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Frank J.R. Jones

Frank J.R. Jones (c. 1846-1911)

Frank J.R. Jones graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth in 1864. He scored 7.87/10 on his final examinations, finishing seventh in his class of ten. He went on to become an active, if not financially successful, member of the Philadelphia community.

Jones was born sometime around 1846 in Philadelphia to Charles and Elizabeth Jones. The Jones family was a large one; Frank was the youngest of eight children. Education and music were both central parts of Frank’s life from an early age. By the age of four he was already in school. In addition, there were several musicians living in the house, including his older brother George, older sister Elizabeth, and a lodger Edward Rowlin (or Roland).

After graduating from the Institute for Colored Youth, Jones became one of the city’s premier African American musicians (he played the violin) and big band leaders. He played numerous functions for African American organizations, including the 1873 concluding exercises for Jacob C. White, Jr.’s Roberts Vaux School, an 1885 benefit for the Allen Chapel and Central Presbyterian Church, and an 1881 event at Musical Fund Hall, in which Jones led an orchestra and performed a violin solo “in an excellent style.”

For the rest of his life, Jones identified himself as a musician. But it did not appear that music was sufficient to pay the bills. Though a talented musician, whites in Philadelphia generally did not hire black bands, so Jones was forced to take additional jobs. These included a saloon keeper, as well as various jobs for the city, state, and federal government. He served as a clerk for several public offices in the city.

Jones was also active in the city’s political and social community. He was a member or officer of several political clubs, including the Matthew Stanley Quay Club, the Republican League of Pennsylvania, and the E.H. Fitler Republican Association. He also served on various Republican Committees, spoke at numerous Republican rallies, and served as a Voter Assessor in 1866.

Jones also participated in a number of social clubs, including the Gray Invincibles Veterans Corps, the Quaker City Beneficial Association, the Hiram Lodge of Masons, No. 5, and the Musicians Association.

By 1880 Jones was married to a woman named Ella, who taught dance classes in the city. It does not appear that they had any children.

Jones never appeared to have been financially secure. He never owned a home, but rather lodged with others or lived in a boardinghouse. By the end of his life it seems that his possessions were up for auction in sheriff’s sales. Frank Jones died on February 24, 1911, at the age of sixty-five. He was buried on February 28 in Eden Cemetery.


Roger Lane, William Dorsey’s Philadelphia and Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America, New York, 1991, 118-119, 313-316; “The Election in Philadelphia, in United States Congress, Congressional Series of United States Public Documents, Volume 1770, Washington, D.C., 1877, 199-202, http://books.google.com/books?id=_lBHAQAAIAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s; 1850 Federal Census, Philadelphia Locust Ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll M432_814, Page 144B, Image 295, Ancestry.com; 1860 Federal Census, Philadelphia Ward 8, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll M653_1158, Page 88, Image 92, Family History Library Film 805158, Ancestry.com; 1870 Federal Census, Philadelphia Ward 8 District 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll M593_1393, Page 42A, Image 87, Family History Library Film, 552892, Ancestry.com; 1880 Federal Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll 1171, Family History Film 1255171, Page 424C, Enumeration District 145, Image 0319, Ancestry.com; 1900 Federal Census, Philadelphia Ward 8, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll 1455, Page 7A, Enumeration District 0149, FHL microfilm 1241455, Ancestry.com; “Frank J.R. Jones,” Death Certificate, February 24, 1911, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944, Ancestry.com; “Institute for Colored Youth,” The Christian Recorder, May 21, 1864; “The Robert Vaux School Had Its Concluding Exercises, Friday,” The Christian Recorder, July 3, 1873; The Christian Recorder, December 8, 1881; “The Star Concert,” The Christian Recorder, March 19, 1885; “Political,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 1, 1881; “A Farsical Convention,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 4, 1885; “The Quay Club,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 10, 1885; “The New Committees,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 1888; “Political Drift,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 3, 1888; “The Three Vice Presidents,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 24, 1890; “Philadelphia Delegates,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 20, 1891; “Military Matters,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 19, 1893; “Campaign Orators Own the Town,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 14, 1894; “Politics in Brief,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 15, 1895; “Colored Society Dances for Charity,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 17, 1897; “Sherriff’s Sales,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 16, 1898; “Captain Davidson Assumes Duties of New Office,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 1901; “Sherriff’s Sales,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 20, 1903; “Sherriff’s Sales,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 1903; “Sherriff’s Sales,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 12, 1910; “Sherriff’s Sales,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 22, 1912; “Died,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 27, 1911.


Image: "The Star Concert"

Source: The Christian Recorder, March 19, 1885

Born: c. 1846 - Philadelphia, PA

Died: February 24, 1911 - Philadelphia, PA

Graduated: 1864

Government employee


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