Main content

Anna Scull Case records


Held at: Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center [Contact Us]100 E. Wynnewood Rd., Wynnewood, PA

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Anna Scull was born in December of 1832. She devoted nearly 30 years teaching in the public schools of Philadelphia. By 1874, Scull was appointed principal of the Hunter Girl’s Grammar School located at Dauphin and Mascher Streets in Philadelphia.

One day during a history lecture in February of 1881, Scull was alleged to have taught students false statements that insulted the Catholic faith. As a result of these allegations, a petition dated March 8, 1881 was presented by parents, citizens, and city taxpayers to the Board of Education stating that schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were established for the purpose of secular education only, with the obvious understanding that secular schools will not teach or attack any religious doctrine. However, the petitioners alleged that the Hunter Girl’s Grammar School was in violation of the Commonwealth’s law. The Petitioners alleged that Scull not only promoted the Lutheran Reformation, but she also “attacked, vilified and abused the faith, religion and belief” of their children as well as “assailed the religious creed and faith” of the Roman Catholic Church.

What Miss Anna Scull was alleged to have specifically stated while teaching the history lesson at Hunter Girl’s Grammar School was, “the Catholic priests excommunicated people for not paying money or tithes; that the priest rang a bell, closed a book and blew out a candle, and cursed the souls of the excommunicated persons to dwell among demons for all eternity; that the priest cursed all parts of the bodies of such persons; that she was sure that was not the right spirit of Christ, and that it was enough to make anybody tremble to hear Catholic priests curse the souls of people.”

Upon receiving the petition which was signed by thirteen petitioners, the Board of Public Education referred the matter to the Committee on Grammar, Secondary and Primary Schools of the Board of Education, a special committee called to conduct a formal investigation of the event(s) that transpired in February of 1881 at the Hunter Girl’s Grammar School that involved Miss Anna Scull’s alleged transgression. The members of the committee comprised: Dr. S.R. Knight, Superintendent of the Episcopal Hospital, president; S.Y. Hotchkiss, secretary; William F. Miller, controller; Joseph Adamson; Dr. G.A. Bachman; William Bardsley; John Emsley; Dr. J.M. Higgins; Robert Judge; William McKinney; S.C. Pursell; Henry Schneider; and Dr. J.O. Eberhand.

After reviewing the petition, the Committee passed a resolution on March 11, 1881 which stated that a formal investigation on the matter will be required to ascertain the facts and deliver a final report which would include testimonies, conclusions and actions of the Board.

The first special committee meeting began on March 14, 1881. Subsequent special committee meetings went on throughout March and ended on March 28, 1881. A regular meeting of the committee was held on March 31, 1881 to present the final report of the investigation. After hearing testimonies and investigating the petition’s complaints, the committee unanimously found that the charges in the petition against Miss Anna Scull’s transgressions were “wholly unsustained”[sic]. Overall, the committee believed Miss Anna Scull’s conduct did not infringe on Commonwealth law nor did the committee feel compelled to recommend any reprimands to Miss Anna Scull.

The Anna Scull Case Records, 1881-1917, consists of materials that specifically relate to the special meetings by the Committee on Grammar, Secondary and Primary Schools of the Board of Education during March of 1881. The special committee was formed to investigate the Petition's allegations and charges against Miss Anna Scull.

The bulk of the collection consists of transcripts from the special committee meetings and primarily focuses on the testimony of Anna Scull. The collection also includes: one official book/pamphlet of the Petition, Proceedings, and Testimony; newspaper clippings; and research notes all relating to the Anna Scull case. Folder 1 also includes a small note that indicates Sarah Jane Cambell (1844-1928) presented the materials in 1917. Folder 5 also includes a hand written index that was attached to the testimony.

The Anna Scull Case collection is arranged into four series. Since this collection was so small, most materials were processed at the item level.

Series I. Committee Hearing Transcripts

Series II. Petition, Proceedings, and Testimony

Series III. Newspaper Clippings

Series IV. Notes

Materials in the Anna Scull, 1881-1917, collection included a small note (Folder 1) by Sarah Jane Campbell that indicated she presented the materials in 1917.

Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Hoang Tran
Finding Aid Date
2013 April
Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions to access this collection. Please note that the archives reserves the right to restrict access to materials of sensitive nature.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions to use this collection. Please note that copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents note

Consists of typed-transcripts created/compiled by Sam'l B. Collins, Short-Hand Writer and Law Reporter of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Series specifically contains transcripts to six days of hearings that took place between March 14, 1881 and March 31, 1881.

Arrangement note

Series was processed at the item-level and are arranged in sequential order indicated by the handwritten page numbers found at the bottom left corner of the transcripts. Each folder contains one day of the hearing.

Subseries Ia. Opening statements, 1881 March 14.
Box 1 Folder 1
Subseries Ib. Testimony for petitioners, 1881 March 21.
Box 1 Folder 2
Subseries Ic. Testimony for defense (Anna Scull Only), 1881 March 23, 24, 28.
Box 1 Folder 3-5
Subseries Id. Final report, 1881 March 31.
Box 1 Folder 6
Series II. Petition, proceedings, and testimony, 1881.
Box 1 Folder 7
Scope and Contents note

Folder contains the official copy of the Petition, proceedings and testimony in the matter of the petition of Kelly et al., in relation to teachings in the Hunter Girls' Grammar School.

Series III. Newspaper clippings, ca. 1881.
Box 1 Folder 8-9
Scope and Contents note

Series contains two newspaper articles regarding the Anna Scull Case. Folder 8 contains an article that provides details about the formation of the special committee established to investigate the issue. Folder 9 contains an article that provides information about case details, witnesses, and witness testimonies.

Scope and Contents note

Series consists of handwritten notes most likely used as reference materials during the committee hearing of Anna Scull. Folder 10 contains notes on the Blaine Amendment which refers to the state constitutional provision which forbids government aid to educational institutions that have religious affiliations. Folder 11 contains notes on court cases regarding legal jurisdiction. Folder 12 contains one note that reads like a prayer, one note that contains a list of questions most likely used during the committee hearing, and one notecard with cataloging information.

Constitution of Pennsylvania Article "Education", ca. 1881.
Box 1 Folder 10
Jurisdiction cases, ca. 1881.
Box 1 Folder 11
Regarding the case, ca. 1881.
Box 1 Folder 12

Print, Suggest