Author Archives: Ken Finkel

Philadelphia’s Town Hall: Where Bob Dylan (and Many, Many Others) Performed

As mentioned last time, Bob Dylan will reopen the long-closed Metropolitan Opera House December 3rd, 55 years after his first Philadelphia appearance further down Broad Street. Where exactly did Dylan first perform in Philadelphia? Not the Academy of Music, which would be a logical guess (although Dylan did perform there in February 1966). On October […]
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Against All Odds and Expectations: The Metropolitan Opera House

During those long decades when Philadelphia’s many performing arts venues were disappearing, every last one of them had a friend in Irv Glazer, who “never met an old theater” he didn’t like. An accountant from Delaware County, Glazer spent much of his adult life assembling a massive research collection which he managed to distill into […]
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Bedfellows Not So Strange: Richard M. Nixon and Frank L. Rizzo

In 1952, as candidate for vice president during the Korean War, Senator Richard M. Nixon traveled the country stoking fears delivering his anti-communist message. “At a time when millions of young Americans are fighting and dying, fighting Communists overseas, we need a fair, a sane, but an absolutely effective program of dealing with the Communists […]
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The Rise of Rizzo

To win re-election in 1967, Mayor James. H. J. Tate figured he needed to send a law and order message. So even before the primary polls closed in the Spring, Tate announced his choice for police commissioner: Frank L. Rizzo. The day of Rizzo’s swearing in, Joe McGinniss, then a columnist at the Inquirer, described […]
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12th and Pine: Where “The Cisco Kid” Became “The Big Man”

By transferring Captain Frank Rizzo, a/k/a “The Cisco Kid,” from the station house at 39th and Lancaster to 12th and Pine in May 1952, Police Commissioner Thomas J. Gibbons hoped to solve two problems. He increased law enforcement in Center City and saved Rizzo from himself in racially charged West Philadelphia. On Pine Street, the […]
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Where Frank Rizzo Became “The Cisco Kid”

When reformers took over City Hall in 1952, Thomas J. Gibbons, the newly appointed police commissioner named Frank Rizzo to his first command.  The 30-year-old Rizzo had recently passed the civil service exam for sergeant and was considered a good match for a tough section of West Philadelphia. Rizzo’s propensity for raids on numbers parlors, […]
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Searching for John Sloan’s Philadelphia Saloon

Artist John Sloan considered the back room of McSorley’s a “sacristy.” So, it follows naturally that his five oil paintings of the venerable New York ale house are sacred icons of saloon culture. Between 1912 and 1948, Sloan didn’t merely depict life at McSorley’s, he conflated, celebrated and elevated populist ideals of art, community and […]
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August 1901: All Hell Breaks Loose on Locust Street

August 6, 1901. “With an appalling roar that made buildings quake a quarter of a mile away, an explosion demolished five houses on Locust street between Tenth and Eleventh, last night. The extent of the death and disaster spread by the catastrophe could not be estimated—probably twenty were killed, and the burned and maimed reach […]
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Centennial Chronology: The South Philadelphia Race Riots of July 1918

“Every American who takes part in the action of a mob or gives it any sort of countenance is no true son of this great democracy, but its betrayer” declared President Woodrow Wilson in his denunciation of lynching one hundred years ago this week. Wilson called on all Americans to “actively and watchfully . . . […]
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Saloons: Rise and Fall of the “Ladies’ Entrance”

“Sloughing against the bar with one foot on the rail would have been unthinkable behavior for most ‘decent’ women, let along spitting into the cuspidors or allowing their skirts to trail in the beer-soaked sawdust,” wrote Madelon Powers. “For some women even entering a bar is a fearful prospect,” agreed Mary Jane Lupton in Feminist […]
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