Chapter 16: TheVenus of the High Trapeze

The trial of Frank Kelly began the next morning.

A spacious new Common Pleas courtroom at Sixth and Chestnut streets, the product of Stokley’s building boom, filled quickly. A squad of court officers — tipstaves, they were called — combed the crowd for troublemakers and waited on the judge.

From the first morning of the first day, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Frank Kelly achieved something unusual and noteworthy for 1877 — an audience of both races, crammed together on narrow seats, for sessions the judge allowed to run as late as 7:00 p.m. They were not a quiet assembly; one account described a constant hubbub in the room. A newspaper came up with a word for the look of the crowd: “piebald.”

 

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This broadside is eight feet high and was seen on windows in downtown Philadelphia in June, 1863, as black leaders called a meeting to convince black men to join the Union Army prior to Gettysburg.