John W. (John Woolf) Jordan.

Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania biography : illustrated (Volume 3) online

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"The American Handbook of Ornamental
Trees" (Lippincott, 1853), which was well
received. He was the author of the de-
scriptions which appeared with the litho-
graphed plates of plants issued by Prang of
Boston, as "The Native Flowers and Ferns
of the United States," by Thomas Meehan
(1879). This work, in eight volumes, was
discontinued at the death of Mr. Robson,
but publication resumed in 1890, when Mr.
Meehan and his younger sons established
"Meehan's Monthly," devoted to "General
Gardening and Wildflowers." As a scien-
tific man Mr. Meehan corresponded with
most of the scientists of prominence in both
Europe and America. Charles Darwin



maintained a close correspondence with him
for years, and relied on Mr. Meehan's
observations for many of his published
facts, giving due credit in many instances in
his wonderful books. A misunderstanding
later arose between these two strong minds,
and their pleasant intercourse ended. Rev.
Henslow, in his book "Origin of Floral
Structure," also drew upon Mr. Meehan's
mine of information. The published articles
in paper, pamphlet and book form, credited
to Mr. Meehan, are numbered by the hun-
dreds and cannot be enumerated here. His
views were not always accepted by bota-
nists, and were often antagonized, but all
united in acknowledging his worth as a
botanist and as a man, his untiring public
spirit, his wide philanthropy, his kindly
heart, pleasant personality, and distin-
guished presence.

Between 1S70 and 1890 Mr. Meehan
traveled extensively throughout the west,
and on one of these journeys discovered
and named the Englemann Canon in the
Wasatch Mountains. He visited Alaska
soon after its acquisition by the United
States, where he studied the relation be-
tween glaciers and vegetation. He an-
nounced as a theory, afterward corroborated
by his son William, as a result of similar
investigation in Greenland, that while vege-
tation receded with the advance of glaciers
and advanced with their retreat, it often was
buried for indefinite periods and remained
dormant until recession took place, when it
again started into growth.

Noted in literature and science, there was
another side to this great man's nature that
gave to Philadelphia much that is now
highly valued. His untiring interest in the
park system and schools of Philadelphia
extended through his entire official life and
was productive of far reaching results.

His career as a public man began during
the Civil War, when he joined with a num-
ber of other prominent men in an endeavor
to efifect a compromise with the South, and
he was also concerned in the preparation of

the Crittenden Resolutions. At this period
of his life, a Bell and Everett Democrat, he
became a Republican when hostilities actu-
ally began, and was ever afterwards a "stal-
wart of stalwarts." After the war he was
appointed a member of a commission to
confer with Southern leaders to devise
means to restore commerce with the North.
In 1876 he was elected a member of the
School Board of Philadelphia, Twenty-sec-
ond section, and served continuously until
the January preceding his death, a quarter
of a century. On the day of his funeral the
flags of all the school houses in German-
town flew at half mast, by order of the
president of the Twenty-second section. In
1880, at the request of leading independent
Republicans, he consented to stand for
Common Council, on the Regular Republi-
can ticket, was elected and reelected, and
was a member at the time of his death. In
ten years after his first election the streets
of Germantown, then of dirt, became one
of the best paved sections of Philadelphia,
and an ordinance requiring all public school
buildings to be not more than two stories
in height wherever possible, had been passed
through Mr. Meehan's efforts. As a mem-
ber of the school committee of Common
Council, he visited every school house in
the city, obtaining at first hand all the data
of school population, and his report show-
ing the school needs and money required to
meet them was published in pamphlet form'
by order of councils. He also devised a
plan for the establishment in Germantown
of colored schools in which classes were
taught only by colored teachers, a system
heartily supported by the colored popula-
tion. At the time this project was advanced
there was no available colored teacher hold-
ing a normal school certificate, and only one
colored student in the normal school. The
establishment of two schools as above de-
scribed in Germantown was the impelling
cause of colored girls in Philadelphia rising
above the level of servants and seeking a
higher education.



One of his first councilmanic acts, how-
ever, was to introduce an ordinance to
select unimproved plots a few miles apart
all over the city, to hold them until enough
of their area has been sold at advanced
prices to pay for their improvement as
parks. This and other plans being pro-
nounced illegal by the city solicitor, the only
method left was to put such plots on the
park plan, as were not likely to be placed on
the market for a number of years, thus
allowing the city to acquire them gradually
as finances permitted. P)artram Garden,
the first inspiring thought in the movement,
was the first park taken by the city. Sten-
ton Park, the estate of Logan, the Secretary
of the Province under Penn, was next
placed on the plan. Besides these were Juni-
ata, Frankford, Waterview, Treaty Elm
(the spot on which Penn made his cele-
brated treaty with the Indians), John Dick-
inson, Wharton, Miflflin, Harrowgate, Ver-
non, Womrath, Ontario, Pleasant Hill. Fot-
terall, Weccaco, Starr Gardens, and others.

Next to Bartram Garden, the crowning
success of the whole movement so largely
due to Mr. Meehan's interest, is Vernon
Park, a small tract of twelve acres in Ger-
mantown, originally laid out by one of the
Wisters and filled with trees secured by
Meng, one of the early botanical collectors
of this country. But next to Bartram
Garden and Penn Treaty Park, the one he
felt the greatest gratification in securing,
was Weccaco, a small plot in the congested
part of the city, to which his attention had
been called by a poor washerwoman. It
was to a great extent due to Mr. Meehan's
influence in councils that there was secured
for the Philadelphia Museums the exhibits
at the World's Fair in Chicago, as well as
other legislation effecting these institutions,
whose consistent friend he ever was. From
the time of his first election to councils Mr.
Meehan was continuously in office, the
Twenty-second Ward reelecting him with
unfailing regularity. He took active part in
the deliberations of councils until stricken

with his last illness, attending a meeting of
council's committee on schools on October
3, preceding his death on November 19,
Although seventy-five years of age, he had
never missed a meeting of councils until two
years prior to his death, when he was taken
ill. Numerous honors came to Mr. Meehan
from many sources, and all were highly ap-
preciated, none more so than the Veitch
Silver Medal, awarded him in his latter
years by the trustees of the Veitch Memo-
rial Fund of England, for "distinguished
services in botany and horticulture," Mr.
Meehan being the third American so hon-

Mr. Meehan married, in 1852, Catharine
Colflesh, who survives him, residing in the
old home on Chew and Phil Ellena streets,
near Stanton Station, Germantown, one of
her widowed daughters, Mrs. John P. Burn,
also residing with her. Children : William
E., formerly Fish Commissioner, appointed
by Governor Pennypacker and reappointed
by Governor Stuart, now superintendent of
Fairmount Park Aquarium, Philadelphia.
Thomas B., J. Franklin, and S. Mendelson,
all engaged in conducting the business estab-
lished by their father, which now occupies
all but twenty-three acres of the original
Germantown tract, as a retail department,
and three hundred acres near Dreshertown,
Pennsylvania, as a nursery farm; Sarah D.,
married Howard Lanning; and Frances G.,
married John P. Burn ; both daughters

MEEHAN, William Edward,

Scientist, Author, Xiectnrer.

It is rarely in two succeeding generations
of a family line that such marked similarity
in talents, thought, desire and achievement
is observed as in the case of Thomas Meehan
and his son, William Edward. Both are
known to science, and among scientists held
and hold honorable position ; both have
served and have placed their honors at the
feet of their adopted and native city, Phila-



delphia; and where their courses in life
have deserted the parallel the cause has been
the need and trend of the times.

William Edward, son of Thomas and
Catharine (Colflesh) Meehan, was born in
Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, August 31,
1853, the property then belonging to Caleb
Cope, now known as "Forest Home." He
attended private schools in Germantown and
prepared for entrance in the University of
Pennsylvania, but changed his plans and
became associated in business with his
father, becoming an expert nurseryman and
florist. In gaining a knowledge of these
lines he passed some time at Rochester,
New York, Wilmington, Delaware, and
other places, in 1876 being appointed super-
intendent of the exhibit in the Pomological
Hall at the Centennial Exposition in Phila-
delphia. The following year he established
the first wholesale cut flower business in
Philadelphia, which prospered for some
time, but which, because of failing health
and a general business depression, he dis-

He possessed an inherent and deep-seated
love of scientific pursuits, and at the age of
fifteen years was an authority upon local
ornithology, particularly the breeding habits
of the birds of a locality. About this time
he, Alexander Harrison, now an artist of
note, whose brother, B. Harrison, and four
others resident in Germantown, formed a
boys' club under the name of the German-
town Scientific Society, an organization that
flourished for several years, dissolving when
the mature years of the members called
them to duty in different parts of the coun-
try and substituted for youthful pleasure the
responsibility of life work. Several of the
members thereof afterward attained promi-
nent place in the varied professions, some,
inspired by the investigations and discus-
sions held in the club, taking up scientific
work. William E. Meehan first wrote for
publication, when he was fourteen years of
age, an article bearing his signature appear-
ing in a Philadelphia weekly, and when he

was seventeen years old he wrote a char-
acter sketch that was accepted by the "Sat-
urday Evening Post." He was also a fre-
quent contributor of historical and descrip-
tive letters to the "Philadelphia Press,"
continuing writings of this kind until he was
about twenty-two years of age. In 1885
Mr. Meehan abandoned all of his business
projects and severed all of his business
relations to devote his entire time to literary
work, becoming a reporter, and at the same
time writing short stories for weekly maga-
zines. In 1887 he accepted a position on
the reportorial staff of the "Public Ledger"
of Philadelphia, and in the service of this
periodical gained rapid advancement, in
1890 becoming a member of the editorial
staff, where as leader writer he chiefly at-
tended to matters relating to natural science,
public education, and some branches of
municipal affairs. Through the editorial
columns of "The Ledger" he was one of
the earliest exponents of the children's play-
ground movement, which since then has
gained such vigor, and has made its propa-
ganda so important a feature in the admin-
istration of the affairs of every large city;
and of equal pay of women with men as
supervising principals of public schools. In
1892 he was chosen a member of the Peary
Relief Expedition to North Greenland,
active as botanical collector and staff cor-
respondent of the "Public Ledger," and,
upon the successful return of the expedition
three months later, it was his dispatch to
his paper that was flashed over the country
through the medium of the Associated
Press. On this trip he made an unusually
valuable collection, arranged by the latitudes
of the country, to the Academy of Natural
Sciences, and was the author of a paper,
published by the Academy, on "Flora of
Greenland," showing the effect of glaciers
upon vegetation and the relation of the
two. The investigations related in this
paper confirm a theory advanced by his
father, Thomas Meehan, after a visit to the
Muir and other glaciers of Alaska. On his


return he also wrote a full account of the
doings and experiences of the Relief Expe-
dition, which was published in book form as
part second of a work entitled "In Arctic
Seas." It was soon after this that Mr.
Meehan published in the columns of "The
Ledger" a "History of Germantown," dating
from the earliest settlement of Germantown
to the Civil War, a work ranking among
the foremost dealing with that place and

Another of his activities begun soon after
his return from the frozen north was the
founding of the City History Club, a pro-
ject he fathered at the suggestion and re-
quest of the district superintendent of the
board of education. As the first president
of the club his term of office, enduring for
several years, saw the organization well
upon its way for successful continuance,
and now (1914) he is honorary president.
When the ownership of the "Public Ledger"
changed hands, the greater part of the edi-
torial stafl^ employed by the Drexel Estate
was replaced, and at that time Mr. Mee-
han's connection with "The Ledger" ceased.
For nearly two years his only interests were
magazine writing and lecturing, and for sev-
eral years he held a place on the New York
Municipal Corps. As a lecturer he met
with popular favor, his simple familiar
style, even when dealing with abstruse sub-
jects, imparting knowledge to those ignorant
of the primary facts or principles of his
theme, and holding the interest of his entire
audience. One of his most important en-
gagements during his connection with news-
paper work in Philadelphia was the deliv-
ering of lessons on geographical and other
topics in the public schools, illustrated by
lantern slides. This was done at the invita-
tion of the Board of Education, acting on
the suggestion of Dr. Brooks, Superinten-
dent of Education. At this time birth was
given to the system of illustrated lessons
conducted by teachers, which is the fore-
runner of classes taught by moving pic-
tures, a system already adopted in some

schools and rapidly growing in favor be-
cause of the highly perfected devices pat-
ented by Edison.

There follows the relation of his work in
the line with which he is now connected, and
upon which he is a reliable authority, uni-
versally accepted, fish culture. From early
boyhood he was an enthusiastic angler, and
soon after becoming a reporter on "The
Ledger" was assigned to interview Henry
C. Ford, president of the State Fish Com-
mission. Out of this business meeting there
grew a warm friendship, and there was en-
gendered in Mr. Meehan a desire for fur-
ther knowledge in matters piscatorial, Mr.
Ford gladly giving him instruction. Through
the influence of the latter gentleman he
was permitted to visit and to closely ex-
amine the three State Hatcheries, and, be-
coming acquainted with the superintendents,
was a frequent visitor, the heads of the
hatcheries gladly assisting nim in his early
studies. In 1891, having in the meantime
acquired a wide and comprehensive knowl-
edge of the subject and having come mto
the possession of accurate data relating
thereto, at the request of Mr. Ford he wrote
an historical article entitled "Fish, Fishing,
and Fisheries of Pennsylvania," which was
printed in pamphlet form and distributed
by the State at the Columbian Exposition
at Chicago. So exhaustively and com-
pletely was the subject covered that the
pamphlet attracted interest throughout the
breadth of the country, and was gfiven
lengthy and commendatory reviews by the
leading nev/spapers and journals. Soon
after its publication, Henry C. Ford, who
first introduced Mr. Meehan to the work
in which he has performed service of such
signal excellence, died, in the year that the
State Fish Commission appointed Mr. Mee-
han assistant secretary and statistician,
giving him the superintendency of all the
hatcheries of the State. In this position he
demonstrated such thorough familiarity
with all departments of the work and all
of the affairs of the commission, that he



was appointed to membership on the com-
mission by Governor William A. Stone,
being reappointed by Governor Samuel W.
Pennypacker. In January, 1903, the State
Legislature abolished the State Fish Com-
mission and created in its stead the Depart-
ment of Fisheries, Governor Pennypacker
appointed Mr. Meehan head of the depart-
ment. He was reappointed by Governor
Stuart, and served for three months vmder
the administration of Governor Tener,
when he resigned. While Mr. Meehan was
head of the Department of Fisheries, Penn-
sylvania ranked, with Massachusetts, New
York, and Michigan, next to the National
Government in the volume of work con-
ducted by the State in fish culture, and the
annual number of fish sent from the hatch-
eries was far in advance of that of any
other State, being one-third of that to the
credit of the National Fisheries. Among
the important works conducted by Pennsyl-
vania were the introduction of frogs as a
food product, and the successful propaga-
tion of the black bass and the fresh water
terrapin. Through his connection with this
department and his well known part in all
of its work, Mr. Meehan became a cele-
brated authority of international fame.
Since November 24, 191 1, Mr. Meehan has
been director of the Philadelphia Aquarium,
by appointment of Mayor John A. Reyburn.
This institution, provided for by ordinance
of the city council, was first placed in temp-
orary cjuarters, and in April, 1912, was in-
stalled in Fairmount Park, and Mr. Meehan
is there its present head, his title (1914)
being that of superintendent. He is one of
the leading members of the American Fish-
eries Society, holding a life membership,
was president of the same in 191 1, presiding
over its meeting at St. Louis, Missouri,
vice-president in 1910 at New York, and
for four consecutive years was chairman
of the executive committee, during this time
contributing numerous papers on fish cul-
ture to the society. He is also a life mem-
ber of the Academy of Natural Sciences,

charter member and for several years cor-
responding secretary of the United Sports-
men of Pennsylvania, active member and
for one term president of the North Amer-
ican Fish and Game Protective Associa-
tion, an organization of sportsmen and fish-
ermen of the United States and Canada, a
member of the Pennsylvania State Game
and Fish Protective Association, and honor-
ary member of local fishing protective asso-
ciations throughout the State. He likewise
holds membership in various civic and
social societies вАФ the City Park Association,
and was for one year a member of the board
of directors of the Children's Protective
League. In 1902 he was elected to mem-
bership on the school board of Germantown,
succeeding a man elected to fill the place left
vacant by the death of Thomas Meehan,
his father, and with the exception of one
year served continuously until 1914. As a
member of this body he ably championed
the cause of colored pupils in the German-
town schools, a subject upon which Thomas
Meehan held the most progressive and prac-
tical views.

Natatorial sports were a favorite form of
recreation in his youth, and he became an
adept and powerful swimmer, and it has
been his good fortune in young manhood to
have saved the lives of five people, another
instance in which he has emulated the ex-
ample of his parent. Walking is another
form of exercise in which he takes great
pleasure, and while a member of the editor-
ial stafif of "The Ledger" he was one of the
members of a walking club composed of
noted newspaper men, among whom were
Hon. Joel Cook and Addison B. Burk. This
club was formed under the name of the
Monks of the Meerschaum, and its expedi-
tions were indeed merry occasions. A de-
scription of each outing was written and
the whole afterward published in book
form, entitled "Saturday Jaunts," about
one-third of the articles being of Mr. Mee-
han's authorship under the name "Boni-
facians." He recently (1913) published a



work under the title "Fish Culture in Ponds
and Other Inland Waters," and at the pres-
ent time is preparing a work on sea fish and
fishing. Those interested in angling and
fish life and acquainted with his intention,
eagerly await its appearance, confident that
in it they will find a work of as high a
standard as that which he has taught theni
to expect from his previous publications.

Mr. Meehan married, June 3, 1876, Linda
Augusta Graham, of Philadelphia, and has
two daughters: i. Catherine Louise, mar-
ried A. Harris Insinger, of Philadelphia;
children : Ada Meehan, Elizabeth Anna,
Anna Shingle, William Meehan, and A.
Harris, junior. 2. Ida Graham, married
Warren A. Chandler, of Philadelphia, and
has : Linda Meehan. Catherine Louise,
and Frank A.


Chairman of Board of Directors of Pitts-
bnrgli Plate Glass Company.

Who has not heard of the business that
is the greatest of its kind in the world, and
of the man whose far-sighted sagacity and
administrative ability were the most in-
fluential of the forces that called it into be-
ing and made it what it is today? A resi-
dent of Philadelphia and one of the fore-
most business men of Pittsburgh, Mr. Pit-
cairn is prominently identified with lead-
ing interests of both cities, but neither may
claim him exclusively, as the story of his
activities is incorporated In the annals of

John Pitcairn, Senior, father of John Pit-
cairn, of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, was
born in Scotland, a son of Alexander and
Janet (Currie) Pitcairn, who passed their
entire lives in their native land. John Pit-
cairn, Senior, was an inventor and a noted
mechanical expert, of Johnstone, near Pais-
ley, Scotland. In 1845 or 1846 he emigrated
to the United States and settled in Pitts-
burgh, having married in Scotland, Agnes,

daughter of Neil and Catherine (Campbell)

John (2), son of John (i) and Agnes
(McEwen) Pitcairn, was born January 10,
1 84 1, in Johnstone, near Paisley, Scotland,
and at five years of age was brought by his
parents to the United States. He was edu-
cated in the public schools of the First
Ward of Allegheny City. John Kelly was
his teacher and principal, and among his
schoolmates were Henry W. Oliver and
Henry Phipps. On his fourteenth birth-
day John Pitcairn left school and began his
business career in the office of the superin-
tendent of the Pennsylvania railroad, at Al-
toona, where he remained between two and
three years. He then returned to Pitts-
burgh and attended school for six months,
after which he went to Fort Wayne, In-
diana, where his brother Robert was assist-
ant to the superintendent of the Pittsburgh,
Fort Wayne & Chicago railroad. John was
employed in the office, and when Robert
went to Altoona as superintendent of the
Middle Division of the Pennsylvania rail-
road, the youngvir brother succeeded to the
position of assistant to the superintendent
at Fort Wayne, acting also in the capacity
of train despatcher. He left Fort Wayne
to go to Philadelphia, as assistant to the
superintendent of the Philadelphia Division
of the Pennsylvania railroad, and remained
there until the close of the Civil War.
While he held this position, he became one
of the actors in an event of national im-

The patriotism displayed throughout the
Civil War by the management and employes
of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Balti-
more Railroad Company (now a part of the
great Pennsylvania railroad system) and
the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, is
known to everyone familiar with the history
of that momentous period. Confronted by
aggressive disloyalty throughout the south-
em part of their territory, the officials of
these railroads stood firm in behalf of the

Online LibraryJohn W. (John Woolf) JordanEncyclopedia of Pennsylvania biography : illustrated (Volume 3) → online text (page 15 of 58)