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Andalusia History

Commodore James Biddle (1783-1848), a brother of Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844), served in the United States Navy for forty-eight years. James Biddle was a crew member of the ship Philadelphia that in 1803 ran aground off the coast of Tripoli during the Barbary Pirate wars. The release of the crew after nineteen months in prison was later celebrated in the Marine's hymn "to the shores of Tripoli."

Biddle was awarded a medal and a sword for his exploits during the War of 1812.  In 1817, he received orders to set the American flag at the mouth of the Columbia River to provide a stronger US claim to Oregon over Great Britain.

James Biddle was a member of the team that arranged a trade treaty with Turkey in 1830 and was responsible for ratification of a treaty with China in 1845.  Biddle's short stay in Japan's Jeddo Harbor a few months later has long been a point of controversy; some scholars insist that the Commodore failed in his attempt to open trade with Japan. However, Government instructions explicitly ordered him to proceed with utmost care to see if ports were open and make an attempt at gaining access, yet "not in such a manner as to excite a hostile feeling or a distrust of the Government of the United States."

During his time in the Philadelphia area, Commodore Biddle visited Andalusia as often as possible. Both his travels and generosity are reflected in many objects in the Big House.


Charles Biddle (1819-1873), son of Nicholas and Jane Biddle, served with the US Army during the Mexican war when he formed his own company.  He was breveted Major 'for gallant and meritorious conduct' during the take over of Chapultepec and was also present at the capture of Mexico City.  During the Civil War, Biddle served as Colonel of the famous 'Bucktail Regiment' and later was a member of the United States House of Representatives. During the war, he became the proprietor and editor of the Philadelphia Democratic newspaper, The Age.


John Craig Biddle (1823-1910), another son of Nicholas and Jane, also served with the Army during the Civil War. He became a respected judge in Philadelphia County, serving in that capacity for over thirty years, ten as President Judge.  He also devoted much of his spare time to maintaining Andalusia as a home for his family.


Long interested in gardening at Andalusia,Letitia Glenn Biddle (1864-1950), who was married to Charles Biddle (1857-1923), became a founding member of the Philadelphia Garden Club. In 1913, she and a small group of women met in the Billiard Room where they wrote the Constitution for the Garden Club of America. Charles and Letitia modernized the Big House by installing electricity in 1917 and plumbing a few years later.


When they married in the 1920's, Charles J.(1890-1972) and Katharine Legendre Biddle (1893-1973) became full-time residents. Charles Biddle, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, served with distinction during World War I as a member of the Lafayette Escadrille. An ace pilot credited with destroying eight enemy aircraft, Major Biddle was a recipient of the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre as well as the American Distinguished Service Cross. He wrote of his experiences in a book, Fighting Airman, the Way of the Eagle based on letters home to his parents.

After the war, Biddle practiced law with this father's firm until the elder Biddle's death.  In 1925 he became a partner in the firm of Drinker, Biddle and Reath.


Charles and Katharine's younger son, James Biddle (1929-2005), was curator of the American wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. During his tenure at the National Trust, membership as well as influence of the Trust increased dramatically. After retirement, he resided in the Cottage at Andalusia and in 1980 created the Andalusia Foundation to help preserve his ancestral home.

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