A Man Full of Trouble Tavern

6 of 15

Mrs. Smallwood's Inn

With m'lady on his arm, a man and his symbolic menagerie stand at the door of the one place he can be sure to find solace and diversion, Mrs. Smallwood's Inn.

By 1803 Dock Creek, emptying into the Delaware, had been filled in and paved over except for the basin. Malodorous tanneries had been replaced by maritime businesses, but reputation probably had not benefited from memory that in this neighborhood occurred the first cases of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. Still, absent knowledge of the role of mosquitoes in the disease nothing was done to destroy breeding places. Closeness to the water's edge promised brisk business for a place like the "Man Full of Trouble Tavern."

A Man Full of Trouble Tavern

"Neither the best nor quite the worst of taverns," Man Full of Trouble was older than City Tavern, its upscale neighbor a block away. Built about 1760, it was owned in 1803 by Marcha Smallwood who, like the owners of one-fifth of the taverns in Philadelphia, was a widow. Archaeological work in 1962 and the city records of her estate at death are consistent with an image of a rather humble tavern in which "beer or spirits . . . were poured from the kegs or spirit bottle . . . into leather cups, pewter mugs, or wooden vessels" (rather than into glass containers) while "the undoubtedly proper widow Smallwood, silver-rimmed spectacles glinting in the candlelight" bent over her apparently heirloom teapot.1 Her place may once have known lustier days when it was called "Man with a Load of Mischief," and its sign showed a woman piggyback on the shoulders of a man, rather than on his arm.


1. Cotter, John L. et. al., The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia, (Chicago: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 170.

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge Cost Share Program.