Day 11 – Philadelphia (again)

So, day eleven of the gigantic road trip. Well, not that gigantic – certainly lots of other people do bigger ones, but it’s big enough for us! Unfortunately we’re getting through the days depressingly fast and only have two theme parks left. Today, July 3rd, we’ve got time in Philadelphia before July 4th, then moving onto our next destination on July 5th.

Needless to say, there’s actually a fair bit to do and we manage it in a pretty short space of time.

Starting off, we’ve managed to locate a Wendys! Oh happy day! I think we set off late morning and have an early lunch there – we can never resist Frosties (the Wendys kind, not the breakfast cereal), before heading to an attraction we’d spotted called the Physick House.

Now, with a name like the Physick House, you do imagine some sort of horror-esque house full of all sorts of stuff from the Saw films and, well, general unpleasant-ness. And, well, it is KIND OF like that, but not quite.

You see, the Physick House actually has an important history behind it, and one that belonged to the good Doctor Philip Syng Physick, who lived from 1768 to 1837 and is widely regarded as the “father of American surgery”. His house, a large bricked four-storey townhouse, was declared a national landmark in 1976 and is currently operated as a museum by his descendants.

Upon arriving at the house, we find that a small garden party is going on with plenty of science experiments set up to entertain the kids. There’s not a huge amount of people there – it’s not a huge garden and it’s certainly not a private party. Well, we hope not – we certainly weren’t ushered off the premises. Nevertheless, the small garden is very well kept. Also, you can tell how seriously a lot of the people there take their national holidays, dressed in very stately clothing of Doctor Physick’s era. I am ashamed I didn’t get any photos.

After a short time, before entering the house they ask people to read from the Declaration of Independence, volunteers reading a passage each. It did take some time to get the required amount of volunteers and, to be honest, I did feel like volunteering myself in order to hurry the proceedings. Except for the fact that I’m from the country they were seeking to be independent from – would I get shot on the spot?

That and I’d feel like a right berk.

We enter the house through, strangely, a large door that seems to be more of a window, but ho-hum. We’re clearly not breaking and entering, unless the burglar has decided to hide his crime by pretending to be the curator. He’s doing quite a convincing job of it, leading us round the house, and we certainly don’t notice anything missing (though we also don’t notice a TV, computer or any trappings of modern-day houses).

I guess the tour is in two parts. Well, not really, but there are two sides to it. One is the life of Doctor Physick and his many inventions, including what can only be described as a grotesque penis extraction device. Seriously. The thing looked evil. EVIL! But nevertheless, necessary. I’m pretty sure the guys developing the various dental equipment didn’t think “hold on, let’s paint it pink and give it fur”. He had many famous patients throught his career including President Andrew Jackson, who consulted him regarding lung hemorrhages. Doctor Physick’s advice was quite prescient – he told him to stop smoking! Pioneering the use of the stomach pump and trumpeting using autopsies for observation and discovery (you can tell I’m paraphrasing Wikipedia here), as well as many other medical techniques we take for granted now, Doctor Physick became one of the most sought-after medical lecturers of his day.

Of a more curious nature, it seems Doctor Physick also had a hand in developing fizzy drinks. In 1807 he introduced artificially carbonated water, in order to treat gastric disorders. The taste, however, wasn’t that good and fruit syrup was added – seemingly creating an early version of today’s fizzy soft drinks.

The house, it has to be said, is large with extremely high ceilings and several trappings custom-made. There are plenty of rooms for the large family that came and went. There were some political dealings going on, and on the tour several political and historical jokes made which the Americans seemed to get and laugh at. Me – I just smiled and carried on. The only slightly funny American political stuff I know involves Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinski and a cigar. That and Bush (the latest one). We Brits like laughing at him.

So, the Physick House. Yes, it does contain all those instruments of torture you thought it would, and more. Let’s face it, I can’t really think of any horror films that actually contain a grotesque penis extraction device. But, of course, it’s not in the context you thought it would be.

Moving along, we decide to visit the USS Olympia and the USS Becuna.

The Olympia first (I think), a cruiser that was launched in 1892. Less about the history and more about looking around, and it’s amazing how much can be fitted onto these ships. The ship covered a few storeys and even had a small barbers, lots of hammocks for sleeping and would carry over 400 men. A lot of it even looked very ornate, with larger cabins in a nice wood setting for the officers.

The Becuna, a submarine from 1944, is of course even tinier. Holding about 80 men, you really can’t help but wonder how tightly-packed and claustraphobic it would be for them in it. There is literally one tiny passageway through the thing with plenty of narrow doors to squeeze through. You can’t help but feel everyone would be shoulder-to-shoulder all the time. I think that, if I were ever on it with eighty-odd other people and sent to war, I’d be going nuts inside an hour.

Moving a bit further up, back to Penn’s Landing, we enter the Independence Seaport Museum. A decent museum, there’s lots to see and even a boat shop, where a few boats are occasionally made.

Penn’s Landing again next, and there are still a few concerts on. We don’t watch much, but I was amused that some young lady from the Disney Channel was singing. Afterwards, she gave autographs to several small girls and, amusingly, teenage boys who were probably suffering from some form of puberty-induced hormonal lust.

Sorry people, I’ve just noticed that the Straight No Chaser group was on today rather than yesterday. Their picture is above (the one with an actual group, and not just a single person). My bad. Can’t be bothered correcting it on the other page.

Of course, one of the main things that Philadelphia is known for is the Liberty Bell. Crafted in 1752, it was used to ring in the Declaration of Independence annually and to call town meetings, states of emergency etc. Apparently, it developed it’s famous crack after ringing in the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835, and from 1885 the city allowed the bell to go on various expositions and patriotic gatherings (I assume they paid it’s expenses) until 1915. However, during this time souvenir hunters allegedly chipped away at it in order to take parts of it for themselves.

In any case, the Liberty Bell is there for all to see, though I don’t think they let it ring any more. It’s got a nice, big dedicated hall but, with the time of the year, there’s a big procession to get around it, so we instead decide to look in from the window outside. What paupers we are!

I think that was all that we did that day – we did go to Wendys again for dinner, and probably to bed reasonably early to ensure we were ready for July 4th.

Previous – Day 10 – Philadelphia

Next – Day 12 – July 4th in Philadelphia

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