Category Archives: 1844

Fires of Philadelphia correction: John Colahan’s marriage

On this July 7 (the anniversary of the Battle of Southwark, 1844), I confess to an error on page 222 of The Fires of Philadelphia. 

Introducing Captain John Colahan, I wrote that in 1844 he “had connections to Protestant circles, having married Mary Dorothea Zell, daughter of a prominent Quaker merchant.” I based this claim on Charles Morris, ed., Makers of Philadelphia, an Historical Work Giving Sketches of the Most Eminent Citizens of Philadelphia from the Time of William Penn to the Present Day (Philadelphia: L. R. Hamersley, 1894), 70. Morris writes, “Soon after his advent to this city [Colahan] he married Mary Dorothea, daughter of Thomas Zell,” and I took “soon after” to mean less two years after Colahan shows up in Philadelphia in 1842.

Soon after the book was published, Professor Andrew Dinan of Ave Maria University, who is writing about the Kenrick brothers, alerted me to a letter from Francis Patrick Kenrick to his brother Peter, written on July 10, 1844, and noting that Colahan was considering studying for the priesthood. This dates his marriage to some time after July 1844, though I have not pinned down the date.

I am grateful to Professor Dinan for noting this error, and I ask that if anyone else spots a mistake they alert me as he did.

New in 2021: The Princeton Guide to Historical Research and The Fires of Philadelphia

I have two books scheduled for publication in 2021.

In April, Princeton University Press published my book, The Princeton Guide to Historical Research, a manual for writing history in the twenty-first century. Through August 31, 2021, use the code ZS30 to get a 30 percent discount. The book is also available as an ebook or an audiobook.

In June, Pegasus Books will publish The Fires of Philadelphia: Citizen-Soldiers, Nativists, and the 1844 Riots Over the Soul of a Nation, a narrative history of America’s first great urban riot.

I am grateful to all who helped bring these books into the world.

Lewis Levin Wasn’t Nice

I present some of my research on Philadelphia in 1844 in Tablet Magazine:

Levin was a rabble-rouser, conspiracy theorist, bigot, and shanda fur di goyim. In an age of resurgent nativism and fake news, he is all too familiar. Yet he is also mysterious. As a newspaper editor and congressman, Levin spoke and wrote countless thousands of words against demon rum and the Catholic menace. But he offered hardly any account of his private life, leaving historians to wonder about both the facts of his biography and the sincerity of his tirades. Where did a nice Jewish boy learn so much hate?

Lewis Levin Wasn’t Nice,” Tablet Magazine, 22 October 2018.