Anatomy Room at Wallace Street School, Philadelphia (1891)

anatomyroomwallacest.jpg“One night in 1891, when the schools were located at 1821 Wallace St, a burglar broke into the building and collected quite a loot.

“Coming into the Anatomy room, he suddenly beheld the [anatomical] manikin and was so frightened at its dreadful appearance that he dropped his bundle and quickly made his way over the roofs of the adjoining buildings” (C. Th. Odhner, “John Pitcairn: A Biography,” New Church Life 1917, 291).

anatomyroom6.jpgThe manikin that caused such distress for the burglar in 1891 has been used to teach anatomy at the Academy of the New Church since the school was founded in 1877. The Wallace Street, Philadelphia, property referred to by the Rev. C. Th. Odhner in his humorous tale was purchased by the Academy in 1887. The rear of the property fronted on North Street, and contained a stable and tenant house that was converted and used by the Boys School. The rooms of the building on Wallace Street were used by the College, Theological School, and Girls School. The Anatomy room (see photo, top) was on the fourth floor.

The manikin, made from papier mache, was purchased in Paris by John Pitcairn in 1874. His diary entry for July 30th reads as follows: “Ordered a manikin for the Academy—man 3,000 francs, woman 300″ (John Pitcairn. Typescript from his diary for 1874. Academy of the New Church Archives).

anatomyroom3.jpgThe manikin was kept in Pittsburgh for a time with the Rev. William Henry Benade before it was moved to Philadelphia. It made an impression on Edward C. Bostock in 1877 as he passed through Pittsburgh on his way to Philadelphia to take up his studies:

“In going to Philadelphia I stopped to visit Bishop Benade, who then lived in Pittsburg, or Allegheny City, and while there I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a friend of all the students who have studied in this school, one whom you all know. I refer to the manikin now in the Anatomy room” (E.C. Bostock, “The Dedication of the New Building of the Academy,” New Church Life 1902, 259).

anatomyroom2.jpgThe manikin, now residing on the fourth floor of Benade Hall in Bryn Athyn, is still used to teach anatomy in the Academy Schools (see color photographs). It was made by the factory of Louis Auzoux, who had first begun to make anatomical models as a medical student in France. The internal parts can be removed to illustrate the relationship of the various internal organs. In addition, a human skeleton known affectionately as “Charlie” (made by the Charles H. Ward Co.) stands close by, very much like the one in the photograph of the Wallace Street Anatomy room (see photo, top). This skeleton is the oldest one currently in the school, and it may be the one shown in the historic photograph.

The study of human anatomy and physiology has always been an important part of the curriculum of the Academy schools. In Emanuel Swedenborg’s descriptions of the universal human or “Grand Man” of heaven, the structure of the spiritual world relates to humany anatomy, and the functions of the various societies there relate to physiology.

The editors of would like to thank Erland Brock, Bill Fehon, and Rae Friesen for their assistance with this New Church History Fun Fact.

Photos: The photograph of the Wallace Street Anatomy room is labeled on the back as follows: “Skeleton and Mannikin [sic] (Anatomy Room) 1890.” In a different hand: “Wallace Street school (ANC) Phila.” The photo is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA.

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at

October 31, 2008 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact