Philip Park: Practical Plumber

Throughout Invisible Immigrants by Charlotte Erickson, I became increasingly curious about English immigrants who went into professional and clerical occupations and became town dwellers (as opposed to rural or industrial occupations). According to Erickson, these immigrants “broke more ties in emigrating”[i] than other English immigrants and neither held professional qualifications nor white collar jobs prior to emigrating.[ii] One English immigrant in particular that fits this category is Philip Park. I found him first using census data sorted by occupation and value of property. I was looking for someone like Park, an English immigrant who holds a profession and has some property. He appears on the U.S. Census in 1860 as a 38 year old plumber with a property value of $150.[iii] He again appears in the 1870 U.S. Census with an increased value of $4,400 and alongside his wife, Catharine, and his three daughters, Virginia, Gertrude, and Catharine.[iv]

This rise in wealth had to be addressed, but first I had to get a better understanding of Park and his family. Using Ancestry.com, I found that he and Catharine were married in 1856 in Alexandria.[v] This means Philip came to America a single man, which, according to Erickson, is true for other English immigrants entering professional positions. His three children were all born in the United States.[vi] In Figure 1, from Don De Bats project “Voting Viva Voce,” we can see where Philip and Catharine Park lived on the corner of Prince and S. Pitt Street in front of the bank and across the street from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.[vii] He lived in the middle of town, which is where he also conducted his business.  Considering his wealth and advertisements in the Alexandria Gazette (see Figure 2), he was a well-known plumber.[ix]

philip-park-map-voting-viva-voce

Figure 1

(Courtesy of Don DeBats, Voting Viva Voce: Unlocking the Social Logic of Past Politics, University of Virginia, accessed September 20, 2016, http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/.)

alexandria-gazette-advertisement-philip-park

Figure 2

(Courtesy of “Philip Park, Practical Plumber” Alexandria Gazette, July 14, 1868. Accessed September 21, 2016, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress.)

There is a lot we cannot understand about Philip Park and his family due to the limitations of data. However, as typical in history, there are things about Park that can be explained although not proven. Park’s considerable rise in wealth between 1860 and 1870, from $150 to $4,400, is striking. In comparison to other business owners on the 1860 U.S. Census, Park held much more property value in 1870.  I tried finding him in tax records or any mention of his involvement with the Union in newspapers and I could not. However, it is possible that his ties to the Union, if they existed, allowed him to be successful in a time of war.

[i] Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century America (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1972), 395.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] 1860. U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria,Virginia, Philip Park, line 17, digital image, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[iv] 1870. U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, Philip Park, line 7, digital image, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[v] Ancestry.com. “Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940,” Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?viewrecord=1&r=5542&db=FS1VirginiaMarriages&indiv=try&h=4208629.

[vi] 1870. U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, Philip Park, line 7, digital image, accessed September 22, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[vii] Don DeBats, Voting Viva Voce: Unlocking the Social Logic of Past Politics, University of Virginia, accessed September 20, 2016, http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu/.

[viii] “Philip Park, Practical Plumber” Alexandria Gazette, July 14, 1868. Accessed September 21, 2016, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress.

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