Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Gorilla in the Gallery

There’s a lovely little installation about the German Society of Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia History Museum. In addition to books and manuscripts and steins and photographs and Revolutionary War pistols and Civil War swords, there’s an 800-pound gorilla. Unlike the other artifacts, the giant gorilla has no label. The German Society of Pennsylvania has been […]
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Monumental Complications in Germantown

German-Americans found 1933 to be a very tricky year. An elaborate 250th anniversary celebration of Philadelphia’s Germantown settlement would again converge at the Pastorius monument. And just as Philadelphians with German ties had done ever October since the 1880s, they celebrated German Day with marches, speeches and song. But for the 15,000 paying respects in […]
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When Public Art Becomes a Hot Potato

In a day of “impressive” and “picturesque” celebrations, and “probably the most elaborate demonstration ever undertaken by the Germans of this city, Philadelphians unveiled a monument to Major General Peter Muhlenberg, Colonial Preacher and Revolutionary hero, statesman and scholar, on the south plaza of City Hall.” “Preceded by a monster parade,” with “detachments of marines from League […]
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It’s a Gas! Mayor Dilworth Extinguishes Philadelphia’s Last Municipal Gas Streetlight

On April 15, 1959, Mayor Richardson Dilworth, resplendent in a three piece suit, mounted a ladder and extinguished Philadelphia’s last gas streetlight.  The frilly fixture, dating from the early 1900s, was located at 45th and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia. Residents smiled and applauded, glad that this vestige of the Victorian era was gone.  In […]
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“Who will put the ball in motion?”

In their very first season, the Pythians proved themselves on the fields of Philadelphia, Camden, West Chester and Harrisburg. Later that same year—1867—when the National Association of Base Ball Players met in Philadelphia, the Pythians applied for membership and soon heard the unanimous decision: “Any club which may be composed of one or more colored […]
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Want a Better Philadelphia? “Look for it in The City Item.”

Thomas Fitzgerald jumped into Philly journalism and never looked back. He liked to write; loved to lead, and insisted on challenging the status quo. The name of the “racy and spicy” newspaper Fitzgerald started as a weekly in 1847 and soon grew into a daily changed again and again: The City Item, Fitzgerald’s City Item, The Philadelphia […]
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All We Need is Love at LOVE Park?

In order to succeed in its grand ambitions of City Beautifulism, the Parkway had to overcome a handful of awkward design moments. The first, at the base of City Hall, got the boulevard off on the wrong foot. Instead of elegance and clarity, we see Broad Street Station’s tower poking and jutting into what should have […]
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Thinking about the 21st-Century Monument

A lot of folks have given a lot of thought as to who The Thinker is and what he’s thinking about. Not everyone agrees on a single interpretation, not even the sculptor Auguste Rodin, who imagined many and wouldn’t say for sure which one he intended. Anyway, Rodin believed works of art should speak for themselves. […]
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The Search for an American Art in “Gallery C”

Construction delays scuttled the original plan to open the Centennial in April 1876, in time for the 100th anniversary of the battles at Lexington and Concord. Just as well. The nation’s first world’s fair wasn’t looking to the past so much as the American present and, even more, its future. On May 10, 1876—139 years […]
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“Where Are You From?” Frank DeSimone’s South Philadelphia (Part 2)

Note: this article is Part II of a series.  Click here for Part I.   Two months ago, as we stood in front of St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Church, Frank DeSimone recalled one of his fondest childhood memories: the annual visit of the Joseph A. Ferko String Band. In the 1950s, Philadelphia was defined not by […]
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