868 in Action
(Summer Camp -- June 16~July 1, 2012)
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The next stop on our trip was the city of Philadelphia where we spent 3 nights and 3 days. We stayed in a dormitory at Girard College. Stephen Girard has become a "forgotten hero." A Frenchman by birth, his mother died and he was abandoned by his father, a sailor. Thus, he grew up as an orphan and eventually followed in his father's footsteps and also went to sea. He eventually became a ship's captain and then an owner of several ships. The United States had won their freedom from Great Britain and trade with the American states was a large part of his shipping business, so he moved to Philadelphia. He quickly fell in love with the city and with the young United States of America.
Girard was very successful in the shipping business and later branched out into other ventures, including banking. He eventually became the wealthiest man in America. During the War of 1812, the U.S. was in danger of losing the war because the young country was on the verge of bankruptcy and couldn't afford to pay, feed, or outfit their Navy. Girard had more money than the U.S. Treasury as the time and personally guaranteed the debt of the United States so that they could continue to wage the war.
Girard never married and, thus, had no one to inherit his fortune. In his will, he made generous grants to several individuals and to the City of Philadelphia, but left the bulk of his estate to establish a school to care for orphans. In the early 1800's, grades 1~6 were considered "school" and grades 7~8 were considered "upper school" or "high school." Few students received any education beyond the 8th grade. The word "college" meant 4 years of education beyond the 8th grade. Thus, Girard College took in orphans, housed them, fed them, and educated them up through the 12th grade --- and extraordinary education! From the very beginning, it was a boarding school and was the orphans' only home. Today, true orphans are fewer in number, so Girard College admits students from lower income homes. The students still live on campus at least 5 days a week. Some local students go home on weekends, but many students live at the school all or most of the year. There is no tuition ... interest and dividends from Girard's fortune continue to pay the bills.
To be able to stay at GC was a true blessing and a great educational experience in and of itself. It's also very conveniently located near the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Of course, at the time it was built, it was "out in the country" ... but the city expanded and grew up around it.
Our first stop in Philly was to see the Liberty Bell. We then toured the Philadelphia State House, better known as Independence Hall. It was in this building that the founding fathers wrote and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The first U.S. Mint was located only a few blocks away.
|The entrance to the campus at Girard College.||Founders Hall with a statue of Stephen Girard and several orphan children.|
|"The Hum" is the student recreation building at Girard College. The rooms where we stayed were on the third floor of this building.||Each suite had 3 bedrooms and a community sitting room. Each bedroom had 5 beds, 5 desks, and 5 wardrobes for clothing storage.|
|Residents of Philadelphia must love doughnuts! There was a Dunkin' Donuts about every 2 or 3 blocks ... no kidding! We ate doughnuts for breakfast every morning we were in Philly.||Troop 868 scouts clustered around the Liberty Bell for a photo. Independence Hall is just across the street and can be seen in the background through the window.|
|This is the Philadelphia State House where the colonial government of the Pennsylvania Colony met. It was in the legislative chamber that the Second Continental Congress met and drafted the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, the building became more popularly known as Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell hung in the bell tower.||Scouts and leaders wait in line to enter the building adjacent to Independence Hall where the first Congress met. The House or Representatives met on the ground floor and the Senate had a meeting room on the second floor. Admission was free but required a ticket bearing a specific tour time.|
|Also on display in special display cases were a variety of original documents including a copy of the Magna Carta and printed (typeset) copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.||This is an original printed copy of the Declaration of Independence. In the larger cities, the Declaration was printed and distributed; in smaller towns it was typically read from the pulpits of the churches.|
|Troop 868 scouts were able to sit in the actual seats where the first lawmakers in the House of Representatives sat and made the first federal laws of the newly established United States of America.||This is the room where it all happened. Brixton stands in front of the desks where the delegates drafted, adopted, and signed the Declaration of Independence. After the Revolutionary War was fought and won, they again met in this room and drafted the U.S. Constitution.|
|The Independence Visitor Center located across the street from the Liberty Bell housed two movie theaters, a gift shop, and other exhibits.||Only a few blocks away is the first U.S. Mint. Coins are still produced here. Tours were not available during our visit because of remodeling.|