An alert University City Associates employee and a savvy co-worker managed to reverse a historical disaster Sept. 18 by recovering a nearly 200-year-old diary kept by a notable Philadelphia woman.
The diary was written by Deborah Norris Logan, the granddaughter of prominent early Pennsylvanian Isaac Norris and granddaughter-in-law of William Penn's secretary, James Logan.
UCA maintenance worker Tom Brennan found a duffel bag containing what turned out to be the diary, plus other family documents, on top of a radiator in a building he was cleaning at 4003 Pine St. on Monday, Sept. 14. Penn had recently acquired the building when it purchased several area properties owned by Campus Associates.
Brennan showed them to a colleague who collected antiques, Ruth Ann Ricci, who identified them as having been written by a Logan family member.
Cory Luxmoore, a British descendant of Logan's, had come to Philadelphia to donate the diary to the Library Company.
Instead, Luxmoore inadvertently left the duffel bag in the back seat of a city taxicab Sept. 4. After calls to all the city's cab companies produced no results, Luxmoore spread news of the missing diary via a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer Sept. 16.
After hearing a radio news report about the missing book, Brennan and Ricci realized that the unusual old book Brennan had found was the Logan diary.
The diary is considered an unusually valuable piece of early American history. Logan, known as "Saucy Debby" for her sharp wit, kept it while presiding over the family's estate, Stenton, located in what is now Logan, the Philadelphia neighborhood named for the family.
In it, she recorded her encounters with several of the Founding Fathers, the fearful mood of the city as the War of 1812 progressed, her reactions to the British sacking of Washington in 1814 and her thoughts on politics and domestic service.
Brennan presented the diary to the Library Company at a news conference on Friday, Sept. 18, with Ricci, Luxmoore and Library Company Librarian John Van Horne present. Van Horne presented Brennan with a reward check for $1,000 that the company had offered for the diary's return. Brennan promptly donated the reward to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.Front page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page
Originally published on October 1, 1998