The Home of the Brave
Alright, admit it. You read that in Kate Smith’s voice, didn’t you?
This week we’re headed back over the bridge to the City of Brotherly Love. The hometown of my fictional Martin family,
Philadelphia has long been known for its rich history. Before delving into her citizens’ contributions during the First World War, it’s important to understand the changes the city, like so many others, experienced in the years leading up to the conflict.
Let’s talk immigration circa 1900. What’s the first place that comes to mind? Most likely Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, and both would certainly be accurate. But did you know that roughly 1 million people docked right here, in Philadelphia?
Yup. Located along the Delaware waterfront, the Washington Avenue Immigration Station, registered approximately 250,000 people from 1910 to 1914 alone, most of whom hailed from Eastern and Southern Europe.
These people were the backbone of the Workshop of the World. Bound by language and culture, they settled in two-story row homes (like the one on Monroe Street shown bottom/ right) often more than one family at a time. Joseph Minardi further explains the unique diversity of the City of Neighborhoods in his beautifully photographed book.
One of those neighborhoods was South Philadelphia, where census records from the time indicate that Italians made up the largest portion of residents in that area. Their own Little Italy. Shopping in open air markets, like those on 9th Street or Reading Terminal Market gave them the feeling of home even though they were thousands of miles away from the Old Country.
Can’t you just smell the Sunday dinners? Now pass the gravy. Or, should I say, sauce? The correct answer, I suppose, depends on who you ask.
Ask baseball fans what team they rooted for at the time and you’d likely get different answers to that, too. Philadelphia had clubs in both the American and National Leagues.
No discussion of Philly sports would be complete without mention of the incomparable Cornelius McGillicuddy, affectionately dubbed “Connie Mack”.
That’s him in the tie at the Athletics’ 1914 World Series against the Boston Braves.
A bona fide legend to this day, Mack’s coaching career spanned 50 years. Some of his accolades include:
· 9 American League Pennants
· 5 World Series Championships
· Election into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1937)
· Shibe Park (top, right) renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953
While the A’s played at Shibe/CMS from 1909 to 1954, they shared the complex with the National League Phillies from 1938 to 1971.
Speaking of the Phils, given the brutal storms we’ve had in the Northeast this winter, I - for one- am eagerly anticipating the return of the Boys of Summer and the warmer temps they’ll bring with them.
Will we have another pennant race on our hands this year? Too soon to say. I can tell you, however, that it took them 33 years to win their first one.
Led by pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (second row, fourth from the left), the 1915 team won a total of 90 games. They faced off against the Boston Red Sox at the Baker Bowl, where President Wilson not only attended Game Two, he also threw out the first ball.
I worked in Center City in 2008. My former office was right on the corner of 20th and Market. No tricks that Halloween, that’s for sure. What a day!
Yes, from sports teams to Mummers, Philadelphia has always known how to throw a memorable parade. What you’re seeing here isn’t photo shopped, folks.
On October 25, 1917, the Liberty Bell itself was paraded up Market Street as part of a fundraiser in support of the war effort. The city would hold several such Liberty Loan drives over the course of the war, the last of which, on September 28, 1918, resulting in a catastrophic consequence- an outbreak of the Spanish Flu.
The city mobilized quickly when America entered the war, with City Hall utilized as a make-shift Army camp almost overnight. The 4th floor was used as a barracks while the 5th served as a mess hall complete with kitchen.
And the hundreds of thousands who were processed at Washington Avenue? Both men and women alike were hard work at places like Baldwin Locomotive, the Frankford and Schuylkill Arsenals, or the Philadelphia Navy Ship Yard, to name a few.
Others, like the 315th Regiment below, proudly served in the country's military.
"Philadelphia's Own", as they came to be known, originally left the city on September 19, 1917, with draftees reporting to either Camp Meade, in Maryland, or like my Danny Culligan, New Jersey's Camp Dix.
Comprised of 6,000 men, the regiment- part of the 79th Division- landed in France on July 18, 1918, later partaking in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Sadly, as with all combat endeavors, not all the men made it home. In fact, a total of 1,498 of them were among the killed, wounded, or missing at the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.
Though Danny isn't in the photograph (which is of the real-life unit), he does make an appearance on this post. At least, how I envision he looks, anyway. Can you find him? Let me know in the comments.
Interested in learning more about this often-overlooked time in Philly history? You can order Peter John Williams' book here. I also highly recommend this one assembled by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Happy reading, friends. And don't forget to look for that Easter egg!
*photos courtesy of the following sources: Temple University Libraries, PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records, and the Library of Congress.