Strange Philadelphia

Stories from the City of Brotherly Love

Lou Harry with Michael Strickland
Book Cover

PB: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-375-1
Publication: Sep 95

Ebook: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0444-2

240 pages
5.5 x 8.25

A forgotten, and often bizarre, history of Philadelphia is unearthed in these quirky vignettes


Most history books paint Philadelphia as a place of revolutionary greatness, but there exists a forgotten, alternative history of the City of Brotherly Love. For example, did you know that

  • when Ben Franklin was Deputy Postmaster General for the American colonies, he ignored rival printers' requests for mailing priveleges. Instead, he loaded down the mail carriers with his own papers and enjoyed the use of a private delivery system that cut off the competition.

  • the Slinky was created by a marine engineer stationed in Philadelphia, who later became an evangelist and Bible salesman in Bolivia, leaving behind his wife, his children, and the Slinky fortune.

  • 50,000 people gathered in Fairmount Park in 1953 hoping to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, who three schoolgirls claimed to have seen near a park bush. Though the Blessed Mother never did appear, visitors to the site left behind offerings of rosaries, flowers, crutches, and over $6,000.

  • while 11,000 spectators sat in the Spectrum waiting for the Ice Capades to begin, 32-mile-an-hour winds blew a chunk of the roof off the city's newly constructed stadium.

Find these and a hundred more "strange" and fascinating stories in this collection of vignettes. These pieces of the past can't be found in history books—they are surprising side bars to the famous and not-so-famous events and people of historical Philadelphia.


"Lou Harry has scavenged in the dusty corners of Philadelphia's past to produce a quirky, funny, offbeat book that makes history interesting to non-historians." —Carol Saline, Philadelphia Magazine

"Strange Philadelphia is a 'must' for anyone who combines a love of American history with an interest in the bizarre. The stories are informative, fascinating, and frequently hilarious. Don't miss it."Philadelphia City Councilman W. Thacher Longstreth

Table of Contents

What Do You Mean Strange?
The Deal (1683)
Penn's Witch (1683)
The End Is Near, Part 1 (1694)
Please, Mr. Postman (1737)
The Caveman, Part 1 (1741)
Ben's Off-Color Advice (1745)
Roast Turkey 91750)
The Town of Bath (1765)
The Philadelphia Tea PARTy (1773)
The Floating Bridge (1776)
Burned on the Fourth of July (1776)
The Fort Wilson Affair (1778)
Arnold's Debt (1778)
Up, Up, and Away, Part 1 (1783)
Up, Up, and Away, Part 2 (1784)
Citizen Genêt (1793)
Up, Up, and Away, Part 3 (1793)
Rush's Good Intentions, Part 1 (1793)
Rush's Good Intentions, Part 2 (1799)
Live on Stage (1807-1813)
The Doycott Deception (1810)
A Mammoth Theater War (1812)
Thomas Jefferson Wrote Here (1824)
The Goodyear Bust (1826)
The Chessmaster (1826)
Gondar the Rhinoceros (1830)
Brother Bonaparte (1841)
Samuel Scott's Last Leap (1841)
Building a Better Dinosaur (1841)
A Shot at Scott (1843)
The Protestant/Catholic Riots (1844)
The End of the World, Part 2 (1844)
Prayers upon the Water (1847)
Dueling Shakespeares (1849)
Poe Undercover (1849)
Ever Heard of Carl Rumpp? (1850)
The Caveman, Part 2 (1856)
A New Chief in Town, Part 1 (1856)
"Have Mercy, God! The Trains Have Met!" (1856)
Killing Catto (1871)
The Epizooty (1872)
The Great Keely Motor Hoax (1872)
Alas, Poor Pop (1874)
Puttin' on the Blitz (1877)
Ooops (1884)
The Duel (1879)
No Accounting for Taste (1880)
The Constitutional Centennial (1887)
A War on Drugs (1892)
Goldman's Bust (1893)
The First Docudrama (1897)
Jeanes's Will (1907)
Custody Battles (1909)
An Ordinance for Pinheads (1910)
Thin Air (1911)
A Night to Remember (1912)
True Confessions (1924)
A New Chief in Town, Part 2 (1925)
At War with the Walk-ins (1926)
Climbing the Walls (1926)
The Bizarre Case of Dr. Eldridge (1927)
The Hit (1927)
The Palace of Depression (1932)
Getting a Monopoly on Monopoly (1933)
Baker's Billions (1934)
The Spite Fence (1935)
A Fascist Parade Flap (1936)
Franklin's Fan (1937)
Forming a Blessed Union (1937)
Junkder Jubilee (1938)
The 230 Fingers of Dr. K (1938)
Arsenic and Old Philadelphia (1939)
Cracking Down on Pinball (1941)
The Philadelphia Experiment (1943)
The Almost Integration of Baseball (1943)
The Twisted Tale of Slinky (1945)
The Catch (1945)
A Bitter Butter Battle (1947)
All Hail the Warrior Cabbies (1947)
Boys Will Be Girls (1949)
The Archaeology Game (1950)
A Visitor in Fairmount Park (1953)
Rizzo Goes to Blazes (Maybe) (1954)
Crocketts on Parade (1955)
The Striking Case of Lou the Barber (1955)
The Neck Goes Down (1955)
Mr. Clark Goes to Washington (1960)
"An Insult to Sex" (1961)
Divine Intervention (1961)
J.I. Rodale, Hygiene Playwright (1961)
The Philadelphians of Oz (1963)
The Deb Rampage (1963)
The Lion's Tale (1964)
Room at the Top (1967)
Snowballs at Santa (1968)
The Coxson Case (1973)
Buried Alive (1975)
Silencing the Candidates (1975)
Mime Beating on South Street (1988)
The Color of Money (1989)

About the Author(s)

Lou Harry is Senior Editor at Seven Arts Magazine, he has written for dozens of publications, including New Jersey Monthly, Theater Week, and Atlantic City Magazine.