George Ewell – Baseball Player and Oysterman

An Oyster Barrow in front of the Chestnut Street Theater. Artist: Attributed to John Lewis Krimmel (1786–1821)

Born: October 29, 1850

Died: October 20, 1910

Plot: Section 18, Lot 52

In March of 1871, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was established.  Baseball would have its first league made up of professional clubs with an established method of determining a champion. The first game in the league’s history would be played on May 4, 1871 between the Forest City Club of Cleveland and the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne.  The following month, on June 26, George Ewell, a twenty year old Philadelphia native, would make his first and last appearance as a Forest City player.  In that game, played against the Washington Olympics in Washington, DC, George, a right fielder, would have 3 at bats and no hits. The team would fare no better, losing the game before more than 2000 spectators.  Forest City Cleveland would finish the season in 8th place (out of 9).  The first place team that year would be Ewell’s hometown Philadelphia Athletics.

According to Philadelphia census records and city directories, George spent most of his life working in the oyster business. Between 1850 and 1900, the oyster industry in the Delaware Bay was burgeoning and oyster bars and saloons were plentiful. In 1893 one establishment opened near South Street as an oyster saloon.  It was called Bookbinders, a name that would remain synonymous with seafood dining in Philadelphia for many years to come.  It would be joined by more than 2,400 restaurants, bars, hucksters and street peddlers selling oysters which were cheap, abundant and able to be eaten raw, steamed, cooked in stews or served in soups.  By the early 1900′s, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore would rank among the top oyster markets in the country.

George was the son of Solomon and Mahala (Martha) Ewell and had many siblings.  Census records show Solomon, too, was involved in the oyster business.  George was married and had 4 children.  He died in Philadelphia and is interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Image: An Oyster Barrow in front of the Chestnut Street Theater
Artist: Attributed to John Lewis Krimmel (1786–1821)

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