Tag Archives: Frederick Dawson Stone Sr.

Frederick D. Stone Sr. at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

On a recent visit to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), I perused with interest an 1884 Isaac L. Williams painting showing “staff and patrons” in the HSP library at the old 820 Spruce Street location.
FDS in paintingI thought I immediately recognized one of the staff, at the left of the painting: Witmer Stone’s father, Frederick Dawson Stone Sr.  You can do the comparison yourself:


The elder Stone was the head librarian at HSP from 1877 until his death in 1897. He was an expert on early Pennsylvania history, and had an extensive private collection of George Washington-related material. Witmer Stone worked in the HSP library briefly with his father after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1887, before beginning his long stint at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. One story has it that the father hoped his oldest son would follow him into the history field; Witmer was too obsessed with nature, however, although he was eventually considered the leading American ornithological historian of his day.

So the next time you visit HSP, look for the Williams painting (in the room immediately behind the reception desk), and picture that HSP might have looked like this if Frederick had been able to convince his bird-loving eldest to follow in his father’s occupational footsteps:

FDS & WS in painting - 3

Frederick D. Stone Sr. and the Battle of Carlisle

Witmer Stone’s father, Frederick Dawson Stone Sr., served in the Civil War with a militia unit, the First Regiment Infantry of Pennsylvania (the “Gray Reserves”). A statue commemorating the Gray Reserves stands outside the Union League Club at Broad and Sansom streets in Philadelphia. This was one of several similar clubs formed during the Civil War to support President Lincoln and the Union cause:

Gray Resesves

Frederick Stone was stationed at Carlisle when that town was shelled by Confederate artillery on the evening of July 1, 1863, in a small but important sideshow to the nearby Gettysburg battle. Frederick always remembered the horror of the shelling, with men around him falling to the ground after being struck. A marker at Carlisle describes the engagement (click for full size):


The pillars in front of Carlisle Courthouse still have Confederate artillery scars from the battle (pillar photos by Donald Webb):

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Closeup of pillar:

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If one of the Confederate shells at Carlisle on July 1, 1863 had followed a slightly different trajectory, you might not be reading this particular website blog right now.