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. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
The 1917 Mummers Parade
Snow and cold temperatures greeted the mummers and their early morning audience. The temperature at 8:00am was near 27° and would only climb to 36° by midafternoon. About a ½” of snow fell giving the crowds something else to “Ooh and ah” about. But neither cold nor snow could stop the Mummers or their thousands of supporters from bringing in the New Year in the Philadelphia way.
Today Broad Street became a moving rainbow of color. The parade, which began at Porter Street in South Philadelphia stretched for 5 miles as it wound its way to Girard Avenue. An estimated 12,000 mummers participated in the parade and that of course is only a guess.
Trainloads of spectators filled the city from up and down the east coast to cheer on the marchers and applaud the grand spectacle. Thirty five extra trains were employed by the Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroads. These Mummers’ specials carried 50,000 passengers in excess of the regular daily average. Trains were also run from all parts of New Jersey, New York City and points as distant as Maryland and Virginia to bring people into the city.
The sidewalks from South Philadelphia to Girard Avenue were jammed with festive onlookers. In most places the crowd was 5 or 6 deep. Every window on Broad Street was crowded with onlookers. And lamp posts and trees were full of gawkers getting an above ground view. Joyfulness and fun was the order of the day.
The festivities were opened by Councilman John Baizley, who heads the city’s New Year’s Day Committee, riding a beautiful white stallion and accompanied by a platoon of mounted police officers. Councilman Baizley started the parade shortly after 8:30am. Other city officials followed behind in carriages and on horseback.
After the dignitaries, the fun began with Silver Crown Club leading the mummers. Their presentations included floats, gorgeously attired clowns and jockeys and extravagantly dressed “negroes”. Charles Klein Club marched next with their own outrageous floats, brigades and “Ladies”. The “girls” paraded in all styles of dresses, well fitted and some a bit daring. The dainty diaphanous damsels sashayed along Broad Street in the latest and most fashionable creations. Leaving many of the actual female onlookers just a bit envious.
The Lobster Club came next with Joseph Chambers, their captain, in the lead. Mr. Chambers’ cape was so enormous that it stretched for over a full city block and required 116 page boys to support it. Following him were floats, humorous hobos with signs proclaiming “Too Proud to Work” as they danced and sang to the crowd, Hawaiian girls playing ukuleles and the Irish navy made up of miniature boats. There were also German and British soldiers dancing together, Generals of the Kaiser and the Italian King sharing tea and Mexicans, Indians and American cowboys playing baseball.
Next in line was the West Philadelphia Club making its debut in the parade. Its floats included a German submarine with periscopes allowing the lookout to view the surroundings while lying in bed and enjoying coffee. Another was a Philadelphia designed zeppelin that could travel in the air, on ground and underwater. And one of the brigades showed how the scourge of Pancho Villa could be ended, not by sending our army to Mexico but by sending our Suffragettes.
They were followed by the Sauer Kraut Band and then the John G. Biggins Club with a float mocking the political figures of the city and Commonwealth. Another float recalled the shark scare last summer off the New Jersey beaches. This one carried a huge ugly looking shark that appeared from the waves and gobbled up swimming mummers. Other marchers portrayed Irish rebels dressed all in green with bright red wigs.
Next in line came the Harry Walls Comic Club, then Zuzu Comic Club and the M.A. Bruder Club which boasts nearly 1000 dancers. Ten string bands brought up the rear of the parade. They included the Jack Rose Association, the Federal Association, the Blue Ribbon Association, The Wood Club and The Moore Street Tramp Band. The 100 member strong Trilby String Band were dressed as white hussars. South Philadelphia String Band came next dressed in tuxedos and straw hats followed by the Fralinger Club dressed as green hussars. The Oakey String Band, dressed as Highlanders were next followed by the Victoria Club appearing as Turks. The final entry was the Talbot String Band clothed in blue trunks and purple blouses. A listing of the winners and prize money can be found below.
The parade was filmed this year and after it was over those who missed anything could see the motion picture at the Stanley Theatre, 16th and Market Street. On a related note, Mr. Stanley Mastbaum has proposed an effort to make the parade even more elaborate by increasing the prize money. Mr. Mastbaum suggests that businessmen of means put up a sum of $25,000.00 in prize money. He believes that the additional money would improve the artistic aspect of the parade. Mr. Mastbaum thinks that businesses such as department stores and the railroads which profited greatly from the crowds attending the parade should contribute to the prize fund. He offered to start the program by donating the first $500.00.
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First Prize-Lobster Club $650.00;
Second Prize-Charles Klein $500.00;
Third Prize-Silver Crown $350.00;
Captain’s Prize of $100.00 went to Adam Alburger of Charles Klein Club.
First Prize-Biggins Club $100.00 for their presentation of “Villa’s Body Guard”
Second Prize-Biggins Club $90.00 for “Hawaiian Ukalele Queen”;
Third Prize- Mike and Ike Club $75.00 for “Brigade of Nations”;
Fourth Prize-East Side of Camden Club $60.00 for “Firemen Brigade”;
Fifth Prize-West Philadelphia Club $60.00 for “African Sharpshooters”.
First Prize-M.A. Bruder Club $650.00;
Second Prize-John Biggins Club $400.00;
Third Prize-West Philadelphia Club $250.00;
Fourth Prize- Zuzu String Band $150.00;
Fifth Prize-East Side Club of Camden $100.00;
Sixth Prize-Federal Club $75.00.
First Prize-Talbot String Band “Men of the Trouvere” $150.00;
Second Prize-Fralinger String Band “Hussars” $100.00;
Third Prize-Oakey String Band “Highlanders” $50.00;
Fourth Prize- South Philadelphia String Band “Minstrels” $25.00
First Prize-Trilby String Band Club $100.00 for “Nero”
Second Prize-Zuzu Club $90.00 for “English Caterpillar”
Third Prize-M.A. Bruder Club $75.00 for “Vacation Day in Jersey”
Fourth Prize-Zuzu Club $60.00 for “Submarine Deutschland”
Fifth Prize-M.A. Bruder Club $50.00 for “Moving Pictures”