George Lippard's Grave
George Lippard died on February 9, 1854 and was interred on February 13 in
Odd Fellows cemetery located on Diamond Street, between 23rd and 24th Streets
in Philadelphia.  Members of the order Lippard founded, the Brotherhood of the
Union led a procession to the cemetery  that included hundreds of mourners: Free
Masons, Odd Fellows and many German Americans of the city, "to whom Lippard
had become a kind of folk hero." (Reynolds, 24)

In 1863 Mary Lippard, most probably George's aunt, was interred in the same
plot.  From the age of two, George lived with his aunts Catherine and Mary, first in
Germantown, then in Philadelphia.  "George's Aunt Mary, who had been born at
the start of the Revolution, fanned George's historical curiosity and patriotism by
telling him stirring tales of Revolutionary battles and heroes." (Reynolds, 3)  

In 1885, the Brotherhood erected a large monument over Lippard's grave.  In
1900, a large procession of mourners filed into Odd Fellows Cemetery. The
mourners were members of the Brotherhood, a social/labor/insurance organization
now over 20,000 strong. They wended their way through the grave markers until
they reached the monument honoring their founder. At his gravesite, they sang
hymns and gave speeches. The cemetery visit capped their annual four-day
convocation. The Order would repeat this procession when they met again in
1922, specifically to celebrate the centennial of Lippard's birth.

Now Lippard's tombstone sits in another cemetery,
re-interred in Lawnview
Cemetery, Rockledge PA in 1951 to make way for a housing project. The
impressive grave marker is hidden in the back row, with no mourners to
commemorate his endeavors. When I tried to find it on a cold, cloudy, windy
morning in January, the caretaker couldn't find the burial lot on his computer; he
had to research it in the elephant folio volumes in the back storage room, the
ledger's pages crumbling to the touch.

The tombstone itself is about 5 feet high, carved to resemble a pile of stones, like
some barrow of an ancient tribe. On the flat top, sculpted in stone is a small altar,
an urn and an open book. The remains of a tattered American flag flutter from the
bars of the altar. A veteran's organization still places a flag here from time to time,
perhaps misinterpreting the "Brotherhood of the Union" engraved on its side as a
reference to service in the Civil War. Although Lippard was no military veteran, his
patriotism was of the highest order, and it is fitting that he is allowed such honors.
Fitting, too, that the flag is tangled upon the altar, as Lippard's religious fervor and
patriotism were ever intertwined. The urn is also an appropriate emblem for
Lippard, as a reminder of the macabre, death-drenched novels he wrote.

Most significant is the open book. Of course, typical religious iconography for a
tombstone would suggest the book represents the Bible. And it is likely the sculptor
had this in mind when it was crafted. Indeed, on the side of the marker is engraved
a passage from the
Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus reads a scroll of the prophet
Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the
gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at
liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

This reads like Lippard's personal mission in life and reminds me of his deeply felt
Christianity (although he was vehemently against organized religion). Lippard took
these instructions to heart and crafted fiction, scribbled polemics and founded labor
movements to achieve these goals, "to set at liberty them that are bruised."

The pages of the stone book are blank, but I can imagine the words written thereon
and they are not the words of Jesus or Isaiah or even George Washington. This
book is
The Quaker City, in all its lurid, apocalyptic, visionary madness. It is the
book Lippard bequeathed to the city of Philadelphia. Not a gushing rhapsody of
joy on how wonderful is the City of Brotherly Love, but how depraved it is for not
living up to its name. Although Lippard's fiction is set in his own day and although
the apocalypse of Devil-Bug's prophecy did not exactly come to pass,
The
Quaker City
still resounds as a clarion call against social injustice, against the
craven victimization of the poor, against the corruption that oils the machinery
hidden in the bowels of power halls. Lippard would weep to see so many coffins
still rushing down the rivers that bracket his city. But he would not wallow in that
sadness. Lippard would pick up his pen, light a cigar and get to work. "Have
something to say and say it with all your might."

Edward Pettit

This text is adapted from "Monks, Devils and Quakers: the lurid life and times of
George Lippard, Philadelphia's original best-selling author."  
Philadelphia City Paper,
March 21, 2007.
Quotations from David Reynolds are from his critical biography, George Lippard,
Twayne, 1982.
Photo by Lou Boxer, 2007
Photo by Lou Boxer, 2007
More Photos of the gravesite

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