true of Antique Row, or the fabric cluster, or a dozen similar clusters in New York City. In New York, it is possible to see a dozen shops next to each other, every one of them selling trombones.
Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School has offered an explanation of the economics of a business cluster as an "Innovation cluster". He feels clustering is one of the important ways businesses hold down costs and improve productivity, by innovating rather than merely stressing efficiency. If efficiency and productivity sound like the same thing, it may help to know that efficiency is only a part of productivity, with profitability to the owner of the firm only increasing if the quality of the product steadily improves, which holds up retail prices. Let's put the idea in another way: the innovative, latest and greatest, of any product, commands the highest mark up among similar objects. If you position yourself as producing the latest and greatest, you are going to get a continuously higher markup. In an era of declining prices, the higher markup may express itself as simply maintaining the old prices, so anyway being a part of an innovation cluster assures you of the highest profit available, if you must be in that business. Clusters provide vigorous price competition, all right, and that automatically assures that true prices levels (i.e. after a little bargaining) are likely to be trustworthy measures of value, even in a shabby little hole-in-the-wall. Making jewelry is not rocket science, but there's enough to it that it helps to be located in an area with an abundant supply of skilled and experienced employees. Philadelphia's diamond cluster is the oldest, and still the second largest, jewelry district in the country.
Having a lot of portable but largely unidentifiable merchandise concentrated in a few blocks creates a special need for police protection. These shops all have safes, and probably most of them have handguns, but there is a great deal of street traffic among shops, carrying valuable gems in their hip pockets. The City provides extra policing out of recognition of the risk, and the local merchants contribute to hiring extra private detectives to lounge around. When basement flooding at the local electric power substation recently caused a blackout, a lot of extra police were immediately dispatched to Jewelers' Row, just in case somebody got the idea that looting might be attractive. And then it is said, just rumored, that some of the merchants who have plenty of goods loaned to their neighbors on consignment employ private protection of an unlicensed sort, in case they have a problem getting their goods back.
It must be pretty boring to sit all day every day in a little shop that makes one or two sales a week, except at special holidays. One jeweler I know has a portable computer under the counter and spends a lot of time day-trading, which is buying stocks in the morning and selling them in the afternoon. Although competition in the district goes well beyond vigorous, there is an active fraternity of jewelers in the area, steering customers to each other when they don't have a requested item themselves, eating lunch at one of the local bistros, exchanging gossip of the trade, carefully observing the traffic up and down the sidewalks. And then, if there is no traffic they can always have their wives, daughters or neighbors sit on a high stool in front of the counter. Trying on jewelry.
A number of prominent figures participated in the downtown revival of Philadelphia after the Second World War, with a surprising amount of jealousy among them. Mayor Richardson Dilworth would have to be mentioned in any list of those leaders, but one who was more admired than loved. Aristocratic and flamboyant, he disdained the little hypocritical dissembling so characteristic of politicians. In fact, he didn't see himself as a politician at all, he was a leader.
Once Dilworth became convinced that Society Hill revival was not only desirable but feasible, he moved there. He purchased two houses next to the Athenaeum on Sixth Street, and in spite of the protest of preservationists that those two houses were particularly fine examples of Federalist style on Washington Square, he had them torn down. Furthermore, in spite of outcries that the house he was building in their place was merely a pseudo-colonial gesture, he constructed a very expensive but extremely comfortable modern house. Those of us who were familiar with the neighborhood were impressed with the courage he displayed in doing this, because the area was just a little dangerous, and almost no one else lived there. You could buy dozens of twenty-room houses in the neighborhood for less than $2000 apiece, and it seemed foolhardy to make such a large personal investment in what might become a stranded gesture. This was described as flaunting his personal wealth because it was not just a fine house, it was possibly going to be a big loss.
Dillworth got away with it. He was seen as courageous, and a leader. Others started moving into the area, mostly rehabilitating old mansions. By the time the house was eventually sold by his estate, his conspicuous consumption turned out to be a profitable investment. Smart.
Dilworth had some practical problems. It wouldn't have been smart politics to have a long black limousine pick him up in the poor neighborhood. The only people who do that are undertakers and the Mafia. On the other hand, the driver of a limousine often doubles as a bodyguard, and a bodyguard wouldn't be a bad idea. Those of us who drove down 6th Street every morning at 8:30 gradually noticed what Dilworth did to solve the problem.
Every morning a Yellow Cab could be seen parked outside his door. It always had the same uniformed driver, and on closer inspection, the cab was the cleanest shiny late-model car, painted yellow. It was only six or seven steps from the door of the house to the door of the car, and he was off and gone in a moment.
Other mayors have had quite different styles.Frank Rizzo had his long black car and several like it parked on the sidewalk outside City Hall. His image was that of a poor boy from the neighborhoods who had made it to the top. No matter where he went, Rizzo was leading a parade.
Ed Rendell, on the other hand, was playing the role of America's Mayor. His driver would blow the horn, put on the headlights during the day, roar through town, making screeching u-turns right and left. Several times a day he would put on this act, going two blocks from City Hall Annex to the Convention Center, to address an audience of visitors.
Well, mayors and bank presidents are supposed to have limousine service. Anyone else would have to ask whether it was worth all the trouble if instead, you could just catch a cab. Those long cars are surprisingly uncomfortable to ride because the roof is so low you have to crawl on hands and knees to get in a seat. Finding a place to park one of those monsters, or even a wide enough opening next to the curb to let out the back-seat occupant, can be a problem in the center of a city. Even with portable cellular phones, there is a delay after you call for the car when you are ready to leave your appointment. Those who have tried it find that hiring a driver almost always confronts you with a demand to circumvent taxes by paying the driver in unrecorded cash. In South America, where bodyguards are really necessary, the great majority of them flee in terror at the first sign of the underworld. Limos are a pain.
At least in Philadelphia, you can get a fairly clean, fairly new cab with a fairly knowledgeable driver, by simply holding up your hand at any center city street corner. During business hours at least, you can hail a cab in three minutes. That doesn't just happen that way, and the mayor has something to do with it. Cities usually have a Medallion system of cab licensing, and existing cab companies don't want any medallions issued to competitors. In politics, such a situation helps campaign funds considerably. The result is a shortage of cabs, surly drivers, and high prices. Boston is such a town. On the other hand, if medallions are easy to obtain, as they are in Washington DC, the cabs become numerous enough but are shabby dilapidated old vehicles, driven by recent immigrants who don't know the street names. In Philadelphia, we take our good fortune for granted, but we do owe a debt to the city government for managing the supply and demand situation to the point where it mostly would be foolish to have your own car and driver. In this town, every man a king.
As a matter of fact, in Boston it got so bad that Ned Johnson, the richest man in town (he personally owns the Fidelity Mutual Fund Investment Family) got so enraged that he couldn't ever get a cab that he founded his own cab company. It's a very elegant one, although a little expensive. The Boston Coach Company supplies immaculate and impeccable service for a fee. At first, it was only available to Fidelity executives but now has spread out to anyone willing to pay for it, and flourishes in many cities, plus chartered airplanes if you don't like to wait in security lines at airports. You have to admire Johnson for his golden business touch, but in Philadelphia, we can just use cabs.
The brownstone house at 1710 Spruce Street is seemingly not remarkable, it's just an Edwardian house now converted to lawyers' offices on the first floor. But it's nevertheless a landmark, curiously linked to that 13-foot statue of Diana which dominates the top of the main interior staircase of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many Philadelphia gossips believe the model for the statue was Evelyn Nesbit, who lived in the brownstone on Spruce Street. But she was born in 1884, whereas Augustus Saint-Gaudens created the statue for the 1892 Columbian Exhibition. Since Evelyn was only eight years old at that time, however, it must have been some other woman who took off her clothes to pose for the sculpture; for us, it doesn't matter who she was. The statue was moved to the top of Madison Square Garden when that structure was really still located on New York's Madison Square, but when the Garden was demolished in 1925 the Diana statue came to Philadelphia. Madison Square Garden itself has moved twice in the meantime and is mostly associated in the public mind with prize fights and political conventions. However, when the first Garden was built, it had theaters and roof-top restaurants, and its spectacular nature instantly made the architect, Stanford White, the most famous architect in New York, eventually maybe the most famous one in the world at the time.
Meanwhile, two residents of Pittsburgh independently came to New York where the action is, the iron and coal millionaire Harry K. Thaw, and an impoverished teenager named Evelyn Nesbit. Evelyn was accompanied by her mother who, recognizing the girl's extraordinary beauty, set about to steer her to fame and fortune. At the age of thirteen she was posing for artists, and in time became the favorite model for Charles Dana Gibson. Gibson created the "Gibson Girl", an idealized role model for millions of women who dressed the way she did, wore their hair the way she did, and behaved in the proper Edwardian style they imagined she did, too. It was in Gibson's studio that she encountered Stanford White. Evelyn had another life, however, as a "Florodora Girl", and one of her many stage-door Johnnies was Harry K. Thaw, the millionaire. That was no saint, having a reputation for using a dog whip on his numerous lady friends, but it is uncertain whether he was completely aware that
Evelyn was one of the principle entertainers in half a dozen hide-aways that Stanford White is said to have established for naughty parties to amuse New York's fast set. That was certainly aware that Stanford White had been Evelyn's boyfriend before Thaw married her, and the two men cordially hated each other. One evening, some provocation made Thaw walk over to White's table in the rooftop restaurant of Madison Square Garden, and shoot him dead -- in front of hundreds of people. It's a curious sidelight that Stanford White was carrying a train reservation to Philadelphia, to discuss plans for the domed structure of the Girard Bank building. The notoriety of the murder trial was the sensation of the decade, with the prosecutor remarking that White deserved what he got, and Thaw's mother offering Evelyn a million dollars if she would give testimony supporting a plea of insanity. Everyone seems agreed that the money was never paid, although the jury was sure as impressed as the newspaper reporters with Evelyn's refusal on the witness stand to testify against her husband, quite evidently a sign of loyalty. Anyway, the jury let him off, and a famous cartoon depicted Stanford White in the pose of the statue of Diana.
Evelyn sort of dropped out of sight after the trial and the subsequent divorce, until TV interviews were conducted for the movie about the episode, \"The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing". By 1957, Evelyn was decidedly less of a beauty. Meanwhile, Harry K. Thaw had continued to live in the brownstone house in Philadelphia, where once he got sick and called a friend of mine to be his doctor, and eventually another famous professor to be a consultant. When the butler answered the door, the consultant told the butler to tell his employer that he must insist on cash in advance, an action that thoroughly embarrassed my friend in view of the famous wealth of the client. But the consultant had rightly assessed the situation since later Thaw's lawyer called up and told the family doctor he was sorry but his client was not going to pay his bill since the medicine was started by some botanical book to be a poison in excess quantity. In consternation, my friend called up the professor and asked what to do. "Chalk it up to experience," was the answer. "But what have I learned?" The consultant paused, and said, "Maybe you have learned to extend credit only to decent people."
Charles Peterson developed the idea but was unsuccessful in popularizing it, that Spruce Street in central Philadelphia could be regarded as an architectural museum. It stretches from river to river but has no bridge or ferry landing at either end, so traffic is less. The earliest house still standing near the Delaware River was built in 1702, with successive houses just a little younger, or at least less old, as you progress toward Broad (14th) Street whose houses were built around 1880. And then onward into the early Twentieth Century, crossing Broad Street and going westward toward the Schuylkill. For a century or more West Spruce Street was where eminent specialists had offices, much like Harley Street in London, which it somewhat resembles. The medical flowering of this area was promoted by the surgical advancements of the nearby Civil War, as well as the contributions of Andrew Carnegie to moving the College of Physicians from 13th street to 21st Street, attracted toward the 7000-bed Civil War hospital which turned into Philadelphia General Hospital in West Philadelphia. A number of these houses are just plain too big to be manageable as single family houses today, and Spruce Street West has lagged Society Hill and other Easterly sections in restoring its buildings. Perhaps in a few decades, that will happen, and perhaps in the meantime, the present relics will be preserved enough to revive someday the idea of a house design museum. Meanwhile, West Philadelphia around Spruce Street has obstructed progression by plonking the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and the Science Center as obstacles to residential housing development.
So let's take a simpler idea. For roughly a century, the then-richest men in America lived in one of several houses located within seven blocks of each other, easy walking distance for a tour. The first to attract notice as a self-made rich man was Robert Morris. Morris made his money in shipping, maybe even a little privateering, and then went into banking to keep his money at work. It is said that his personal fortune, adjusted for changes in the currency and economy, was once considerably larger than Bill Gates' would be today, adjusted for inflation. As most people know, Morris financed the American Revolution personally, went broke, ending up in debtor's prison. The first real mansion he lived in was opposite Independence Hall on Market Street, now celebrated as George Washington's while he was the first president. It was earlier the place where British Admiral Gates lived while he was in charge of the 1788 British occupation, and although it was also where Washington lived during most of his presidency, the house burned down in 1832. This house is not to be confused with either the house built for Washington at 9th and Market but never occupied by him or Morris's later mansions which he also never occupied because of financial difficulties. One house in the midst of Jeweler's Row was so ornate some think it contributed heavily to his later bankruptcy. A second Morris house still stands on Eighth Street at St. James Street, but it belonged to the Quaker Morris family, no relation. Other owners named Morris bought and occupied this place for a number of years, so its history is a little mixed up, presently as a fancy restaurant. A DuPont heiress once bought and fixed it up, but her husband commented no one could sleep in that house because a subway built underneath it badly rattled its timbers. Next door to the Quaker Morris house rises a fifty story apartment house, whereas a precaution against rattles, the first nine stories contain nothing but parking spaces. Since the apartment building is owned by Arabs, it is likely they are pretty rich but not necessarily richer than Bill Gates. Aside from the Market Street partial restoration, the main Robert Morris remnant is on Lemon Hill, northwardly opposite the Art Museum, whereas the main Quaker Morris house is in the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill. There are sixty or so Morris's listed in the Social Directory, so keeping the two families distinct remains a difficulty in some circles.
On the Northeast corner of Third and Spruce Street, once lived William Bingham, a former partner of Morris and later himself the richest man in America. Although sadly the house burned down, it is displayed in one of the famous prints by William Birch in his notable Eighteenth Century collection , widely available in bookstores. The striking thing about Bingham was that he was only twenty-eight years old when he achieved richest-man status and built the house, patterned after one owned by a British Duke. He made his pile three times over. First, running a privateer operation in the Caribbean for his partner Robert Morris. On returning home, he bought up any worthless Continental currency he could stuff into barrels, and then either persuaded his friend Alexander Hamilton to redeem the currency at par or heard his plan to do so. And then, as if he didn't have enough money already, he invested enough gold bars to finance the Louisiana Purchase for Jefferson, since Napoleon wanted gold, please, no paper money. Among the various things he bought as an investment was the area in upstate New York, now called Binghamton. He lost a pile of money buying the land we now call the State of Maine since post-revolutionary Westward migration turned toward Ohio rather than into his Maine holdings once the British prohibition on colonizing past the Allegheny mountains was lifted. Bingham's sister-in-law wanted to become engaged to the heir of the Crown of France, who was living in temporary exile around the corner on Walnut Street. In a famous, possibly fictional, response, the Dauphin was told, No. If you do not become the King of France, you will be no match for her "The Golden Voyage". Quite a good read, and of particular interest to Philadelphia lawyers who learn Bingham died in 1804, but his estate was not settled until 1960. The lawyer who closed the case reported his partners were less than pleased to see it go.
Stephen Girard built several houses a few steps west of Bingham on Spruce Street, identifiable by having marble facing on their lower few feet; Charles Peterson lived in one of them as the first pioneer resident of the Society Hill revival. Girard made his money in the China trade, as a ship's factor. Like Morris, he recognized America's crying need for banking in a story too complicated to repeat here and moved the Girard Bank into the First Bank of America, now a museum (Peale portraits, architectural fragments) of the Park Service on Third Street. His wife was insane, and spent most of her life at the Pennsylvania Hospital at Eight and Spruce, and was eventually buried there. Girard left thirty million dollars to found the Girard College for "poor, white, orphan boys". His 1830 will withstood all legal attacks until the mid-Twentieth Century but was eventually broken. The school now has many black girls, is bankrupt, and the definition of orphan has expanded to include any child whose parents are separated. The definition of "poor" is several times greater than the national definition of the poverty level. In his will, Girard specified that the estate should purchase what is now Schuylkill County and hold it for a century. Shortly thereafter (or just possibly very shortly before that), coal was discovered in the region and Girard College became far richer. His correspondence includes many letters to Lafitte the Pirate, so more may be heard of them.
Nicholas Biddle had "old money", which he made in the traditional way of buying real estate, particularly in Ohio. He thus made a better guess than Bingham about the likely path of westward migration. But like Morris and Girard, he needed a bank to finance the real estate. Biddle also acted as the reserve bank for the myriads of currencies then issued by individual rural banks and charged a transaction fee to translate Kentucky money into something useful in Philadelphia or abroad. Martin Van Buren, who was the political manipulator behind Andrew Jackson and who became Andrew Jackson's eventual successor, stirred up trouble about this reserve role, and Jackson "broke" Biddle's bank by withdrawing federal deposits. Jackson's complaint was that holding federal "paper" eventually resulted in a government guarantee the bank could never fail, in an echo of the present accusation of some banks being "too big to fail". Ultimately, investment banking began to take its modern formwhen in 1838, the richest man, Anthony J. Drexel, moved over the Schuylkill River on Walnut Street, amidst what is now the University of Pennsylvania, but not far from Drexel University. He walked to work each day, however, at 4th and Chestnut Streets. Drexel was the first big banker to make his fortune in banking, and when he died it was said Philadelphia banking died with him. The earlier big bankers started out with money they had made in shipping or land speculation, but Drexel somehow saw that banking was a different way to get rich, deftly filling in the gap created by Andrew Jackson shuttering Nicholas Biddle's Second Bank. Part of the idea in Van Buren's mind was to shift the focus of American banking from Philadelphia's Chestnut Street to New York's Wall Street, and he was quickly quite successful. J.P. Morgan was invited by Drexel to start a Wall Street partnership with him in correspondence with his father, Junius Morgan, who ran an international bank in London. In the era just after the Civil War, there was a great deal of money in Europe anxious to be invested in the railroads and other booming American industries. The Morgans provided a vehicle for transferring such investment capital between continents, but the Morgans were viewed as having excessively sharp practices. As it happened, Junius Morgan had been trained in this transoceanic concept by George Peabody, a former Baltimore resident who had moved to London, then, the banking capital of the world.
George Peabody earlier had also been involved with Anthony J. Drexel, and Drexel was the more successful of the two international bankers. The whole issue with European investors was whether you could trust those wild and wooly Americans, and Drexel consistently demonstrated he was entitled to be called a straight arrow. As related by a good book by Dan Rottenberg Drexel decided he needed the vigor of the Morgans and invited them to join him in a New York-Philadelphia partnership. From that point forward, JP Morgan was the shining star of honesty and straight dealing, a lesson he evidently learned from Drexel. Indeed, he and his biographers repeatedly stress this feature of him -- "I will never do business with a man I don't trust". He didn't mention women, but his behavior seems to show he probably didn't include them in the concept. Drexel, on the other hand, led a quiet sober life in West Philadelphia, reading books, starting his university, and helping his niece, who was later made a Saint in the Catholic Church, start numerous charities. Although the Drexel children more or less drifted out of sight, Drexel's business successor Stotesbury led a wild and extravagant lifestyle that is the subject of many songs and stories. His wife, for example, never washed the sheets; she always had brand new ones put on the bed. Morgan, of course, spent lots of money in a conspicuous way. The term Metropolitan identifies most of his projects, The Metropolitan Art Museum, The Metropolitan Opera, The Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue, with membership originally limited to his partners. The name Corsair also was a trademark, the name of his yachts, and a firm statement about his approach to things. Another difference between the Morgans and the Drexels was similarly in the New York-Philadelphia character. When Jack Morgan, the son of JP, died in the 1930's he left an estate of "only" three million dollars. It would be hard to say what the Drexel fortune was worth at that time, but it is safe to say it would dwarf that, considerably. Most of the Drexel family moved to London, but among other things, financed the restoration of the Benjamin Franklin House on Craven Street, a hundred feet from Trafalgar Square. When the House of Drexel was much blamed for the 1987 stock market crash, legions of Drexel defenders rose to protect the family name. Cabrini College, Eastern University, Valley Forge Military College, St. David's golf course and much of Radnor are only pieces of the Drexel holdings, today.
Lindley B. Reagan, M.D.
July 16, 1918 -- September 10, 1995
The first and oldest hospital in America, the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce Streets, always had a strong Quaker flavor but a unique medical tradition as well. Since it was the only American hospital for decades, later becoming the home hospital of the first medical school in the country, it impressed its ideals and traditions on the whole of American medicine. However, it imposed so many difficult demands on its trainees that a century or more of an evolving profession simply moved away from copying it. It was, in 1960, the last hospital in the country to begin paying its resident physicians anything at all, one of the last privately controlled American hospital to adopt a billing and accounting department, and one of the last if not the last to regard a handful of private beds as merely a convenience for the patients of the staff physicians. In 1970 its method of maintaining inventory was to notice that the supplies on the shelf were running low, and ordering some more. It was founded in Benjamin Franklin's words, for the "sick poor, and if there is room, for those who can pay," and could only survive into the late 20th Century through private donations and the freely contributed services of the doctors, student nurses and administration. No amount of money could induce people to work as hard as they worked. You might say this was the only aspect of Medieval monasteries which Philadelphia Quakers thought worthy of imitating.
Somewhere in this set of ideas was the treasured concept of a rotating internship, preferably two years long, prior to entering specialty training through a residency. In 19th Century Vienna, it was a matter of rule that an intern was just that, physically confined within the walls for the term of service, and a resident was just that, someone who lived on the campus. The Pennsylvania Hospital had no such rule, but since it paid the doctors nothing for five or six years of eighty-hour weeks, their poverty forced them to satisfy the Viennese rules by default. Entertainment was bridge or poker in the intern quarters, conversational chit-chat was a description of bizarre cases or peculiar patients, a weekend "off-call" was a good time to catch up on correspondence. There were student nurses around, of course, but the matron was a pretty no-nonsense chaperon. Every class of interns contained one or two millionaires by inheritance, but peer pressure made them nearly indistinguishable in the daily routines. Aristocrats' main value to the resident physician community was their access to the ruling families in the city, and hence to the governance of the hospital, in case governance should occasionally abuse the vulnerability of the trainees.
I find in retirement that most of my colleagues are now willing to tell stories of the "old days" which they were unwilling to tell at the time. Over several glasses of the finest single-malt in a walnut-paneled club, one such story recently surfaced. It concerned Lin.
Lin was a member of an old Quaker family, surprising everybody during the Second World War by volunteering as a junior physician in the Navy. He was assigned to a marine regiment in the Pacific Theater and went through some of the most murderous fightings on Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Our grapevine reported that the enlisted Marines in his outfit absolutely worshipped him, and I easily believe there was a lot of quiet heroism behind that gossip. He told me he had decided to become an internist while in the Pacific, but somehow only a surgical residency was available when the War was over, so he took it. He was probably the best internist on the staff, and it showed in his conduct of surgery, where it sometimes matters more what you decide to cut than what you cut. He always looked exhausted, but never hesitated to drive himself another hour when the situation demanded it. One day, he had to excuse himself from an operation, an almost unheard-of event, and testing his own urine, found it loaded with sugar. So, the soft-spoken Quaker internist who was primarily doing surgery had to add the burden of insulin injections to his load. If he ever complained about that or any other thing, no one could remember hearing it.
At about the third glass of single malt, the story came out. My old friend, like the rest of us, had to spend a year as a surgical intern during the two-year rotating internship; he hated surgery and didn't mind telling the world. At the moment in question, he was the assistant at some neck surgery, with Lin performing the actual surgery. He was told to take a long pair of scissors and cut off the excess strands of sutures after Lin tied the knots; that was known as trimming the ligatures. They were working deep in the crevices of the patient's neck. Lin held up the loose ends of the knot and ordered, "Cut". My friend inserted the long scissors into the hole and snipped -- accidentally cutting right through the jugular vein.
As would be expected, a fountain of blood came up out of the hole, and Lin stopped it by putting his thumb on the cut ends of the vein. "Well," said Lin, "I guess we'll have to fix that." And did.
With tears in his eyes, my octogenarian friend cried out to the startled clubroom. "God bless you. God bless you, Lin."
Perhaps the point isn't clear to those who didn't go through the process, so let's be more explicit. Both my friend and I worshipped Lin, as a person, a teacher, and a surgeon. He was the perfect agent for his patients, without the tiniest trace of conflict of interest, income-maximizing or whatnot. He was as technically skillful as it is useful to be, but he was the thinking man's surgeon as well as the utterly faithful servant of the best interests of the humblest patient. He was, in the opinion of his closest professional associates, the best surgeon in the world. In need of surgery ourselves, all of us would have flown the Atlantic to have him operate on us. For reasons of his own, he was to spend the forty years of his professional life in a small country town with a small hospital, scarcely a famous surgeon but a beloved one to his community. Over the past sixty years, I have had a number of opportunities to know many surgeons who would be in contention for the title of the best surgeon in the world. Some have written books, some have struggled successfully upward through vicious competition, some of them would be called "Rainmakers" if the research world followed the pattern of lawyers and architects. One or two have won Nobel Prizes for surgical innovations, but that's different from being the best surgeon around. The best surgeon in the world was Lin, faithfully plying his trade in a little town that could not possibly know how lucky they were.
Kim Hill had the misfortune to develop leukemia, but the great luck to have Fred Hill of the Philadelphia Eagles football team for a father. Driven by gratitude for the treatment at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
Fred demanded to be told what he could do and was referred to Dr. Audrey Evans. This world-famous pediatric oncologist was well known for her philanthropic activities and had frequently expressed the need for a temporary residence for families of children needing protracted medical treatments. Young children have young parents, whose savings are soon exhausted by travel, hotel and other non-insured costs related to a seriously sick child. The Hills had just been through such an experience and grasped the problem immediately, adding to it the discomfort and loneliness of families in such a situation. Fred Hill quickly enlisted the enthusiastic support of the whole professional football organization, and Jim Murray the Eagles' general manager recruited Don Tuckerman from their advertising agency, who got to Ed Rensi, the regional manager of McDonald's. Together, they got the project financed and started with a seven-bed facility near Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
In 25 years, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House has grown to a capacity of 44 families, in a century-old mansion at 39th and Chestnut Streets filled with Mercer tiles and the like. The operation uses eighteen volunteers at all times, runs two jitney buses, and is one huge teeming family home for people confronting a common issue, supporting each other through a wrenching emotional experience. Although it actually costs about $65 a day per family, the charge is $15 and over half of the clients cannot afford even that. Although an effort is made to have family cooking, the McDonald's restaurant chain supplies 20% of the budget along with generous help with exigencies and in-kind assistance with such things as clowns for the entertainment program, birthdays and the like. Although McDonalds's is probably the world's premier franchising corporation, every one of the 300 worldwide Ronald McDonald Houses is an independent local organization, run without a central headquarters or any sort of standards-setting and the like. Every one of the other 299 Houses got the idea from Philadelphia but proceeds in its own way. Philadelphia created it, but Philadelphia does not own the idea.
In this connection, it is probably worth reflecting on the history of this topic. When Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond started the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751 at Eighth and Spruce Streets, it was the custom to be diagnosed, treated, be born and to die in your own house. The unique perception behind the nation's first hospital was that poor people generally did not have home facilities that were adequate to support home care. In Franklin's own handwriting the purpose of the Pennsylvania Hospital was stated to be "for the sick poor, and if there is room, for those who can pay." It was understood that poor sick people needed a place to take care of them, not merely for their surgery and overwhelming illness,<
but for convalescence and rehabilitation as well. Two centuries later, in the first thrill of founding the Medicare and Medicaid programs, it was imagined that things would remain exactly the same, only paid for by the Government. But after four or five years, it became abundantly clear that it was far too expensive to use hospitals in that way. The very act of federally paying for the program undermined its volunteer spirit, raised its mandated standards, and made it financially unsustainable. And so, although the 1965 Amendments to the Social Security Act insisted, and still pretend, that no change was to be made to the delivery of care, the delivery of care simply had to be changed. Not only was domiciliary and custodial care to be excluded, but heroic efforts were to be made to reduce the length of stay in the hospital to what would once have been regarded as special intensive care. In effect, if a type of service could normally be handled at home by non-indigent people, it was to be prohibited for everybody. Since the cost of care in hospital has continued to escalate far in excess of the cost of living, it seems unlikely we will ever go back to the days of rest and in-hospital recuperation.
So, just as Dr. Bond recognized the problem and went to Ben Franklin to handle the philanthropy, Dr. Evans had the idea and Fred Hill made it work. Around the Ronald McDonald house, the idea is frequently heard expressed that every hospital needs such a place nearby, for people of all ages. Perhaps that is workable, but it offhand seems more likely that Retirement Villages, so-called CCRC, will be called on to supply this badly needed service, at least for senior citizens. And that what we now call hospitals will evolve into the scientific "focused factories" so popular in the minds at the Harvard Business School.
A Christmas visitor from New York announced he read in the New York newspapers that Philadelphia's mayor had just rescued a painting called The Gross Clinic, for the city of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia physicians who heard this version of events from an outsider reacted frostily, grumpily, and in stone silence. To them, the mayor was just grandstanding again, and whatever the New York newspaper reporters may have thought they were saying was anybody's conjecture.
Thomas Eakins is known to have painted the portraits of eighteen Philadelphia physicians. Several of these portraits have been highly praised and richly appraised, seen in the art world as part of a larger depiction of Philadelphia itself in the days of its Nineteenth-century eminence. That's quite different from its colonial eminence, with George Washington, Ben Franklin, the Declaration and all that. And of course entirely different from its present overshadowed status, compared with that overpriced Disneyland eighty miles to the North. Eakins depicted the rowers on the Schuylkill, and the respectable folks of the professions, every scene reeking with Victorian reminders. It's a little hard to imagine any big-city mayor of the present century in that environment. Indeed, it is hard to imagine most contemporary Americans in a Victorian environment -- except in Philadelphia, Boston, and perhaps Baltimore. So, Mayor Street can be forgiven for not knowing exactly what stance to take, and was not alone in that condition.
S. Weir Mitchell, for example, became known as the father of neurology as a result of his studies and descriptions of wartime nerve injuries. But the repair of injuries is a surgical art, and many novel procedures were invented and even perfected, many textbooks were written. Amphitheaters were constructed around the operating tables, for students and medical visitors to watch the famous masters at work.
In The Gross Clinic, we see the flamboyant surgeon in the pit of his amphitheater at Jefferson Hospital, in the background we see anesthesia being administered. Up until the invention of anesthesia, the most prized quality in a surgeon was speed. With whiskey for the patient and several attendants to hold him down, the surgeon had one or two minutes to do his job; no patient could stand much more than that. After the introduction of anesthesia, it might overwhelm newcomers to observe leisurely nonchalance, but in truth, the patient felt nothing, so the surgeon could safely pause and lecture to his nauseated admirers.
What made an operation dangerous was not its duration, but the subsequent complications of wound infection. By 1876, Eakins could have had no idea that Pasteur and Lister were going to address that issue in four or five years, making operations safe as well as painless. But his depiction of a surgeon with bloody bare hands, standing in Victorian formal street clothes, gives the most dramatic possible emphasis in the painting to the two most important scientific advances of the century. Modern medical students spend days or weeks learning the ceremonial of the five-minute scrubbing of hands with a stiff and somewhat painful brush, the elaborate robing of the high priest in a sterile gown by a nurse attendant, hands held high. The rubber gloves, the mystery of a face mask and cap. In some schools, the drill is to cover the hands of a neophyte with charcoal dust, blindfold him, and insist that he scrub off every speck of dirt that he cannot see before he is admitted to the operating theater for the first time. If he brushes some object in passing, he is banished to the scrub room to start over. So the Gross Clinic has an impact on everyone who sees the surgeon in street clothes, but it is trivial compared with the impact that painting has on every medical student who has been forced to learn the stern modern ritual. For at least fifty years, that painting hung on the wall facing the main entrance to the medical school, where every student had to pass it every day. To every graduate, the lack of clean surgical technique by the famous man was a wrenching sermon on every doctor's risk of trying his utmost to do his best, but doing the wrong thing.
That painting, hanging quite high, was rather cleverly displayed to the public through a large window above the door. With clever lighting, every layman who walked along busy Walnut Street could see it, too, and it became a part of Philadelphia. That was a feature the medical community barely noticed, but it was probably the main reason for public uproar when a billionaire heiress offered the school $68 million to take the painting to Arkansas. The painting was not just an icon for the medical profession, it had become a central part of Philadelphia. Philadelphia wanted to keep that painting for a variety of reasons, and one of the main ones was probably a sense of shame that we were so poor we had to sell our family heirlooms to hill-billies.
The doctors didn't pay much attention to that. They were mad, plenty mad, that a Philadelphia board of trustees would appoint a president from elsewhere who would give any consideration at all to such an impertinent offer.
This little story of discarded pink slips, even after fifty years have elapsed, is on the short list of things I am proud of. I probably remember it so well because it was the forerunner of several other seemingly unrelated matters.
In 1956, I was the Chief Resident Physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital. That position doesn't exist anymore, but most hospitals at the time had a Chief Resident, who was in charge of the house officers, the interns, and residents. The Chief Resident was usually a doctor who had just finished his formal specialty training and was thinking about starting a private practice. He was the father figure to the doctors still in their post-graduate training years, all of them overworked and tense, concentrating on avoiding dangerous mistakes while learning to assume new and difficult responsibilities. He was old enough to carry the weight of authority but young enough so the residents could talk to him frankly, and still call him by his first name. The Chief Resident had his office and secretary near the accident or receiving ward, next to the resident's lounge, which contained mailboxes and coat hangers. The lounge was pretty shabby, as bachelor lounges tend to be, but it was all doctors, all the time, coming and going. If you wanted to know what was going on, this was the place to learn it.
Tom Paton, the credit manager, had his office further down the hall. In spite of his occupation, he was a jovial, convivial fellow, a former rugby player and soccer referee who fit right in with the lounge crowd. One day, I noticed he was throwing away a large stack of pink slips. He seemed surprisingly eager to tell me all about it. These slips represent the lifeblood of the hospital, sez he, without the flow of cash we would have to close the doors of the institution. Well yes, Tom, but taking care of the sick folk is sort of important, too. After a little explaining, I had to agree that he was talking about an interesting subject.
One of the everlasting problems in any hospital is to have the bill ready at the time the patient goes home. Nowadays, hospitals all have databases and many gigabytes of computing power, but the patient's bill is never ready when the patient is discharged and may take weeks to be sent to them. Hospitals put on a good face, don't you worry about the bill, madam, we trust you and we'll send it to you when you are feeling better. And all that, but the truth is they haven't a clue what your bill is.
All of that drove Tom Paton nearly crazy. The time to collect a bill is when the tears are still hot. Every day you delay the bill costs you a provable fraction of it, and so on. So, the system was devised that the tabulating machines of the hospital would routinely work all night to produce a bill for everybody, every day. If they went home today, they were handed a bill. If they didn't go home, the bills were thrown away. For accounting purposes, a carbon copy of each bill was kept on pink paper. It was an amazingly simple idea, far less expensive than the random-access real-time whatchmacallits that nowadays do a far less effective job, and are out of commission much of the time. Let the record show that in 1956, every single patient at Nation's First Hospital got his bill as he was leaving, any time night or day. IBM charged us eleven hundred dollars a month to rent the machines, which also did the payroll and inventory systems.
An idea occurred to me. If you are only going to throw them away, could I please have the pink-slip copies of the bills of the patients who did not go home? Those patients are still in the hospital, and these slips show how much cost each patient is in the process of running up. So a system was established that my secretary got these pink slips every day, and put them in the mailbox of the doctor taking care of the patients. It was a simple thing to do, but the reaction it got was explosive.
At first, the interns thought I was warning them, or criticizing them, but they soon got over that. We were all appalled at the costs which were being generated and particularly appalled when a patient stayed a little longer than necessary. In those days before Medicare, any unpaid costs had to be made up by contributions and private endowment. The house officers and the student nurses who did most of the work received no salary. The sense of guilt that arose from looking at those bills was very strong, and it was obvious that every one of them went back to the wards to try to speed things up. Since they all left their training to practice in various communities for fifty years, I like to believe that the multiplier effect was significant.
In those days, we had a two-year rotating internship. Every month before rotating to a new service, each intern would summarize the remaining patients on his ward for the benefit of his successor. In doing so, they were able to reflect in retrospect how each case could have been speeded up a little, and therefore wouldn't still be here to require a summary. There is an invisible counter-pressure at work. From a doctor's point of view, most of the heavy work of each admission to the hospital is concentrated in the first couple of days. You get things into motion, and then sort of watch it rolls out. But if your ward is full, you can't get any new admissions, so your day suddenly gets a lot easier. Just let one of them go home, and bingo you have a new one. This little human frailty affects every one of them to some degree, and each one thinks he may have discovered this hidden incentive to slow discharges, except on the last day of the month. It was my job as Chief Resident to keep the system from sludging up. As much as for any other reason, an increased turnover meant more cases per intern, and therefore more training and experience. That's what most of them thought I was up to when I started handing out the pink bill copies. It really wasn't purposeful at all, it was just sort of an accidental discovery of something useful.
From that, I developed an interest in efficient use of hospitals, a subject we called utilization review. Through the County Medical Society, I formed a club of other doctors at other hospitals who had the same interest. When Senator Bennett of Utah got a law enacted, this organization turned into the Philadelphia Professional Standards Review Organization, which became part of the Pennsylvania PSRO, and eventually a national one whose name has changed several times. We had some interesting battles at the AMA House of Delegates, which dissolved into insignificance when the national business organizations took matters into their own hands and used their control of employer health insurance to push HMOs, Health Maintenance Organizations, onto the hapless public. Public outrage about HMOs put egg permanently on the face of national business, but the matter is now worse, not better.
What I got out of all this was an enduring interest in computers, which has served me well for half a century. And a sense of outrage bordering on apoplexy whenever some well-meaning activist declares that the doctors are responsible for pushing up hospital prices to enrich themselves in some way.
Baby boomers, the so-called pig in the python, are right to worry there may not be enough money to pay their promised Social Security benefits. Everybody else is a little suspicious that former Flower Children and veterans of Woodstock might somehow be responsible for their own problem. That's quite a bum rap. If you must blame someone, blame Lyndon Johnson for half of it, and the medical profession for the other half.
Although the original design of Social Security during the Roosevelt administration had the shaky arrangement of each generation paying the costs of its parents, rather outrageously dubbed "pay-as-you-go", the true weakness of assuming all generations would remain of equal size only appeared when Lyndon Johnson put it under stress. In seeking a way to portray Medicare as comfortably financed, Johnson combined Social Security savings with the general budget, a process he termed a "Unified Budget". In fact, the savings of the baby boomers were promptly spent for current expenses, including earmarks, along with more benevolent expenses. One has to marvel that a protest generation of Boomers once led by Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman, has been so supine about being swindled out of lifetime savings.
The medical profession deserves blame for the other half of the impending problem. Life expectancy at birth has increased twelve or thirteen years during the working lifetime of the boomers, probably will increase by a year or two more by the time the last of the boomers retire in 2030. If we find a cure for cancer, life expectancy will probably jump five years. Such astounding medical advances had never before happened, so it is fair to forgive a lack of foresight in the original 1933 calculations. Originally, the average age at retirement was 67 and the average age at death was 69, two years of average retirement to provide for. Unfortunately, the average age at retirement dropped to 63, and the average age at death rose to 77. You might scorn the boomers for retiring two years sooner, but the other added years of longevity are mostly nothing to weep over.
There might be other, still more clever, ways to rescue national finances from this predicament, but a careful reading of the news only identifies six proposals that anyone has told us about. They are as follows.
1. The Lockbox. Bill Clinton seems to have been saying we ought to repeal the Unified Budget and actually save the retirement savings instead of spending them. Indeed we should, but it's a little late, getting later. Republicans in Congress would probably vote for it, but not without drawing a lot of attention to the fact that Lyndon Johnson never should have proposed the Unified Budget in the first place.
2. Privatize it. George Bush took the understandable position that government has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to save money, so give it to the individual to save. Some won't, of course, but at least their subsequent problems will be their own individual fault. And the victims would be individual rather than a whole generation. Perhaps an even stronger concern is that a great many financially naive people could be swindled by mutual funds with outrageous fees and poor performance. Presumably, a law could be technically crafted to minimize this risk, but it would have to survive a great deal of lobbying to be usefully intact at the end of it.
3. Borrow it. Nobel laureate Edward C. Prescott is on record saying more debt would be nothing to worry about since an ideal federal debt should be 2.0 times the Gross Domestic Product, whereas it is only 1.6 times GDP at present. If we really think it best to continue intergenerational borrowing, debt is a pretty inevitable consequence. Most of the nation is however more familiar with Polonius on the subject, that borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry, and a skeptical public would need far more convincing than by the mere use of computer modeling. For example, what if we acquired the debt and then GDP should fall in a recession. Once created, it's hard to see how to reduce the debt to maintain the 2.0 ratio. If you couldn't, you might experience the Weimar Republic again, with inflation going to destructive levels. Neither borrower nor lender be.
4. Tax the Rich This political slogan is apparently intended to support raising the income threshold (now approaching $100,000 yearly income) above which the 12.4% tax is applied. Quite aside from political class warfare that might be provoked, and a disincentive for workers to work, there is only a questionable net revenue enhancement. Raising the ceiling for contributions implies raising later benefit payouts, with lessened or no net saving on behalf of the baby boomer deficit. To achieve a net revenue gain, there would have to be a new feature: taxation without benefit.
5. Raise taxes. Presumably, the Republicans would burn at the stake rather than allow taxes to rise, now that the harm to the economy seems fairly well established. Taxes would then effectively be raised on the present working generation only because previous Congresses had been unwilling to raise taxes on earlier generations. Quite aside from the unfairness outcry, there seems little doubt we are on a point of the taxation curve where small increases in taxation would have rather prompt negative effects on the economy. Once a recession appeared, the political consequences for triggering it might be dire.
6. Increase the age of retirement. This is my favorite solution. Having retired at age 80 myself, actuaries still promise me fifteen years of an extended vacation, so people like me perceive no great hardship in future generations retiring at age 70. Even inducing people to retire at the age of 67 as they did a generation ago, would help the problem a lot. There once was a time when we advised young people not to get married until their financial ship came in. Perhaps the new advice is, don't retire until you can afford to do it.
Congressman Pence (R-Indiana) has a related piece of advice. It takes a long time for public adjustment to something so radical and important to them. The Congressman advises us to do nothing at all for two years, using the time to build a case, and create a national consensus that whatever we do is the best that can be done. That seems like rather sensible advice, Congressman.
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