Thursday, April 17, 2014

99 Years Ago In Philadelphia- Third Week of April, 1915

 Every few weeks, I will let you know about Philadelphia's biggest news stories from 99 years ago. Check it out!

 Fuck President Taft, We're Sending the Liberty Bell to San Fran

"Fuck this guy" -City Council
             So San Fransisco was about to put on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and asked Philadelphia if they would lend the Liberty Bell for the event. Back then, that meant strapping the bell to a train car and letting it clackity-clack across the country, bouncing all over the place, possibly exposed to a shit-ton of different weather conditions. On top of that, there were bandits, Indians, rock-slides, easily-collapsible rail bridges, you name it. A whole lot of shit could have gone wrong.
            Ex-President Taft wrote City Council a letter, recommending that maybe they shouldn't send this national treasure over to San Fransisco until they assess all the risks. Council, after agreeing to the loan in a 12-person committee, included Mayor Blankenburg in on the final argument in the chamber. The Council and the mayor unanimously agreed to say a big "Fuck You" to the ex-President and send the bell over to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It went just fine.

"Fuck You, President Taft!"- Philadelphia and San Fransisco, in unison

Surprise, Surprise... Philadelphia Schools are Shit 

The Rudolph Walton School, one of the school buildings in use at the time.
                        The third week of April, 1915 was Schoolmen's Week at the University of Pennsylvania. Teachers from all over the city (and some from New Jersey) got together to discuss the state of Philadelphia Schools. The verdict: they SUCK. Why? They teach History. This, according to J. L Barnard of the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy, was obsolete. H.W. Foght of the U.S. Bureau of Education backed him up, citing an example of how a group of students honored for being best at memorizing the U.S. Constitution (memorizing the WHOLE THING was required in Philly Schools at the time) ended up becoming criminals later in life (counterfeiters). They urged that Civics should be taught instead.
                The other big problem Philly schools had was teacher qualification. The delegation agreed that teachers in the city should have at least 3 years of high school and one year of Normal School. This kind of discussion would continue decade after decade until today, when the teachers at one of the worst performing school districts in America rock Master's Degrees and permanent state certifications. Go figure. At least they still teach History.

Better Late Than Never: Passyunk Avenue Bridge Dedicated, Five Years After Being Built

The bridge when it was first built, 5 years before it opened. Image from, a project of the Department of Records.
             18 Years of dirty dealings and political in-fighting finally came to fruition with the dedication of the Passyunk Avenue Bridge, a month after it opened to traffic and fully five years after it was built. The ceremony included a banquet at the Point Breeze office of the United Gas Improvement Company attended by Mayor Blankenburg, the city's U.S. Representatives, and a bunch of other important motherfuckers.
            The party then moved over to the bridge, where a bunch of schoolchildren sang some corny songs. The Mayor then declared the $800,000 double-leaf bascule bridge as city property, and announced hopes that the overcrowded western part of South Philadelphia would expand over the bridge into Southwest Philadelphia. We all know how that turned out (garbage dumps, gaslands, car dealerships). The new bridge would last until 1983, when the current bridge/shitty highway-style overpass was built.

More Deadly Than Tigers or Snakes!! Stop Calling Them "House Flies", Call them "Typhoid Flies!"

Actual comic from the April 20th, 1915 edition of the Evening Ledger
               Apparently the common House Fly was a horrible menace in 1915. When April of that year rolled around, the city's Bureau of Municipal Research started putting out warnings all over the place to warn people that the House Fly was going to fuck your shit up and give you Typhoid Fever!
             Typhoid is a pretty shitty sickness to get, especially in 1915. It starts off feeling like you have a mild flu but soon turns you into a delerious, high-fever-having, endless diarrhea machine with red spots all over your chest. Then, after a couple of weeks, it starts fucking up your gastrointestinal system to the point where your other internal organs get fucked. Then, after a month, it all goes away... if you didn't die.
           The Bureau of Municipal Research's best advice about Typhoid was to not only kill flies, but to literally clean your shit up. Shit in drinking water was the most common way that Typhoid spread back then. They recommended thoroughly covering your manure pile (because that was something you had to think about back then), putting the lid on your trash can, making sure all the sewage you produce gets more than 250 yards from your house, and not drinking water with shit in it, obviously.
           Today, no one gives a second thought to Typhoid or House Flies. Typhoid vaccines were already around in 1915, so nowadays, they're everywhere. Also, the chlorination of drinking water pretty much wiped it out in developed countries. Though there are still outbreaks every so often, only about 5 in a million cases are reported in America per year. If you go back in time, don't drink the water.

Pictured: KILLER!


  1. Great article! Really like this new feature

  2. Totally digging this new feature.

    Speaking of insect-induced diseases, it's truly mindboggling to think about how recently malaria was a huge cause of fatality in the States, primarily in the American South. Think Alabama is bad now? In 1930, .0004 of the OVERALL population was dying from malaria ever year, something like 50,000 people. Thanks, DDT, for making the South somewhat tolerable.