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tv   Carpenters Hall  CSPAN  August 21, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm EDT

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attention and advertising dollars. it's figuring out how best to reflect our current rules while doing so in a reflective way. >> watch "the communicators" tonight. our c-span cities tour makes american history tv on the road to feature the history of cities aacross america. here's a recent program. >> each week american history tv's american artifacts visits museums and historic places. up next we visit philadelphia to learn the history of carpenter's hall where the first continental congress met in 1774. >> i'm stand in the midst of independence national historical park surrounded by buildings that are famous throughout the world. on one side of me is the bank of the united states, first bank of the united states. across the street from it is the
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new museum of the american revolution. a few yards over on this side is independence hall, which everyone knows. between these historic buildings is carpenter's hall which is less well known but also a structure of significance to all americans because it was here that the continental congress met for the first time and made the decision that eventually led to the open revolution and the declaration of independence. we're on the first floor of carpenter's hall and you'll remember from your perhaps grade school history lessons that in 1773 a group of supposedly indians, at least they were dressed up that way, threw a lot of chests of tea in the boston harbor in protest of taxes levy by the crown in parliament,
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along with imports to america. the british had a strange idea that maybe the columnists ought to pay for some of the defenses that they are providing against the french and other people who have interest in north america. at any rate, the crown was furious and as a result they passed -- the parliament passed a number of coercive acts to force the americans to get in line and quit protesting. as a result of that, the columnists decided that maybe they should have a congress and talk about what action they should take to these coercive acts. and so the 13 colonies appointed -- well, 12 of the 13 colonies appointed
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representatives to meet in the largest and most sophisticated city in north america, philadelphia. and the various colonies sent a few men to meet together. most of whom had never met each other. and of course in the 18th century, each colony was really a separate organization with its allegiance to the crown. so there wasn't any sort of national unity to speak of. and when the delegates came, everyone said, well, we'll meet at the philadelphia state house, ie,independence hall, not known of that of course. but it was associated with the proprior tore and the proprietor
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was associated. where can we meet. it happened that the master of the company was sitting in the pennsylvania legislature and one of the delegates appointed by pennsylvania to the continental congress, who was a member of the company, and they said well, the gentleman, we have a nice new building just a few yards away at the state house. and we'd be pleased if you would meet there. so the group looked over, this looks like a lovely place to me and they were in the place they met in 1774. and out of that came the first cooperative movements of the 12 colonies that met that georgia didn't send a representative. they -- it was important that
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they were meeting each other because fire brands that would be leaders in the revolution such as the adamses, the virginians, pennsylvania, people like benjamin franklin. these people may have known each other from their writing but most of them hadn't been in the same room with each poother. and perhaps one of the most remarkable moments in that convention came from patrick henry. now you all remember patrick henry for his give me liberty or give me death. but even more significant was his remark that he made in the early day. when he looked around the room and he said, gentlemen, we are
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no longer from massachusetts. we are no longer from pennsylvania. we no longer are from virginia. we are all americans. and that has the ability to raise goosebumps on everybody. and it did have that impact among these men who were seeing each other and sharing their thoughts on what we should do and what they decided was we'll protest. not as a single colony but as americans. when the congress met, the continental congress met in this room, they used the furniture that the carpenter's company had ordered the year before. windsor chairs, much like this one which is a highchair.
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this is a reproduction of the originals. i would not be able to be doing this if this were a real chair, was used by the leaders of the group who were elected at the continental congress. and indeed the originals are still here, but people occasionally want to try to sit in one of them and that makes everyone nervous so they've had some reproductions made. the continental congress met in this space in september and october of 1774 and pretty much the movement for separation grew from that meeting. of course after the declaration -- after it was clear that we were at war and that we were going to declare or
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independence, the second continental congress moved to independence hall, the state house. because the proprietary government which supported the crown was out. i mentioned carpenter's company which carpenter's hall is representative of. carpent carpenter's company is a group of, now, builders, architects, contractors, structural engineers. there are no carpenters in the carpenter's company. but the history of the company goes back to the 15th century. it began when the english crown licensed a group of carpenters, house corporators to have their own guild, and that was called the worshipful company of
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carpenters and they controlled the history of london from the 15th century up through to today they still list. when some of the english carpenters came to philadelphia, they eventually decided to organize and to become a company of carpenters here. now the whole purpose of that -- or kind of an organization -- because they couldn't make the whole craft better organized. how you would get apprentices, how long the apprentices had to serve you, keeping the standards high in terms of building so that there will be consistency in building in the town. also, less well known but then very important, they also controlled the prices that could
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be charged for carpentry work. and because they were relatively wealthy people in the total scheme of 17th and 18th century philadelphia, they were related both by marriage and association with the leading families of philadelphia. and as a consequence some of their members were appointed to very lucrative city contracts. one of the contracts was the regul regulator party walls. and that person was the one who enforced philadelphia laws on what material could be used for construction and so on. of course, if you were a person about to build a new building, who would you go to do the work. you would go to one of the mars canters of the carpenter's
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company because he or one of his associates was probably going to say whether or not your building was sound and whether it had been built of the proper materials. so gradually they built up a tradition of having a lot of control. in addition they issued a book of prices. this is the way you calculated what a house was going to cost. if you think about that, the only people who had those books to determine the price of construction were members of the carpenter's company. and as a consequence, they were able to set the prices that everyone had to pay in order to build. because the way you determine the price for construction in the 18th century was by measuring the building, literally, how many feet of this type of board or how much plaster and how many bricks and so on. so they really did control construction in the 18th century in philadelphia.
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by the 19th century they still were very important contractors but they became more businessmen contractors rather than actual hand and tool builders. and that continued on for until today. because the company today, the members of the company are architects, contractors, engineers and not a one of them served an apprenticeship that was a carpenter. so that organization today is something that has evolved and there have only been about 900 members in the nearly 300 year history of the company. so they appear in virtually every major event in the history
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of philadelphia right from the earliest founding through to the revolution to men, and they were all men at the time, served in the american army building defenses. they were very good at artillery and many of them became officers in the artillery regiments. so the whole history of the company is very rich. and not generally well known. carpenter's hall is important architecturally as well as politically and socially. it was built -- it was designed in 1770 by robert smith. now robert smith was perhaps the first proto-architect. he was raised in scotland, apprenticed under the adam brothers. he came to philadelphia in the 1760s and immediately was the
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man for major building. he designed this building, of course, which he was a member of the company and he was their choice to design the building. but he also designed the great philadelphia prison. numerous buildings, the steeple of christ church, st. peter's church. almost all of the large scale structures. he probably consulted on pennsylvania hospital and so on. smith was an interesting character. as i say, he was a hammer and saw type carpenter but he also was a designer. and this building, which is unusual, there's not another one just like it in philadelphia with the four equal facades, is built of what's called phlegmish
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blond which is the combination of the stretcher end of the brick and the narrow end of the brick alternated. and in this case the end sfre stretchers were left in the kiln until they became a ceramic like surface. so it provides a pattern of the bricks not only what's called the wide part of the brick and the narrow part of the brick alternating but with the additional color on the little ends of the bricks. i'm using nontechnical terminology there. but you can see it when you look closely at the building. it also has a typical roof line for a georgia building. as i said he designed it in 1770s. it was under construction by the company, they were doing it for themselves, for four years. and by 1774 the building was beginning to be occupied.
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they built it as a place, they said, for meeting with customers, clients if you will, and also as a space which could be rented to other organizations. and over the course of history of the company, that use of the building as a rental income property became very important. the first bank of the united states was there for a while. dozens of other organizations, the library company founded by franklin was in the building at one time. now as a consequence, the company wasn't using it for its own purposes because they liked the income. so they built another building next door which they could have their meetings in and keep their library and eventually where they could adds another floor on to the building and began the
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first school of architecture in the united states. we've come inside to look at the model of carpenter's hall being constructed. and here we can see the brick pattern, the regular equal facades, the cue po la being installed over the roof and various crafts works. and one of the things that people often wonder about is if the master builder became a sort of protoarchitect. a carpenter transferring to using the title master builder. why didn't it happen that the brick layers weren't the master builders. and the problem with that was that going back into even medieval england, the master carpenter, the master builder was the person who worked with a client to come up with a design.
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so they in effect were doing what a modern architect would do. but in a somewhat more primitive way. and what the master builder would do is provide a design for the owner and then the owner would say to the master builder, okay, i approve this design. go to it. and i own the land and this is where i want that building. what the master builder would do would be bring in the other crafts as they were needed, for instance the laborers would dig the foundations and that sort of thing, and then they would raze the building if it were a brick building, they would bring in the bricklayers and various other carpentry jobs, bring in the plasters. each craft was supervised, if
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you will, by the master carpenter who was a master builder. and it used to be that when they talked about who built colonial buildings in america they would talk about people like thomas jefferson who indeed loved being an architect. but those people were rare. in fact, we know from the lists of who was buying books of architect churl designs that they overwhelmingly were not gentleman country house owners but they were the builders themselves. and they even called them master builders in the 18th century. the first book of architecture published in philadelphia, an english -- reprint of an english book by abraham swann. the list of who were the purchasers, that is the people who encouraged the project by paying for it in advance were
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overwhelmingly probably 90% master builder carpenters. i outside that the carpenters company had only had about 900 members in its 300-year history. the importance of that is it shows that it was a fairly exclusive group, fairly wealthy group. but the company turned out in large numbers to serve in the continental army. they were firmly convinced, as pro-separation, pro-independence from early on. and in fact, the man who designed carpenters all, robert smith, was building fences
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against the british army and the british fleet and in fact he died of pneumonia in 1777 from having stood in chest deep ice water in the delaware river building obstructions to keep the british fleet from attacking philadelphia. and that's a familiar story in the history of the company, that several of the members did give their lives for independence. and even during the siege of philadelphia this very spot was used as a hospital for the wounded americans. under the articles of confederation, which was the first government that was established after the revolution, the delegates throughout the colonies realized that it wasn't working.
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it wasn't a functional government because it did not have the powers to enforce its laws over to require the various states -- now the states, to pay parts of their debt and so on. so the delegates all returned to philadelphia from the states to independence hall where they drafted the federal constitution. well, drafting a constitution is one thing. getting it adopted is another. and once again the carpenters company member became advocates, strong advocates for the new constitution. they felt that it had to be passed and they lobbied throughout philadelphia, the merchants with whom they were related, and the apprentices and others who would be voters, and
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when the constitution was finally adopted, philadelphia decided to have a grand federal procession to celebrate. and they built a float in the form of a domed building, it was designed by a member of the carpenters company and the dome was supported by nine columns and three that weren't quite holding up their end. and when the organizers of the grand federal procession decided who would lead the procession, it was the float of the grand federal he haddive as, and each of the columns named for the states and including the three that hadn't ratified it and all
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of the carpenters marched first in the parade and that is the danner th dan -- banner think carried here under glass in carpenters hall and it is another one of the things in which the modern members of the company are so proud of because they not only fought hard for the revolution, but they became major supporters of the federal constitution. so again, the company has a national role that is little known until you come to carpenters hall and see it for yourself. carpenters hall deserved to be known particularly for its role in the revolution. i could go on for half an hour listing the various organizations that have met here on the starting -- virtually the
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first being continental congress, stories of benjamin franklin meeting with french spies on the second floor to encourage french government to come to the aid of the struggling colonies who were trying to separate themselves from the british crown. there are so many stories like that, that are deeply, deeply embedded in the history of this country. but, of course, just as the pennsylvania state house, built by the way by one of the early members of the carpenters company, became independence hall because that is where the declaration of independence was signed. this, by the same token, carpenters hall deserves to be visited and to have our visitors, especially countrymen, know that that first continental congress set the stage for the
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second continental congress and the declaration. and when you come to philadelphia, you have to go to independence hall and see the liberty bell but if you are going to be in chronological record, you should go to carpenters hall first, independence hall second and the new museum of the american revolution third. then you have the constitution center and so one step, by step by step visitors to philadelphia can get the history of their earliest founding. this is the only building within the park, independence national historical park which is not federally owned. carpenters hall belongs to the carpenters company as always belonged to the carpenters company. the federal government has tried to buy it or to take it off our hands several times -- and the company has from the earliest days absolutely not, it's our
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own -- it's our contribution, if you will, to telling the story of america. and they restored the building -- i put quotes around the restoration -- in the 1850s and opened it to the public free. second only to mt. vernon in terms of a privately owned structure rather than a government-owned structure, being open to the public as, if you will, a shrine. their idea of restoration in the 1850s was a little different than ours today. and subsequently in the 1950s and 60s. working with the park service as independence national historical park began to emerge, the company at its own expense renovated the roofs and the structure and the structural steel so the building could safely be used by groups of
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people coming through. so that relationship is one of mutual respect. we take advantage of their steam loop to keep the building heated and cooled, and we are part of their security net. but the building is property of the carpenters company. exclusively. you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at tour. this is american history tv, only on c-span. >> we've been on the road, meeting winners of the this year's student cam video documentary competition. at royal oak high school in
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royal oak, michigan, first place winner jared clark won a prize of $3,000 for his documentary on the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs an the second place of $1,500 went to his classmate for incarceration and mandatory minimum sentencing and third place winner rebecca messner won a prize of $750 for his documentary on gender inequality and grace novak won an honorable mention prize of $250 for her documentariy on the relation to the police and the media. thank you to the students that participated in our competition. to watch any of the videos, go to and the upcoming theme is the constitution and you. we ask you to choose any provision of the constitution and create a video illustrating
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why it is important. >> you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. tonight on c-span 3, it is american history tv in prime time with the focus on congressional history. first a look at the late 18th century debate in congress over slavery and race. that is followed by a discussion of the historical and political legacy of former house speaker newt gingrich and later those involved with investigating the watergate break in discuss their work and the impact of that event 45 years later. now look at the first national debate on slavery and race between members of congress in 1790. we'll hear from history professor paul polgar who explains how that debate set the


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