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


The skies over the city today will be clear and full of sunshine. The high will be a brisk 35° with the low tonight near 12°. There is skating permitted in Fairmount Park on Gustine and Concourse Lakes.  Mayor Smith is considering asking city councils for an expenditure of $500,000.00 to create a new department that would advertise this city all over the world as a center of manufacturing and other business.  The advertising will show Philadelphia as the workshop of the world and seek to convince businesses to locate here. It would also seek to persuade groups and organizations to have their conventions here. Most importantly the Mayor wants to dispel the notion that Philadelphia is “slow.”

The man who has been called the “perfect fireman” retired today after 20 years of service. Rudolph Brenn, 52 years old, said goodbye at this last roll call this morning at Engine Company No. 28. Fireman Brenn (shown below) has never missed a rollcall, has never taken a sick day, has never been hurt on the job and has never been reprimanded. His fellow firemen gave Mr. Brenn a supper last night and presented him with an umbrella. He told them he intends to retire to a life of rustic simplicity at Croyden and spend time fishing. After roll call this morning Mr. Brenn said his goodbyes to all the members of his company and also said one last goodbye to the horses as he left the station.

2-21-1916 Perfect Fireman

On the sports beat, the University of Pennsylvania basketball team is poised to win the Intercollegiate Basketball Championship if they can just win 2 of their next 3 games. Doing so would make it impossible for Princeton, which is in 2nd place, to catch the Red & Blue. In boxing tonight at the Olympia A.A., Broad & Bainbridge Streets, five matches are on the card. Tickets start at .25¢.  The first fight begins at 8:30 sharp.


On the western front, the Germans have begun an enormous artillery barrage on French positions around the hills of Verdun-sur-Meuse in northeastern France. Along an 8 mile front 1,400 German canon of every size has opened fire. It is estimated 100,000 shells are falling every hour on the French. [EDITOR’S NOTE: The Battle of Verdun began on February 21st and would last for 302 days until December 18, 1916. It would be one of the largest and most brutal battles in human history. The strategy behind the attack was to draw the French from all along the western front to defend Verdun and to “bleed France white”. However, the French did not break. France suffered 550,000 killed, wounded, captured or missing while the Germans lost 434,000. Over 300,000 men were killed on both sides. To this day portions of Verdun are off limits to visitors because of unexploded bombs, lethal levels of arsenic from gas shells, buried barbed wire and the still unretrieved bones of the dead].