Elfreth’s Alley Museum Podcast

The Elfreth’s Alley Museum began a series of podcasts in 2020. The 2021 season is now underway. The most recent episode, Cabinetmakers, explores the history of woodworking in Philadelphia from the founding of the city in 1682 to the present day. I was delighted to be asked to participate in this episode. Ted Maust and everyone at the museum have done an exceptional job with all of the episodes of The Alley Cast and Cabinetmakers is no exception. In the new episode they “explore the ingrained history of woodworking in Philadelphia, from William Penn’s pamphlets advertising tree species, to the importation of mahogany felled by enslaved labor, to craftspeople such as John Head and Daniel Trotter. And while shifts toward industrialized methods doomed the artisan cabinetmaker for a time, we also look at the endurance and resurgence of wood craft in this city.”

You can listen to the episode here:


The lead sponsor for the Alley Cast series is Linode, additional support for this episode came the Center for Art in Wood, a short walk away from Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia.

Three-quarter view of a desk attributed to John Head. Made ind Philadelphia, 1720-1740. Black walnut, hard pine, Atlantic white cedar, yellow poplar, brass, iron. Private collection.
Trade card of Daniel Pabst, c. 1880
John Grass Woodturning Company
Dentzel Carousel Company master carver Salvatore Chernigliaro, Germantown, Philadelphia, c. 1920.
Daniel Jackson’s Unicorn Rocker in his studio on Tulpehocken Street, Germantown, Philadelphia, 1974. From “Daniel Jackson: Dovetailing History”, The University of the Arts, 2003. No photo credit given.
University of the Arts Craft/Wood students examining Windsor chairs in the collection of the Dietrich American Collection, 2017.

4 thoughts on “Elfreth’s Alley Museum Podcast

  1. Chris,

    This is extremely well done. Your comments, in particular, breathed life not only to the neighborhood in the 18th century but as it was when you first arrived in Philadelphia and frequented John Grass and other suppliers to the trades.

    It was also good of your producer to refer to the contributions of my neighbor Helen Drutt English to craft in Philadelphia. Her early interest in promoting the work of local artisans helped to establish Philadelphia as a center for craft.

    Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more such episodes.


    • Thank you Jay. It was a pleasure to be asked to participate. Ted and everyone at the Elfreth’s Alley Museum did a wonderful job researching the subject – a mighty 300 year timeline! – and coaxing a story out of disparate elements of which our interview was just one part.

      I was really taken with the idea of an actor reading the words of Daniel Pabst. I’m pleased that the 1910 interview Pabst gave to the Evening Bulletin is now widely available as it’s not a well known source.

    • Thank you so much Ken. They did such a great job. The work of interviewing, scripting, and recording and editing audio has been an on the job learning experience, clearly they have worked hard and have succeeded. And thanks to the History Department and the Center for Public History at Temple University to continue to sponsor the Alley Cast!

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