Categories
Neighborhoods

Mmmmm . . . Beeeer


 

Any trip to a Philadelphia pub will reveal that Philadelphians, by and large, have an acute affinity for beer. Despite this, it is a little known fact that, in the fifty years between 1870 and 1920, Philadelphia was a national center for beer production. Early in this period, most of the city’s beer makers were German immigrants operating out of small breweries in neighborhoods like Kensington and Northern Liberties. To store enough beer to last through Philadelphia’s long and notoriously hot summers, and to keep the populace happy, the brewers used large storage vaults located in the city’s northwest suburbs. Ice culled from the Schuylkill River kept the beer from spoiling.

During the 1880s, word of Philadelphia’s delectable lagers spread. To keep up with the increased demands (and to take advantage of new advances in refrigeration technology) Philadelphia’s brewers moved to large state-of-the-art breweries in the city’s 29th ward, earning it the moniker, Brewerytown. By the turn of the century, eleven large breweries had made Brewerytown their home. Immigrants eager to find jobs and to support such industries as malt houses, equipment suppliers, and and saloons followed close behind and turned the area into one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. The footbridge featured in the picture above (located near 29th and Parrish) likely carried workers to and from their jobs at the Bergdorff Beer plant that stands tall in the background.

References:

  • Dochter, Rich, and Rich Wagner. “Brewerytown U.S.A.” Pennsylvania Heritage 17 (Summer 1991): 24-31.
  • Wagner, Rick. “Brewerytown, Philadelphia – The Grand Daddy of ‘Em All!” http://pabreweryhistorians.tripod.com/grandaddy.htm (accessed 30 May 2006).

Categories
Entertainment

Signs, Signs. . .


 

Some people (the Five Man Electrical Band included) may call them eyesores, but billboards reveal much about the changing urban landscape during the modern era.

By the early twentieth century, advertisers, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, had progressed beyond pasting handbills onto walls. Drivers passing the intersection of Broad Street and Girard Avenue in 1917 saw a wealth of consumables foisted upon them. Razor blades, food, and wine ads foreshadowed the increasing importance of consumption in sustaining the American economy.

But we also see that billboards often included more patriotic messages. An ad for Liberty Bonds reminded Philadelphians to assist the war effort and to remember the boys fighting the Great War “over there” on the Allied side.

More Information:

  • Gudis, Catherine. Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Landscape. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Categories
Entertainment

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Newsboy Turned Schoolboy


Here is another window into education reform during the Progressive Era. Still holding a stack of newspapers tucked under his arm, this Philadelphia newspaper boy looks as though he was just pulled from his job on the street and put in front of the camera at school. Indeed, this photograph is labeled “Compulsory Education-Newsboy.” Taken in December 1906, such a scenario could very well have occurred.

Most states had enacted compulsory education laws by 1918. It appears, however, that in 1906, just as today, there were problems enforcing these rules. There are many explanations why legislator passed these laws, ranging from trying to better assimilate immigrants into U.S. culture to making it harder for factory owners to use child labor to run their businesses.

For a timeline of public education in the United States and other information regarding public education, see the Good Schools Pennsylvania website.

Categories
Public Services

Keeping the Children Well


 

Today we take the school nurse for granted. Whenever a child scrapes his knee at recess or becomes ill and needs to go home early, the nurse is there. However, the school nurse and school medical inspections are, in America, largely a creation of the twentieth century. This photo, taken at the Alexander D. Bache School in 1912, is labeled “Medical Inspection Branch.” It dates from the late Progressive Era when the health and welfare of the poor was a matter of growing concern among social workers. For many reformers, efforts aimed toward adults failed to better the situations of poor people, and thus, they shifted their focus away from protecting the health of school children. Progressives believed that they could create a healthier society by maintaining young people’s constitutions and by teaching them proper hygiene.

Municipal officials assigned medical inspectors to schools across the country. In 1898, under the supervision of the city’s Board of Health, medical inspectors began working in Philadelphia schools. They identified and corrected various defects and contagious diseases occurring among the children. The inspectors also strove to maintain healthy conditions, thus protecting the children from illness and injury, and to maximize the efficiency of the schools. Later, the school nurse was introduced to carry out the recommendations of medical inspectors in caring for youths. In Philadelphia, after examinations by the medical inspector, children of disadvantaged families received access to free vaccinations, and other medical, dental, and vision care.

References:

  • Cornell, Walter S. Health and Medical Inspection of School Children. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1913. (Full text available online.)
  • Struthers, Lina Rogers. The School Nurse: A Survey of the Duties and Responsibilities of the Nurse in the Maintenance of Health and Physical Perfection and the Prevention of Disease among School Children. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1917. (Full text available online.)

Categories
Entertainment

Catch a Movie and See a Teen Idol in South Philly


 

A bustling hub of the Philadelphia public transportation network, the intersection of Broad Street and Snyder Avenue is still a place where a person can get a hot meal and the latest news. The lavish, 2183-seat Broadway Theater (seen in the background) opened in 1913, originally featuring Keith Vaudeville productions. It had been converted into a full-time movie house by the time this photo was taken in 1949. The theatre no longer stands; it was demolished in 1971 and has been replaced by various commercial ventures.

The nearby subway stop may seem like an unlikely incubator for singing talent, but many popular artists honed their chops beneath its entrance. Nearby South Philadelphia High School for Boys graduated a veritable who’s who of mid-twentieth-century singers, including Eddie Fisher, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Chubby Checker. Dick Clark featured these and many other of the city’s performers on American Bandstand, which aired nationally from Philadelphia on ABC-TV between 1957 and 1964.

References:

  • “Broadway Theater.” http://cinematreasures.org/theater/4912 (accessed 16 May 2006).
  • Jackson, John A. American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Categories
Entertainment

Look Mom, I’m Flying!


 

Throughout Philadelphia’s history, photographers have enjoyed taking pictures from the upper levels of City Hall. This photo shows the hustle and bustle of Broad Street in the late 1920s. These kind of shots are helpful for seeing just how “broad” Broad Street really is, as well as for demonstrating traffic patterns during the period. In the center of the street is a pile of wood and other construction materials. What was being built? Possibly, workers used them to build the south extension of the Broad Street Subway. They completed the first section a month after this photo was taken in 1928, although the line only ran from City Hall north to Olney Avenue. The southern section was not completed until two years later. It extended the line to South Street and later to Snyder Avenue.

Categories
Entertainment

Finish Your Dinner, We’re Going to See a Show!


 

The images found in the Department of City Transit record group are about so much more than simply recording the construction of subways and trolley lines. This photo, taken in 1919 around 10th and Arch Streets is a prime example. Yes, a trolley car and tracks can be seen in the picture, but we also see examples of World War I propaganda and other forms of period advertising, as well as the historic Trocadero Theatre.

The theatre, seen here on the right hand side, was first built in 1870. It was damaged by several fires in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The theatre became known as the Trocadero in 1896, at which time it opened as a burlesque theatre. It remains the oldest burlesque house in Philadelphia. At the time this photo was taken, the acts being advertised included one called The Grown Up Babies. The venue continued operations as a burlesque theatre until sometime after World War II. Then the Trocadero, or “the Troc,” led a few short lives as a pornographic theatre and as a Chinese cinema. It was renovated back to its nineteenth-century appearance in the late 1970s. Its owners again transformed it in 1986, this time into a concert venue.

References:

Categories
Historic Sites

Buy New & Used. . .


 

Well, probably just new.

Though not readily apparent from the darkness of the picture, the featured building is the Oakland Car Dealership on Broad St. Taken in 1926, this picture highlights an early example of the Art Deco style of architecture heavily favored by businessmen looking to sell cars. The smooth corner of the building, large windows punctuated by striking vertical columns, and an upper level of decorative windows convey a sense of luxury on the part of the automobile and its salesman. Shiny new vehicles, most likely 1926 Pontiacs, adorn each of the windows. The Pontiac sat on the second rung of GM’s price ladder, above the economic Chevrolet, but below the marquee Oldsmobile and Buick. Priced as a low-level luxury good, the Oakland Pontiac looked best in the decorative surroundings of an Art deco building like the one above.

More Information: