Edgar Fahs Smith
Release Date: 01 September 2007
CHEMISTRY IN OLD PHILADELPHIA Oh dear is a tale of Olden Time And I am glad to tell of Chemistry in Old Philadel- phia as I found it in ancient volumes, musty documents and seared and forgotten letters In the period when Pennsylvania was a Province In the good old days when every house in the City had its doorporch, occupied generally by families in repose and social intercourse, or by youth who there vied in telling strange, incredible stories, and in singing bal- lads favorites of the day which disclosed to the passer-by many fine, rich melodious voices In the days when it was thought an effeminacy in men to be seen cleaning the teeth at all, the genteelest being content to rub them with a chalked rag or with snuff When the voice of the devout and ardent Whitefield rang out clear as a bell on renowned High Street, calling sinners to their knees, and was plainly heard upon Society Hill, and on the eastern shores of the swiftly flowing and majestic Delaware When night watchmen repressed nightly insults When the Old State House, venerable pile, consecrated by numerous deeds in our colonial and revolutionary history, was the attractive center of high and low, because there the representatives of a nation resolved to be free and independent, and its sacred bell rang out Proclaim liberty throughout the land, and to all the people thereof In the days when a single structure, humble alone, stood in the field across the way, bearing on its shield the legend State House Inn, the scene of many a fierce political struggle, or famous banquet, continued midst song and click of glass to morning dawn where ruled supreme the despotic Norah, passing fair, who drew after her the Qglebys of the day Whenthe prose, the poetry and the pranks of a Hop- kinson, the puns of a Pennington, and the pungent probes of a Pemberton, presented proofs of the pleasantry of that period to which times since past were perfect strangers When in the opening years of the young Republic there was an impolitic and extravagant affection for fair France, in that lads on the streets donned the National Cockade and saluted French Marines and officers with, Vive la Republique, Allons enfans de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive, etc. When the Mansion House, on South Third Street, was frequented by the elite, and by such distinguished guests as Madame Iturbide, wife of Mexicos Emperor, and her family When Lafayette occupied the east wing of Independence Hall as his reception room but While we thus retrace with memorys pointing wand, That calls the past to our exact review I am reminded that in colonial days, and in the early years of the Republic, there were chemists in the City of Brotherly Love. To a few of them let me introduce you. First, to Dr. de Normandie. While probably more of a physician, yet he was a lover of chemistry as it then existed. My chief purpose in presenting him is that from his pen came the first chemical contribution which appeared in print in this country, at least the first to find its way into the pages of the first volume of the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. It bears the date 1768. It treats of the chemical nature of water brought from a spring at Bristol, Pa. To chemists this contribution appeals because from it one may gather ideas regarding the knowledge of chemical analysis pre- vailing at that early period. The methods employed to detect iron, calcium, magnesium and the acid ions were most primitive. We marvel as we read, and unthink- ingly ask how could such absurd things be expected to reveal anything but pray be not so exacting...
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