About the Authors

Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin have more than six decades between them at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and both grew up in the Philadelphia area. This book, which was supposed to take about two years to complete, instead took more than seven years and they wouldn’t have minded another year or two.

Murray Dubin, author of South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, was a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 34 years before leaving the newspaper in 2005. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Libby Rosof. Daniel R. Biddle, teaches journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Delaware. Formerly the Philadelphia Inquirer investigations editor, he has worked in nearly every phase of reporting and editing. His investigative stories on the courts won a Pulitzer Prize and other national awards.

Videos, Interviews, Press & Talks

How it Happened

You never know beforehand which are the days that will be momentous. One of those days for Murray was in 1993 while he was doing research at the Library Company of Philadelphia on a book about the history of South Philadelphia. Phil Lapsansky, a Library archivist, suggested he read an academic article about an African American school teacher, civil rights leader and baseball player who lived in South Philadelphia in the mid-1800s. His name was Octavius Catto.

That day changed everything. Murray was surprised and intrigued at the life Catto had led, and disappointed that he had never heard of him before. He recounted Cattos’ life briefly in seven paragraphs in the book South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, but thought he deserved more.

Eight years later, Catto was still on his mind when he told his Philadelphia Inquirer colleague, Dan Biddle, about his fascination with the obscure civil rights leader. To his shock, Dan knew who Catto was.

Dan had been in a fiction writing workshop and was searching for a subject to write about. His momentous day was when he listened to a radio interview with a local historian who had written a book about 19th century black life in Philadelphia. The historian, Roger Lane, talked about Catto and Dan was intrigued.

He did some research and decided to write not about Catto, but about the man accused of killing him. Little was known about Frank Kelly, but Dan fashioned a childhood and life for Kelly in a compelling short story.

Biddle and Dubin laughed about how curious it was that Catto has come into both of their lives. And they decided to do something about it – perhaps write a book.

Connect with Catto's History

Meet the Authors

When they are not writing, Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin love to talk -- especially about the book. Invite them to speak to your book club, church, college class, civil war commemoration, fraternal group, library event, historical association meeting and more.
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Video Introduction

We like to talk. Our publicist put us in front of a video camera, asked three questions and then crossed his fingers. We're probably a little too serious at the beginning, but we loosen up as the video goes on.
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A Call to Arms

Click to get a closer look, you can see the name of Octavius Catto at the bottom, as well as his father's.

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.