Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Philadelphia Remembered

Anson Colman was New York State doctor in the early 1800s who took his education very seriously.  His story is detailed in an earlier blog post here. His view of Philadelphia, expressed in a letter to his father, seems worthy of transcribing in its entirety.  I didn't adjust his spelling, and there are a few words that I couldn't discern. Note that Franklin and Charles are his brothers.

25th December 1831 

My Dear Father
When I arrived in this City early in October I had not the least idea that I should almost have entered upon a new year before I had performed the pleasing duty of writing to you. As my time has been constantly occupied with the special object of visit and stay in this city, I hope you will excuse my negligence. I arrived here in verry indifferent health, bringing with me the remains of a lingering in--- which had harrassed me more or less for seven weeks before I left home. I am now however quite recovered.

I find the medical University here quite equal to my most sanguine expectations. The School of Anatomy in particular transcends every thing of the kind on this side of the Atlantick, and perhaps if we except the Anatomical School of Paris is not surpassed even in the old world. Surgery too (as well as the other branches of) is verry ably taught. The practice of medicine not less so. The patients in the Surgical & Medical wards of the Pennsylvania Hospital and Philadelphia Alms House have exceeded three thousand in the two establishments ever since I have been here. To these institutions as well as to the Lectures and dissecting rooms the students have ample access by paying for the several tickets which are to be obtained. The other branches of the medical Professsion, if we except that of Chemistry, are not better (do not surpass) if they are as well taught here as they are in Boston.

Philadelphia has improved verry much since I was here. The extension of a large and beautiful city, laid out with the most perfect regularity presents a verry imposing appearance. We talk in Rochester of the magick influcene wrought in our village By the erection of two hundred houses in a year, many of which are indifferent enough. But here more than two thousand noble edifices have been erected within the present year, whole streets in this vast city built up with lofty four story buildings. The city contains now rising of 19,000 inhabitants. Here two there are many of those reminiscences of “the olden time” It is the city of the Penns!! The theatre on which a Franklin, a Rittenhouse a Rush have performed their import parts. Where too was assembled, at a period which tried mens souls, the uncompromising --- spirits who pledge their “lives their fortunes and their sacred honor” to the instrament of American independence. Where Washington spent the eight years in which he presided of the civil, and most of the time that he wielded the military destinies of the nation. The house in which he lived is still standing. It is a plain two story brick building with the door in the center and the gable end to the street. Often as I pass its unpretending front I strain my eyes as if it we(re) to catch a glimpse of the man “first in peace, first in war, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

The old House of Congress, the hall in which was debated, the yards in which it was first publickly declared that “America is and of right ought to be free,” the bell which first peeled to the joyous sons of liberty a nations birth, still remain: and as you gaze upon even these relicks of that great day the mind drinks in a deeper veneration for memories of those whose feat it was.

I hope you hear often from Charles and that what you hear is to his a---. Charles is left in circumstances of some responsibility during my absence. But to the perfection of my plans in regard to my own professional interest I decided it best for me to be away this winter, not believing it to be my duty to stay at home on his account. I placed him under particular supervision of Mr. Whitehouse who will neglect no means of rendering himself useful to Charles.

We are now completely ice bound, the Delaware having been frozen over for two weeks so as to bear the heaviest ---. I hope to see it clear of ice in the --- of January as I wish to go to Washington to spend the last week in January. Should the Hudson & Delaware be open at the first of March when I hope to leave here I shall return by New York and Albany and shall of course stop to spend a day or two with you. Should the rivers be closed however I shall return across the back part of this state by way of the Big Bend of the Susquehannah and the head of Cayuga Lake which is much nearer. 

Please say to Franklin that I am shall write to him before long. I wish you to write me as soon as convenient. I hope you have been so fortunate as to preserve your health during this inclement winter. Assure my dear Mother of my continued affection for her notwithstanding the difference of our views in regard to “raising boys.” Make my affectionate respects to my brothers and their families and believe me your affectionate son 

Addressed to: Samuel Colman, Esq.
East Richfield
Otsego County, New York