Feb. 11, 2022

The Pageant that Shook Walnut Grove - Notes and Illustrations about "The Mischianza"

The Pageant that Shook Walnut Grove - Notes and Illustrations about "The Mischianza"

Above, Below, a drawing made by Major John Andre, depicting a knight of the Mischianza.

According to one source: "André sketched this knight of the Mischianza with his squire for the souvenir book he assembled for Peggy Chew. The picture is a bit of a puzzle. The knight is dressed in the colors of the Blended Rose, yet the motto on the shield belongs to Captain Watson, chief of the Burning Mountain knights. Sophie Ward says of it: "On the cover [André] has outlined a wreath of leaves around the initials "P.C.," and he has made a water-color sketch to show the design and colors of his costume as a knight of the 'Blended Rose,' and that of his brother, Lieutenant William Lewis André, who acted as his esquire and bore his shield, with its quaint motto, 'No rival.' The device, 'Two game cocks fighting,' must have proved too difficult to draw, for he uses as his picture that of Captain Watson -- a heart and a wreath of laurel, 'Love and Glory.'"

This description does not even mention the small black child in the drawing, presumably one of the enslaved children who acted as servants and attendants to the British officers pretending to be knights. He has been given a turban and a sash to wear, and stands by the stirrup of the mounted rider.

I suppose I should mention at this point that you will see the event we describe in this episode spelled as both "Mischianza" and "Meschianza". It really makes no difference. The terms was popular at the time for an elaborate entertainment containing many different diversions. The word was a mangling of mescolanza, the Italian word for “mixture” or “medley”.

Below are two more creations of Major Andre (who really seems to have been quite a talented graphic artist). First is an invitation to the Mischianza. Hundreds of these were sent around to all the wealthy families in Philadelphia -  especially those who had unmarried daughters that the British officers wanted to include in their celebration. Second is a another drawing he made, that was preserved and kept in a scrapbook in the collection of the Germantown Historic Society. The inscription next to it (also by Sophie Ward) reads: "This is a drawing really done by the unfortunate Major Andre. It was drawn to give the Ladies of the Meschianza-Knigts an idea how they should dress as Ladies of the Knights of the Blended Rose. It was presented to me by Jane Craig one of those belles."


 



Above, a "Mischianza Mirror" in the collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia. It is one of perhaps 56 actual mirrors that were borrowed from the homes of wealthy Philadelphians by British officers in May of 1778. Amazingly, they were all returned intact, and this one was even later decorated with text that commemorated the event.

Finally, here is an etching depicting Walnut Grove, country seat of the Wharton family of Philadelphia. The house was in Wicaco Township, near what is now S. 5th and Washington Avenue. It was the center of the pageant activity that day in 1778, and the jousting and pageantry took place on its grounds. It was in the house itself that all the dancing, gaming, and dining took place. However, this drawing was made after the house was torn down in 1862. It is not clear what the artist, Joseph Pennell, used as his source. (From the Print and Pictures Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia.) Below that is a current map of the city of Philadelphia, with a red marker at the spot that Walnut Grove used to occupy. It was replaced in the 19th Century by a school building, and indeed a public school still occupies part of the site. This is just south of the Queen Village neighborhood, and looks over the Sack Playground and Jefferson Square. It is also close to the area now known as "Little Saigon" due to the presence of Vietnamese immigrants and their businesses in the rich cultural texture of South Philadelphia. Geno's Steaks, the Mummers' Museum, Gloria Dei Old Swedes Episcopal Church, and Phat Quang Buddhist Temple are all nearby.