Thursday, May 29, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia-- Turn of May/June, 1915

Chinese Millionaires Tour the City

        On the final day of May in 1916, the Honorary Commercial Commission of the Republic of China stopped in Philadelphia while on tour in the U.S. Were they here to see our kick-ass manufacturing? No, though they did tour some factories. Skyscrapers? Nope, they didn't even come to City Hall. They were really here to see our fantastic marvel of the world, co-educational schools.
        Philadelphia definitely didn't invent co-ed but for some reason, the 21 rich-ass Chinese dudes who were touring America chose our fine city as the place to check it out. Chieng-Hsun Chang, the "Chinese Merchant-Prince" who led the Commission, couldn't get enough of it. He stated "婦女在美國被賦予與男子平等的機會接受教育的方式是美好的" which roughly translates to "Women and men in the United States are given equal access to education is a better way". Chieng-Hsun Chang was worth about $100 million in 1915, about $43 Billion today. 

The Commission when they reached NYC a week later. Chang is the one in traditional dress.
                Everything was going fine until the Commission toured the Commercial Museum, where they found the Chinese Exhibit to be a bunch of bullshit. Though it displayed priceless pieces from Chinese history, it included nothing about modern China, which the group perceived to be an insult. All was forgotten by the time city officials toured them around our stinky rivers in a police boat and then wined and dined the fuck out of them at the Manufacturer's Club. They left Philly the midnight after that, on their way to New York City with the goal of founding a American-Chinese Bank. 
               The Commission would return to Philadelphia a couple of weeks later, when they would tour the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the John Wanamaker store.

Oklahoma Tough Guys Get Their Asses Kicked By Philly Cops

             Some dickhead from Oklahoma named Bill McGrath and his partner, George Gubbins, described as "a negro of large proportions" decided that they should walk around picking fights on Kensington Avenue. They started messing with some timid Kenzos who ran away, then turned on a group of young boys. The two started to draw a crowd so they announced their intentions to fight anyone and everyone who stepped up.
             Unfortunately for them, two Philadelphia cops, Officers Duff and Dunbar, noticed the crowd and inquired as to what all the ruckus was. McGrath and Gubbins then challenged the two officers to a fight. Duff punched McGrath and Dunbar punched Gubbins, each knocking them out with a single blow. The two miscreants got three months at the House of Correction, where they probably got their asses kicked some more.

Kensington Avenue in 1915.
 Kenzo Attempts to Clean the City By Himself, Faces Resistance

            Two days after the McGrath/Gubbins incident, Kensington Avenue had to deal with another nut. John McGuire, born decades before the baseball player of the same name, stole a hose and two buckets from a hardware store with the intention of cleaning up Filthydelphia once and for all. He started by walking down Kensington Avenue, spraying people's homes and storefronts with  his hose. One guy ran out of his house to protest, only get to doused with the hose in response.
            McGuire then turned on pedestrians, hosing them all over, causing an angry crowd to form around him. He then used his hose to defend himself from the horde. Sargeant John Dehmer came upon the scene and rescued McGuire just in the nick of time. He ended up spending 10 days in the House of Correction. Today, Kensington Avenue is still a fucking mess.

Liquor Retailers: We Won't Sell You Our Shit If There's Any Fucking Music or Dancing Going On

            In 1915 Philadelphia, an 1881 city law was still on the books stating that

No license for the sale of vinous spirituous malt or brewed liquors or any admixtures thereof in any quantity shall be granted to the proprietors lessees keepers or managers of any theatre, circus, museum, or other place of amusement nor shall any house be licensed for the sale of such liquors or any of them or any admixtures thereof which has a passage or communication to or with any theatre, circus, museum, or other place of amusement and any license granted contrary to this act shall be null and void

             Of course, the law was barely enforced... until the Retail Liquor Dealers Association got involved. This organization took it upon themselves to single-handedly enforce this law by refusing to distribute liquor to establishments where the horrors of music or dancing were taking place. On top of that, they would push the License Court to revoke any liquor license of such an evil, evil establishment.
             The group met little resistance until the owners of the fancy hotels on South Broad Street got involved. The luxurious-ass motherfuckers who were stayed at places like the Bellevue-Stratford and the Hotel Walton were used to a certain kind of lifestyle that required massive amounts of booze. Without it, no rich folks were going to be coming to stay downtown!

A 1907 postcard advertising how illegally wasted you could get on the old roof garden. Definitely some dancing going on.
               Needless to say, the hotel proprietors were pissed... especially when the Liquor Court launched an investigation into all these hotel bars because they were getting reported by the Retail Liquor Dealers Association, sending out a team of detectives. Local breweries joined in and stated that they would give their full support to the Dealers' Association's cause. 
              One of the hoteliers, who refused to be identified, inferred that if any liquor-related lawmen show up, they would never have enough manpower to force them to close. I wonder how that worked out when Prohibition began. The 1881 law was made useless by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which took over all liquor-related shit in PA (and therefore Philadelphia) in 1933.

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