Five Cadwalader brothers (above) learned about the unit as boys, and later served together as adults (below). (First City Troop collection)
Mark Twain's quip about Boston's intellectual, New York's monetary, and Philadelphia's familial tendencies is no less true today than it was when he uttered it over a century ago.
Perhaps owing to its Quaker origin as a city of refuge, Philadelphia has always been one of America's most ethnically diverse cities, and also one of its most family oriented. The city's oldest institutions, like the Mummers, for instance, have come to form extended family groups in their own right.
The First City Troop is an interesting Philadelphia case study in this regard, because it is so very old—though granted, not as old as the Mummers.
The founding generation of Troopers were ethnically diverse in their day, running the gamut of Scots-Irish, English, German, and Welsh descent. These men were sort of established, but sort of up-starts at the same time. They were equal parts brash and genteel, much like the Founding Fathers in general.
Stylistically, they sought to preserve the aesthetic trappings of the English class system, while keeping access open to newcomers with talent.
Over the ensuing years, Troopers accumulated an array of overlapping social and business connections that reinforced their camaraderie built through military drill each week. As they grew to live the Troop as an extension of themselves, they passed their affinity for it on to their children, cousins, and friends. Within two generations of its founding, the Troop was not just a military unit anymore, but an extended family.
During the late 19th century, almost everyone on the Active Roll lived in Center City, near Rittenhouse Square. Each Monday night, they gathered at the Armory for drill, and would often gather with their wives at each other's houses afterward for dinner. With wives and children so thoroughly incorporated into the weekly Troop routine, the organization enjoyed tremendous generational continuity that continues in ever diminished, and yet ever-regenerating form, down to the present day.