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Apees, cakes, Mary Ellet, Annie Powell, Philadelphia Press, mourning customs


A set of handwritten, copied excerpts from a January 1869 edition of the Philadelphia Press, presumably written by Alfred L. Shoemaker. Within, the notes detail Annie Powell who was known for her 'A P' cakes along with various other reminiscences about early Philadelphia - including mourning practices and the funeral of Benjamin Franklin.

Corresponds to:

Packet 759-8


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Philadelphia Press

Jan 11, 1869 [Reminiscence] of Mrs. Mary Ellet

“Opposite was Miss Annie Powell, famous for her good teas; also, a Mrs. Powell, a cake-baker on Chestnut Street. The famous ‘A P’ cakes were of her invention. People in those days had to depend upon themselves for luxuries and good cooking…”

“The children of the best families attended this school, and almost invariably left with an embroidered picture of a lady mourning over a tomb, a weeping willow overhead. This piece was drawn and painted by a man named Falwell, and each was precisely alike.”

“Many years I had in my possession a little book containing illustrated cries of the city. I recollect those of the watchman going his round to every house, and then taking refuge in his little watch-box at the corner of every street. Then there were “hot buckwheat cakes” in the morning, “hot Yorkshire muffins”, in the evening, and “hot corn” at night. Then old Molly, the ballad-singer, with her basket of songs, which she would sing loud and long; she was an object, with her basket on her arm, her eyes bleary, and her mouth stretched to its full size.

Over one hundred years ago there was an arrival in the city of a German vessel. A boy passenger, when landed, walked up one of our main streets, and sat down to rest at the side of a fence enclosing a large orchard belonging to a farmer. The boy was sad and hungry. The apples were lying in abundance; he ate and was refreshed. He then and there said, “If ever I get rich enough, I will buy this place.” By a life of frugality and industry he did grow rich and bought the farm, naming it “Empty Pocket”, in commemoration of his former poverty. That farm is now in the heart of the city, and his descendants are not only among the most wealthy, but the most respectable of our inhabitants.”

In 1785 there was but one toy shop, kept in Second street … There was at that time no confectionary. A man named Wills, the ancestor of the founder of the Blind Asylum, kept a small grocery in Chestnut street, near Third. In his window a glass jar, filled with little round sugar plums, attracted the longing eyes of the children, and soon their pockets were emptied of their pennies. Four farthings then made a penny. All this treasure was given for twenty of those little sugar plums, counted with great accuracy. Some years after this time ice cream was introduced. A Frenchman had his shop on Market street, near Third. A small glass, not larger than a wine glass, sold for what is now called a quarter of a dollar. A glass of cordial had always to be taken afterwards, to prevent evil consequences.

I also witnessed the funeral of Benjamin Franklin. The honored dead were borne upon the shoulders of friends. There were no hearses in those days.

Jan. 30, 1869 Crepe and Mourning

I wish to call the attention of the community, with a view to the abolishment of that absurd practice, which, by the way, is essentially Philadelphian, of shrouding the house in black for four or five months after the death of an inmate … Go through any of our streets, where those horrible black rags will meet your eye at every turn, fluttering from windows, reduced in many cases to the merest shreds, and ask yourself what earthly or heavenly good is accomplished thereby about closed shutters.



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Notes From the Philadelphia Press of January, 1869



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