Cowgirls and Calf Roping at the Sesquicentennial

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Not all of the entertainment that took place at the Municipal Stadium during the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 focused on pageantry, theater, and music. The Stadium, located near the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, was built to serve both as a gathering and performing area during the Sesquicentennial and as a venue for outdoor and athletic events in Philadelphia after the Sesquicentennial was finished. 710 feet wide and 721 feet long, the Stadium had a seating capacity of 100,000 with 73,830 of those seats being permanent and the remainder being movable as necessary.[1] During the Sesquicentennial, the Stadium hosted parades, concerts, speeches, athletic events, and races and continued to serve as a sporting venue for decades after the Exposition closed. 

One of the events hosted at the Municipal Stadium during the Sesquicentennial was a rodeo. The photos of the rodeo feature calf roping, bull riding, cowgirls, and rodeo hands and show a crowd enjoying the festivities. Unfortunately, there is little further documentation regarding the event.   

Although rodeo competitions had existed since the late 1800s, the 1920s saw a huge rise in the popularity of rodeos. As the economy boomed and radio, automobiles, and motion pictures became more readily available, Americans had extra money and the desire to spend that money on various forms of entertainment. Rodeos became more accessible when annual indoor rodeos began to be staged in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York.[2] Although rodeo promoters feared that urban audiences would not pay to see such contests, the Madison Square Garden rodeo became so popular it quickly became an annual event and additional rodeos were scheduled throughout the East Coast.[3] Fred Beebe, a rodeo promoter and producer, is featured in several photographs taken at the Sesquicentennial rodeo. Beebe staged the 1926 and 1927 rodeos at Madison Square Garden and additional contests in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and St. Louis during the 1920s and 1930s.[4]

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The 1910s and 1920s also presented more opportunities for cowgirls as rodeos began to feature more events and prizes for women. One well-known cowgirl of the 1920s and 1930s was Ruth Roach of Fort Worth, Texas. Roach’s portrait was taken by a photographer at the Sesquicentennial, indicating that she may have participated in the rodeo. In 1926, Roach finished second in the all-round cowgirls competition at Madison Square Garden. Seven years later, Roach would be trampled by her house and suffer a broken leg after an 8 second ride on a bucking bronco as part of the 1933 World Series Rodeo in Madison Square Garden.[5] She premiered as a rodeo cowgirl at the 1917 Fort Worth Roundup and became known for competing while wearing giant hair bows. Born in 1896, Roach passed away in 1986 and was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 1989.[6]

Although there are few details regarding the rodeo held at the Sesquicentennial in 1926, the event provides an illustration of the change from rodeo competitions held only outdoors in the West to those held in stadiums and arenas around the United States and the world. Some groups resisted the spread of rodeos; the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals protested the rodeo held in Madison Square Garden from November 4-13, 1926.[7] Despite these protests, rodeo competitions would continue to draw crowds of spectators throughout the 1920s.

[1] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 419-423.

[2] LeCompte, Mary Lou. Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993, p. 70.

[3] Ibid., p. 83-86.

[4] Ibid., p. 86.

[5] New York Times. “Cowgirl is Hurt in Rodeo Mishap.” October 13, 1933, p. 24.

[6] “Ruth Roach Salmon.” National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

[7] New York Times. “Champion Cowboys Arrive for Rodeo.” October 24, 1926.

Events and People

DeWolf Hopper: Sesquicentennial Actor and the Voice of “Casey at the Bat”

In an attempt to draw large crowds to the Sesquicentennial, organizers of the event allocated funds for a pageant entitled “Freedom” to be held at the Stadium near the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. Although the pageant was to open on July 3, 1926 and be performed on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings until October 2, heavy rains caused the cancellation of many performances and the decision was made to hold the final staging of the pageant on Saturday, September 11.[1]

While “Freedom” would not be the financial success hoped for by the Sesquicentennial administrators, it did provide viewers with an opportunity to see a major actor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. R.H. Burnside, a producer from New York formerly in charge of the New York Hippodrome, was contracted by Sesquicentennial officials to stage the pageant. Immediately upon accepting the contract in the spring of 1926, he began gathering together a cast of 1500 participants from a variety of theatrical companies.[2] One of those actors was DeWolf Hopper, a well-known performer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who was given the role of William Penn in the production and also appeared in several scenes depicting ancient Rome.[3]

Born on March 30, 1858 in New York City, DeWolf Hopper pursued a career in theater and became known for his comic timing and loud bass singing voice, two traits that led to many musical theater roles. He performed in dozens of Broadway musicals including Lorraine in 1887, H.M.S. Pinafore in 1911, The Mikado in 1912, Erminie in 1921, and White Lilacs in 1928.[4] By the time he appeared at the Sesquicentennial, Hopper had a reputation as a comic musical actor, a baseball fanatic, and a man with five divorces who would marry his sixth wife that year.

Early in his career, Hopper became well-known for his recitation of the famous baseball poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. First published in The San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888, the poem tells the story of the hero of Mudville and his crucial time at bat. On August 14, 1888, DeWolf Hopper would bring wide-spread attention to the poem when he recited it at the Warrick Theater in New York in front of an audience that included baseball players from the New York Giants and Chicago White Stockings teams.[5] The crowd reacted enthusiastically to both the poem and the recitation, and DeWolf Hopper became for many people the unofficial voice of “Casey at the Bat.”

Hopper estimated that he recited the poem over 10,000 times at various events. The advent of radio allowed Hopper’s recitation to reach even greater audiences, who had apparently not tired of the poem. The New York Times on May 18, 1926 advertises an hour long radio special with DeWolf Hopper during which he would talk about his musical career, sing songs from various musicals, and “delight with one of his inimitable curtain speeches and ‘Casey at the Bat.’”[6] In 1922, a film recording using an early sound-on-film process was made showing Hopper standing and reciting the poem.

The documentation on the Sesquicentennial does not give further details regarding Hopper’s involvement in the “Freedom” pageant, perhaps because of the many performances canceled due to the weather. After his appearance in “Freedom” in 1926, Hopper acted on Broadway in White Lilacs in 1928 and The Monster in 1933. He died on September 23, 1935 at age 77.

[1] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 240-244.

[2] Ibid., p. 241-243.

[3] The New York Times, “Theatrical Notes.” June 15, 1926.

[4] “DeWolf Hopper.” Internet Broadway Database.

[5] Okrent, Daniel and Steve Wulf. Baseball Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, US, 1989, p. 23-24.

[6] The New York Times. “DeWolf Hopper- Himself Tonight.” May 18, 1926.


Pageantry at the Sesquicentennial

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In an attempt to attract large numbers of visitors, the Sesquicentennial Exposition offered a variety of activities and events. Visitors could tour nearly a million square feet of exhibit space and dozens of different amusements and see everything from a military camp to monkeys to a house displaying nothing but different types of wallpaper.

Along with these other attractions, Sesquicentennial officials staged various pageants, choruses, and performances. Perhaps two of the largest performances were the “Freedom” pageant and the “America” pageant, both held at the Municipal Stadium located near the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. Performed at different times during the six months of the Sesquicentennial, the pageants were intended to draw additional visitors to the Exposition grounds.

“Freedom” and “America” differed in focus but both included tableaux (small dramatic scenes) and thousands of participants. With 10,000 actors in the tableau, a 5,000 member chorus, a 1,500 piece band, and a 200 member symphony orchestra, “America” was a large production that traced the history of America from the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the present events of the Sesquicentennial.[1] Although the pageant was initially scheduled for June 23, heavy rain caused the performance to be rescheduled for Thursday, June 24. On Thursday, it began raining just as the performers took their positions although the program proceeded when the rain stopped later that evening. “America” was finally presented uninterrupted on the following Sunday evening. Reserved seats were given to those who had purchased tickets for the Wednesday or Thursday performances while the rest of the stadium was opened to the public at no charge.[2]

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While “America” was intended to be performed only once, the Sesquicentennial administrators wanted the “Freedom” pageant to be staged a few times a week for several months. The Exposition officials hired R.H. Burnside, a producer from New York, to direct “Freedom.” He calculated that for a cost of $650,000 (the amount allocated by the Sesquicentennial administrators) the pageant could be first performed on Saturday, July 3, and then held three nights each week for the following twelve weeks.[3] Divided into three parts, the pageant focused on historical events and concepts connected to freedom from the Stone Age to the twentieth century, with specific emphasis placed on the Revolutionary War and founding of the United States.

On opening night, July 3, the performance of “Freedom” was canceled due to heavy rains. Rain also caused the second scheduled performance on July 5 to be canceled. The weather continued to be problematic and roughly half of the remaining performances were canceled. The final performance of “Freedom” was given on Saturday, September 11, although administrators had planned for the pageant to be staged through October 2.[4] The Sesquicentennial continued to be plagued by inclement weather throughout the summer and fall. When questioned about the poor financial state of the Exposition, Erastus Austin, the general director, would blame some of the difficulties on the extreme amount of wind and rain.[5]

While “Freedom” and “America” were two of the larger pageants at the Sesquicentennial, there were dozens of smaller choruses, musicals, dramas, and parades. Many of these events were held in conjunction with specific days such as Italian Day, German Day, New Jersey Day, and Labor Day. By providing changing entertainment and specific events, the administrators of the Sesquicentennial hoped to encourage the public to repeatedly visit the Exposition.

[1] The Washington Post. “WIP to Broadcast Pageant at Sesqui.” June 20, 1926.

[2] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 216-218

[3] Ibid., 239-240.

[4] Ibid., 244.

[5] The New York Times. “Philadelphia Loss on Fair is $206,987.” June 20, 1927.

Historic Sites

Constructing a 150th Birthday Celebration

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Spread over a large portion of land in the south portion of Philadelphia along the Delaware River, the Sesquicentennial Exposition featured huge buildings filled with exhibitors, technical innovations, and displays from around the world. These huge halls, along with a new stadium, a military encampment, and a recreation of a Philadelphia street in 1776, served as a way to attract visitors to the six month long celebration of the nation’s independence.   

The enormity of the Exposition and its buildings was demonstrated even before visitors reached the Sesquicentennial Exposition main entrance located at the intersection of Broad Street and Packer Avenue. As individuals approached the Exposition grounds, they passed underneath an 80 foot tall reproduction of the Liberty Bell covered with 26,000 fifteen-watt lamps. Built at a cost of $100,000, the Liberty Bell was said to be visible from large portions of Philadelphia when it was lit at night. [1]

Like the Liberty Bell, buildings that were grand in size would be a dominant feature of the Sesquicentennial. Three large exhibit halls each contained over 320,000 square feet of floor space to be used for displays and demonstrations. [2] One of these halls, the Palace of United States Government, Machinery, and Transportation, covered 11.5 acres of land and included exhibits related to industry and transportation. Another hall, the Palace of Liberal Arts and Manufactures, covered 7.75 acres of land located near the intersection of Broad Street and Packer Avenue and contained over 50,000 square feet of exhibits devoted just to the displays and goods of Great Britain and Ireland. [3] Even the Administration Building, which held offices for Sesquicentennial officials and their staffs and was located near the intersection of Oregon Avenue and Moyamensing Avenue, was 17,600 square feet.

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Despite the immensity of the completed halls, the original plans for the Sesquicentennial grounds included many more buildings that were greater in size and more elaborate in ornamentation. A lack of money and insufficient time to complete construction, however, forced organizers to dramatically alter the original plans to ensure that all building would be completed by the time of the official opening of the Sesquicentennial on July 4, 1926. In protest of these budget and construction cuts, Colonel David C. Collier, Director-General of the Exposition, resigned on October 29, 1925. [4]

Collier’s resignation was just one of many difficulties facing the administrators of the Sesquicentennial Exposition as they attempted to organize such a large scale celebration. By the end of 1925, some members of the Sesquicentennial administrative staff were still so fearful that construction would not be completed by the opening date that they urged the National Advisory Commission to postpone the Sesquicentennial until 1927. After much debate, the Commission decided against postponement and kept the opening day of the Exposition as May 31, 1926.[5] While the major halls were structurally complete by May 31, few of the exhibitors had installed their displays. Many of the smaller buildings were also still being constructed and much of the landscaping had not been finished. Visitors on opening day expressed disappointment at the state of the Sesquicentennial grounds and exhibits, but officials estimated that the exposition was 75 percent complete. [6] Construction and exhibit installation continued at a feverish pace after the opening day, and the majority of the buildings and displays were completed by the time of the official dedication of the Sesquicentennial Exposition on July 4, 1926.

[1] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 67.  

[2] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 64-65. 

[3] Emery, Steuart M. “Sesquicentennial Fair Shows Our Progress.” New York Times, May 23, 1926.

[4] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 44. 

[5] Austin, E.L. and Odell Hauser, Editors. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Reports. Philadelphia: Current Publications, Inc., 1929, p. 45. 

[6] New York Times. “Sesquicentennial Opens as Sun Shines; 100,000 Pass Gates.” June 1, 1926.

Events and People

The Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926

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In 1926, Philadelphia hosted a celebration commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United States. This Sesquicentennial Exposition drew exhibitors from around the world and featured speeches, sporting events, a military camp, and an 80 foot tall replica of the Liberty Bell covered in 26,000 light bulbs. The main entrance of the Sesquicentennial was located at the intersection of Broad Street and Packer Avenue and most of the grounds covered the area that is now the site of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park and various stadiums on the south side of the city. A map of the Exposition grounds is available at  

Despite a heavy rain, the New York Times estimated that 200,000 people traveled to the stadium located on the festival grounds to hear President Calvin Coolidge officially open the Sesquicentennial Exposition on July 5, 1926. [1] After speeches by both President Coolidge and Mayor Kendrick, the President attended a luncheon and then visited Independence Hall, Christ Church, and Camden, New Jersey. Various other celebrities and political figures would visit the Sesquicentennial over the next month.

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The rain that plagued the opening ceremonies, however, would continue throughout much of the Exposition. For a variety of reasons, the Exhibition failed to make a significant amount of revenue and faced extreme financial difficulties. Eventually, several vendors brought legal action against the Exhibition for lack of payment and the entire festival was placed into equity receivership by the United States District Court on April 27, 1927. [2]

The Philadelphia City Archives contains a collection of print images taken of the Sesquicentennial. Many of the prints were removed from scrapbooks several years ago and stored in archival quality boxes to prevent deterioration and fading of the images. The prints are now in the process of being digitized and placed on Including photographs of everything from the construction of the Sesquicentennial grounds to an Industrial Parade underneath the Liberty Bell replica to a variety of athletic events, the Philadelphia City Archives Sesquicentennial Collection provides stunning images of events that captured the attention of the City during the summer of 1926.  

To view the photographs, go to and select DOR Archives- Sesquicentennial from the list of Collections on the Search page. Check back often as additional photographs from the Exhibition will be added on a weekly basis!  

[1] New York Times. “Coolidge Invokes Founders’ Ideals as Guide to Nation.” July 6, 1926. p. 1.

[2] Philadelphia City Archives, Record Group 232, Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association.

Events and People

From Sculptor to Mobile Creator: Three Generations of Calder Artists

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Towering above the City of Philadelphia, a 37 foot tall statue of William Penn stares down at the city that the real William Penn founded over 300 years ago. While the statue is a very large, very visible reminder of the city’s past, it is also an excellent example of the work of Alexander Milne Calder, a talented sculptor whose son and grandson would also begin their artistic careers in Philadelphia.

Born in Scotland in 1846, Calder immigrated to America in 1868 and later studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.1 As a sculptor, Calder is best known for creating the statues around City Hall. While the Penn statue is the most immediately apparent statue on the building, there are numerous other carvings, figures, and animals located on the structure. In total, Calder spent nearly 20 years sculpting around 250 figures for City Hall.

After standing on City Hall for over a century, many of Calder’s statues needed a large amount of restoration work in the late twentieth century. The statue of William Penn was cleaned in the early 1980s, again in 1996, and just recently in 2007, but the eight bronze figures located around the clock tower of the Hall had not been cleaned since they were placed in their locations between 1894 and 1896. These bronze figures include four eagles with 15 foot wingspans and four groups of figures.2 The cleaning of the bronzes was completed in 2007 in conjunction with additional restoration work of the City Hall facade.

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Assisting Calder with the creation of the statues on City Hall was his son, Alexander Stirling Calder. An artist and art teacher, Stirling Calder studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, traveled and sculpted in Europe, and taught at both the School of Industrial Design of the Pennsylvania Museum and the Art Students League in New York.3 Calder focused on sculpture throughout his career and created several artworks that stand in Philadelphia. These artworks in the city include a statue of Samuel D. Gross near 10th Street and Walnut, the Smith Memorial Arch near Memorial Hall, the Shakespeare Memorial north of Logan Square, and the Swann Memorial Fountain in the center of Logan Square.4

Although both were well-known in Philadelphia, the artistic reputations of Alexander Milne and Alexander Stirling would be surpassed by that of Alexander Calder. The son of Alexander Stirling Calder and his wife, painter Nanette Calder, Alexander Calder was born on July 22, 1898 in Philadelphia. After studying art in the United States and France, Calder became famous in both countries for staging shows with his “Circus,” a collection of miniature performers made out of scraps of wire, wood, paper, string, and other miscellaneous items.5 From these figures, Calder continued to experiment with wire sculptures and movement. After trying several mechanized objects, he decided to hang his created items in order to have them respond to the wind or other surrounding movements. The resulting artwork, named mobiles by the French artist Marcel Duchamp, challenged previous ideas about the rules of sculpture and cemented his reputation as a leader in the modern art movement.6 Calder died in 1976, but his mobiles and other artwork remain on display in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and around the world.

The Calder artists and their work are both a part of the history of Philadelphia and a demonstration of how sculpture has changed over the course of a century. From a nineteenth-century sculptor to a master of modern art, three generations of Calders have brought their talent and creativity to artwork around the city.  

[1] “History for Alexander Milne Calder.” Bringhurst Funeral Home and Turner Funeral Home at West Laurel Hill.

[2] The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Philadelphia Completes Groundbreaking Restoration of Alexander Milne Calder Sculptures Atop City Hall.” February 26, 2007.

[3] “Alexander Stirling Calder.” Academy Stars. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

[4] “Alexander Stirling Calder.” Philadelphia Public Art

[5] Tuchman, P. 2001. Calder’s playful genius (Famous for his colorful mobiles, prolific sculptor Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, was also a master toymaker, wire portrait artist and painter of gouaches). SMITHSONIAN. 32 (2):87.

[6] “Alexander Calder.” American Masters.

Events and People

The Philadelphia Peace Jubilee of 1898

Although lasting only four months, the Spanish-American War was a decisive moment in United States history and served as America’s entry into the world of foreign affairs. Weeks of tension between Spain and the US over the issue of Cuban independence culminated in the US sending the battleship USS Maine to Cuba to protect American interests in the region. When the battleship sank due to an explosion on February 15, 1898, several US newspapers encouraged retribution and war was eventually declared on April 25. After four months of fighting in the Phillipines and Cuba, Spain sued for peace and hostilities stopped on August 12, 1898. With the Spanish-American War at an end, the United States gained control of the former Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as some influence over Cuba. To celebrate the end of the war, Philadelphia organized a Peace Jubilee to be held in October 1898 to honor the troops and celebrate the country’s success.

Peace jubilees had proven popular throughout America in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The National Peace Jubilee, held in Boston on June 16-19, 1869 and organized by Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, celebrated the end of the Civil War and urged a focus on peace throughout the country.[1] For four days, tens of thousands of people gathered in a specially constructed concert hall known as the Coliseum for speeches and musical performances. The celebration was so well-received that Gilmore soon began planning another jubilee to be hosted in Boston just three years later. The World’s Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival opened on June 17, 1872 and ran for eighteen days. With its emphasis on large choral groups and international music, the jubilee included performances from English, French, Austrian, and Prussian orchestras and bands.[2]

Held for three days in October of 1898, the Philadelphia Peace Jubilee celebrated the conclusion of the Spanish-American War and brought national attention to the City. The festivities included speeches, parades, and events to honor the country’s soldiers. Towering over all of the activity was a gigantic arch built to span Broad Street. Located near the intersection of Broad and Sansom Street the archway served as a focal point for the Court of Honor. [3]The Court included the archway as well as many large columns that lined Broad Street from City Hall to Walnut Street. The columns and arch featured ornate carvings as well as statues of eagles and statues of riders on horseback.

Attendees at the Jubilee included General Graham, his complete staff, and 10,500 troops from four regiments in Pennsylvania as well as regiments from several other states.[4] The troops took part in military reviews and parades on Broad Street. President William McKinley visited Philadelphia for the Jubilee and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company encouraged attendance by offering round trip tickets for the price of a single fare.[5] Activities for those attending the Jubilee included church services, speeches, and three parades: a naval parade featuring nine warships anchored in the Delaware River, a civic parade, and a military parade of an estimated 25,000 troops reviewed by President McKinley.[6] While many people rushed to the city to view these events, some anti-war groups decried the Jubilee and the emphasis it placed on military splendor.

Despite the disapproval expressed by some people and differing opinions among Americans regarding the Treaty of Paris which would not be formally signed until December 1898, Peace Jubilees continued to be held across the country in November and December. President McKinley attended jubilees in both Chicago and Atlanta during that time. With its ornate Court of Honor, large parades, and enthusiastic support for the commanders and troops who served in the Spanish-American War, the Philadelphia Peace Jubilee celebrated peace as America increased its involvement in the world of foreign affairs.

[1] “The Jubilee At Boston,” New York Times, June 16, 1869.

[2] Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, 1829-1892: Father of the American Concert Band. Boston College University Libraries.

[3] Looney, Robert F. Old Philadelphia in Early Photographs, 1839-1914. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1976.

[4] “Philadelphia Peace Jubilee,” New York Times, October 8, 1898.

[5] “Reduced Rates to Philadelphia via Pennsylvania Railroad, Account Jubilee,” Christian Advocate, October 13, 1898.

[6] “Philadelphia’s Peace Jubilee,” The Independent, November 3, 1898.