Lombard Street Riots Site

This marker commemorates the 1842 eruption of the mounting tension between 19th-century South Philadelphia's two largest minority groups: African Americans and Irish immigrants. On August 1, 1842, more than 1,000 blacks took part in a temperance parade to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the West Indies. They were attacked on Fourth Street by an Irish mob that beat many of the marchers and looted black homes in the area. The marchers retaliated in self-defense, further enraging the Irish mob. The rioting continued for three days.

African Americans and Irish immigrants lived in the same general vicinity and directly competed for the same unskilled jobs and housing. The Irish and free blacks clung to bottom rung of the economic ladder, and frequently clashed in their efforts to climb up. Both felt that their hard won, if meager, social and economic gains were constantly threatened and that their basic rights being eroded. The Irish were challenged by the Nativists' religious and racial bigotry that influenced everything from politics to the temperance movement. Free blacks were never truly safe because of fugitive slave laws, and in 1838 Pennsylvania stripped free blacks of their right to vote. The strength and vitality of Philadelphia's fast-growing free-black community generated fear, frustration and eventually violence on the part of the Irish immigrants.

During the riots of 1842, the mob burned down the Second African Presbyterian Church and Smith's Hall on Lombard Street, which had been the site of abolition lectures since abolitionist hub Pennsylvania Hall was destroyed in the riots of 1838. The Irish rioters headed west toward the home of prominent and outspoken African American leader Robert Purvis at 9th and Lombard. Purvis sat on the steps of his home armed and ready. Ultimately, his home was spared from the inferno by the intervention of a Catholic priest. Purvis eventually relocated permanently to his rural Bucks County home, but the neighborhood that would become Society Hill continued to grow and change, remaining an incubator for the American urban experience well into the 21st century.

References

  • Borome, Joseph A. "The Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 92 (1968): 320-351.
  • Nash, Gary B. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Lombard Street Riot." Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?objID=442806&mode=2&open=514&markerId=641
  • Salisbury, Stephan. "Society Hill emerged amid tumultuous times—The genteel neighborhood, a blueprint for gentrification, was born amid fierce clashes over economics and housing." The Philadelphia Inquirer, Where We Live—Life in Society Hill & Old City, March 17, 2004.

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southeast corner of 6th & Lombard Sts.

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Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church Shot Tower Conveyed Hancock Street Houses Site of the Southwark Soup Society Weccacoe Engine Co.'s House, and Reception of United Fire Co. of Baltimore Church of St. Philip Neri Court having nine small houses in rear of a tenement house Mario Lanza Park banner Pelzer Funeral Home Southwark/Queen Village Community Garden Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church front entrance Budweiser's Bar Phillips Temple Christian Methodist Church St. Stanislaus Catholic Church James Forten Kesher Israel Synagogue B'nai Abraham synagogue Mt. Tabor African Methodist Church Lombard Street Riot Historical Marker Octavius V. Catto W.E.B. Du Bois portrait Firefighter Stephen Presco, Engine 11 Housefronts on 600 Block of Kater Street Bedford Street Mission The Antiquarian's Delight Retail Depot of the Great Philadelphia Made Clothing N. Snellenburg & Co. Curb Market, 4th Street and South Street Famous 4th Street Delicatessen sign 4th Street, 1940 Marmelstein's front window on Fabric Row Casa Ravello Milk Station House of Industry historical marker Graphic Sketch Club Julia and Aldo Allegrini wedding L'Opinione: Il Departmento Circolazione Vietnamese Hung Vuong Association Curtis Publishing Plant/Lofts at Bella Vista Isgro Pastries storefront St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church Verdi Hall Italian Market, 1947 Lady of Good Council R.C. Church, Christian above 8th Sts. Interior of Luigi Fiorella Meat Market Italian & American Maccaroni Works Dan Khang Nha Trang sign Anthony's Chocolate House exterior D'Angelo's Specialty Meats storefront Playbill for the "The Passion Play of Christ"  presented by the Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese, 1931 The Procession of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi mural Fante-Leone Public Pool Cannuli Brothers storefront Talluto's Authentic Italian Food storefront Grassia's Italian Market Spice Company Lupita's Grocery Store storefront Paul Giordano Sr. Saigon Maxim restaurant Jefferson Square Mia (left) and Mary (right) Viola St. Maron's Church exterior Bitar's Eastern Mediterranean Grill Southeast Corner - 9th Street and Washington Avenue Washington Avenue Immigration Station
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