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National History Day 2008
"Conflict & Compromise in History"

National History Day 2007
"Triumph & Tragedy in History"

National History Day 2006
"Taking A Stand"

The theme for this year's National History Day is Triumph & Tragedy in History.  

The collections of the Philadelphia City Archives have diverse examples from which ten themes have been developed.  

Included are the many triumphs and tragedies:

"As a public historian for the Philadelphia City Archives I have found many interesting examples of Philadelphia citizens triumphing over tragedy.  "

Dona W.  Horowitz-Behrend Ph.D

The Centennial and Sesquicentennial

Both the Centennial and Sesquicentennial were triumphs in spite of the tragedy of dwindling attendance.  

I.  The Centennial

The Centennial Exposition (May 10-November 10, 1876) was the first International Exhibition in America.  It was the only fair of its kind that paid its own expenses without appropriation from Congress.  The Centennial was an initial triumph but attendance was not maintained.  

Materials (Box A 1487: Centennial Photographs A-K)

Centennial I-1879 Belmont Avenue.  United States Centennial-avenues, streets, walkways

A 2442 from the reservoir US Centennial Exhibit--Centennial Grounds 14
The Centennial was a showplace for the foremost in design, manufacturing, and technology.  

Centennial 111-2492-A: Agricultural Hall from South Gallery.  11A-2492, US Centennial Agricultural hall exhibit 2.  

US Centennial exhibition Austria 5.  

Materials (Box A 1488: Centennial photographs L-Z)

Centennial 111-356: Opening Day U.S.  Centennial Memorial Hall 55

Centennial 111-2443-A: Machinery Hall 51

Machinery-Centennial Exhibitions: components 50.11-1342-Baldwin Locomotive

International Centennial Corp/Company.  Annual Reports.  
International Exhibit Company.  

II.  The Sesquicentennial

The opening of the Sesquicentennial was a triumph in engineering know-how.  JFK stadium was constructed to showcase pageantry, and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to bring more automobiles to and from.  The tragedy was that not many people attended because of bad weather.  Out of the 184 days the Exposition was opened, only fifty were listed as clear days according to United States Weather Bureau data.  People outside of Philadelphia also did not believe the Sesquicentennial Fair would really happen because no other exposition on so large a scale was ever built in so short a time.  The emergency construction learned during World War I enabled what would have taken years to take months.  Word spread that Philadelphia was incapable of hosting it or completing construction.  The Opening happened on time before all of the exhibitions were finished (May 31, 1926-November 30--remaining open to December 30th because of public interest.  ).  The actual attendance of 6,408,289 was way below the estimated 36,000,000.  The completion of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in 1926 was a chief feature connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and The Municipal Stadium (later renamed JFK stadium) was another permanent structure.  The final financial report showed only $206,987.17 as expenses in excess of income.  

The above information is from: The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition: A Record Based on Official Data and Departmental Records, 1929, by E.L.Austin, Director-in Chief and Odell Hauser, Director of Publicity, Current Publications, Inc.  Philadelphia :53.  Box A 1471, 232-2.4 Folder 1, Sesquicentennial Exposition Association-Official History.  

Materials (Box A 1471)

S-ASF-Correspondence 232 4-5.5 Folder 60.  Special Events-7.01-LMay 31, 1926, part 1, G Book of Opening Day Program

A-1471 Press and Radio Sesquicentennial
A consorted effort was made to attract crowds with news releases and radio announcements.  

S-ASF- Correspondence.  232.5-5.5 Folder 80.  samples from Publicity Report.  Special Events-Publicity.  Contract with Inter-Ocean Syndicate (part 3) (wired picture service) G/7.0.17.  folder 21 .  

Emphasis was on attractions "Chicago Ill, PRESTO TIMES-May, 1926...  more than $650,000 will be spent on music...; motor cars" --CHICAGO (Ill) POST-MAY 5, 1926, "EXPECT RECORD MOTOR INVASION OF PHILADELPHIA" parking for 50,000 automobiles; CHICAGO (ILL)AMERICAN-June 11, 1926.  "500,000 PERSONS GOING TO SESQUICENTENNIAL FAIR.  "

SESQUICENTENNIAL INTERNATIONAL EXPO.  RADIO ADDRESSES.  Lead S-ASF-Correspondence.  232.5-5.5 Folder 80.  Special Events-Publicity.  Contract with Inter-Ocean Syndicate (part 3) (wired picture service) G/7.0.17.  folder 21.  

Materials (Box 1471 Special Events)

The Sesquicentennial was primarily a patriotic event.  When groups applied to participate that were deemed unpatriotic, visitors stayed away until word spread that they could not participate.  Other countries and exhibitors backed out also.  

S-ASF-Correspondence 232-4-5.5 Folder 76.  Special Events-Ku Klux Clan (Knights of the Day).  (g/7.0.15) file 17.  

December 11, 1925: Klan protesting that cannot attend.  
December 17, 1925: Resolution adopted by Klan to protest.  
February 5, 1926: letter requesting Klu Klux Klan participation.  
June 21, 1926: Protest letters were mailed from around the country.  

Materials (Box A.  1475 How Big is the Sesqui-Centennial)

232-4-10.2 Folder 3, Sesqui-Promotional Booklet-1926 Department of Publicity 26 cover and chart predicting "How Big is the Sesqui-Centennial Going to Be?"

232-4.81 Folder 78.  Department of Foreign Participation-Persia-pt.1 (10/03.85) August 28,1926: letter stating adverse weather conditions and adverse propaganda.  Asked Persian government to do more advertising.  

Sesquicentennial Records.  

III.  Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park was a triumph for preservation of landscape and a clean water supply, but tragedy in the number of citizens displaced from their homes and businesses.  


Philadelphia City Archives Record Group 90.10: Bureau of Surveys and Design.  
Map of Properties appropriated for Fairmount Park, 1868.  
Indicates all property lines and owners of lands appropriated to Fairmount Park by Act of Assembly, April 14, 1868.  

Public Works 24984-0: Baltimore & Ohio Terminal Improvements-East Bank of Schuylkill River-South from Spring Garden Street Bridge 12/20/27

In 1909 the Fairmount Waterworks ceased operation freeing the reservoir site for transformation into the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Many factories were displaced along the Schuylkill River.  

Public Works 19992-0-B: Air View-Northeast Over New Art Museum 1/26/23

Public Works: 4667-0: Washington Statue-Green Street Entrance-Fairmount Park.  Washington on Horse (this statue was moved to Eakin’s Oval at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1928) 4/19/1911

Public Works 24353-0: View in Fairmount Park-Belmont Mansion Picnic Tables and Benches in Park.  CHAMOUNIX DR & BELMONT DR.  6/24/1927

IV.  World War II Street Car Trolley Strike

The World War II Street Car Trolley Strike was a tragedy for black motorman discriminated against because of their race.  


A 5637 Police PTC Strike 1944
Large strikes were very common during the 1940's.  Folders documenting the Textile Workers strike in March 1943, the infamous General Electric Company Riot in April, 1946, and the Yellow Cab Co.  in February, 1949, are all in Box A 5637.  

A 5637 Police 1944, folder-February 28, 1946, General Electric Co.  strike.  Disorders.  
There were 175,000 striking Westinghouse and GE workers.  The strike began in February and a large riot of 3,000 workers happened April, 1946.  The folder contains police drawings of how to contain the riot.  

The Street Car Trolley strike in August, 1944, was tragic because the main issue was that riders refused to ride trolleys with black motormen.  The situation became so tense that President Roosevelt ordered the Army to take over and operate the Philadelphia Transportation system.  Police officers rode the trolleys and submitted reports to Detectives in each district.  The folders include newsletters, newspaper clippings, police reports, and lists of arrests by district.  525-510 PTC workers went on strike again February, 11, 1949.  The reasons given by the union were wage increase and unsatisfactory working conditions.  

A 5637 Police 1944, folder PTC strike.4th Detective Division-Reports and Telephone Calls in reference to PTC.  Labor Trouble August 10th and 11th, 1944.  

A 5637 Police PTC Strike 1944, August, 1944.  Arrest in Connection (246) with PTC Strike 8/1-8/10.  

A5637 Police PTC Strike, August, 1944.  Communication Meeting August 5, 1944, 5th Detective Division.  
"Philadelphia Answers the Enemy's Challenge!" issued by Communist Political Association blamed Hitler for Negro and Jew-baiting which was behind the strike.  "Bureau of Police Report" August 21, 1944.  

A-5637 leaflet handed out at "Colored Meeting", 2nd Division, YMCA 1724 Christian St.  , 8/4/44.  

A5637, Bureau of Police summary minutes of meeting, August 5, 1944.  

A 5637, Police PTC Strike 1944, Injuries in connection with PTC strike: 8/1/ to 8/10/44.  

Police Reports.  

V.  Philadelphia Department of Public Health

The Philadelphia Department of Publc Health has many examples of triumph over tragedy.  

One hundred years ago the Health Department fought disease but not for the health of individual families.  Today the Department tries to triumph in both.  

The Yellow Fever epidemic in 1793 resulted in the triumph of a new water and sanitation system.  It was considered one of the worse epidemics ever to hit an America city killing 1/10 of the city's population (almost 5,000 persons) in less than five months.  A temporary Board of Health was established to enforce sanitary regulations and the Guardians of the Poor, Philadelphia's first assistance agency, founded to help families splintered because of high death rates.  Today exercises are practiced in the event of a Bird flu pandemic.  

The Fairmount Water Works, completed in 1820, was an early achievement of the Board of Health in its advocacy for a clean municipal water supply to improve public health and prevent epidemics.  It would take almost another 100 years to build a complete citywide filtered water and sewage system.  Chlorination of the water supply began in 1914; fluoridation in 1954.  


Public Works-Water Construction 293: Fairmount Water Works

This graph illustrates the reduction in death rate from typhoid fever in Philadelphia, as pure filtered water supplies became available to all city residents.  The danger of typhoid fever as an epidemic was eliminated with the completion of the city's water filtration system in 1912.  

Public Works 23975: Typhoid Chart

Smallpox vaccine was officially introduced in Philadelphia in 1801 but few individuals chose to be vaccinated.  Vaccinations increased only in epidemic years.  During the 1871-72 smallpox epidemic, 4,000 Philadelphians died and 30,000 were vaccinated.  In 1895 the State government passed a law making smallpox immunization compulsory for school attendance.  Smallpox is still a threat today where mandatory vaccination is not practiced.  

Public Works 16823: Health-Visiting Nurse
Public Works 9527-0: Rat Receiving Station and Patrol Wagon, 1914

Guardian of the Poor and Health Department records.  

VI.  1964 Columbia Avenue Riots

The 1964 Columbia Avenue Riots resultant from race tensions and disagreement about the Vietnam War was tragic because of the hundreds of small businesses destroyed.  The Philadelphia City Archives has documentation of arrest and trial records, the personnel assigned, intelligence research, and the overwhelming number of insurance claims sent to the City Solicitor for damage reimbursement.  Many of the small businesses were not insured and received nothing from the City.  

Materials (A-3934 Columbia Avenue Riot 1964 #1)

Act of Assembly May 3, 1850, Proclamation.  The Proclamation gave police authority to arrest rioters with the maximum penalty of two years in prison.  Prayer of Archbishop John J.  Krol broadcast over the Police Radio system at 8:15 P.M.  , September 6, 1964.  The reassignment of Uniform Police Force for "The Beatles" concert during "Operation Columbia", August, 31, 1964.  

The worse riots took place August 28-31, 1964, resulting in a back log in the City court system for months to come.  Rioting continued intermittently until September 15, 1964.  

Case Dispositions-Riot Courts as of 10-09-64.  
Summary Page of cases tried in Courtrooms 246 and 696.  
Memorandum summarizing the number of arrests made from 12:01 A.M.  until 12:00 noon, 9-1-64.  

City Solicitor Reports

Estimates of Loss reports presented to the City Solicitor with little success for reimbursement.  

File No.  c-30291: Albert Rosenberg, 1534 W.  Columbia Ave.  
File No.  c-30202: Equipment Lost During Riot, Leonard Brown.  

Mayor files, trials, Managing Director's Files.  

VII.  The Completion of City Hall

The triumph of the completion of City Hall, the tallest building in the world next to the Eiffel Tower.  


City Archives 635-0: City Hall-Tower Under Construction-Work Men on Tower, 1891

City Archives 535-0: City Hall Tower-Penn’s Statue in Court Yard, 1/2/1893

City Archives 638-0: City Hall-Construction-Placing of Statue, 1894

City Archives 1803-0: City Hall-Sketch-City Hall from Perspective Drawing-John Mc Arthur Jr.  Architect, 1895

Public Works 4144-0: City Hall-Illuminated-Founders Week, 10/1908

Public Works 3778-0: City Hall-Taken for Mayor’s Office, 1/23/1910

Public Works 13410-0: City Hall Tower-Night Illumination, 2/21/1917

Any fatalities, arduous 30 year process, scrapbooks.  

VII.  City Beautification-urban renewal

The City Beautification movement was a triumph in urban renewal but also tragic because of the relocation of citizens and businesses.  

Some examples are the creation of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Society Hill.  The creation of the Parkway was an engineering triumph but tragedy in the number of citizens displaced from their homes and businesses.  As a result the Historical Commission, Redevelopment Authority and Department of City Planning were established to develop guidelines attempting to save buildings of historic merit and William Penn's original street grid.  The tragedy in Society Hill was that a vibrant black community was relocated.  Another tragedy was that buildings left standing were restored in Colonial style, even when originally Federal, to gentrify the founding of our country.  


A-1603 Pennsylvania Economy League Bureau of Municipal Reports 1987-
PEL: Neighborhood Revitalization Report # 529.  17 May 1988.  
A Literature Review of Community Redevelopment and the Problem of Displacement.  

Materials (Benjamin Franklin Parkway)

A-1606 City Planning Commission Records 1930-1948

Outline History of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1871-1935.  
1871-1935, March 1935.  By W.S.  Stanton, March, 1935.  The location of Benjamin Franklin Parkway was determined by an axis drawn from City Hall Tower to a fixed point in the Fairmount Reservoir which became the location for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The Parkway was first thought about in 1900.  The record group lists all of the ordinances passed by City government, City Plan revision authorized June 8, 1909.  The axis is from the center of City Hall to the center of the front facade of the Art Museum.  

Public Works 34484-0: Park Boulevard-Birds-Eye View-From City Hall to Fairmount Park- Recommended February 24th-1892

Public Works 30943-0: Original Conditions before Benjamin Franklin Parkway Improvements

Public Works 12166-0: Plan of Parkway from City Hall to Fairmount Park, 1916
Plan Dated February 17, 1916

Public Works 14158-0: Map of Grand Avenue to the Park--Philadelphia

Notice in the next two photographs the backs of some buildings are demolished and others are no longer standing.  

Public Works 14859-0: Parkway-East from 17th Street-Towards City Hall
Public Works: 14806-0: Parkway-From City Hall Towers
Aerial View of Parkway-Note Clock-11:00 AM, 1918

The creation of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway brought to realization a forty year dream of connecting the Park to the heart of Center City and became Philadelphia’s reflection of the City Beautiful Movement.  

Public Works 4750: The Parkway Model—Mayor’s Reception Room, 202 City Hall, May, 1911
Materials (Society Hill)

A vibrant black community and businesses were relocated because of fear of approaching blight around Independence Hall.  The buildings left standing were restored in Colonial style, even when originally Federal, to gentrify the founding of our country.  

Public Works 5225-0: 531 Delancey Street Lodging House Room-2nd Floor Front Showing Beds

Public Works: 39291-6: Interior View-South on West Side-2nd Street, Market-2nd and Pine Streets 2 02ND ST & PINE ST.  3/26/1947.  

Historic Commission-PAB: 12800-28: New Houses S.S, Pine 200 block Project Pine Street—200 Block.  8/1968.  

Public Works: 40465-40: Contract S-1370-223 to 217 Spruce Street
Barber Shop.  223 SPRUCE ST.  8/18/1949

Historic Commission-PAB: 756677-0-A: 225 Spruce Project: 225-227 Spruce Street

Historic Commission-PAB: 761723-0: 107, 109 Pine Project: 107 Pine Street, 1967

A-1605: City Planning Commission Records Reports: Oversized
Washington Square East, Unit 1-A

Turner Construction Company and John W.  Galbreath Co.  Supplement by Vincent G.  Kling AIA Architect, October, 1958.  
The reason given for the redevelopment of the area ringed by Dock Street, Spruce Street, and Third Street and Walnut Streets was the protection from approaching blight of Independence Hall.  The creation of courtyards and rehabilitation of existing structures were to reflect modern living.  

16th annual report: Old Philadelphia Development Corp.  April 1973.  
The Old Philadelphia Development Corporation was formed in 1956 as a nonprofit organization to serve as the coordinating link between public development programs and the private investment community.  The original focus was providing a vital residential environment in Society Hill.  Six standing committees determined policy directions for the Corporation.  Four of them are Washington Square, Market Street East, Market Street West, South Broad St--membership is drawn from business, civic, and resident interests.  Penn's Landing was identified as the city's "Sixth Great Square" with the Penn's Landing Corporation formed as a public/private arm.  

Plan for the Old City: A Report to the Philadelphia Planning Commission, April, 1960.  
The Independence Hall area was first studied in 1937, and a plan by the Committee of Municipal Improvements of the American Institute of Architects, proposed a Mall north of Independence Square and a green walkway linking the distinguished buildings east of it.  Another plan presented in 1944 by the Independence Hall Association, called for the development of green areas north and east of Independence Square and for the rehabilitation of the entire district east of Seventh Street, Pine Street to Race Street.  

Historical Commission Records, Redevelopment Authority, City Planning.  

VIII.  The Home Rule Charter initiative

The Home Rule Charter initiative was both good and bad.  It was a triumph because it was written by citizens and elected officials working together to eliminate graft and make government more accountable to the tax payer.  Home Rule was granted to Philadelphia by State Legislature in 1948.The consolidation of the City and County helped to streamline the government.  Providing both unbiased and timely communication between citizens and their elected officials was challenging.  

A.  1597 Pennsylvania Economy League Bureau of Municipal Research Reports 1949-1952.  

BMR, PEL and others: How to Modernize Philadelphia's Government (1948).  
BMR: Memorandum re: The Need for a Public Records Provision in Home Rule Charter.  3-14-1950.  

The citizen's right for election records, marriage licenses, cost docket (prothonotary, controller), tax revisions, civil service, zoning, court records, vital statistics, juvenile court, and orphans' court were recognized.  These must be added to the Home Rule Charter as availability of public records is every citizen's right.  The only exceptions include: police official records, wage tax unit, health officials, records of the city solicitor regarding litigation in process or anticipated.  

A-1613 City Planning Commission Reports
The New City Government: How the Philadelphia City Government is Organized and Operated under the Charter of 1951.  
Published by The Bureau of Public Information and Service.  Office of the City Representative.  

Citizen's Business
Information leaflets for citizens about city government.  Citizen's Business was published weekly except in July and August by the Bureau of Municipal Research.  Began in 1932 as Philadelphia's Government.  

IX.  The Recreation Department

The Recreation Department was founded in 1913 to protect children.  The triumph was the creation of playgrounds.  

Before 1913 children were working twelve hour shifts.  Enactment of Child Labor Laws outlawed this practice but children had no where to go.  The Recreation Department was founded in 1913, to establish playgrounds keeping unsupervised children from wandering the streets.  

The tragedy was that black neighborhoods had way fewer playgrounds built and those that were, were often used by whites threatening physical violence.  

A-1595 Pennsylvania Economy League Bureau of Municipal Research Reports 1911-1947.  

Recreational Facilities and Negro-White Relations in Philadelphia.  1947.  
Summarizes poor house conditions and discriminatory employment treatment, also current playgrounds in black neighborhoods.  West Philadelphia had none.  A swimming pool in a black area was denied use by whites who threatened physical violence.  


Properties OSAGE Avenue 10HCD-Osage-Pine.  complaints 1992, 1993.  3 boxes.  

May 13, 1985, the Move incident occurred.  Included in the material is Bill #587, passed May, 1985, declaring the West Philadelphia Development Area, Osage a RED area, the Osage Renewal Area thereby freeing federal and city funds for displaced citizens.  Also included is the list of residents displaced, where they were relocated, contracts for rebuilding, proposals for Osage Avenue Reconstruction from various contractors, citizen complaints about shoddy workmanship, and architectural plans for the new housing.  The Red Plan for Osage Avenue included 61 single family dwellings.  Besides the initial tragedy of loss of home caused by the fire, the replacement housing was not well constructed.  The material includes the "Complaint Against G & V General Contractor versus W. Wilson Goode, the City of Philadelphia, RDA, Urban Local Development Corp, Philadelphia Office of Housing, Guadet Assoc, Alon Engineering, and Edwards and Harper".  The City suffered damages in sum of $2,200,000.00.  

Department of Records 25946-3: Osage Ave & Pine Street, 62nd St.  to Cobb Creek Pkwy, 07/31/1985.  

Department of Records: 25946-11: Osage Ave.  & Pine St.  62nd St.  to Cobbs Creek Pkwy, 07/31/1985