Adger, Robert Mara

Robert Mara Adger (1837-1910)

Businessman, political activist, bibliophile and director of the Philadelphia Building and Loan Association

Former home Address: 823 South Street

(See place marker no. 3 on map)


Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Robert Adger was one of 13 children. His mother, Mary Ann Morong, was a full-blooded Native American. In 1848, he moved to Philadelphia with his family, receiving his early education at the Bird School. As a teenager, he worked in his father Robert's furniture store. Adger later used the business skills he developed working with his father as director of the Philadelphia Building and Loan Association, one of the first African-American mortgage companies. His success was achieved during a period of intense racial discrimination in the city, which forced 38 percent of black skilled artisans to give up their trades.
Adger joined the Black Enlistment Committee to assist in the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army. He was convinced that conditions would deteriorate even more for blacks if the Confederacy won the Civil War. He organized the Fraternal Society in 1860, which struggled for the equal rights of African Americans, and worked collectively with other black social-political groups. In 1865, Adger was a delegate at the first state conference in Harrisburg to discuss the creation of a Pennsylvania Equal Rights League. He later organized the Afro-American Historical Society, which contained his personal collection of rare books and pamphlets of African Americans and the antislavery movement. He died of a heart attack on June 10,1910. Funeral services were held at 1115 Lombard Street, Adger's last residence, and he was buried in the Merion Cemetery in Merion, Pennsylvania.

(From: Blockson, Charles L. Philadelphia's Guide: African-American State Historical Markers. Philadelphia: Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection / William Penn Foundation, 1992.)