Conditions in the 1830s

Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 3, 1836

The Hall of Independence. — We are among the many in this city who disapprove of this Hall’s being converted into a show shop. The hallowed associations which belong to it, forbid such desecration. Such is our opinion, echoed no doubt by every man in whose bosom exists an almost holy feeling of gratitude towards that band of firm and fearless worthies who Laid upon the altar of their common country their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors; who during the dark and gloomy period of the revolution, in the “time that tried men’s souls,” fearfully breasted the storm, heedless of the peril and careless of the fate that might await them. To see that room, once honored by the presence of Jefferson and Adams, in which was adopted that immortal (as we fondly hope it will be) charter of our rights and liberties, appropriated to any purpose inconsistent with its character, is to us a source of regret and mortification. We have direct allusion to the exhibition of Death on the Pale Horse, with which as a work of art, we have nothing at present to do, and which is to be seen in the Hall of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

We are opposed to having that room, with which is connected so many proud, so many lofty and grateful associations, converted into an exhibition room; it surely need not the advantageous aid of a statue or a painting to render it interesting to him who treads its floor. To him who visits it, and looks around its bare walls, there is enough of holy recollection to be found in its past history–in this there is a classic as well as a patriotic interest.

Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 16, 1836

The State House. — While other cities take a pride in the preservation of the relics of the revolutionary struggle, we, having within our city some of the most interesting of the mementos of that glorious period, seem to strive to devote them to the lowest purposes. The Hall of Independence, the spot where the Signers of the Declaration of Independence first assembled, and from the doors of which was first proclaimed to an astonished world the glorious truth that all men were created free and equal–this spot which any other people would hold as sacred, and would never enter, but with hearts overflowing with gratitude to the master spirits who had there overturned the tyranny and delusions of ages, has been several times hired out to itinerant exhibitors of shows, and is annually made the scene of carousing, lying and cheating which so frequently are the attendants of our elections. As if to increase the defects of the style of architecture of that building, and make it as shabby in appearance as possible, the outside wall is plastered over with election libels, and other papers, from the ground almost to the roof. We perceive that councils have at length passed a resolution forbidding its devotion to purposes for which money is taken, without their special consent. It ought not to be devoted to such a purpose, even with their consent; but should be set apart as a sacred spot, and never be profaned by being converted into a booth for the exhibition of shows and its walls disfigured with lying placards and scurrilous lampoons.


Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 13, 1836

Our State House. — Every man or boy in the Union who has read the history of our revolutionary struggle knows that there is in this city a building called the State House, and that in the principal room in this building, assembled that immortal body of patriots and sages who signed the Declaration of Independence. Whenever a stranger who has heard or read of such a building comes to Philadelphia, he inquires for it, and is told that is in Chesnut street, between Fifth and Sixth streets. He follows the direction, and is invariably disappointed. He cannot find the building. He inquires on the very spot, and is told that it stands before his eyes. He cannot believe his eyes, and lifts up his hands in astonishment. “What! That building, with its walls bedaubed and defiled with things of all colors and all shapes, the State House! Was the immortal Declaration of our National birth proclaimed from that edifice whose outer walls cannot be seen beneath the load of defilements with which they are pasted! We cannot believe it! We cannot believe that the citizens of Philadelphia would allow an edifice around which gather so many hallowed recollections, to be converted into a town post for the advertisement of thieves, burglars, stray horses, fugitives from justice and mountebank exhibitions! We cannot believe them so lost to delicacy and self respect! This cannot be the State House. It is some old barn or other dilapidated building, which they are going to pull down to make room for some edifice to be used more decently.”

… This building in its present condition is a curiosity, and we invite all strangers who have a taste for the ridiculous or the absurd, we could almost say of the unclean to examine it. The walls are covered with the accumulations of ages. Bills and advertisements of all kinds have been accumulating there for the last forty years, until the walls are covered deep, and almost stand out a foot beyond the line of the brick and mortar. Like Joseph’s coat of many colors, they exhibit every possible variety of hue; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, like a peacock’s tail or a dying dolphin. Upon a moderate computation, not less than two tons of paper and paste may be scraped from the west side of the building. The city ought to obtain a good sum by selling it for manure.

In the name of all that is decent, we hope that our authorities will cause this edifice to be put into a condition less offensive to eye or nose.


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