Arch Street Friends Meeting House

Quakers should be taught to “…read the Nature, Use and Service of Trees, Birds, Beast, and Serpents …” Thomas Lawson, 1680 “A Mite Into the Treasury”

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John Bartram at Independence Hall, Philadelphia PA.

There are many sites to be visited of an historic nature in downtown Philadelphia. The obvious start of any 21st Century tour is Independence Hall. But a short walk to the north will bring the interested visitor to a hallowed place higher in station to any original immigrant member of the Society of Friends.

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The Arch Street Meeting House at 320 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA, 19106 is constructed on the grounds of an earlier Friends cemetery.

I never set foot inside the doors of this meeting house. In my prime, the land was a burial ground for members of the Society. We don’t believe in markers or burial adornments.

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A diorama of William Penn entering into a peace treaty in 1683 with Tamanene, a chief of the Lenape (Delaware Indians) Turtle Clan. It was to be challenged by the infamous “Walking Purchase” by Penn’s successors.

In later years, the land was enclosed with brick walls to keep out the rowdy boys and wandering cows.

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The rows of original benches in the large meeting room.

By the 1800’s this building was constructed over the graves in order to give a home to the annual gathering of Friends in the greater Philadelphia area. This was ordained by a group of women, who pressed for a building that would be large enough to house separate business meetings for both men and women. This resulting structure thus includes two large spaces of equal size with matching facilities.

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I remember the days on the streets of historic Philadelphia as if they were yesterday. That gentleman in the middle could be my younger self!

It is the largest Friends’ meeting house in the world. In Philadelphia. Of course!

It continues its function today as a conference center for groups of all religious persuasions. It is open daily to the general public and should be included on any respectable tour of the City of Brotherly Love!

121st Annual Court of the Society of Colonial Wars, State of New Jersey, Princeton

“Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent!”  Benjamin Disraeli

“We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.”  Queen Elizabeth II

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John Bartram at The Society of Colonial Wars. I feel underdressed for this brilliant occasion.

While not as old as I profess, and younger than many other similar organizations, this association was founded in New York in 1892 for the purpose of furthering the interest in, and study of, America’s colonial history for the period between the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia on May 13, 1607 and the battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.

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Age was no barrier to membership or acceptance. Obviously. Although not as well dressed, I was certainly the oldest person present.

The members of the Society are male descendants of those in military, naval and civil positions of high trust and responsibility whose acts and counsel assisted in the establishment, defense and growth of the American Colonies.

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Many medals. Much history. Beautiful stories. Society of Colonial Wars.

And they invited me to speak to them. I don’t know that I’d actually qualify for membership. Perhaps as a result of founding the American Philosophical Society with Benjamin Franklin…?

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Friendly faces greeted me. But I didn’t get to discover the meaning of the order around his neck.

It was a brilliant night. After the Call to Order, there was significant toasting to (and in order…) the President of the United States, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, The Armed Forces of the United States of America and Its Allies, The General Society of Colonial Wars, Absent Friends, and finally: to the Ladies. There were remarks by the Governor General, The Presentation of Awards, and a Ceremony of the Broken Arrow.

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Orders were both religious and military, diplomatic and royal. The symbolism and the heraldry, although a complete mystery to me, were evident and explained by many in the convocation.

I felt underdressed in the crush of white-tied dignitaries, flash of military orders and political bands, and sparkle of the formally gowned wives. The evening was overwhelming.

Exhibiting Bartram’s Boxes

My head runs all upon the works of God in nature. It is through that telescope I see God in his glory.” John Bartram, December 3, 1762

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The exhibition was opened at The Center for Art and Wood in Philadelphia.

It’s only taken 250 plus years. And then only after a devastating storm, to begin the process of regeneration and renewal. I viewed it as a fortuitous and timely sequence of events.

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One artist’s vision included many small and intricate wooden receptacles. Like the seeds of my many shipments!

The Exhibit was entitled Bartram’s Boxes Remix!

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This small wooden ship was set into the midst of a turbulent sea. Like my precious packages leaving the new world for the old.

My work on the introduction and cataloguing of new North American species of plants is celebrated in this unique exhibition. Artists from around the world were solicited for proposals that would use material collected from devastation wrought in my garden by a severe weather event.

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Could have been the title of this brilliant exhibit.

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Roots, like time, can be in a bottle. Cast to the winds and the currents.

These proposals and the juried exhibition that followed were the results of that solicitation. The exhibit was brilliant.

The Center for Art in Wood is the organization responsible for this outstanding display. Its headquarters is just around the corner from Betsy Ross and her exhibit based on the introduction of the colors and construction of the American Flag. They are both worth your interest and time.

West Chester University Tree Campus USA

West Chester University Tree Campus USA

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”   Mahatma Gandhi

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A gathering of tree tenders.

West Chester University was named Tree Campus USA. A ceremony of dedication was planned by School’s Administration during Earth Week and specifically on Arbor Day. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

Formal dedication of the Tree Campus USA with the great Bartram Oak standing behind.

In order to qualify for Tree Campus USA status, an institution of higher learning must submit an application that demonstrates they have adhered to a set of five standards: 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The office of the President of West Chester University. Mr. and Mrs. Greg Weisenstein with Mr. and Mrs. John Bartram.

Standard 1—Establish a Campus Tree Advisory Committee. This committee must include a representative from the undergraduate or graduate student body, faculty, facility management, and the community at large. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

John and Ann Mendenhall Bartram near the gothic arcade.

Standard 2—Manage a Campus-wide Tree Care Plan. From a clearly stated purpose, goals and objectives will be outlined. Responsibility and accountability will be defined. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A true photographic opportunity.

Standard 3—Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures. The hard work of establishing any garden is the money required to plant and maintain it. A suggested budget of $3.00 per student is a base line. In fact, the national average among recognized Tree Campuses is currently $9.00 to $11.00 per student. That is an empowering statement of intent. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The Earth Day celebration carried over onto the Campus Quadrangle.

Standard 4—Celebrate Arbor Day. I was present to witness the monumental undertakings that the college had put in place.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

A War Reinactment and conflict of interesting peoples.

They had a grand military reenactment, a quad-full of earth day student organizations, and the recognition of their Bartram Oak. With John Bartram. Outstanding! 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

Schedule 5 has students, faculty and the community planting trees on the West Chester University Campus

Standard 5—Development of a Service Learning Project. At West Chester, the student body was actively involved in a series of tree planting and gardening projects. This was a very life-affirming group of young adults. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

In the wilderness searching for colonies of wild Ginseng.

After the ceremony, I was shown the wilderness preserve. It was the spring season when the forest floor was coming alive. The curator of the wilds directed me to an area fenced off as protection from deer predation. The fencing was protecting wild Ginseng. 

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

In the Darlington Herbarium, perusing Humphrey Marshall’s collection of Bartram’s Garden Franklinia alatamaha.

Lastly, the director of the herbarium unlocked the door to a room of wonder. Behind locked metal doors on cabinets lining the walls were books filled with hundreds of dried examples of natural botanical history. A book was brought out and placed on the clean steel surface in front of me. It was the collection samples gathered by Humphrey Marshall from Bartram’s Garden. 

Humphrey was my cousin. Our mothers were sisters. He had a collection of native specimens in a botanical garden he created in Marshallton. In 1785, he published Arboretum Americanum: the American Grove, an Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the American United States. 

And there in my hands was the result of his passionate dedication to collecting. From my garden. And possibly a leaf and flower from the first successfully cultivated Franklinia Altamaha.

John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown, Humphrey Marshall, West Chester University, Tree Campus USA, Darlington Herbarium

The surprise of coming up against a Franklinia leaf collected from Bartram’s Garden in the first generation of its discovery.

A Gardener’s Studio

A Gardener’s Studio

“A society grows great when old men plant  trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”   Greek proverb

“Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God.”   Thomas Jefferson

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

John had help from the students at Williamson Technical School as well as the staff at PHS.

Staff members from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society asked me to talk. I agreed. If an opportunity presents itself to share a good word on the cause of botany before an enthusiastic audience, one should always accept it.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The audience was stilled by the discussion of John’s position in horticultural history.

The presentation was a give and take. Reviewing nearly 300 years of horticultural history can be a daunting proposition if all that’s covered is facts, figures, faces, and fictions.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

After the introduction, I had the audience to myself.

It’s much better if the history takes second place to interest, enthusiasm and contemporary point of reference.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

The amplification device suited my mood and costume.

I was directed to use a device to project my voice over a large area of benched seating. There was a crowd of people collected on the seats while others walked past during and around the events of the hour.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

I had a full house at the first appearance.

Questions were asked and answered. And I was included in the discussion. “Who was I?” “What did I do?” “Are you William Penn?” (That was a popular question posed throughout the day!) “How do you ship plants in wooden ships?”

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

The snake on the stick was a great topic of conversation. Throughout my entire appearance on the show floor.

All of the questions were well received and thoroughly dissected.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Louise Clarke was present to confirm some of the horticultural details.

I must say that it was a pleasurable honor to be asked to speak. It was a momentous occasion to then have a repeat performance on a second night. It allowed me to change my linen and present a much more formal front.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

Large format advertising. The best format there is!

As for my wife, Ann had finally been allowed to come out from the fireside and experience her husband’s rhetoric in the first person.

Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, John Bartram, Kirk R. Brown

“Wait a moment!”

It’s a grand night when family members can come together in public to bask in the reflected glow of the limelight.

John Bartram Lives, Kirk R. Brown, Gardeners Studio, Philadelphia Flower Show, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Kirk joins Sara out of context and out of character during the Press Preview of the Philadelphia Flower Show. It’s an awesome experience to see the exhibits being installed!

Kimmel Center and Chef Staib’s Taste of History

Kimmel Center and Chef Staib’s Taste of History

“My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied by the best.”  Winston Churchill

“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”   Ben Franklin

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

It was an historic gathering. The cause was to celebrate a major anniversary of Mr. Thomas Jefferson. But the truth of the group’s selection was a celebration of food stuffs from the 18th Century.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Thomas Jefferson was in the spotlight. It was, after all, his birthday we were there to celebrate!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

At the post-performance reception, Chef Walter Staib had a moment to share his confidence with John Bartram.

Chef Walter Staib is the host of the contemporary version of the City Tavern. He has brought notoriety to the unique foods, preparations, and services of hospitality from the days of my major travels.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The Kimmel Center is only blocks away from The City Tavern where all of this history would have occurred.

Mr. George Washington was accompanied by his most gracious wife, Martha. The two were certainly the centerpiece of the evening’s story line. They formed the stolid center around which the ceremonial gavotte was danced.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The rehearsal for the opening night was centered on General Washington. For him, there was no separate character or change of costume. Perfection.

Mr. John Adams and the educated Abigail were the highly erudite personalities in the room. I felt humbled by the thoughts articulated in their dialogue. While their loving considerations were well noted, John’s presence was overshadowed by Abigail, to whom I must give the present of “Outstanding Female Contributor” to the evening’s thoughts.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The First Ladies enjoyed moments of conversation.

She was joined in feminine felicitude by Dolley Madison and Betsy Ross. They joined in civil conversation during the evening by trading on popular stories of their meetings and musings. They held the stage brilliantly.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The First Ladies treated Betsy Ross like an equal. This is an egalitarian democracy!

Thomas Jefferson reviewed his history of the creation and publication of his grand Declaration. The true politics of the situation were overlooked in the gentlemanly good humor of the night. It would have been inappropriate to discuss those disagreements from the other side of the Atlantic.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Always contentious, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson played at gentlemanly combat.

For me, however, the supreme appearance of the evening was made by my close friend and most influential mentor, Benjamin Franklin. After all these years, it was so good to see that time doesn’t dim the glow of old friendships and the fireworks from halcyon days.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Ben Franklin. Simply said. Well done!


He was up to his old standards of political gamesmanship, delivery of humorous bon mots, and attitude of all-powerful elder statesman. Truly, he has aged like old and extra fine brandy.

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

Ben Franklin–as always!–was the life of the post-production party.

How remarkable to live to an age where this gathering can take on such round tones and happy hazing. It was spectacular to end the evening with a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

The women rehearse. How different we all are sans costumes.

The rocket’s red glare could have been the reflection from the many theatrical lighting devices clustered around this revolutionary pantheon. Amazing!

Kirk R. Brown, John Bartram, Chef Walter Staib, A Taste of History, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia PA

John Bartram is ready for the spotlight!

Saint Peter’s Festival!

Saint Peter’s Festival!

“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”  Leviticus 25:10

“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”  Thomas Jefferson 

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

The cemetery has burials from the Revolutionary War.

Saint Peter’s Church in the Valley held its first service on September 4, 1761. I remember the date especially. It was formed from a group that moved away from their mother church in Society Hill. There was an elegant ring to the connections.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

This is one of the reasons that John Bartram was disowned from his Quaker meeting.

It had been four years since the Darby Meeting had disowned me so I was always conscious of new congregations starting up. This one was noteworthy because of its magnificent edifice designed by local Philadelphia architect William Strickland.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

A handsome couple. John and Ann Mendenhall Bartram.

George and Martha Washington were often to be found in the pew box belonging to Mayor Samuel Powel. The tower and steeple, although later additions, housed a monumental bell cast by the Whitechapel Foundry-also known for their casting of what has become known as the Liberty Bell.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Dancers in the gavotte. It was a merry band.

The organ case dates from 1764 and has been restored to magnificent condition by a continuing strong ministry of music. That is quite a lot for a former Quaker to recognize or understand in a Sunday worship service.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Ann is among friends of the dance.

But the day that I came recently to Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in the Valley, it was a festival. In my day, it was almost always called The Church of England. Or C. of E. for short. All things change. But in this case, those changing things wanted to relive a bit of their collected past.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

The venue location.

They invited John and his lovely wife Ann Mendenhall Bartram to participate in the celebration. It’s always a holiday when John and Ann get to travel together! And they had dancers and a Faire on the lawn.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Traditional tatting.

They had vendors of woven tapes, and plants, and musical instruments and fine costumes.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

An 18th Century cooking demonstration.

And food! Lest we forget the food.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

Entertainment from the 18th Century.

The day was rapid-fire from the beginning. We took a tour of the fenced graveyard. It contains the remains of Revolutionary war dead from both sides. Wars were fought over this land! And special mention should be made that it is also the burial site of Charles Wilson Peale, the son of a very good friend. As well as the burial of Commodore Stephen Decatur-hero of the Battle of Tripoli.

St Peters Episcopal Church in the Great Valley, Kirk R. Brown, Sara E. Brown, John Bartram, Ann Mendenhall Bartram, St Peters Festival

A true Sheep’s Meadow in the cemetery. The original lawn mowers.

It was a day well spent in the country with marvelous fellowship in places of my recollection. How could a life be made fuller than with a collection of days such as these? Ah, the refreshing goodness of a country life!