The proximity of Camden to Philadelphia has had mixed results throughout Camden’s history, but one benefit to the close proximity between the cities is the range of occupants who made Camden their home. The family of Grayson Mallet-Prevost may have only lived in Camden for a duration of three years, but as residents of 312 Cooper Street from 1878 to 1880 they give an international flair to the history of the Cooper Street Historic District and show how easily people made the transition between living in Philadelphia and Camden in the late nineteenth century.
Grayson Mallet-Prevost was born somewhere within Philadelphia in 1823, into a military family. Grayson’s father, Andrew Mallet-Prevost, served as a Brigadier-General in the War of 1812, and Grayson’s older brother Charles Mallet-Prevost had a long military career that culminated in a position as a Brigadier-General in the Civil War. Grayson’s service in the military was as a field surgeon, and he only participated in one major conflict, the Mexican-American War (1846-48). Grayson started his military medical career in 1844, after completing a program at the Medical Institute of Philadelphia. He took a number of exams for the Army Medical Board and placed second out of eleven applicants. However, the military only had one opening, leading Grayson to work as a surgeon at West Point and then with civilians in Alabama until his placement in the army in March 1846. Grayson worked for the Seventh Infantry Regiment for the entirety of the Mexican-American War. After 1848, he started to practice as a civilian surgeon and frequently traveled from Philadelphia to Mexico. In the 1870s, Grayson served on the Medical Board for the Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, and he and his family stayed within the Philadelphia area until his retirement from the board in 1881.
Grayson Mallet-Prevost met his wife, Marionita Cosio, in the city of Parras, Mexico, in 1849. Marionita Cosio was born in 1835 and was the daughter of the Governor of Zacatecas, Don Severo Cosio. After Grayson and Marionita were married in 1850, they moved to Zacatecas, where Grayson continued to work as a civilian doctor and surgeon. Seven of their eight children were born in Mexico and they traveled with their parents to the United States. Eight of Grayson’s children were living with him while he lived at 312 Cooper Street between 1878 and 1880. His seven daughters, Isabel (age 23), Virginia (21), Andrea (22), Washington (16), Meme (14), Paquitu (11), Beatrice (1) and his son Severo (19) were all listed by the U.S. Census as single, and only Beatrice was listed as having been born in the United States. A family of this size, living on Cooper Street typically had at least one domestic servant; the Mallet-Prevost family had Catharine Gallin, a twenty-seven year old Irish immigrant who lived in Philadelphia.
The movements of the Mallet-Prevost family can demonstrate the connection and ease of travel between Camden and Philadelphia in the late nineteenth century while Grayson served on the Medical Board of the Presbyterian Medical Center. The Mallet-Prevost family moved frequently between 1871 and 1881. They lived on South 15th Street in Philadelphia in 1871, then moved to Spruce Street in Philadelphia in 1873, Walnut Street in Philadelphia in 1877, 312 Cooper Street in Camden in 1878, and finally Pine Street in Philadelphia in 1881. The relatively close proximity of Cooper Street to the ferries to Philadelphia may have been one choice for the Mallet-Prevost family to move across the Delaware River for three years. Grayson Mallet-Prevost is just one example among many who made the choice to make Camden their home while their work was in Philadelphia.