Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Horse Trader’s Son and the Elocutionist’s Daughter: The Kendircks of Powelton

Minnie Murdoch Kendrick
            George and Minnie Kendrick moved to 3404 Hamilton St. in 1870 shortly after they purchased it from William List who lived next door at 3406 Hamilton St.  George, a 28 year-old pawnbroker, was the son of a Philadelphia horse trader.  He was at the start of a very successful career in finance.  Minnie was 21 and the mother of a 2 year-old son who died soon after.  She soon gave birth to sons George W., 3rd and Samuel Murdoch.  In 1882, they traded up and moved to 3507Baring St.
            In the 1887 city directory, George listed three separate partnerships, plus the humble “pawnbroker.”  Over the years, he developed close ties with many financial institutions including the Third National Bank, Fidelity Mutual life Insurance, and the Philadelphia Company for Guaranteeing Mortgages.  He was also active in civil affairs as a member of the Board of City Trusts and was elected to Common Councils three times and to Select Council (as a Democrat in a strongly Republican ward).
            Minnie’s parents lived with the Kendrick family.  Her father, Samuel K. Murdoch, was an actor who became an elocution coach.  Her uncle, James Edward Murdoch, was a nationally prominent Shakespearean actor.   Samuel's brother, Edward Murdoch, (Minnie’s uncle) was a bookbinder.  In 1880, he lived next door at 3406 Hamilton St. with his daughter, Ella List, her husband William, and seven (of an eventual ten) children.   Minnie and Ella may also have been cousins through their mothers, Mary and Ella Hanna.   The Kendrick and List families were very close.  In 1878, Minnie purchased 3406 Hamilton St. from William and Ella List and rented it to them until 1901 when it was deeded back to Ella.  Charles List inherited the family home and his widow was still living there in 1940.  Leonard List lived at several addresses including 3301 Hamilton St. (the cottage house).  In 1930, he lived at 3605 Hamilton St.
Minnie Murdoch Kendrick
            The Kendrick’s made their most significant contributions through the clubs and organizations they founded and fostered.   George’s obituary in 1916 began by stating “he was one of the best known and most honored masons in this country.”  In 1895, he was the principle force in founding University Lodge No. 610 (now #51).  The next year the members of the Lodge visited the Kendrick’s home to present George and (in a highly unusual action for a Masonic Lodge) Minnie with separate resolutions noting the many kindnesses they had shown the Lodge.  Both sons also played important roles in the Lodge.  Lodge 610 soon became the largest in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the country.
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3, 1896
             Minnie Kendrick was involved in founding and supporting a dizzying array of organizations most of which were in support of women’s education.  The first club she formed was for her two sons.  In the mid-1870s, she founded a local Agassiz Association, one of many named in honor of the great biologist.  There were 35 boys who met on Baring St.  A neighbor, Mrs. George Smith (3615 Hamilton St.), later reported that “[every] Saturday they went into the country, collected specimens, studied and did good work, every one of them.”  In 1884, a new chapter with 23 teenage members was founded by the Kendrick’s young neighbor, Robert Truitt (3505Baring St.), and Minnie’s young cousin, Charles List.  Mrs. Smith also noted Minnie’s involvement in fostering local parks and playgrounds.  George was a founding member of the Northminster Presbyterian Church (35th & Baring) and Minnie a leading member of the Mite Society, the church’s benevolent society.
Minnie Murdoch Kendrick School (from Free Library of Philadelphia)
            Minnie was best remembered for her support of education for girls.   She worked for decades with the Alumnae Association of the Girls' High and Normal Schools of Philadelphia and founded an annuity fund for women teachers (who had to remain single).  The Kendricks established a scholarship at the Philadelphia College of Music and George founded the High School Alumnae Scholarship at Bryn Mawr in memory of Minnie.  (The first recipient at Bryn Mawr was her niece, Minnie Kendrick List.)  Her contributions were also celebrated with the naming of the Minnie Murdoch Kendrick School next to the current site of the Drew School (38th St. south of Powelton Ave.).  She was also a major force in the D.A.R. and the Pennsylvania Daughters of 1812.  Through the Civic Club, she worked with Hannah Schoff (3418 Baring St.) on the establishment of juvenile courts.
            Theater was always important to her.  She founded and led the West Philadelphia Shakespeare Club for several decades and organized a week-long Shakespeare Festival at the Academy of Music for the benefit of the annuity fund for women teachers.  Both of her sons were active in Mask and Wig at the University of Pennsylvania.
George Kendrick, Jr. (Phila. Inquirer, 1916)

            Minnie died in 1903.  George remained on Baring St. until his death in 1916.  For more than 40 years, they were a dynamic, important part of Powelton.

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