What did Paul Jünger experience upon arrival in Philadelphia?

When the ship “Two Brothers” sailed up the Delaware River and arrived at the docks of Philadelphia on September 15, 1748, Paul Jünger and his fellow passengers looked upon the largest city in the American colonies and the second largest city in the British Empire.  Only London surpassed Philadelphia in population at that point in time.  However, the estimate of inhabitants of Philadelphia in 1748 indicates that its population was only between 15,000 and 25,000 people.

By modern standards 18th century major cities would be considered towns today.  Nevertheless, relative to Paul’s frame of reference Philadelphia as he viewed it from the “Two Brothers” must have appeared to be huge.  An early engraving of Philadelphia dating from 1754, six years after Paul arrived in 1748, was commissioned by Nicholas Scull, Surveyor General of the Province of Pennsylvania.  The large panorama depicts the water front view of Philadelphia from the New Jersey shore looking across the Delaware River. 

The central portion representing about half of the total width of the engraving is presented below.  The engraver employed by Nicholas Scull was Gerard Vandergucht.  This image was taken from a book titled Philadelphia: a 300 Year History by the Barra Foundation and published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1982.  The cited source of the picture in that publication is the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  This is an excellent book on Philadelphia history.


The structures noted numerically are as follows according to the caption accompanying the picture in the book cited above:

1.    The steeple of the State House (Independence Hall) on Chestnut Street.

2.    The original Court House dating from 1710 in the center of Market Street.

3.    The steeple of Christ Church near Market street.

4.    The steeple of the Academy on Arch Street at Fourth.

5.    The steeple of the Presbyterian Church on Arch Street at Third.

6.    The steeple of the German Reformed Church on Race Street near Fourth.

It should be noted that the appearance of the skyline of Philadelphia to Paul Jünger as his ship approached the docks in 1748 had some significant differences compared to the engraving above made just six years later in 1754.  There were no steeples on the Philadelphia skyline in 1748.  The steeple of the State House (Independence Hall) was not constructed until 1750-1753 although the adjacent building dates from the 1730’s.  Furthermore, the tower and steeple of Christ Church near the old 1710 Court House were not begun until 1751.  However, the oldest parts of the church building itself date to the late 1720’s. 

History articles on the subject of the erection of the tower and steeple for the Anglican Christ Church indicate that the planners and builders of that project were involved in a race with those involved in the construction of the State House bell tower to become the first to have a steeple in Philadelphia.  The steeple of the First Presbyterian church was in the plans at this time but it would likely be the third steeple to grace the skyline of Philadelphia behind the State House and Christ Church.

Further substantiation of the fact that in 1748, when Paul Jünger arrived in Philadelphia, there were no steeples on the skyline comes from an eyewitness statement by Gottlieb Mittelberger who came to Philadelphia in 1750.  He remarks in his published work Journey to Pennsylvania in the Year 1750 and returning to Germany in the Year 1754 “…the town did not have a steeple with a bell or clock, and there is no striking of the hours, which seems very dull to newcomers, especially in the night.”

Aside from the issue of steeples not being visible from approaching vessels on the Delaware in 1748, the engraving of 1754 does offer some insight into what Paul and his fellow passengers would have noticed as they sailed closer and closer to Philadelphia.  The engraving depicts many docks along the shoreline of the central part of the city.  In fact in excess of 60 different wharfs existed on the waterfront in mid 18th century Philadelphia.  Clearly, the port of Philadelphia was a busy place for arriving and departing vessels.  The engraving shows a wide variety of vessels; ships, sloops, schooners, brigs, warships, & etc.

One of the frequently published professional historians on the topic of Germanic immigration into Pennsylvania in the 18th century is John T. Humphrey.  His most well known publications are a fourteen-volume set of Pennsylvania Births that list more than 170,000 recorded births in eleven eastern Pennsylvania counties.  Mr. Humphrey manages the Education Program of the National Genealogical Society in Arlington, Virginia.  He wrote an article titled Life in Mid-Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania which discusses many aspects of the Germanic immigration experience.  I found a copy of the article on the internet.  The following excerpts describe the experience of German immigrants as they arrived in Philadelphia:

“When a ship finally arrived in Philadelphia, people usually gathered on the wharf.  The narrator of another journal noted as they approached the dock, “…a crowd of persons was seen gathering on shore in expectation the newly arrived immigrants were to be exposed for sale.”  Merchants looking for servants soon boarded.  Frequently, those merchants were the proprietors of the ship or were in the employ of the owner.  An official account was taken to determine the passengers who could be sold as indentured servants.  The merchant then placed an advertisement in one of the Philadelphia newspapers, “German Servants For Sale.”  Sometimes, those advertisements noted the wharf where the ship docked—information that can be especially useful for any family historian whose ancestors may have arrived on a ship so advertised.

Frequently, a representative of the government accompanied the merchants.  The official was not looking for servants, but wanted to make certain that all fit males sixteen and older who were aliens disembarked and proceeded to the courthouse where the required oath was given.  Immigrants, whose origins were not in the British Isles, made their way to the courthouse located at second and High Streets. As they proceeded to the courthouse they climbed the steep riverbank to the city on some very wobbly legs. After an extended period of time at sea they were used to the rocking motion of the ship, and they did not have their “land” legs. Most probably looked like a pack of drunken sailors as they proceeded to the courthouse.

The captain of the vessel usually led the way.  When the alien immigrants entered the courthouse, a representative of the government—namely the Mayor, President of the Assembly, or a Justice of the Court—was waiting.  He told them they were now in a country that belonged to the King of England; a fact that required them to take an oath of allegiance to that King and his successors.  The oath was then explained to the immigrants.  Given the numbers of Germans arriving in Philadelphia, one presumes that someone was available who could translate.  The immigrants had to promise they would conduct themselves as good and faithful subjects, that they would not revolt against his Majesty, nor would they settle on lands that were not their own.  They were also required to abjure or renounce allegiance to the Pope.  In the words of another narrator, “After we took the oath, we signed our names to two different papers, one belonged to the King and the other to the government of Pennsylvania.”

Newly arrived German, and Scotch-Irish immigrants probably noticed several things almost immediately.  First, the city had not walls.  Many towns and villages of comparable size in Europe still retained their medieval fortifications.  Second, the streets in Philadelphia were rectilinear, running at ninety-degree angles to one another.  Streets in the Quaker capital did not meander as did many streets in European towns and villages.  Newly arrived immigrants most likely commented that in Philadelphia streets were much wider than in Germany or England.”

When Paul Jünger arrived at the dock in Philadelphia on September 15, 1748 he was escorted along with other male passengers aged sixteen and older to the court house which was on 2nd and High (Market) Street.  This court house was constructed in 1710.  In the History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884 by Scharf and Westcott, published in 1884 by L.H. Everts & Co. the following description was given:

(The court house) “which was completed towards the close of the year 1710, was built at the eastern end of the old market-house, on High Street, between Second and Third Streets.  It stood upon arches, with brick pillars for them to rest upon, the basement being open for market stalls.  It was a quaint, old-fashioned structure, with a little cupola and a bell, and having a balcony in the front, over the door, and flights of steps leading up to it.  This balcony covered an enclosure beneath it which was rented for a shop, and from the balcony nearly all the out-door speech-making in Philadelphia was heard.  The Governors used to deliver their inaugural addresses here,…This court-house was the town hall and seat of the Legislature and the Municipal Council also, statehouse, and town-house, until the State-House was erected in 1735.”

According to other descriptions, the upstairs portion of the building was used for the mayor’s office and his court.  The Legislature stopped using the 1710 court house in favor of the State-House when it became available in the 1730’s.  However, the mayor of Philadelphia and municipal government continued using the 1710 court house until 1791 when the second courthouse was completed next to Independence Hall (the State-House).  The following drawing is taken from Scharf & Westcott’s History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884: 

Another drawing of this 1710 court house was made in 1764 in a political cartoon which is considered to be the earliest depiction of an internal view of Philadelphia.  It is taken from a publication titled FIRST CITY: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory by Gary B. Nash, published in 2002 by the University of Pennsylvania Press:

It is apparent from this picture in 1764 that the stairs leading to the balcony from both sides of the building were still intact at that date.  The market building extending westward from behind the court house is also evident. 

From a painting made in about 1820 a picture of the 1710 court house and the market building behind it shows that by that date the dual stairs ascending to the balcony had been removed.  This important historical structure where Paul Jünger, upon his arrival in 1748, officially pledged his allegiance to the King of England and gave his oath to obey the government of the Province of Pennsylvania, was removed in 1837:

Today not a trace of this important historical facility remains.  No commemorative plaque or any other reminder is present on the sight.  It seems very inappropriate and disappointing that nothing exists to remind anyone visiting the spot in Philadelphia today of the significant role this building played in receiving thousands of German speaking immigrants into their new homeland. 

On a visit to Philadelphia I took some photographs of the location where this original 1710 court house once stood.  The first view is from a spot where Ben Franklin’s printing shop was located.  There is a commemorative plaque to that effect mounted on a nearby structure.  It seems to me that a similar historical marker for the old court house at the intersection of 2nd and Market (High) Street would be very appropriate:

The 1710 court house stood in the middle of the street underneath the left stoplight in the modern picture above.  To my right on a nearby structure is the plaque about Benjamin Franklin’s printing shop:

 Another picture of the modern appearance of the location of the 1710 court house was taken from the northwest corner of the intersection of 2nd and Market (High) Street.  The court house and market building were centered, more or less, on the strip of bricks which run down the middle of Market Street:

After visiting the court house to take the various legal oaths and to sign the appropriate documents of that process, the German immigrants were led back to their ship.  If they were able to pay they own expenses of the trip from Europe, they were free to leave the ship with no further restrictions beyond those they affirmed when taking their oaths and commitments at the court house.

However, 50% to 70% of the immigrants had to endure the often traumatic indentured servant ordeal.  Circumstantial evidence detailed in another section of this web site suggests that Paul Jünger probably was in this majority group.  He was probably contracted as an indentured servant to someone from Bern Township of Berks County which is north of Reading, Pennsylvania.  The case for this hypothesis is presented in the section of this web site which deals with Paul’s movements after he arrived in Philadelphia in 1748 until he settled for the final time in Newberry Township of York County, Pennsylvania by 1780.




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