the backdrop of nineteenth century Philadelphia's flourishing activist
African American community, Octavius V. Catto made a mark both locally
and nationally. A learned man, he taught at the Institute for Colored
Youth, later to become Cheyney University. Catto was linked to virtually
every important black movement and the inner circle of Radical Republicans
of his time. He raised African American troops to serve in the Civil
War and in the late 1860s became a national spokesperson for enfranchisement
and civil rights for African Americans. Catto was assassinated, along
with several other blacks, in a riot during the election of 1871, one
of the first elections in which Pennsylvania blacks could vote as a
result of the state's ratification of the 15th Amendment. His funeral
was reported as the most elaborate ever held for a black person in America.
His death resonated beyond Pennsylvania.
Chapman-Smith, "Finding Octavius V. Catto:
Using Local History Stories for National History Day projects,"
in the 2007 National History Day Curriculum Book, forthcoming.
To aid students
and other researchers in exploring Octavius V. Catto's life and times, members
of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL)
and their research partners are developing an online archive of documents
and other resources. This is a work in progress; as we build the section,
we hope you will enjoy this preliminary page with items in our collections
and links to other online resources.
Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin release Tasting Freedom: Octavius V. Catto and the Battle for Freedom in Civil War America, fall 2010. [details]
in Philadelphia Collections (preliminary)
on thumbnails to view enlargements or documents)
Portrait of Octavius V. Catto, Harper's Weekly, October 28,
1871, Library Company of
Philadelphia collection. Used with permission. See also: portrait with text describing Catto's murder.
Banner of O. V. Catto Lodge, 1906, Atwater
Kent Museum of Philadelphia Collections. Used with permission.
Excerpts of minutes of the board of the Institute for Colored Youth
mentioning O.V. Catto, Friends
Historical Library, Swarthmore College. (Links to Adobe Acrobat
document). Used with permission.
Lebanon Cemetery Interments for the week ending October 20, 1871,
Returns of Death in the City
of Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Archives. (Shows the names
of three black men, including Catto, killed during the Election Day
riot and the signature of the father of Catto's childhood friend,
Jacob White. Used with permission.
of the Shooting of Octavius V. Catto, on October 10, 1871." From
The Trial of Frank Kelly for the Assassination and Murder of Octavius
V. Catto (pamphlet), 1888, The Historical
Society of Pennsylvania. Used with permission. (View entire document as an Adobe Acrobat file )
of Color, to Arms! Now or Never!" Recruiting poster, 1863, signed
by prominent African Americans, including O.V. Cato. The
Library Company of Philadelphia. Used with permission. Also in the Library Company's holdings: Seven-foot poster, same text; poster for a Chester recruiting event
800 block of South Street, late 20th Century. The modest rooming house in which O.V. Catto lived from at least 1861 to his death, 814 South Street, is the third building from the right. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Used with permission.
O. V. Catto on the Web
- ushistory.org: Read V. Chapman-Smith's article, "The Triumph and Tragedy of Octavius V. Catto , at http://ushistory.org/people/catto.htm
Online Black History - Harper's Weekly reports on black America
from 1857-1874. The site has reports appearing in Harpers on northern,
as well as southern, civil rights activities. http://blackhistory.harpweek.com
York Times (Historical) Archives. This resource has articles appearing
in the Times, starting from 1851. Several hits appear for Catto including
articles on a memorial oration by Rev. Henry Highland Garnett at the
Shiloh Presbyterian Church in New York and the Catto officer appointment
to the National Guard. The site at http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html
requires payment for articles. However, historical New York Times may
be obtained free through ProQuest services available at subscribing
public and research libraries.
O.V. Catto's Philadelphia through the atlases and online city directory
at the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network site (see "Pilot
resources"). Search for "Catto" in the 1861 city directory
to find out where he lived and what his occupation was. Then view the
1860 and 1875 atlases for a glimpse of his neighborhood. Please note
that this is a work in progress. http://www.philageohistory.org/
- For additional
partner links, see PACSCL |
National History Day/Philadelphia
| Civil War History
Additional resource: a note on Catto-related census records.
acknowledge with thanks the contributions and support of Lee Arnold, The
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Joan Decker, Department of Records,
City of Philadelphia; Christopher Densmore, Swarthmore College; Phil Lapsansky,
The Library Company of Philadelphia; Viki Sands, The Atwater Kent Museum
of Philadelphia; and Anthony Waskie, Temple University, in locating these
and other Octavius V. Catto resources in Philadelphia area collections
or online. To suggest other resources, contact Laura
Blanchard and V. Chapman-Smith