On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. We will also recount the events occurring in the war on that day. So, check back often for new updates.
To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – MONDAY, MAY 31, 1915
There will be partly cloudy skies over the city today as residents celebrate Decoration Day or as some now call it Memorial Day. The high temperature will reach 73° with the low tonight around 49°. Yesterday’s observance was a more solemn one as churches filled with worshipers giving thanks for our brave dead who gave their lives for our Country.
Today’s celebrations took on a more festive mood. They included parades throughout the city and surrounding areas. At each parade martial music filled the skies as current soldiers and sailors marched passed. They were followed by columns of white haired men in old uniforms. These were the proud veterans of the Grand Army of The Republic. Some marched haltingly, some with stooped shoulders, but march they did and proudly under the banners and flags of the units they served with.
At the waterfront, a ceremony was held for those who served at sea. Naval representatives from League Island honored those who served before them with speeches and music followed by the tossing of flowers into the water. Many Navy veterans were on hand including William Durst (shown below on the right), the only living member of the Union vessel U.S.S. Monitor when it fought the Confederate ship Merrimac and changed naval warfare. Mr. Durst is 75 years old now but still works at the Belmont Pumping Station.
Other events took place at parks and of course cemeteries. American flags were placed on the graves of veterans of this Country’s wars in every cemetery in the city and surrounding county. Most were placed by family members but many also were placed by old veterans themselves as they remembered their friends who have gone before them. School children and Boy Scout Troops also assisted in placing flags on graves throughout the area.
At Reynolds Park, 17th & Snyder Avenue, Mayor Blankenburg presided at the ceremony for the unveiling of a statute of General John Reynolds who led the Union forces during the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. General Reynolds was killed in battle later that day. Also today at Hillside Cemetery a monument was erected to George Poinsett, the Philadelphia sailor who lost his life at Vera Cruz last year. The ceremony was attended by army and navy contingents of this city.
And at the 20th & Buttonwood Police station today 300 neighborhood children received an American flag measuring 3’x5’. The flags were donated by the stations turnkey, William Nagle, who firmly believes that patriotism reduces crime. Children started lining up at 5:00am to meet “Bill” as he’s known and get their flag. Nagle gave up smoking to pay for the flags but he feels it is well worth the sacrifice, “The more patriotism a man has the less criminal he is.”