Philadelphia Celebrates describes the planning, financing and staging of the city’s three great commemorations of America’s Declaration of Independence. The book reveals the behind-the-scenes relations and often intense rivalries among the outsized personalities of the organizers of each event.
For the Centennial in 1876, these figures included President Ulysses S. Grant, diplomat John Welsh, women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony, and Benjamin Franklin’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Gillespie. In the prelude to the 1926 Sesquicentennial, reformers Edward Bok, Governor Gifford Pinchot, and George Wharton Pepper battled the corrupt political machine of Congressman Bill Vare and his handpicked mayor, Freeland Kendrick. In the tempestuous times leading up to the 1976 Bicentennial, Mayors Jim Tate and Frank Rizzo, Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, city planner Edmund Bacon, and the “Young Professionals” of the Philadelphia Junior Chamber of Commerce attempted to negotiate a major national event that ultimately failed to satisfy their conflicting agendas.
As the story unfolds, Duffy traces our city’s and country’s evolving understanding of civil rights, women’s rights and religious freedom as the 1876, 1926 and 1976 milestones were celebrated.
About the Author
Edward W. Duffy is the author of Philadelphia: A Railroad History (2013). Over the course of his career, Duffy has worked for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the Philadelphia Port Corporation, and the Philadelphia Department of Commerce. The father of two daughters, Leigh and Fiona, he lives with his wife Sue in the Mount Airy region of Philadelphia.