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


1918 came in cold, bitterly cold and the forecast predicts even colder temperatures tomorrow and probably snow. Today’s high will only reach 16° with the low tonight about 5°. But the cold could not stop the Mummers. Philadelphia’s great tradition of bringing in the New Year with fantastic colors, revelry and gorgeous pageantry began this morning at 8:30am.

The number of mummers is somewhat diminished this year because many men, who would normally be marching are instead serving their country. Still an estimated 8,000 mummers filled Broad Street from Porter to Girard Avenue, where the official parade ended. Of course many clubs continued the march to 2nd Street, Columbia Avenue and other areas where they competed for additional prize money.

The parade was led by Councilman John Baizley on a snow white stallion. He was accompanied by a platoon of mounted police. Councilman Baizley is chairman of the New Year’s Day committee in City Councils and was given the honor of leading the spectacle because of his dedication and work in organizing and securing funding for the parade. Next came the Fancy Clubs led by Silver Crown, then Charles Klein and followed by Grays Ferry. The Comic Clubs marched next led by the Federal Club and followed by East Side from Camden, Dickey Club, the Talbot String Band, the Young American Club, the Sauer Kraut Band of Pottsville, the South Camden Club, John J. Maguire New Year Association, the Pickaninny New Year Association, the Blue Ribbon Club, the Trilby String Band, the John J. Biggano club and finally the Zu Zu New Year Association.

Many thousands braved the freezing temperatures and lined Broad Street to cheer on the marchers. They were treated not just to the spectacular costumes and floats but also the Mummers well-known comedic commentary on current events. Nothing was off limits. Brigades gave their opinions on votes for the fairer sex. These were less than enthusiastic in support for women’s suffrage. Floats and groups prophesized what the city would look like if a woman became Mayor or worse how the country would fare with a lady President. Mr. Hoover’s meatless Mondays and wheatless Wednesdays also came in for mockery. The coal shortage was addressed with a float portraying black rocks being kept under guard and admission being charged just to see one. And the rapid transit companies were not forgotten. One brigade predicted that the greed and graft of the companies and the politicians would result in the subway not opening until 1957!

Of course the war was addressed. Not in a maudlin way but with typical Mummer satire. The Kasier was caricatured, pilloried and lampooned. Pacifists were mocked and dismissed as both unmanly and un-American. There were floats depicting airships that could also travel underwater and canons that could shoot in several directions at once. And Hog Island was portrayed as a place where a ship could be started at breakfast and launched by dinner time.  All agreed that the parade was a great success. The cold temperatures may have thinned the crowds as the day went on but those who came and those who stayed experienced 1918 being welcomed with luxurious color, spectacular floats, wonderful music, fun and joy. HAPPY NEW YEAR!