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 each day for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1917
The sky is clear over Philadelphia but a brutal cold spell has the city in its grip. Today’s high will only reach 19° with the low tonight near 5°. On this day all other news must be set aside due to the events unfolding in our nation’s capital.
At 2:00pm this afternoon in Washington D.C., President Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress and advised the assembled that due to Germany’s decision to prosecute relentless and indiscriminate submarine warfare in violation of International law, the United States of America was severing diplomatic relations with the German Empire.
The American ambassador to Germany, James Gerard, has been recalled and the German ambassador, Count von Bernstorff, was handed his passport at 1:30pm.
The Philadelphia Navy Yard has been closed to visitors and put on war status for the first time since the Spanish-American War in 1898. All shore leave has been cancelled and the German sailors interned at the Yard have been moved to concentration barracks. The battleships North Dakota and Kansas are making preparations to sail. Destroyers and torpedo boats are now patrolling the Delaware River. The city has offered to the United States government as many police officers as necessary to assist in guarding the arsenals and the waterfront.
Philadelphia’s businesses, both large and small, have promised the government their full cooperation. Throughout the city flags are being flown over office buildings, factories, department stores and from the windows of homes. As word of today’s developments spread some reacted with surprise. One veteran of the Civil War exclaimed “Heaven help the world”. Factory workers in Kensington heard the news as they ended their shifts and most agreed that the country must fight. In the congested streets of South Philadelphia residents read of the news on bulletin boards outside shops in Italian, Yiddish and English. Many agreed that President Wilson was right to take this action. Expressions of patriotism and national unity are on full display. The United States is not at war with Germany but if such a development were to come to pass Philadelphia and her people are ready to fight.
GET YOUR COPY OF PHILADELPHIA: THE WORLD WAR I YEARS BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.