An Incomplete List of Things Deemed the “New Philadelphia Story”

Writers and editors love dubbing things "the new Philadelphia story." Why? We don't know. But here's an exhaustive list.

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Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal wrote about Rooster Soup Company. Funded in part by a Kickstarter backing, Rooster Soup Co. is the brainchild of Bill Golderer, Steven Cook and Mike Solomonov. Profits from the restaurant, which will open next year, will fund the Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative.

It’s all really cool. But the WSJ’s headline struck me as funny: “The New Philadelphia Story: Eat, Pay, Give.” While there are three people involved in the creation of Rooster Soup Co., much like the three main characters of the 1940 film (and 1939 play) The Philadelphia Story, that’s where the similarity ends. The Philadelphia Story is a screwball comedy of remarriage; none of the particulars in Rooster Soup Co. are marrying, let alone remarrying, each other.

Headline references are supposed to make sense. My father, longtime deputy sports editor at the Daily News has a way with headlines that I will never match. When the Eagles signed Michael Vick in 2009, people suggested a “Vick’s VapoRub” headline to him constantly. Cute, right? The problem is: How the hell would this headline ever make any sense? Only if Michael Vick took up vaping, and it led to a drop in performance, could this headline be plausible. But back in 2009 people still called vaping “smoking e-cigarettes,” so it wasn’t really a possibility.

But that’s my point: The old Philadelphia story was a tale of wealthy Main Line Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord, who divorced old money C.K. Dexter Haven and was set to marry the nouveau riche George Kittredge, before calling off the wedding and re-marrying Dexter. The new Philadelphia story is … about selling soup for a good cause? If you’re going to take a headline off an unrelated film, why not use The New Philadelphia Experiment? That fits a little better!

But “The New Philadelphia Story” will live on in headlines for years. Much like I did with a “real Philadelphia story a few years back, here’s a compilation of things that have been called the “New Philadelphia Story” in addition to chicken bone soup.

(Note: I ignored references to New Philadelphia, Ohio — the title of an academic paper on the effect of severe penalties for drunk driving — and Philadelphia, Mississippi — a Sports Illustrated story on Marcus Dupree’s feud with Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, as well as a few pieces about Mississippi Burning.)

Green infrastructure

“The New Philadelphia Story is About Green Infrastructure,” The Dirt, a blog from the American Society of Landscape Architects, 2013.

Cultural happenings in Philadelphia in the late ’90s and early 2000s

“A new Philadelphia story,” The Christian Science Monitor, 2001.

Cultural happenings in Philadelphia in the early-to-mid-2010s

“The New Philadelphia Story: Culture and Collaboration” Modern magazine, 2014.

State takeover of schools

“A new Philadelphia story,” The American Association of School Administrators, 2008. (The article called the state takeover of the Philadelphia School District “the most successful district governing experiment in the country.”)

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange

“A new Philadelphia story,” Waters Technology, 2004.

Civil forfeiture practices

“The new Philadelphia Story; stealing homes to pay police,” Before It’s News, 2014.

Forums during the mayoral 1999 election

“Citizen voices in 1999 election: the new Philadelphia Story,” The Baltimore Sun, 1999.

The current state of the city of Philadelphia

“It is a strategy that builds on the city’s numerous assets, helping tell a new ‘Philadelphia Story’ about a historic American city experiencing a renaissance,” Trust, the magazine of Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013.

The Philadelphia Retail Marketing Alliance

“To fill the void, provide a first-class street-level experience, and reinforce the growth of other sectors, Philadelphia would benefit from a strategic, well-funded plan to attract new retailers and tell the “New Philadelphia story” to retail developers and investors, retail site selection professionals, and regional customers,” The “Who We Are” page of the PRMA.

An antipoverty program’s struggles

“New Philadelphia Story: Hard Times Befall a ‘Model’ Antipoverty Program,” The New York Times, 1967.

The initial planning and grants for the Kimmel Center

“Happy Start for a New Philadelphia Story,” The New York Times, 1993.

Tony Goldman and 13th Street in Center City

“ON THE STREETS WITH: Tony Goldman; Writing a New Philadelphia Story,” The New York Times, 2000.

(The Times received this letter from Elkins Park’s Mary Louise Castaldi in response:

Maybe Barbara Flanagan’s derogatory ”Writing a New Philadelphia Story” (April 6) will help keep the real Philadelphia (low cost of living, great food) the best-kept secret on the East Coast.

Ooooh, slam dunk on The New York Times!)

The Phillies’ early struggles in 2007

“For Phillies and Manuel, a New Philadelphia Story,” The New York Times, 2007.

(The Times loves this headline, apparently.)

Millennial shoppers and retail

“So she gathered a team that could show outsiders the ‘new Philadelphia story,’” Women’s Wear Daily, 2015.

Philadelphia’s favorable business climate in the 1990s

“The New Philadelphia Story,” a 44-page insert in Fortune, 1994.

The Flyers’ Stanley Cup win

“AMERICAN SCENE: The New Philadelphia Story,” Time, 1974.

I could go on. It turns out lots of things are the new Philadelphia story, and they have little to do with a screwball comedy film from 1940. Or even the Main Line! But that doesn’t matter: This headline will be with us forever, like it or not.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.