13 Things You Might Not Know About John Wanamaker

Left: John Wanamaker in July 1915. Right: City Hall and John Wanamaker's "Grand Depot" at 13th & Market

Left: John Wanamaker in July 1915. Right: City Hall and John Wanamaker’s “Grand Depot” at 13th & Market. Both public domain.

Today marks the 178th anniversary of the birth of John Wanamaker, inventor of the department store, holy roller, U.S. Postal Service innovator and so much more. Here, a recap of the unlikely rags-to-riches story of an American hero, if you like to shop. Read more »

Breaking Down

Illustration by Mario Zucca

Illustration by Mario Zucca

I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my 2006 Honda, saying a little prayer. I’m not, under ordinary circumstances, a praying person, though when my kids were small I never merged onto the Schuylkill Expressway without thinking, “Please, God, just let me live to see the children again.” But the odometer on the Honda reads 209,468 miles, and a prayer seems in order. So I say it: Please, God. Not today. Read more »

48 Years Ago, the Sixers Traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers

Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia 76ers gets champagne poured on him on April 12, 1967, in the 76ers dressing room after Philadelphia defeated the Boston Celtics 140-116 to win the Eastern Division NBA championship. Surrounding Chamberlain are from the left are Bob Weiss, Matt Guokas, Wally Jones and Dave Gambee. AP Photo

Wilt Chamberlain gets champagne poured on him on April 12, 1967, after Philadelphia defeated the Boston Celtics 140-116 to win the Eastern Division NBA championship. Surrounding Chamberlain are from the left are Bob Weiss, Matt Guokas, Wally Jones and Dave Gambee. AP Photo

Forty-eight years ago tomorrow, the Philadelphia 76ers traded their then-32-year-old center, seven-foot-one-inch Wilt Chamberlain, to the Los Angeles Lakers. The pride of Overbrook High, who’d won one NBA title with the Sixers (in 1967), would go on to the finals with the Lakers four times and win the title in 1972. Who’d we get in return for him? Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. Uh-huh. To mark the occasion, here are a few of the highlights of Wilt the Stilt’s illustrious life.  Read more »

19 (Mostly Patriotic) Things That Also Happened on the Fourth of July

Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Did you know that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe — the second, third and fifth U.S. presidents — all died on the Fourth of July, the date on which the United States declared its independence from Great Britain? Jefferson and Adams actually died on the same exact date, in 1826, and Monroe in 1831. Did all three hold on, trying to make it to that highly symbolic day just one more time? What was wrong with number four, James Madison (died June 28, 1836), that he couldn’t hang in there for six more days? I once read (but didn’t really understand) an explanation of why it’s not surprising that in any school classroom of 25 or so pupils, two of them will have been born on the same day. This is called the Birthday Paradox, and I suppose there’s a corollary Death Day Paradox. Still, the Fourth of July has been an unusually significant date in U.S. history, thanks to both serendipity and the fact that folks tend to commemorate the occasion in all sorts of ways. Here are a few more events — some fascinating, some shocking, and some completely trivial — to note this weekend while you gather around the grill.  Read more »

10 Things You Might Not Know About Philly’s June 1919 Anarchist Bombings

Left: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's house with bomb damage. Right: J. Edgar Hoover

Left: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s house with bomb damage. Right: a young J. Edgar Hoover

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling blocking President Obama‘s executive actions on immigration. A terrible hate crime against a club full of mostly Latino gays in Orlando. Foreigners blamed for violence and murder. Donald Trump‘s calls for a wall with Mexico. It’s hard to believe America has ever been more divided over whom to let into the country and whom to keep out — or deport. But there’s nothing new about cries of “America First.” On June 2, 1919, within 90 minutes of each another, eight bombs of what the FBI called “extraordinary capacity” exploded in seven U.S. cities: New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Patterson, N.J., Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. The bombs, each constructed of as much as 25 pounds of dynamite and salted with heavy metal slugs meant to act as shrapnel, were the work of anarchists, according to fliers printed on pink paper. The frantic search for the bombers, centered in Philadelphia, would jump-start the career of future FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and lead to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants — with some unexpected consequences. Here, 10 things you might not know about those dangerous days.  Read more »

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