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 – WEDNESDAY JUNE 20, 1917
Under partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-80s, Philadelphia opened its arms today in welcome to the representatives of the Kingdom of Italy. The Italian War Commission arrived in this city to an outpouring of friendship and joy. The Commission arrived at Broad Street Station at 11:00am and was met by a delegation including Mayor Smith and Chevalier C.C.A. Baldi, who is a prominent leader of the Italian community here.
The Commission includes Ambassador Macchi Di Cellare, Marquis Luigi Borsarelli di Rifreddo (Under Secretary of State for foreign Affairs), Francesco Saverio Nitti (Minister of Finance), Enrico Arlotta (Minister of Transportation), Augusto Ciufelli (member of the Chamber of Deputies) and General Guglielmotti (military attaché of the Italian Embassy). But undoubtedly the most anticipated member was the Commission’s leader, Senator Guglielmo Marconi, the famed inventor, engineer and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics (shown in the white uniform with camera).
The party was escorted to waiting automobiles and paraded up Broad Street to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where they were given a private lunch with city officials and members of the Italian Committee of the Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania. Outside the hotel a crowd of perhaps 70,000 gathered (shown below). Most were Italians who chanted “Marconi, Marconi, we want Marconi” until the Senator appeared on the balcony and made a brief address.
After lunch the group traveled up Broad Street to Spring Garden accompanied by an honor guard of the State Fencibles on horseback and out to Fairmount Park. All along the route thousands lined the streets shouting their welcome to the visitors and waiving American and Italian flags. But certainly it was this city’s Italian residents who were the most enthusiastic. South Philadelphia’s Little Italy was virtually deserted. It would not be an exaggeration to say that almost every Italian living in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas could be found on Broad Street or at one of the other locations the Commission visited.
In Fairmount Park the delegation visited the statue of Christopher Columbus. There waiting for them were 10,000 members of the Sons of Italy who presented the Commission with a check for $25,000 for the relief of war-stricken families. Then a ceremony was held including the laying of flowers and speeches extolling the friendship between America and Italy. After the ceremonies at the Columbus statue the Commission visited the monument to George Washington at the Green Street entrance to the Park and the statue of Abraham Lincoln where as a sign of respect to these men and the American nation they placed bronze wreaths. This evening the Commission will be given a banquet at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.
GET YOUR COPY OF PHILADELPHIA: THE WORLD WAR I YEARS BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.