Thirty-four-year-old William Carr died this date, April 12th, in 1847 from Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Carr was employed as a waiter earning $3 a week, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. His spouse, Patience Carr, worked as a day worker. They had a daughter, Ellen Carr, who was 17 years old at the time of her father’s death. She was employed as a seamstress. (1)
The Carr family lived in one room at 55 Currant Alley for which they paid $3.75 a month. Ninety-six Black families lived in the densely packed alley. These families had a staggering total of three hundred twenty-one family members, according to the 1847 Census. The Census also showed that the adults living on Currant Alley were solidly working class, having a wide range of laboring and domestic jobs to which African American men and women were restricted.
There are eleven other biographical sketches on this website for Currant Alley residents who are buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
Mr. Carr may have worked for the caterer located only two doors away from his home at #11 Currant Alley. Mr. William Davis operated “one of the most fashionable & largest Ice Cream houses in the city.” In addition to ice cream, the menu included “Jellies, Blancmange, Cakes, Tarts, and Pies of every variety.” Also offered were “The services of several good waiters for Balls, Picnics, and Private Parties . . . ” (2)
Mr. Davis was following in the footsteps of another Philadelphia Black man, Augustus Jackson, who invented a way for ice cream not to melt so quickly – he added salt! Before coming to Philadelphia, he served as a White House cook in the 1820s for President James Madison. Mr. Jackson lived on Goodwater Street, now St. James Place, between 7th and 8th Streets, adjacent to Washington Square. When Mr. Jackson died his daughter took up the business. (3)
Mr. Carr was one of the 876 Philadelphians who succumbed to Tuberculosis in 1847. He died on an early Spring day and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) Ellen Carr-Harris died in July of 1861 of Bronchitis and was buried at Olive Cemetery.
(2) Public Ledger, 9 June 1845.