Sunday, March 05, 2006

Edward Betts in Philadelphia

While Edward Betts' work as a pianomaker in Baltimore in the late 1840s and early 1850s is well documented, we know very little about his earlier life. Some time before 1834 he moved from Maryland, where he was born, to Pennsylvania. At some point he married, and two children, Edward Jr. and Louisa were born. Between 1836 and 1845, Edward married a second time, to Philadelphia native Anne Elizabeth Metcalfe.

We can use information from the U.S. Census and Philadelphia City Directories to help piece together what Edward was doing before returning to Baltimore in the mid-1840s.

Before 1840

It is likely that Edward Betts was living in Pennsylvania in 1834, when son Edward, Jr. was born. It is not known where in Pennsylvania the Betts family was living before 1840, however.

I found no listing for Edward in Silver's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania General & Business Directory for 1835-36 or in McElroy's Philadelphia City Directory for 1839 or 1840*. It is possible that the Betts family lived in York County (where they moved in the 1850s) or Bucks County (where a number of Betts families lived) at that time.

*Note that the directories were probably compild in the previous year, so the 1840 directory shows addresses in 1839. Also note that there was a grocer named Edward Betts in Philadelphia in the 1830s, who probably is not related to our Edward.

1840-1841: Moyamensing

The earliest record I've been able to find of Edward Betts in Philadelphia shows him living in the district of Moyamensing:

1840 Federal Census Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Co, Moyamensing District p.116, line 19
Edward Betts 1 - - - - 1 - - - - - - - 1 - - - 1 - - - - - - - -
The 1840 Census only lists the name of the head of the family, with the other household members listed by sex, race and age. In this case there was one white male age 30-39, consistent with our Edward who was born in about 1807; one white male under the age of 5, possibly Edward Jr., born about 1834; one white female under the age of 5, probably Louisa, born about 1836; and one white female age 20-29, likely Edward's wife.

One person in the household, presumably Edward, was employed in "Manufacturing and Trades". Piano making would certainly fall into that category.

The 1841 McElroy's Philadelphia City Directory lists:
Betts Smith, piano manuf., corner 9th and Carpenter. (Moyamensing)
Perhaps this is Edward Betts in partnership with a Mr. Smith in the piano manufacturing business. Unfortunately, I did not check the list of Smiths in the directory for piano makers.

Moyamensing is immediately south of the City Center of Philadelphia. In the early 1800s it was still largely rural. It was incorporated into the city of Philadelphia proper in 1854. Today the area around 9th and Carpenter is in the heart of the Italian area of South Philly.

Moyamensing Links:
1846 Philadelphia map
• Map of Moyamensing and Southwark from the Hexamer and Locher Maps of the City of Philadelphia 1858-62
• "Southwark, Moyamensing, Weccacoe, Passyunk, Dock Ward for two hundred and seventy years an historical review of the foundation, rise and progress of the southern portion of Philadelphia, comprising the territory lying below Walnut Street and east of Broad, including east of Third and south of Callowhill Street", 1892 (see Chapter XX: About Moyamensing (pdf))
history of Moyamensing
• 1820 Print of Moyamensing Botanic Gardens, southwest corner of 10th & Carpenter Streets
Moyamensing Prison, built in 1835 at 8th and Passyunk Ave. (Supposedly Edgar Allen Poe, while incarcerated for forging a check, saw several apparitions there, which has nothing to do with our genealogy, but makes an interesting story)

After 1841: Philadelphia

Shortly after 1840, Edward Betts moved into the city of Philadelphia proper, near Franklin Park in what is now the Independence Park neighborhood.

McElroy's Philadelphia City Directory for 1842 lists:
Betts Edwin, pianomr., S E 6th and Sassafras, h 98 Cherry
Betts & Miller, pianomrs., S E 6th and Sassafras
Miller Caleb, S E 6th and Sassafras, h 98 Cherry
"Edwin" Betts and Caleb Miller both lived at 98 Cherry and had a piano manufactury at the southeast corner of 6th and Sassafras (now Race) streets. It is probably not a coincidence that the Metcalfe family lived on the south side of Sassafras, just east of 6th street, in the 1840s. Perhaps he met his bride, Anne, when she passed his business. Cherry Street was two blocks below Sassafras.

The Betts family did not live in Philadelphia very long. By 1846 they had moved to the city of Baltimore, and Edward began his work with Knabe & Gaehle.

Sassafras (Race) and Cherry St. Links
Intersection of 6th and Race (click for a closeup view of each quadrant) from the Hexamer & Locher Atlas of Philadelphia, 1858-1862
• Maps, photos and other links from my previous post about 606 Race St.
Old house at corner of 6th & Cherry (1859), by Frederick DeB ourg.
• Photos of Cherry Street between Front and 2nd St.- "the nation’s oldest continually residential street. (Betts and Miller probably lived closer to 6th St., but this gives an idea of how it might have looked)
Birch's Views from The City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania North America: as it appeared in the Year 1800 consisting of Twenty Eight Plates,, engravings of Philadelphia. Pictures 203 and 204 show 4th and Cherry and 5th and Cherry.
Development of the Independence Park neighborhood after the American Revolution (including Sassafras (Race), 6th and Cherry Streets).

Who Was Caleb Miller?

In 1842, Edward Betts appears to have been a partner with Caleb Miller in the piano manufacturing business. When Edward left Philadelphia for Baltimore, Miller stayed behind and continued their manufacturing business. A little digging provides a little more background on Caleb and his family, and may provide additional insight into the life of Edward Betts.

Caleb Miller was born in about 1811 in Pennsylvania. He married a woman named Elizabeth, a native of New York, and they had three children: Frances, Georgianna and Angelo. According to the 1850 Census, the eldest, Frances, was born in about 1839 in New York.

McElroy's 1844 Philadelphia City Directory shows that Miller was still in the piano making business at the S W corner of 6th and Sassafras. In 1845, the address was 22 South 6th, which may or may not be the same location. It is not clear whether Betts was still his partner in 1845*.

By 1859, the Millers were living at 540 North 13th St. and the "piano furnisher store" was at 43 North 7th Street". It looks like he retired from the piano business shortly thereafter; the 1864 McElroy's City Directory indicates that Miller had a restaurant at the North 13th St. address, and the piano store is not mentioned.

Caleb Miller died at the age of 59, on March 18th 1870.

* I have not checked the 1844 or 1845 directory for Betts.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus! Happy St David's Day!

Today, March 1st, is St. David's day, honoring the patron saint of Wales.
St. David (or Dewi Sant in Welsh) was a 6th century monk who helped spread Christianity among the pagan Celtic tribes of western Britain, eventually becoming the archbishop of Wales.
Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate Saint David: the daffodil (a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March) or the leek (Saint David's personal symbol) on this day. The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Bedr (daffodil, literally "Peter's leek"). (from the Wikipedia article on St. David's Day)
Today is a the day to listen to Welsh songs and remember our ancestors who came to America from Wales - and pin a daffodil to your lapel.

• Rhys James Jones has written an interesting article about St. David and the celebration of this holiday in Wales.
St. David's Day Quiz (with answers at the end)
• The Wales Week in New York web site has an interesting article "Keeping Up with the Joneses" (pdf) about the Wales and the Welsh in America.


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