Water Walk

Join us during the American Philosophical Society Museum’s Water Walk Weekend, Saturday September 20th at 4PM and 6:58PM, and Sunday, the 21st at 4PM. Independence National Historical Park between 3rd & 4th and Chestnut & Walnut. Click here for more details.


SEPTEMBER 12 …a round, a round in the pouring rain. This evening’s performance of TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS has been cancelled. Please check this website again for possible added evening shows next weekend, or come tomorrow night at 7:10.

TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS: Tales of Civic Effluvia

A eulogy for a buried creek, spoken and sung by the souls that lived and died along its course.

TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS premieres September 5th, 2008 at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, two minutes before local sunset:

Friday, September 5, 7:23pm

Saturday, September 6, 7:21pm

Friday, September 12, 7:11pm

Saturday, September 13, 7:10pm

Each performance is approximately 29 minutes long, ending with the close of civil twilight.

Additional performances commence at 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, September 20th and 21st, and at 1pm on Saturday, September 27th for National Public Lands Day.

The performance takes place on the former site of Dock Creek in Independence National Historical Park, SW block at the intersection of 3rd and Chestnut Streets.

In the middle of this park block between Carpenters’ Hall and the First Bank of the United States there is a small depression in the land, a memorial marking the course of Dock Creek, which was arched over and buried at the end of the 1700’s, after it had become irredeemably fouled by the domestic and industrial waste being dumped into it for over a century. The creek still flows beneath us, as the oldest exit for Philadelphia’s civic effluvia.

It is easy to forget what roils through the pipes below, which is, after all, why it was put down there. But breathing deeply at the sewer grate, performance artist Brett Keyser peels back the layers of this man-made landscape in an evocative “exhumation” of the little tidal creek, an elegy of ebb and flow, of growth and decay, of life, and love, and loss along “The Dock”.

Commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum, Keyser’s TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS was conceived as a companion piece to Drawing Dock Creek, a sculptural installation on the same site by Winifred Lutz. Both Lutz and Keyser are artists in residence for the current APS Museum exhibition “UNDAUNTED: Five American Explorers, 1760-2007” through December 2008.


ef·flu·vi·um \ n, plvia \ often sing in constr orvi·ums [L effluvium act of flowing out, fr. effluere] 1 : an invisible emanation; esp : an offensive exhalation or smell 2 : a by-product esp. in the form of waste

American Weekly Mercury, August 16, 1739

Last Week the Assembly of this Province gave Notice to the Tanners to appear before them, to offer their Objections to a Petition that Pray’d the Tanners might be removed without the Bounds of this City, and no new Tanyards made in it. Notice was likewise given to some of the Principal Promoters of the said Petition, to appear and defend the Allegations therein set forth. The several Parties appearing, the Tanners, on their Part, Alledged, That the Petition was without Foundation; that the Causes of Complaint ought to be charged to the present disorderly Condition of the Dock, which was a Receptacle for all kinds of filth from a very great part of the Town, and in the upper Parts of it without water sufficient to carry it off; abundance of Necessary-Houses on the Dock, and Communicating with it, were specially urged: It was likewise offer’d to prove, by clear Instances, that it was not truly asserted in that Petition, that the Health of the Inhabitants was affected by Tanyards, and especially it appeared that they did not promote contagious Distempers among us, because that when such Distemper ranged with great violence in this City, the Inhabitants who were in the Neighbourhood of the Tanyards were preserved from it more than in other Parts of the Town. Continue reading “American Weekly Mercury, August 16, 1739”


McMahon, Michal. “Publick Service” versus “Mans Properties”: Dock Creek and the Origins of Urban Technology in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia in Judith A. McGaw’s Early American Technology, 1994

Watson, John Fanning. Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, v. I, 1857, specifically the chapter entitled “The Drawbridge and Dock Creek” pp. 336-349

Levine, Adam. www.phillyh2o.org The History of Philadelphia’s Watersheds and Sewers