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 NOVEMBER 11, 1918
THE WAR IS OVER
GERMAN EMPIRE SURRENDERS
REVOLUTION IN GERMANY
KAISER AND CROWN PRINCE ABDICATE AND FLEE TO HOLLAND
The German government accepted all Allied terms and signed an armistice at 5:00am Paris time containing the provision that all fighting would cease 6 hours later. News of the signing was immediately transmitted to the White House by wireless. The American army fired their final shots of the war at 11:00am Paris time this morning.
President Wilson has issued the following statement to the American people “My fellow countrymen – The armistice was signed this morning. Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. It will now be our fortunate duty to assist by example, by sober, friendly counsel and by material aid in the establishment of just democracy throughout the world.”
President Wilson will address Congress and provide them with the full terms of the armistice today. The terms include: the immediate repatriation of all allied prisoners and all civilians deported from France and Belgium under German command; the complete evacuation of German troops from Belgium and France and all other occupied lands; and complete restitution for all damages done by the German army in Belgium and France.
When news of the armistice reached Philadelphia at 3:40am the result was joyous pandemonium. Mayor Smith received the news at 3:00am in Atlantic City and immediately headed back to this city. He also ordered the Liberty Bell be rung, sounding out the good news. Governor Brumbaugh declared a public holiday for all of Pennsylvania. All businesses closed including the stock exchange, factories, mills and shipyards. The schools were closed by order of the Board of Education and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Untold numbers of people took to the streets in center city and in every neighborhood. This time the news was true and President Wilson’s message confirmed that fact.
A municipal parade headed by Mayor Smith accompanied by judges, all department heads and workers marched through center city as soon as the Mayor returned home. There were similar parades in every neighborhood. Everyone paraded everywhere, from the ponderous staid gentlemen of the Union League to the muscular ship riveters of Hog Island. Shop girls, women munition workers, lawyers, doctors, clerks, newspaper peddlers, shoe shines, soldiers, sailors and marines. There was no class distinction today. The rich and the poor marched together, shook hands, embraced, laughed and cried all as one.
One huge gathering spot was the Liberty Statute outside City Hall where thousands gathered to celebrate. Another was at Independence Hall and also Washington Square. And all along Broad Street and on Chestnut Street and Walnut Street the revelers celebrated.
In South Philadelphia, Kensington, Frankford, Germantown, West Philadelphia, Tacony, and all other neighborhoods the scene was repeated. People carried flags, blew horns, banged pans and rang cow bells as they marched through the streets and went door to door shouting the wonderful news. Bands joined in, some organized, some not but all playing “Over There” “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, “The Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic songs on whatever instruments they had.
A more solemn but no less joyous celebration took place at the Home for Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, 65th & Vine Streets. Here over 100 former soldiers, most too feeble to travel off the grounds, gathered in the courtyard for the raising of the American flag and the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Neither age, infirmary nor weakness of limb stopped these heroes of yesteryear from voicing their pride and satisfaction in the victory over despotism and tyranny.
And not just the streets were filled. So was every church, synagogue and place of worship. Philadelphians fell to their knees in prayer and thanksgiving to God for peace as church bells rang out in jubilation. Over 60,000 Philadelphia men have served in the war. Some will never come home. Fervent prayers were offered for the safety of those still living and for the souls of those heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice. And prayers were also said that God Bless America.
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