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National History Day 2008
"Conflict & Compromise in History"

National History Day 2007
"Triumph & Tragedy in History"

National History Day 2006
"Taking A Stand"


The theme for this year’s National History Day is Conflict & Compromise in History. The City of Philadelphia Archives has many manuscripts and photographs demonstrating conflicts and compromises between citizens and government influencing City development. In some cases, conflicts existed without compromise. In others, compromise was reached before major conflicts ensued. However, most often, events reflect both conflict and compromise.


Compiled by:
Dona W.  Horowitz-Behrend Ph.D

Historian, Philadelphia City Archives

The City's Early Development

The fight for clean water and better sanitation. Disease pandemics have resulted in the citizens of Philadelphia fighting for clean water and better sanitation.

1. Clean Water

On January 3, 1799, the Select and Common Councils of the City established a “Watering Committee” in response to citizen petitions.

The committee was empowered to provide water citywide. Philadelphia was the first major city in the world to take this responsibility.


Minutes of the Select Council for January 3, 1799.

The first Engine House was in Center Square, the eventual location for City Hall. The Watering Committee accepted the proposal of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the United States' first architect and engineer, to take water from the Schuylkill River and distribute it through wooden pipes to the developing city.

Water first flowed through the water mains at the end of January in 1801.


Section Through the Engine House of the Center Square Water Works.

Public Works-Water Construction-1103-O-A

The City grew so quickly that the Center Square Water Works quickly became obsolete. The Watering Committee next accepted a proposal by Frederick Graff and John Davis to build a new pumping station and reservoir on the Schuylkill in the Spring Garden District at “Fair Mount”, the highest point near the original city. In 1822, waterpower was harnessed to drive the pumps, at first using water wheels, and later turbines. The state-of-the–art facility became an icon of Philadelphia known around the world, combining technology with classical architecture.

Old Fairmount Water Works-Looking North from Spring Garden Bridge. 11/15/1933

Public Works-34185-0

Fairmount Water Works Old Turbine Pump

City Archives-592-0

2. The formation of Fairmount Park was achieved through much conflict and compromise.

The yellow fever epidemics of the 1790s spurred City Council to seek a system to provide safe drinking water to the citizens of Philadelphia. Many factories and private homes were relocated providing a cleaner water supply in the Schuylkill River. Land was also set aside for industrial growth. This combination paved the way for Philadelphia to become the manufacturing center in the mid-nineteenth century.


Map of Properties appropriated for Fairmount Park, 1868.

Indicates all property lines and owners of lands appropriated to Fairmount Park by Act of Assembly, April 14, 1868.

Philadelphia City Archives Record Group 90.10: Bureau of Surveys and Design.

Record Series 149.37

Not all people envisioned the healthful benefits of a large urban park. William Simpson resisted sale of his business for several years. He finally sold the property in July 1876 for $300,000. Eli Kirk Price, then President of the Commission, recorded the accomplishment in his journal, "I this day passed title for the last property of importance acquired for Fairmount Park…Thus my great work of eight years duration…has been brought to a close."


Letter from William Simpson to the Fairmount Park Commission

16 April 1874

Fairmount Park Commission

The Fairmount Water Works was the center of the original Fairmount Park. It was an international symbol of technological greatness. In the copy of the historic print notice the houses on the river to the left of the Water Works. Philadelphia was unusual because many industrialists had summerhouses in close proximity. Much of Fairmount Parks' landscape was acreage from country houses. In the distance is the prosperous industrial city. Besides the Water Works other symbols for Philadelphia's prosperity are the Fairmount Dam, believed to be the longest dam in the world when built, and the walkway from which citizens at leisure might gaze.


Old Fairmount Water Works-Looking East-Showing Intake and Reservoir- Copy of Old Historical Print.

Public Works-34186-0

The decision by the Park Commission to allow the United States Centennial Commission to stage the 1878 Centennial in West Park cemented once and for all Philadelphia's pride in the park.

In 1901 the Fairmount Water Works ceased operation freeing the reservoir site for transformation into the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many factories were displaced along the Schuylkill River.


Public Works 19992-0-B: Air View-Northeast Over New Art Museum 1/26/23

As the Park grew tension between preservation, recreational use and open space continued.

Boat Houses-Fairmount Park

Fairmount Dredging Company On Right
Kelly Dr. & Lemon Hill Dr.
Wharves, Docks and Ferries-3953-0

Unlike Central Park where natural beauty was created by landscape architects, Fairmount Park's natural beauty was inherent. The Wissahickon River Valley was breathtaking. Installing sewer and water lines for surrounding neighborhoods caused conflict between environmentalists and city contractors.

Contract 682 West Valley Green and Springfield West

View from East Side of Wissahickon Creek
Public Works-44138-2

3.The location of City Hall was achieved through compromise.

The discussion for a new City Hall originated in 1868 when Mayor Morton Mc Michael gave official approval to an ordinance creating the first commission for erection of public buildings in Independence Square for the use of courts and other municipal and county offices. The plan was to build an addition to Independence Hall with a center courtyard. The architect was hired and commission ready to move forward when popular clamor resulted in their dismissal.


1868 Ordinance

Elevation City Hall

Independence Square-Public Buildings 6th Street

City Archives-143-0

Smedley map showing areas of commerce in Philadelphia at the time.

Map Collection: City of Philadelphia Archives

The location of City Hall was next proposed on Washington Square, the city center. Visionaries recognized the need to move west allowing for economic and population growth. They recommended Penn Square as a desirable location.

After much discussion it was decided to take a vote. Active campaigning for both sides ensued. Points of view were lobbied in all of the newspapers and a bell ringer contracted to garner votes for Penn Square. No matter which square won, all buildings were to be removed from Independence Square except for Independence Hall.


"Section I: at next regular election the citizens of said city shall vote, by ballot, on the question of the site of the proposed public buildings…directed to provide by ordinance, for the erection of said buildings…Provided the buildings should not be placed on Independence square."

No. 631
An Act in relation to a site for the public buildings in the City of Philadelphia Laws of Pennsylvania, thirtieth of March 1870.

If Penn Square won, it was stipulated in Act No. 1404, Appendix 1870, "that land be procured at each of the four corners for the erection of the Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute, and the Philadelphia Library."

Act No. 1404
Appendix 1870
Laws of Pennsylvania, fifth of August, 1870

The election was held in 1869 and with 84,450 votes cast, 51,625 were for Penn Square and 32,825 for Washington Square.


Excerpts from Perkins Scrapbook

At first it was proposed to be a divided structure so as not to block the intersection of Broad and Market mandated by William Penn for free flow of commercial traffic. Again, after much discussion this was thought unpractical and the compromise reached of four arches and the center courtyard.


William Penn's original intent.
City Charter

Excerpts from Perkins Scrapbook

"The Most Important thoroughfare in the entire City is the Courtyard of the Public Buildings" Inquirer, 8/29/1899.

4. Development of the Railroad in Philadelphia was achieved through conflict and compromise.

During the 1830's City Councils were afraid of the railroad. It could only run on the fringes of the City.

Beginning in the 1870's and 1880's the Reading line came into Center City promoting economic development. As the City grew so did conflicts and compromises between citizens their businesses and homes regarding railroad placement.


12th Street Bridge-Philadelphia & Reading Railroad-incline to Terminal

N 12th St. & Noble St.
Reading Railroad-696-0

1. The B&O, Chestnut and Reading lines came into Center City.


The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad-Depression-22nd and Pennsylvania Ave-.

Reading Railroad-476-0

Philadelphia & Reading Railroad-Depression

N. 20th St. & Pennsylvania Avenue
Reading Railroad –518-0

2. The South Philadelphia Grievance:
When rails were laid in South Philadelphia, the City worked with the railroads to remove the grade crossings because of the complaints of citizens and business owners. Garbage accumulated and it was difficult for customers to find businesses and for deliveries to be made. The City's boundaries were unable to expand because of the placement of the tracks.


Broad Street and Oregon Avenue-Philadelphia & Reading Railroads and Baltimore and Ohio Crossing.

Public Works-7746-0

Streets Department Record Group 88: 85.7 Papers South Philadelphia Railroad Track Elevation.

The Chestnut Hill, Norristown, and Manayunk lines were elevated as a result.


Manayunk Elevated Contract #101-Ridge Avenue Bridge-Over Reading Railroad Tracks-Wissahickon Avenue-Looking North

Public Works-25716-0

3. In the 1950's Mayors Clark and Dilworth established the Urban Traffic and Transportation Board to help revitalize the City's economy. Operation NW resulted in the R8 Chestnut Hill West Line that was modeled on Pennsylvania Railroad. New equipment was installed and City subsidized lower fares to create "Urban Traffic".

4. The removal of the "Chinese Wall" creating Penn Station and the Center City Commuter Connection.

The controversy continues today. Railroad grade crossings are a problem for citizens using the new Schuylkill bike trail. The City Archives has documentation for each of these benchmarks that encouraged economic growth.

The Twentieth Century

5.The Street Car Trolley Strike, August 1944

The Street Car Trolley Strike is an example of race at the center of the conflict. Compromise was reached only through Federal government intervention.

The main issue of the 1944 Street Car Trolley Strike was that riders refused to ride trolleys with black motormen. The situation became so tense that President Roosevelt ordered the Army to take over and operate the Philadelphia Transportation system. Police officers rode the trolleys and submitted reports to Detectives in each district. The folders include newsletters, newspaper clippings, police reports, and lists of arrests by district.

Materials: Box A 5637 Police PTC Strike 1944

A 5637 Police 1944, folder PTC Strike. 4th Detective Division-Reports and Telephone Calls in reference to PTC. Labor Trouble August 10th and 11th, 1944.

A 5637 Police PTC Strike 1944, August 1944. Arrest in Connection (246) with PTC Strike 8/1-8/10.

A 5637 Police PTC Strike, August 1944. Communication Meeting August 5, 1944, 5th Detective Division.

"Philadelphia Answers the Enemy's Challenge!" issued by Communist Political Association blamed Hitler for Negro and Jew-baiting which was behind the strike.

"Bureau of Police Report" August 21, 1944.

A 5637 leaflet handed out at "Colored Meeting", 2nd Division, YMCA 1724 Christian St., 8/4/44.

A 5637 Bureau of Police summary minutes of meeting, August 5, 1944.

A 5637 Police PTC Strike 1944. Injuries in connection with PTC strike: 8/1 to 8/10/44.

Police Reports

6. The displacement of Afro-Americans for the creation of Society Hill resulted in conflict adverted through city, state and federal law.

The City Planning Commission created a plan that the Mayor endorsed. The Redevelopment Authority condemned the land by right of immanent domain. Once condemned citizens had no recourse. They were given some money for housing but relocated themselves elsewhere.


A-1605: City Planning Commission Records Reports: Oversized

Washington Square East, Unit 1-A

Turner Construction Company and John W. Galbreath Co. Supplement by Vincent G. Kling AIA Architect, October, 1958.

The reason given for the redevelopment of the area ringed by Dock Street, Spruce Street, and Third Street and Walnut Streets was the protection from approaching blight of Independence Hall. The creation of courtyards and rehabilitation of existing structures were to reflect modern living.

Besides the relocation of people the Dock Street Market was also demolished resulting in a major shift in food distribution to the Food Distribution Center in Southwest Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Historical Commission was created to oversee the gentrification of Society Hill.


Dock Street-Fish Market

South 2nd St. and Dock St.
Public Works-8429-0

Other Places to look:
City Planning Commission Records
Mayor files-Dilworth
Philadelphia Historical Commission Records

7. The 1952 Home Rule Charter was drafted giving citizens more representation in hopes of preventing conflict.

City Hall was controlled by the Republican Party in the 1940's.There was much corruption and graft. Citizens complained that they had no voice. The Home Rule Charter Commission was created to draft the 1952 Home Rule Charter giving citizens more representation.


60-2.3 Administration of Joseph S. Clark 1952-1956

A. 459.86 1954 Home Rule Charter
Includes letters from citizens and replies from the Mayor.

Letter to Mayor Clark from Olney High School student in support of the Home Rule Charter and reply.

60.2.4 Richardson Dilworth 1956-1962.

The Home Rule Charter resulted in more accountability to Philadelphia citizens. Weekly reports were given by each city department and complaints and inquiries from citizens answered, then filed.

A-502 Administration, Commerce, Police, Health:
A-503 Recreation, Public Welfare Department;
A-504 Streets—clean block, traffic engineer, trash collection, Water Department.

Making government more accountable to Philadelphia's citizens is a consistent theme.

8. The Commission on Human Relations mediates conflict through fairness.

The Commission on Human Relations oversees fairness in Housing and Employment practices in Philadelphia. Their publications educate both citizens and government about their rights to mediate conflict and reach compromise. Some examples are Annual Reports from the early fifties that include sections on fair employment practices and preparing residents for changing neighborhoods.

Later attempts to mediate violence between Anglo and Hispanic gangs in Kensington; blacks and whites in Southwest Philadelphia; and the extensive support given to Southeast Asian newcomers in the early eighties are chronicled in reports and publications by the commission from 1950-1988.


148.1 Annual Reports- 1950, 1953-59, 61-67, 1974, 1975.

1948-49: Fair Employment Practice Commission-City of Philadelphia. 1st Annual Report.

1956: In Folder: What to do a program for leaders in changing neighborhoods, prepared by Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

1959 Annual Report: Appendix C. Case histories: employment, firing based on race, white doorman charges discrimination; claims job denial because of race.

1967 Annual Report: excellent case studies for civil rights.

1979-1980: Violence in Kensington between Anglo and Hispanic gangs. Summer. Similar violence between blacks and whites in Southwest Philadelphia. Extensive support given to Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and other Southeast Asian newcomers. "Inkies" or all-white Anglo gang of youths attacking chiefly Hispanic families and youth in Olney.

The issue of squatters moving into Tasker Homes apartments (270 vacant awaiting rehabilitation) stirred considerable neighborhood feelings. Commission staff worked with neighborhood church groups, public agencies and the Grays Ferry Community Council.

148.2 1950 to 1971. The Commission's work with neighborhoods and community action groups.

148.4 Reports, Publications, 1950-1988 (cross-section).

1953 Philadelphia Negro Population Facts on Housing.

1958-1960: Intergroup Problems in Housing Commission on Human Relations. City of Philadelphia. Prepared by Dennis Clark.

1959: Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia, Commission on Human Relations.

1960: What to do: A Program for Community leaders to promote fair housing practices: Philadelphia Commission Human Relations.

1958, 1961, 1962 Commission on Human Relations Bulletin Pro and Con: Girard College-A Public Issue(1958).

1961: Notice to Philadelphia. Employers Fair Employment Practices

1960-1962 Inside Facts: monthly newsletter summarizing Commission on Human Relations activities. Changing neighborhoods intervention. Local union infractions. Housing discrimination; racial conflicts.

148.4: Employment Discrimination on Certain City Work Contracts, 20 May 1963. (MSB report)

Summaries of the City's process in dealing with employment discrimination are particularly noteworthy.

9. During the Frank Rizzo Years Conflict was contained by City Government.

1. The 1964 Columbia Avenue Riots: Riots, race tensions, and disagreement about the Vietnam War resulted in hundreds of small businesses destroyed. Resolution was reached by containment. The Philadelphia City Archives has documentation of arrest and trial records, the personnel assigned, intelligence research, and the overwhelming number of insurance claims sent to the City Solicitor for damage reimbursement. Many of the small businesses were not insured and received nothing from the City.


A-3934 Columbia Avenue Riot 1964 #1


Act of Assembly May 3, 1850. Proclamation gave police authority to arrest rioters with the maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Prayer of Archbishop John J. Krol broadcast over the Police Radio system at 8:15 P.M., September 6, 1964.


The worse riots took place August 28-31, 1964, resulting in a backlog in the City court system for months to come. Rioting continued intermittently until September 15, 1964.

Case Dispositions-Riot Courts as of 10-09-64.
Summary Page of cases tried in courtrooms 246 and 696.
Memorandum summarizing the number of arrests made from 12:01 A.M. until 12:00 noon, 9-1-64.

2. Frank Rizzo-May 1-Dec. 1 7th: Cecil Moore demonstration against white only Girard College.North Philadelphia, 1965.


Girard College

S. College Ave & Corinthian Ave.
City Archives-497-0

The Commission on Human Relations

148.4 Reports, Publications, 1950-1988
1958, 1961, 1962 Commission on Human Services Bulletin Pro and Con: Girard College-A Public Issue (1958).

A-4482- 1965 Girard College.1965 Mayor Tate files.

1965 Grand Jury's final presentation.
Girard College Demonstrations
May 1st—cost to the City.
September 30—Judge Gold—"Cecil in line".
October 21, 1965 article by Peter H. Binzen, "Philadelphia Negroes Challenge a Will".
September 21, 1965—Discussions between Lewis and Backus and their Co-Council, Gaffney and Gaffney.

A4491-Civil Disobedience Report
Friday, October 1, 1965 – October 6, 1965.
Civil Disobedience Demonstration-NAACP
Costs of Girard College Emergency


Mayor Tate files: 10/3/67 letter from Mayor Tate to Senator John L. McClellan discussing the reasons Philadelphia had no riots in the summer of 1966. Girard College riots were one of the case studies used to justify Mayor Tate's 7/27/67 proclamation of Limited Emergency prohibiting gatherings of 12 or more people.

3. Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo containment of riots in Philadelphia the summers of 1967 and 1966.

The containment of riots in 1967 and 1966 were excellent examples of the public and private arms of city government working together to prevent a crisis. The key was Mayor Tate's Proclamation of Limited Emergency prohibiting gatherings of 12 or more people.

Two years in advance Tate's administration also raised taxes to hire additional policemen (1,056) and modernize the communications and transportation facilities. Force was not the only tool the Tate administration used.

To prevent rioting the administration organized a “Human Renewal” program that broadened the City's health, educational services, welfare and recreational services in North Philadelphia. The unique “Job-mobile Program” was also established which recruited 500 men and women for public jobs. The City then called upon Industry to do likewise resulting in the hiring of 2,000 additional workers.



Mayor Tate's 7/27/67 proclamation of Limited Emergency prohibiting gatherings of 12 or more people.

Memo to Police Commissioner Rizzo regarding incitement to riot.

8/17/67 Resolution by United Business Men's Association in support of state of “limited emergency” and creation of Job-Mobile.

8/27/67 letter inviting Commissioner Rizzo to testify before House of Representatives about riots in Philadelphia.

8/15/67 overall incident report.

10/3/67 letter from Mayor Tate to Senator John L. McClellan discussing the reasons Philadelphia had no riots in the summer of 1966.

4. Confrontations between Move and the Philadelphia Police Department in Powelton Village in August, 1978.



News clippings files. See MOVE envelope.

Letters not only from citizens of Philadelphia, but also from people around the world to Mayor Rizzo expressing opposing opinions on how the Rizzo administration handled the conflict. The Mayor himself responded to letters of support; a member of the Mayor's staff handled letters of criticism.

Telegram from the NAACP admonishing the alleged police brutality against MOVE members and calling for the immediate dismissal of guilty policemen.

Local and far-reaching news clippings and television editorials covered the conflict. Some excellent newspaper photographs of the incident, particularly one of a submissive Delbert Africa in police custody, were taken.

8/8/78 listing of injured police and firemen.

8/12/78 letter from the Powelton Civic Homeowner's Association expressing concern about the presence of MOVE headquarters in the neighborhood. Requests for police action against MOVE presence.

8/15/78 medical report of MOVE member Delbert Africa.

MOVE press release, 6/23/78.

Correspondence between the citizens of Philadelphia and the Mayor's office from the months prior to the main conflicts, expressing support for or opposition to the blockade of the MOVE headquarters: hostile letter from Tashene Africa, 4/26/78 to Mayor Rizzo expressing contempt for the actions taken against members of MOVE

10. The order of placement for the Parkway Flags celebrating ethnic heritage during the Bicentennial resulted in conflict requiring compromise to resolve.

The 1976 Bicentennial was the first National celebration of ethnic heritage. In 1975 flags representing each participating country were hung along the Parkway. The flagpole closest to City Hall became whatever country Philadelphia wanted to cultivate. The first flag hung was Mexico because the City was cultivating Mexican airlines to begin a direct flight to Mexico City. The City Archives gave a suggested plan to Street Lighting for the order to hang the flags. Immediately the Polish community requested that the flags for Poland and Monaco be reversed because of the sizable Polish community in Philadelphia.

Eventually the flags were hung alphabetically, regardless of the country's size or importance to Philadelphia or this country. Today, two flags are not in order. The Vatican flag is next to The Cathedral of Peter and Paul, and the Israeli flag is next to the statue of Six Million Fallen Jews.


A 7600: Bicentennial Records

A –7451 Trina Vaux-Coordinator of Cultural Events and Parkway. Parkway Program and General-Physical. Box 1 of 8. Phila 76.

Folder: Parkway. Contains history of the Parkway. Map of flag locations.

Folder: Parkway- Physical

Benjamin Franklin Parkway: A conceptual design proposal presented to Philadelphia 76 by Carlos Ramirez and Albert H. Woods Inc., August, 1974.

Map with flags, sketch of flags, flow chart of research and preliminary design, cost, final art and production.

Memorandum-Wally Nunn-International Flags on Parkway. Canadian Consult request “place Canadian flag on the bracket closest to Pennwalt Building where their offices are.”

Budget estimate.

A-7452 Trina Vaux-Coordinator of Cultural Events and Parkway. Box 2 of 8. Parkway Program: Parkway Programming-Special Events. Phila 76.


"Once-in-a-century” chance to demonstrate the full measure of our cultural heritage." Paul Garabedian, Ethnic Coordinator.

June 20, 1975: List of "Ethnic Weeks" and "Ethnic Days" 1976.

Other places to look: City Planning Commission: 1976 Bicentennial