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In his more mature life, though he never danced himself, he was not opposed to any one else doing so. In fact, he was most tolerant and liberal in his views and if he had been less broad-minded he could never have wielded the immense influence he exercised till the day of his death.
The Bishop was a hearty eater and fond of good things. It is said he was devoted to mince pies and used to butter them. He treated bread as if it were meant only to be an excuse for butter. His love for good food was one of the secrets of his long life—he lived to be eighty-nineand he had but one intemperate habit, his propensity for green tea, which he liked and insisted on having brewed as black as lye. He was most hospitable and there was scarcely a meal at which he did not have a guest. He dined at two o'clock, at which meal he always had two glasses of wine. Beyond this limit he never went. Every night before going to bed he used to smoke a solitary cigar, drink one glass of sherry, and eat two roasted apples. One of his family has written that he delighted in the evenings to have his grandchildren rub his hair behind his ears, which he called “ teasling,” and to rub his silk stockings before a hot open fire. He never wore a wig, as the fashion was, but powdered his hair.
All these homely details about an episcopal dignitary may seem trifling, but the little domestic sidelights and peeps at his personal habits go a long distance in helping to round out a full and true picture of a devoted father, a faithful pastor, and a most dignified and courtly gentleman. Bishop White died in 1836.
404 SOUTH FRONT STREET
TRANGE as it may now seem to
us, time was when South Front Street was a favourite place of residence for the wealthy and fashionable. A little examination of the remnants of old houses in this now
unsavoury quarter is sufficient to carry conviction on that score. Many of these palatial dwellings belonged to wealthy merchants and importers who elected to live near their counting-houses and wharves.
John Stocker, whose house is well preserved and quite representative of the residences of the neighbourhood, was an affluent merchant of the eighteenth century. He was at one time an alderman of the city and among his other activities and interests he was concerned with the institution of the Mutual Assurance Company, whose history is itself of unusual interest.
It was the first insurance corporation to be created in free and independent America after the severance from England, and is the second-oldest fire-insurance company in Philadelphia, the first being the Philadelphia Contributionship for the insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire, or, as it is generally called, the Contributionship, which was founded in 1752. The circumstances connected with the origin of the Mutual Assurance Company throw light on an amusing phase of Philadelphia life.
Fires in Colonial Philadelphia were the cause of much excitement and the sight of a blazing chimney was enough to throw the whole community into an uproar. Blazing
chimneys were the subject of legislation by the Provincial Assembly of 1775, which enacted that
Every person whose Chimney shall take Fire and blaze out at the top, not having been swept within one Calendar Month, shall forfeit and pay the sum of Twenty Shillings; but if swept within that Time and taking Fire and blazing out at the Top, the Person who swept the same, either by himself, his Servants or Negroes, shall forfeit and pay Twenty Shillings.
With the ever-present danger of blazing chimneys, a number of people conceived that there was a grave jeopardy in the overhanging branches of shade trees that might catch fire from a blazing chimney and spread it farther in winter, and in both summer and winter must interfere with the application of water in fire extinguishment
The apprehensive directors of the Contributionship called a general meeting of the subscribers of that organisation in April, 1781, to consider the propriety of “Ensuring or Re-insuring Houses having Trees planted before them in the Street." The owners of shade trees being in a minority at this meeting, it was resolved that
no Houses having a Tree or Trees planted before them shall be Insured or Re-insured,” and “ that if any Person in future having a House Insured shall plant a Tree or Trees before it in the Street, if not removed in three Months from the time of planting he shall forfeit the benefit of Insurance.” Legislation was then invoked against the objectionable shade trees and passed by the General Assembly in 1782 only to be repealed a few months later upon the urgent solicitation of tree lovers.
Despite the sense of the Contributionship meeting in 1781, no definite action was taken till April, 1784, when it was finally determined to put the resolution into effect. Thereupon the owners of the debarred properties set about organising for insurance and advertised a “New Society for Insuring Houses from Loss by Fire.” They stated that a great number of the citizens of Philadelphia found it “agreeable and convenient to them ” to have trees planted in the street before their houses, a thing prohibited by the Contributionship on pain of forfeiting insurance, and that they, therefore, would organise a company to insure such tree-adorned houses at a slight additional premium. Under the new conditions, trees might be planted before the houses or in the yards belonging to them.
By a curious regulation, it was also provided that “ All Trees planted near Houses shall be Trimmed every Fall, in such manner as not to be higher than the Eaves of the Houses. And Trees planted after Insurance must be reported to the Office.” The deed of settlement of the new company was dated October 21, 1784. The badge or house-mark adopted was a leaden tree on a shield-shaped board in allusion to the origin of the organisation, while that of the Contributionship was four interclasped hands. Many of these old house-marks are still to be seen on the fronts of buildings in the older portions of the city.
254 SOUTH SECOND STREET
T 254 South Second Street, on the
This yard is piled high with hardwoods and cabinet-makers' lumber of various description and the lower part of the building does duty as an office for the lumber yard. The structure is in every respect substantial and striking, but in no way ostentatious. A broad flight of steps leads up to a wide doorway that opens into a still wider hall. The rooms of this house are proportionately lofty and spacious and its whole mien, despite its present sordid and dingy environment, proclaims that it was once the home of some notable person.
The notable person that lived there was none other than Nicholas Waln, the lawyer Nicholas, for there were several other Nicholases in the same family, one of the wittiest and keenest as well as one of the most able men in the Philadelphia of his day. The witticisms of Judge Peters, the master of Belmont, were not more delightfully trenchant than the speeches that were always bursting from the irrepressible Nicholas. In men of such temperament as Waln and Peters, men who saw the humour of every situation, the flow of bon mots could not be checked, and their sayings and doings contributed not a little to the store of anecdotal wit.