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
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1917
The city will have overcast skies today with intermittent periods of rain which will continue overnight. The high today may reach 55° with the low this evening about 34°. There is happy news for local baseball fans today as a Coroner’s jury exonerated “Chief” Bender, 3515 North Judson Street, from any fault in the death of John Curran on February 15th when Mr. Bender’s automobile hit Curran on Broad Street.
At 1:00pm today President Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress concerning the situation with Germany. The President assured the members that he would keep them fully informed of events. At present he said 2 American vessels had been sunk by German submarines. He noted the other effect of Germany’s policy has been to inhibit American ships from sailing. Mr. Wilson emphasized that no “overt act”, the commission of which would cause a more forceful American response, has yet occurred. However, the President continued, the nation must be prepared for the possibility that definite action may be needed at any time. And with the Congress ending its present term he believes it necessary to request certain powers in case they are needed during Congress’s recess.
The President said he believes that under the Constitution he possess certain powers to act but wishes that authority also be explicitly provided by Congress so he is assured of their support. The President stated “We are jointly the servants of the people and must act together …” Mr. Wilson asserted that we must defend our commerce and the lives of our people. To do so we must institute a policy of “armed neutrality”. This policy involves supplying merchant ships with arms for their defense and employing other means necessary to protect America’s peaceful pursuits.
The President declared that this course of action is taken out of necessity and assured the waring nations that America seeks only peace. This desire has been proven over the past 3 years. Mr. Wilson said he is not proposing or contemplating war but merely looking to protect American lives and property. Finally the President stated that this is not just an issue of commerce but of fundamental human rights. Americans have the right to come and go on the seas to pursue their proper business. And what must also not be forgotten are the rights of those who work and toil in business and industry making goods and products which are disbursed by shipping. Their lives and wellbeing are also imperiled by Germany’s uncivilized policy. The President’s speech was greeted with applause and at least a few “rebel yells” from southern representatives. Other reactions ranged from “too weak” from the more militant members to “too strong” from the pacifists.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Unbeknownst to Congress or the American people, the President had already received a copy of the Zimmermann telegram.]
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