Philadelphia Reflections, Part One

Tonight, I sit in my great-grandfather’s adopted hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The lights below me shimmer from city center out into New Jersey. From my window, I can see the part of the world my great-grandfather lived most of his adult life.

Paul von Meurers

This photo of my great-grandfather was taken before 1915, and was used in his autobiography. At the time of the picture, he had adopted the name Paul de Meurers.

Earlier this week I walked along the streets my great-grandfather named in his autobiography. I was cognizant of occupying the same space more than 100 years later. I observed young homeless men preparing to sleep on the sidewalks. Many were the age of my great-grandfather when he, too, was homeless, trying his best to survive on the very same streets.

I visited the site where the Northern Home for Friendless Children once stood. This was the orphanage that took in my great-uncle when my great-grandfather abandoned him. Since that time, the building has been raised and replaced, but I contemplated on my great-uncle growing up in that neighborhood—in the shadow of Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the most visually oppressive and notorious prisons of all time.

I also thought of my great-grandfather changing his name from von Meurers to de Meurers, breaking away from his German birthplace, uncomfortable with his own name as an American immigrant.

Life has changed a great deal over the past 100-plus years. In other ways, it certainly has not changed enough.


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Thanks for reading!



My Family Tree:

  1. Emilie Therese Nahrath (See Part Two)
  2. Bernard Paul Hubert von Meurers (See Part Two)
  3. Paul deMeurers
  4. Weldon Paul deMeurers
  5. Me (Alan deMeurers)

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