2017 Summer Blog # 10

Philadelphia Day 5

I’m not sure why I’d never gone to Betsy Ross’ House before. I’ve walked past it several times on previous trips to Philly, but somehow never went in. The house itself is a semi-reconstruction. Lots of the walls and support beams and such are original but lots of the rest, including nearly all the furnishings, are reconstructions. This does nothing to diminish the experience of touring the house although it is a little annoying that you have to walk through the ridiculously over priced gift-shop on your way in. The house had no tour guides but plenty of signs and two very nice actors playing the part of Betsy and one of her servants. The two young women were very eager to talk to my daughter as we went thought the rooms and to tell us all things we couldn’t immediately see relating to the way the household operated and how Betsy came to sew the now famous thirteen-star flag for Gen. Washington.

Apart from the kitschy gift shop I had only one issue with Betsy Ross’s house; there were too many people in it. All of them were trying to nonsensically manuver up and down the house’s narrow spiral staircases simultaeously with their audio tour microphones pressed up against one ear. They irritated me to no end as the repetatively ignored the actors, shuffled into each other (and my family), and asked overly loud questions that they could have learned the answers to by reading the informational signs. As with most places my problem is the people.


Of course there’s a huge flag on the side of Betsy Ross’ house


I never was able to find out why the courtyard of the Betsy Ross house has a fountain featuring three bronze cats. There is absolutely no information at the site about this, and no one nearby could tell me anything helpful.


Afterwards I tried to go to the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial but it was closed. Kosciuszko was one of the unsung heroes of the Revolutionary War. He was a Polish immigrant who, with his training in military engineering, helped win the battle of Saratoga for the Americans. He also redesigned the fortifications of West Point. After the war he returned to Poland and led a failed revolution against the Russians. After his release from prison he returned to the U.S. and received a hero’s welcome. Sadly nearly no one in the U.S. knows his name now.


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2017 Summer Blog #9

Philadelphia Day 4

I’m stuck by the number of historic places within spitting distance of my hotel here in the old city. Sometimes they’re in the oddest places as if whatever commission puts these things up without any thought about weather anyone will be able to see them. I’ve found them in the center median of four lanes of traffic; in tiny niches between buildings where I’m sure no one has found them since they were erected. some of the sign pole heights vary wildly some are about stop sign height while others are something over 12 feet. At any rate some of these marker do provide insight into the architecture, landscape, politics, and local (even national) history.

Here are a few of the markers I found most interesting. In the caption is a note on what is in that location now.



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2017 Summer Blog #8

Philadelphia Day 3

Today I spend nearly all day at the University of Pennsylvania; specifically at the Annenberg Center for Public Policy. We spent the time working through cases that will be coming to the Supreme Court in the next year. We tried to reason out the laws and precedents (preceding case decisions) which will inform how the court decides on issues like religious liberty relating to homosexual marriage, marijuana legalization, and the president’s travel ban. Mentally this was an exhausting day. There also wasn’t anything to take pictures of.

Later this evening, however, we had dinner at City Tavern. Its a great mostly historically accurate recreation of an eating a drinking establishment of the 1700’s. Although we were very talkative and had a lot of fun I get the idea it used to be a lot rowdier. Check out the bill from one night when a troop of cavalry gave a dinner for George Washington after the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

City Tavern c.1773

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The Reconstructed City Tavern Today

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2017 Summer Blog #7

Day 2 in Philadelphia

Today I spent all afternoon inside a federal courthouse. I  hope you all get to go in one someday… either as tourists, lawyers, or judges not as someone appealing a conviction, but who knows.

After some talking we were given a hypothetical case to try before the court. Our case was made up but quite realistic about the confiscation and searching of a student’s cell phone. (You all might be surprised to know I took the side of the student although some of the arguments on the other side were very persuasive) Our ‘supreme court’ was made up of eight people chosen from our class along with one real judge, Marjorie Rendell, who is a federal appeals court judge working in the courthouse here in Philadelphia. She in particular was hard on the teams of teachers arguing both sides of the case.


Not the best picture but you can see Judge Rendell in the center under the seal.


The courtroom is very impressive as is the security entailed in getting inside, but what i was most impressed with was the people (lawyers, judges, law clerks) who talked to us there and expressed a very heartfelt desire for students like you all to understand the legal system better. They seemed to be good people who didn’t always agree about the law but respected each other immensely. They appeared to be trying to live out the message I saw when I looked up to the courtroom’s ceiling.



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2017 Summer Blog #6

Day 1 in Philadelphia

Guess who I found.


Bronze Alexander Hamilton

The National Constitution Center , where my classes are has a who hall full of life size bronze replicas of the signers of the Constitution. And there’s Hamilton in the middle of the room, walking up to George Washington, looking like he owns the place.

Later that evening the center staff took us all (30 of us) to dinner at this place.


Guess what the name of the restaurant’s name references. Go ahead guess.

 “Hamilton earned the affectionate nickname the “Little Lion” because of his lean stature and intelligence, and Washington himself grew fond of the young lieutenant- colonel, who he came to rely on heavily.”


Then I discovered this building just across the street.


The First Bank of the United States


For anyone who isn’t aware…

After the Revolutionary War, the United States faced overwhelming debt and an uncertain commercial future. As a response, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton stepped forward with a plan to establish a national bank, which would give the federal government more authority to handle the fiscal situation. His proposal incited a heated debate that tested the U.S. Constitution’s boundaries and laid the foundation for the country’s financial system. Located on 3rd Street between Walnut and Chestnut, the First Bank of the United States is currently closed to the public, but its compelling history and stunning exterior continually draw observers from all over the world.

Here’s the link to the National Park site for the First Bank of the US

So…yes its been a Hamilton heavy trip so far. But that’s not really what I’ve been hearing about in class. More non-Hamilton stuff next time.

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2017 Summer Blog #5 – Hamilton and Washington

So here we go finally something about Washington, who was a probably the most influential person (except maybe Eliza) in Hamilton’s life. Frankly I’m not sure how I got this to be such a short bit of audio seeing as people have literally written books about the relationship between these two.

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2017 Summer Blog #4 – Hamilton’s Financial Genius

Ok, its been way more than one week but we had a baby not long after the last update so I’ve been a little busy. But now here are my recorded thoughts on Hamilton’s financial ideas, the Whiskey Rebellion, and a the beginning of the two party system in the U.S. I apologize in advance for the background noise. Someone is doing work on a house on my street, which seems to involve the use of three very loud generators and a bunch of other unnecessarily loud machinery. I tried to edit the audio to make it better, but…meh…

Once again there are something like a dozen songs in the musical dealing with Hamilton’s financial strategies and plans so I can’t even pick one to emphasize.


I’m going to aim at doing a few more posts about Hamilton before moving on to a different topic. Probably Revolutionary War spies cause I’ve sort of found myself fascinated by that topic recently.



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