Wyck has an assortment of hidden treasures within her rooms, treasures you’ll only discover by coming for a tour. One particularly fun piece is a large walnut armchair, with a generous sized seat. This chair was commissioned by Caspar Wistar, third generation owner of Wyck, in 1765 for his son, Richard Wistar. Richard had gout, a type of arthritis which causes inflammation in joints, and therefore had very large legs. The armchair is a multi-use tool; not only can one sit in it, but this chair has a leather slip seat which can be removed to expose a toilet seat. This seat looks like a magnificent throne, and could be used as such!
This piece has been passed down from family member to family member, eventually find its way into Jansen Haines’ possession. His mother, Margaret Vaux Wistar Haines, left the chair to him, but she did not expect him to fit in the chair, stating in her will, “altho I have no ambition that he shall ever be so large as to fill it as his worth ancestor is said to have done.” Nobody has been able to fill the chair since its original owner, Richard. Today this chair can be found in the library at Wyck, eager for people to gander at its beautiful craftsmanship.
“One of Wyck’s most significant objects [is] an engraved work of art on paper. It is a sweeping panorama of Constantinople, dated 1813, and engraved by Thomas Palser and Henry Baker of London. Measuring over 12.5 feet long, this engraving has been at Wyck for over 200 years.”
Wyck has an impressive history of brewing. Reuben Haines “the Elder,” owner of Wyck House in the late 1700s, opened a brewery in Philadelphia called “Haines and Sons.” This was moved to Germantown in 1794 after the Yellow Fever Epidemic, and then became the Germantown Brewery when Caspar Wistar Haines inherited the business. Haines’ brewery was well known in Philadelphia. George Washington visited the establishment and ventured to sell Haines barley for his brew. Haines was a prolific brewer in the late 1700s, and in 1788 he led a parade of brewery men in a commemorative procession of the US Constitution, holding banners that proclaimed “Proper Drinks for Americans” and “Home Brewed is Best.” These slogans stem from an American belief in supporting American industry by not buying imported goods. In 1789 Massachusetts passed an act which encouraged citizens to manufacture and buy American beer and ale, further displaying American pride in their own industry. Reuben Haines I continued to run the brewery in Philadelphia until 1793, when he died of Yellow Fever.
Caspar Wistar Haines, the son of Reuben Haines, continued in the family brewing business, opening up the brewery that sat on Walnut Lane and Germantown Avenue, called Germantown Brewery. A ledger of the Germantown brewery between 1794 and 1801 lists a total of 425 customers or suppliers of the brewery, many of whom were local. The Direct Tax List of 1798 helps identify the dimensions of the Germantown Brewery; the malt house and kiln were the largest structures, with the Brewhouse being almost half its length. Both houses were stone. A sign remains from the brewery with both German and English wording, welcoming customers. The faded sign reads “Germantown Brewery” and underneath that “Germantauner Braüerrey.”
The Germantown Brewery was not owned by the Haines’ throughout its entire history. In 1801, after Caspar Wistar Haines’ death, the brewery was leased to Thomas Hadley, who then ran the brewery until he passed away in 1840. The family at Wyck decided to shut down the brewery afterwards for a plethora of reasons, including the commonality of temperance societies, the decrease in beer consumption, and the miniscule income from the brewery. Though the family’s hands-on approach to brewing ended at the very beginning of the 19th century, the significance of the Wyck breweries live on in the stories told at the house today.
On display in the house is a mashing oar, which was used in the Germantown Brewery to mash the malt in order to make wort. Wort was the substance that the hops would be added to, and then the liquid would be fermented. Also in the Wyck collection is a hydrometer which would have been used in the brewery. A hydrometer is a device used to measure the alcohol content of one’s brew. Wyck is furthermore in possession of a volume scale, which allows one to weight their brew. Tools similar to these are still used in brewing today.
Today Americans can get any type of beer their heart desires; what isn’t brewed at home can easily be imported. But when America had just won her independence, when all the citizens of the new nation wanted to promote home businesses and import as little as possible, American brews were the norm. There was no Weiss beer or pale ale category, but Americans still had a list of brews to try; elderberry beer, wormwood ale, strong beer, china ale, treacle beer, small beer, and porters being some of the most common. Cost wise, a gallon of strong beer from a public house would have cost about fifty cents, while a gallon of small beer would have cost eighteen. Hops and malt are some of the most important ingredients in beer, and a bushel of malt would cost a dollar, while a pound of hops would cost twenty cents. According to the Family Brewer, most people usually only used a third of a pound of hops to make a gallon of beer.
Wyck has a grand history, full of interesting people and ideas. The brewery is only a small part of that history, but a part that the family and those at Wyck are immensely proud of.
Baron, Stanley. Brewed in America: A History of Beer and Ale in the United States. Little, Brown and Company, 1962. Boston.
Cantwell, Dick. “Brewing in Colonial America”. Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine. Unfiltered Media Group, LLC, 2017. Web. <https://beerandbrewing.com/dictionary/yPV4Boo9uC/brewing-in-colonial-america/>
“Customers of the Haines’ Brewery 1794-1801.” Brewery. Box Number. Wyck Association Archives.
“Daybooks and ledgers of Reuben haines, 1814-1824.” Page 165. Wyck Association Archives.
Gaves, B. “The Complete Family Brewer or the best method for brewing or making any quantity of good strong ale and strong beer.” Philadelphia, 1805.
“Germantown Brewery Ledger.” Brewing. “box Name”. Wyck Association Archives.
“History of American Beer”. Beeradvocate. Web. 2003. <http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/history_american_beer.php.>
“References to the Haines’ Brewery.” Page 197. Wyck Association Archives.
During the days before the American Revolution when America was still a collection of colonies, clocks and timepieces were a luxury item few had. Time was an estimation in those days, one people determined by using make-shift sun dials, or by burning candles to figure out how much time had passed. William Penn had high expectations for the use of clocks in his settlement, writing in his book that “the hours for Work and Meals to Labourers, are fixt, and known by Ring of Bell.” Penn enforced the use of clocks early on in his colony, allowing these early settlers of America to have their lives run by the chiming of clocks, much like we do today. Despite Penn’s early ambitions, it was only with the industrial revolution in the mid-eighteenth century that timepieces became widely used. Dirk Jansen was a man ahead of his time, as he bought a beautiful tall case clock in the 1720s, thirty years before clocks became a regular commodity.
Dirk Jansen married Margaret Milan, thus becoming the second generation owner of Wyck. Jansen was responsible for building the front parlor area of the house, which was originally a kitchen and upstairs bedroom for his family. Jansen worked as a weaver prior to 1726, but thereafter was listed as a yeoman, or one who cultivates land. By the end of his life, Jansen was considered a “gentleman,” portraying the familiar success story of many Quakers. As a wealthy man, Jansen purchased a grandfather clock made by Peter Stretch of Philadelphia, another Quaker. Made of a fine walnut veneer, the tall case clock stands in Wyck’s front parlor. This piece of fine furniture was made and running in 1720, long before the American Revolution, and still works to this day.
After Jansen’s death in 1760, the Stretch clock was given to one of his children and eventually left Wyck. Elizabeth Morris Wistar, one of Jansen’s descendants, returned the clock to Wyck in 1988. Mervin Martin was responsible for conserving the clock. He recreated the top, molded section and bun feet using the preserved parts of the clock. Martin further reinstalled the glass door which exposes the pendulum. Randall Cleaver, another clock repairman, worked on the Stretch clock just this year to make it run smoothly. The inner workings of the clock are almost entirely original, except for the bell which was replaced around 1800. Upon a visit to Wyck, one can see the clock standing tall and beautiful in the front parlor, proclaiming the proper time.
In the dining room of Wyck stands another tall case clock, this one created around 1740 by Philadelphian clockmaker Edward Duffield. Caspar Wistar, the third generation owner of Wyck, originally purchased this piece, but Jane Reuben Haines, the seventh generation owner, is responsible for the preservation of the clock and where it stands even today in the house. The clock was special to Jane, so she had it bolted to the wall in the dining room and stated in her will that the clock was not to leave Wyck. Over one hundred years later the clock has never left the house. Randall Cleaver repaired the Duffield clock this year, allowing the piece to once again tick away the minutes.
Today these clocks at Wyck still work. Chimes can be heard throughout the house on the hour, every hour. Peter Stretch and Edward Duffield were men renowned in their field; Stretch created the clock which stood in Philadelphia’s Town Hall, and legend has it Benjamin Franklin himself commissioned Duffield to start building clocks. These clocks only need to be wound every eight days, and a staff member at Wyck is excited to perform this task, as the owners of the house did once before.
Davies, Alun C. “The Industrial Revolution and Time.” The Open University. 1 December, 2005. Web. < http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/history-science- technology-and-medicine/history-technology/the-industrial-revolution-and-time>
“Notes on Documented Furniture at Wyck.” Furniture. Box 1: Research Subject Files A-K. Wyck Association Archives.
Penn, William. A Further Account of the Province of Pennsylvania. Warminghurst Place, 1685. <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A54140.0001.001/1:1?rgn=div1;view=fulltext>
Smiley, Michelle. “Clocks and Clockmakers.” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. 2017. Web. < http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/clocks-and-clockmakers/>