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, SEPTEMBER 19, 1917
There will be clear fair skies over the city today with the high reaching 81° and the low about 64°.
Today the “Bloody 5th” lived up to its name. Anarchy has enveloped that infamous neighborhood. Beatings, knifings and pistol whippings were commonplace during today’s primary election. But even in the 5th no one expected the murder of a policeman. It happened when Special Policeman George Eppley was shot and killed as he came to the rescue of two men being beaten with pistols and blackjacks by a gang of toughs. The victims turned out to be Assistant District Attorney John H. Maurer and Mercantile Appraiser James Carey. Mr. Carey is the incumbent Select Councilman up for reelection in the Ward and a member of the McNichol-Penrose faction of the Republican Party.
Officer Eppley saw the melee and ran to rescue the men. As he did so one of the gang members shot him in the chest. Officer Eppley (shown below) was 30 years old, a bachelor who had been on the police force for seven years. He was stationed at 61st & Thompson Streets as a member of the vice and anti-dope squad.
The gang members are reportedly Italians brought here from New York City by the Vare-Smith faction of the Republican Party to intimidate and assault Carey supporters and generally cause chaos. They all wore buttons showing their support for Isaac Deutsch, the candidate of the Vare-Smith group, who is running against Mr. Carey. So far two men have been taken into custody for questioning.
District Attorney Rotan has ordered all those involved in this political fight to appear in his office tonight at 8:30pm. That includes Mayor Thomas Smith. The Mayor is a known supporter of the Vare brothers and some believe he owes his present position to them. Last night he was called by long distance telephone at his home in Atlantic City. Supposedly he was warned that troublemakers from New York were being brought here. He was asked to order additional police protection in the 5th during the election. He ignored the request. The Mayor returned to City Hall this morning. There is growing speculation that the Mayor will be implicated in this incident and some have already called for his arrest on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder.
The polls opened this morning at 7:00 and will close at 7:00pm. A fairly small turnout has been reported. There has been little violence in any of the other wards. This may be due to the fact that the saloons were ordered closed at 6:00am and are not permitted to reopen till 8:00pm. However, that prohibition was not strictly enforced in the 5th.
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