At that time, APS undertook the excavation both as a memorial tribute to their founder (Franklin) on the 250th anniversary of his birth and as a research endeavor not unlike the expeditions APS sponsored, a half century earlier, that fostered Americanist Archaeology in its incipient period. NPS interest in the house site served the needs of the Master Plan for a national shrine to democracy (the soon to be Independence National Historical Park) which would include a park unit dedicated to local Philadelphia history and, in particular, to Franklin.
Franklin Court as the site became known (and interpreted) in Independence Park is a seminal urban archaeology site – and, until recently, the historical archaeology understandings that emerged in its early excavations have continued to shape the trajectory of Independence Park archaeology --and hence the understandings of early American history.
One of these very early dating assumptions about the Independence Park archaeological record has now been overturned. It involves the preservation of the archaeological evidence below ground in those areas with susequent building construction. The Independence Park Archive Archeological Records Collection reveals how this - an early understanding about the area's archaeological resource base --emerges and then transitions into a set principle determining the development and maintenance of archaeology in the park over time.
This past month I have been processing early archaeology-related administrative files in the Park Archives. In this collection I have come across what is likely the first time a recommendation is made regarding the state of the archaeological evidence buried below the city streets. It is a recommendation in a report detailing the results of the first episode of work at Franklin Court. It is written by Paul Schumacher, the archaeologist in charge of the 1953 and 1955 excavations at the site of Franklin’s mansion:
INHP Archive materials used in the preparation of this posting:
Jeppson, P.L. Historical Fact, Historical Memory: An Assessment of the Archaeology Evidence Related to Benjamin Franklin: Historical Archaeology research undertaken for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Consortium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2005)
Letter, Anderson to INHP Regional Director, Region One (Cox or Lisle), Feb. 20, 1953, [D18 FRCW as quoted in Grieff 1985:374]
Philadelphia National Shrines Report to the United States Congress (1947)
Schumacher, Paul. Franklin Court, Preliminary Exploration of Franklin Court Archeology Project No. 4, May-Sept. (1956)
Fowler, Don D. and David R. Wilcox. Philadelphia and the Development of Americanist Archaeology. University of Alabama Press (2003)
Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. http://www.phillyarchaeology.org/