Observations of Sir Henry Singer Keating, 1830
Published as "Philadelphia in 1830: An English View," by Russel M. Ponser, ed., in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 95 (April 1971), pages 239-43.
The following is an excerpt from Keating's travel journal of his visit to Philadelphia. Appropriate illustrations have been added to bring the author's words to life, and to help the reader identify the subjects of his observations. Simply click on the highlighted words to see an image of the building being discussed. See below for a list of images used on this page. The images will open in a second window, so Windows users may need to resize their browser screens to view both at once.
The Bank of the United States with Doric Facades (the facade is modelled after that of the Parthenon.) is much admired. In my opinion of the architrave and pediment are too heavy for the columns. The Bank of Pennsylvania is I think handsomer, the order is Ionic. "The Mint" is not yet quite finished, but promises to be handsome. The city is laid out as far back as the Schuylkill River, about 3 miles, but is not yet built over, should however the population go on increasing, as it has done, this will soon be accomplished, at least they seem to think so in America, for they have laid out New York, Philadelphia, etc. to contain population as great as that of London. Northwest of the city about 2 miles distant are the water works by which the city is supplied with water; it is forced from the Schuylkill up into reservoirs on the top of a hill, from whence it goes to the city, and the level of the reservoirs being above [the] level of the houses, water is conducted to any part of them without any forcing pump. The machinery is very simple and well constructed, the power employed is that of water. The prison also is in this direction, built on the new plan of the Philanthropists in this city. It is to try the effect of solitary confinement [with] labour (It has been asserted however that insanity is frequently produced by this species of confinement.) a solitude so complete that from the time he [the prisoner] goes in until he comes out, he never sees or hears an individual. A Bible is provided for him, and he is allowed to exercise in the air an hour each day, but except in case of sickness, he never sees a human being except the jailer, who never speaks. The system is said to answer very well, but the length of time for trial has not as yet been sufficiently great.
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