Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nightlife in Philadelphia, 1849

Nathan Beekley, a young clerk in Philadelphia, kept a diary in 1849 in which he chronicled his frequent and fascinated attendance at plays, concerts, shows, sermons, and parades. The city's increasing array of commodified entertainments (as fellow resident Joseph Sill remarked in 1840, "There are now 4 Theatres open every night—and 1 Equestrian Circus! Rather too much for Philadelphia!”) was a significant source of new kinds of cultural experiences and obsessions. For some young, rural, white men, away from their families for the first time to work in the city's merchant shops and manufactories, the diversions were almost overwhelming. The American Antiquarian Society, which holds Beekley's remarkable diary, is currently making its contents available online at Clerk and the City.

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