Events and People

Athletic Stars of the Sesquicentennial

The few spectators who braved high temperatures and pouring rains to attend the American Athletic Union (A.A.U.) National Track and Field Championships at the Sesquicentennial were able to view record-breaking athletic performances by many former and future Olympic athletes. A previous blog entry discusses the accomplishments of Lillian Copeland, a triple gold winner in shot put, discus, and javelin. In addition to Copeland, other well-known athletes traveled to Philadelphia to attempt to win championships.

Phillip Osif, a student at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, gained national press attention when he won the six mile race in both the junior and senior men’s divisions at the Sesquicentennial competition. Osif beat Louis Gregory of Newark to win the junior title on July 3, 1926. Two days later on July 5, Osif trailed Ove Anderson from Finland for three miles before passing him to easily win the senior championship with a championship record time of 31:31. Osif continued to compete for the Haskell Institute throughout 1927. A member of the Pima tribe from Arizona, Osif was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977.

Another championship record was set by Clarence “Bud” Houser in the men’s discus competition. A well-known athlete in the weights events, Houser won gold in both shot put and discus at the 1924 Olympics while a student at the University of Southern California. The winner of the discus event at the 1925 A.A.U championships, Houser successfully defended his title in 1926 and set a new championship record of 153 feet 6.5 inches. Houser won gold again in discus at the 1928 Olympic games and was known for developing a technique of rapidly rotating around the circle before releasing the discus. After retiring from competition, Houser became a practicing dentist in California. He was inducted into USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1979.

Several women, some of whom would also compete in the Olympics, broke several championship records as well. Frances Davies, Jessie Glover, Florence Belle, and Rosa Grosse, competitors on the Toronto athletic team, won the 440 yard relay in 51 seconds, equaling the world record. Elta Cartwright tied the championship record for the 50 yard dash with a time of 6.1 seconds, successfully defending her title in the 50 yard dash from the 1925 championship. Nicknamed “Cinder” Elta, Cartwright qualified for the 1928 Olympic games in the 100 yard dash. While traveling to the Olympics in Amsterdam, Cartwright fell ill. Although she was able to compete, she was eventually eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 yard dash. After retiring from athletic competition, Cartwright became a teacher.

Cartwright, Houser, and Osif are just a few of the many athletes who competed at the A.A.U. National Track and Field Championships at the Sesquicentennial. Despite the high caliber of competition, one newspaper reporter estimated that the inclement weather conditions caused as few as 350 spectators to attend one day of the competition. While the competition, like many other events at the Sesquicentennial, suffered poor attendance due to weather, hosting the athletic championship provides another example of one of the many ways that Sesquicentennial officials attempted to draw crowds to the Exposition.


Events and People Historic Sites

Richard Allen and the Founding of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

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Throughout the 1700 and 1800s, Philadelphia was home to a large community of free African-Americans, many of whom were descendants of enslaved Africans forcibly brought to America. Members of the community formed churches, schools, businesses, and charitable societies. One of these churches, Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, would become an important part of the community and influence African-American religious life throughout the country.

The history of Mother Bethel is inextricably bound up with the history of its founder, Richard Allen. Born into a slave-holding household in Philadelphia in 1760, Allen and his family were later sold to Stokeley Sturgis, a farmer in Delaware. In 1777 at the age of 17, Allen became a religious believer after hearing the preaching of a traveling Methodist pastor. Allen convinced his master to allow a minister to preach at the farm. When Sturgis heard the abolition influenced sermon, he agreed to allow Allen to buy his freedom. After three years of working nights and odd jobs, Allen became a free man at the age of 20.

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For the next few years, Allen supported himself by taking manual labor jobs while traveling extensively through several states and preaching on the Methodist circuit. In 1786, Allen was invited to preach to African-American members at St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia where he was required to lead services at 5am so as to not interfere with the worship of the white congregants. As the African-American membership at St. George’s grew under Allen’s leadership, racial tensions in the congregation also increased. In 1787, Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society, an organization to provide aid to members of the black community. When Allen, Jones, and other African-Americans left St. George’s in protest of racial discrimination, they turned to the Free African Society as a source of religious leadership. The Society under Jones’ leadership would eventually organize the African Church, now known as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, in 1792. Allen, however, wished to maintain a connection with the Methodist church and purchased land at 6th and Lombard Streets for the construction of a church. On July 29, 1794, Bethel Church was dedicated at the location. Facing interference from other Methodist congregations, Allen successfully fought in court for the right of Bethel to exist as an independent congregation. In 1816, Bethel joined with other black Methodist congregations to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Bethel became Mother Bethel and Allen was appointed the first bishop of the church.

Allen and Mother Bethel continued to play a role in the life of the free African-American community of Philadelphia. The church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and Allen remained an active leader of the church working for the rights of free and enslaved African-Americans. Constructed in the 1890s, the current Mother Bethel church building still sits at 6th and Lombard on the oldest parcel of real estate in the United States continuously owned by African-Americans. Richard Allen died on March 26, 1831. He and his wife Sarah are interred in a lower level of the church.


“About Us…History.” The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

“About Us – Our History.” African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“History of the AME Church.” Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“Richard Allen.” Africans in America. PBS Online.

Events and People

Poinsett and Smith and the 1914 Occupation of Veracruz

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With photographs of quiet neighborhood streets, busy commercial districts, schools, stores, trolleys, parks, and dozens of other aspects of daily urban life, the images on provide a beautiful visual history of change and development in the communities throughout Philadelphia.

Often, though, there are photos on that not only tell the story of Philadelphia’s past but also demonstrate the role that Philadelphians have played in events throughout the country and around the world. A series of photographs of the 1914 funeral of two sailors, George Poinsett and Charles Allen Smith, provides just one example of the internationally significant events depicted on PhillyHistory.

By 1914, the United States government had spent several years cautiously watching the Mexican Revolution and judging its possible impact on American citizens and business interests both in Mexico and along the border between the two countries. To protect these interests, the United States stationed U.S. Navy warships at the Mexican ports of Tampico and Vera Cruz in early 1914.[1] At the same time, President Woodrow Wilson rescinded an arms embargo that had prevented the sale of arms to either General Victorio Huerta, who had seized power from the Mexican president in February 1913, or Governor Venustiano Carranza and Pancho Villa, supporters of the previous president who were attempting to wrest control of Mexico from Huerta. President Wilson offered to provide help to Carranza. When the US forces at Vera Cruz learned that German weapons would be arriving at Vera Cruz for Huerta, President Wilson ordered them to seize the town’s customhouse and capture the weapons.[2]

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On April 21, 1914, 787 marines and sailors went ashore to seize the customhouse and were fired upon by Mexican forces. By April 22, the American troops had occupied the town. In two days of fighting, 17 Americans were killed and 61 wounded. An estimated 152-172 Mexicans were killed and 195-240 wounded. American forces would continue to occupy Vera Cruz until November 1914.[3]

Among the seventeen Americans killed during the initial occupation of Vera Cruz were Seaman George Poinsett and Ordinary Seaman Charles Allen Smith, both of Philadelphia. Eyewitnesses to the events stated that Poinsett was the first man killed during the occupation and “was shot by a Mexican sharpshooter while raising the flag on the Plaza following the first landing of marines.”[4] After the battle, the bodies of the seventeen men arrived in New York City on May 11, 1914 aboard the battleship Montana. The coffins were placed on caissons and then traveled from the Montana at Pier A past City Hall to the Navy Yard. At the Navy Yard, President Woodrow Wilson delivered a funeral oration during a ceremony that was attended by the Governor of New York, the Secretary of the Navy, and various other officials and citizens.[5]

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After the ceremony, the bodies of the men were shipped to their relatives. As shown in the photographs on, Poinsett and Smith were given a funeral in Philadelphia with a procession beginning at Independence Square. Unfortunately, there are few additional details available about the ceremony.

The American occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914 may not be as well known as other military events in United States history. At the time of its occurrence, however, it signaled America’s increased involvement in political and military affairs in Mexico. These photographs on show Philadelphia’s connection to one international event that significantly impacted relations between Mexico and the United States and influenced future actions between the countries.

[1] Yockelson, Mitchell. “The United States Armed Forces and the Mexican Punitive Expedition: Part 1.” Prologue 29:3, Fall 1997.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Russel, Thomas Herbert. Mexico in Peace and War. Sumner C. Britton: Chicago, 1914, p. 22.

[5] New York Times. “Vera Cruz Dead Here on Warship.” May 11, 1914.

Events and People

Lillian Copeland: Sesquicentennial Athletic Star

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Among the many events and activities at the Sesquicentennial were several athletic competitions held at the Municipal Stadium at the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue. These competitions included everything from track and field meets to the world heavy-weight boxing championship between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney to a lacrosse match between the Caughnawaga Indians of Canada and the Onondaga Tribe of Syracuse.[1]

In early July 1926, National and Olympic caliber athletes traveled to Philadelphia to compete in the women’s, senior men’s, and junior men’s American Athletic Union (A.A.U.) National Track and Field Championships. During the competition, the athletes faced extreme heat mixed with rain, conditions which prevented many spectators from attending the meets. Despite the weather conditions, world, American, and meet records were broken by the athletes.[2]

Lillian Copeland, one of the world record breakers, was a star of the 1926 Women’s National Track and Field Championships held at the Sesquicentennial. A member of the Pasadena (CA) Athletic Club, Copeland broke the world record in javelin with a throw of 112 feet 5.5 inches. On that same day, July 10, 1926, she also won both the discus and shot put competitions to become the only triple winner of the day.[3] During her career, Copeland won a total of nine AAU National Championships- five in shot put, two in javelin, and two in discus. She is often considered to be one of the first great female American weight throwers.[4] The 1926 competition in Philadelphia was the only championship in which she won all three weights events.

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Copeland’s skill also made her competitive on an international level. At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Copeland won a silver medal in discus with a throw of 121 feet 8 inches.[5] In 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics, she won gold in discus with a world-record setting throw of 133 feet 2 inches.[6] Copeland was the only American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in discus until the 2008 Beijing Olympics when American Stephanie Brown-Trafton won gold with a throw of 212 feet 5 inches.[7]

After her success in the 1932 Olympics, Copeland competed in the second Maccabiah Games in 1935, a competition for Jewish athletes, where she won gold. The next year Copeland joined several other Jewish athletes in a boycott of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, making the Maccabiah Games her last major competition.[8] After her athletic career, Copeland worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a juvenile officer. She passed away on July 7, 1964 and was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1994.

[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. 424.

[2] Kelley, Robert F. “2 More Records Set in Women’s Meet.” The New York Times. July 11, 1926.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Lillian Copeland.” Hall of Fame- USA Track and Field.

[5] “Lillian Copeland.” International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

[6] Shaffer, George. “U.S. Wins 2 Olympic Titles; Records Fall.” The New York Times. August 3, 1932.

[7] Crumpacker, John. “U.S. Women’s 1st Discus Gold Since ’32.” The San Francisco Chronicle. August 19, 2008.

[8] “Lillian Copeland.” International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.


Events and People

USS Los Angeles: A Naval Dirigible

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With the Exposition grounds located adjacent to the Navy Yard at League Island, the U.S. Navy and the military in general were very involved in the Sesquicentennial Exposition. The Navy developed a Navy Historical Exhibit in one of the buildings in the yard, and several different types of ships were moored at the Reserve Basin near Navy Yard. Camp Anthony Wayne, a model Army camp, was created in League Island Park and Camp Samuel Nicholas, a model Marine camp, was located just outside the Navy Yard within the grounds of the Exposition.[1]


The U.S. Navy’s contributions to the Sesquicentennial also included a visit from the Navy’s dirigible the Los Angeles. On Friday, September 10, the dirigible flew over Philadelphia, circled part of the Exposition several times, and then landed on the Exposition grounds with the help of a landing party of 200 sailors. Under the control of Commander Charles H. Rosendahl, the dirigible’s home port was located in Lakehurst, New Jersey. After the visit to the Sesquicentennial, the Los Angeles traveled to Stroudsburg, PA where the State American Legion was in session.[2]

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The golden age of dirigibles, also known as rigid airships and zeppelins, occurred from roughly 1900 until the 1930s. The first dirigible successfully lifted off on November 3, 1897 near Berlin, Germany. Although this dirigible crashed shortly after lift off, governments in several countries continued to investigate the use of dirigibles or rigid airships for military and transportation purposes. By the early twentieth century, the German company Luftschiffbau Zeppelin was the major manufacturer of rigid airships. These dirigibles would serve as both weapons and observational tools during World War I. Germany used dirigibles to drop bombs on Paris and London while both France and England used semi-rigid and non-rigid airships to patrol their coasts, provide convoy protection, and spot enemy submarines.[3]

After World War I, mandates prevented Germany from building dirigibles. The United States government, however, allowed the Zeppelin company to build one airship that would be given to the United States by Germany as partial war reparations.[4] As part of the agreement between the nations, the ship was to be used only for “civil” purposes. Built in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the rigid airship was 2,472,000 cubic feet and completed in August 1924.[5] Known initially as the ZR-3, the ship flew across the Atlantic in mid-October 1924 and docked at its home port of Lakehurst, New Jersey. The airship flew to Washington D.C. on November 25 where it was christened the Los Angeles by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, the wife of the president, and then placed into naval commission by Rear Admiral B.F. Hutchinson.[6] During its career in the U.S. Navy, the Los Angeles performed flights to explore the use of rigid airships in the military. The airship also made several trips across the US and took part in research into the possibility of basing airplanes on board airships.  In late 1932, the Los Angeles was decommissioned and put into storage at Lakehurst, New Jersey. From 1934 to 1937, the airship participated in non-flying experiments before finally being dismantled beginning in October 1939.[7]

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While little is known about the visit of the Los Angeles to the Sesquicentennial, its appearance at the Exposition provides an illustration of the growth of airship manufacturing in the early decades of the twentieth century. Along with the Los Angeles, the U.S. Navy operated other rigid airships including the Shenandoah (destroyed on September 3, 1925 in a storm over Ohio) and two ships built by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company- the Akron (lost in a storm over the Atlantic Ocean on April 4, 1933) and the Macon (crashed in the Pacific Ocean on February 12, 1935).[8] After the 1930s and the Hindenburg disaster on May 9, 1937, interest in rigid airships declined in favor of further investigation into a variety of airplanes and aircraft carriers.

[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. 183-188.

[2] Ibid., p. 303.

[3] Rumerman, Judy. “The Era of the Dirigible.” U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission

[4] Ibid.

[5] “USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), Airship 1924-1939.” Department of the Navy- Naval Historical Center.

[6] The Washington Post.  “ZR-3 is Christened ‘Los Angeles’ and Dedicated to Peace.” November 26, 1924.

[7] “USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), Airship 1924-1939.” Department of the Navy- Naval Historical Center.

[8] Rumerman, Judy. “The Era of the Dirigible.” U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission

Events and People

A Royal Visit to the Sesquicentennial

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In an effort to draw additional visitors to the Sesquicentennial Exposition, special days were set aside to celebrate and honor various countries, states, cities, and groups. These celebration days included Missouri Day, Finnish Day, National Puzzlers’ Day, Pittsburgh Day, and University of Michigan Alumni Day. Activities on each day often included special programs, luncheons, banquets, and visits from dignitaries and honorees.[1]

Swedish Day on June 6 was one of the first celebration days to occur during the Sesquicentennial, taking place even before all of the landscaping and building on the grounds was completed. As part of the festivities, Crown Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and his wife princess Louise had visited the Exposition four days earlier on June 2, 1926. During their visit, the Crown Prince and Princess took part in two ceremonies- the dedication of the reproduction of the Wicaco Block House and the laying of the cornerstone for the John Morton Memorial Building.[2] They also reviewed an infantry battalion and visited the Navy Yard.

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Now known as the American Swedish Historical Museum, the John Morton Memorial Building is one of the few structures remaining from the Sesquicentennial. Although the cornerstone for the building was laid on June 2, 1926 and construction was almost completed by October 1927, the Great Depression and subsequent lack of funding prevented the exhibit halls from being completed until the mid-1930s. On June 28, 1938, an exhibition in honor of the tercentenary of the arrival of Swedes in the area was opened by Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, who had also laid the cornerstone for the building back in 1926. This event effectively served as the public dedication of the building.[3] Located at 1900 Pattison Avenue in FDR Park in the original building, the Museum remains open to the public and provides exhibits and educational programs that focus on Swedish heritage and the contributions of Swedish-Americans to the United States.

A stop at the Sesquicentennial to lay the cornerstone for the Morton Memorial Building was just one of many excursions planned for the Crown Prince and Princess during their trip to America. The Prince and Princess, along with a large entourage, arrived in New York City on Thursday, May 27, 1926. After greeting Mayor Walker at City Hall and providing reporters with an interview, the group traveled to Washington D.C. where they met with President Calvin Coolidge. During their time in Washington, the Crown Prince spoke at the unveiling of a monument to John Ericsson, the designer of the Union warship Monitor; attended Memorial Day services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; and toured sights in the city.[4] From Washington D.C., the group travelled back to New York and then to Philadelphia where they took part in the Sesquicentennial celebrations. After their visit to Philadelphia, the royal couple toured America until August 1, including visits to Boston, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Minneapolis, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and San Francisco. The trip through the United States was just part of a world tour; from San Francisco, the Crown Prince and Princess set sail for Asia.[5]

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While the Sesquicentennial did not have as much international participation as previous world’s fairs in Chicago and St. Louis, foreign dignitaries such as the delegation from Sweden did take part in activities on specific celebration days. Often, though, these dignitaries were the ministers or ambassadors from their country to the United States rather than the actual foreign leader. For example, Polish Day on September 5 included a visit from Jan Ciechanowski, Minister of Poland, and Peruvian Day on July 28 saw a visit from Dr. Hernan Velarde, the Peruvian Ambassador to the United States.[6] Despite their efforts to encourage attendance, the Sesquicentennial Exposition did not attract foreign leaders in large numbers.


[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. 376-379.

[2] Ibid., 193.

[3] American Swedish Historical Museum. “History of the Museum.”

[4]New York Times. “Swedish Royalty Due Here Thursday.” May 25, 1926.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Austin and Hauser. The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, p. 382-388.

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.

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.