On 28 Aug 2007, the Christian Science Monitor reported on a bill “to educate, test, and license guides who offer tours for money on public property in Philadelphia”:
If Ron Avery has his way, Philadelphia tour guides will stop telling you things that will make you flunk your history test.(“Most historic”? Saint Augustine was an organized settlement for over fifty years before Europeans settled in either Philadelphia or Boston. But I digress.)
They’ll stop saying that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln once dined together. Or that Ben Franklin had not one, but 69, illegitimate children. That basement kitchens had outdoor exits so as to spare the furniture should the cook’s skirts catch fire. Or that a house would be left to burn if it didn’t display an insurance company fire mark.
Mr. Avery, a part-time tour guide and retired reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, is out to halt what he sees as “nonsense” parading as history among those paid handsomely to tutor tourists. He compiled a list of 80 inaccuracies he has heard–or heard of–while traveling incognito over the years on tourist trolleys, double-decker buses, and horse-drawn carriages in this most historic of American cities...
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation favored the legislation. Though some tour guides complained that this would produce another layer of bureaucracy, the city council and mayor approved the bill, and it became law in April, to take effect on 13 October.
On 13 May, Amy Chen of Newsweek filled in the details:
Once the program is running in little more than a year from now, the city’s tourism website gophila.com plans to list the companies with certified guides.That article added, “Philadelphia isn’t the first city to require that its tour guides be licensed. Charleston, New Orleans, New York City, Savannah, and Washington, D.C.,—and cities overseas, such as Rome—already license their tour guides.” Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the federal government has licensed guides for the Gettysburg battlefield since 1915; each must pass a tough examination process.
Philly’s exam, which will cost $25, hasn’t been developed yet. It will be written by a group of tour operators, historians, and university professors.
After two years, the City Council plans to review the program and will likely expand it beyond the historic district.
TOMORROW: The politicized pushback.