Jacob C. White, Jr. Historical Marker
This historical marker is placed where the residence of prominent African American educator, businessman, and baseball player Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902) once stood. In 1868, White, along with his lifelong friend Octavius Catto, founded the one of the city's most important all-Black baseball clubs, the Pythians, which became the best black team in the country. It was also the first to beat an all-white team.
Jacob C. White Jr. (1837-1902) co-founded the Pythians, one of the city's most important all-Black baseball clubs, and was the city's first black school principal.
Jacob C. White Jr. Historical Marker
Backstory and Context
Born in 1837, Jacob C. White Jr. grew up in Philadelphia, the son of one of the city's most successful Black businessmen. He attended the Quaker-founded Institute For Colored Youth, where African Americans received an extensive liberal arts education. It was there he met Octavius Catto. Both sons of prominent men and outstanding students, White and Catto became best friends and after graduation, both would teach at the Institute.1
In 1864, White became Philadelphia's first African American principal after being appointed to the position at the all-Black Vaux elementary school. He made an immediate impact on the school and established himself as a civic leader. That same year he and Catto helped start the Pennsylvania Equal Rights League to advance the Black suffrage movement.2
Later, in 1867, the two friends would found the Pythians Baseball Club of Philadelphia. The Pythians were an all-Black team modeled on the successful white baseball clubs of the day. Beyond just being a sporting club, they were a social organization and their games were heavily attended community events, generally followed by large banquets. These all-day affairs served as meeting places for prominent Black leaders to discuss the political issues of the time.3 White served as the team's secretary, often arranging their games, and sometimes as manager. Catto played second base.
Following Catto's politically motivated murder in 1871, the Pythians ceased to exist. White would continue to play an important role in Philadelphia's African American community, advocating for better educational opportunities for children and jobs for Black teachers. In the 1890s, he would help start the American Negro Historical Society and bequeathed to them his extensive records of Pythians, which he had preserved for over 20 years.4
1. Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902) Historical Marker, explorePAhistory.com. No author or date of publication listed.
2. Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902) Historical Marker, explorePAhistory.com. No author or date of publication listed.
3. Octavius Catto and the Pythians of Philadelphia, by Jerrold Casway for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
4. Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902) Historical Marker, explorePAhistory.com. No author or date of publication listed.