CONSHOHOCKEN’S BIGGEST PARADE
IT HAPPENED 100 YEARS AGO
By Jack Coll
November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice at Complegne, France. The agreement brought the First World War to an end at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918. Each year following, “Armistice Day” was held on November 11, honoring all servicemen who participated during World War I. The holiday celebration was later changed to “Veterans Day” to recognize and honor all veterans of all wars that Americans have participated in.
By the time news of the signing of the Armistice reached the boroughs of Conshohocken and West Conshohocken it was 3 a.m. By 3:15 Conshohockens Italian residents of Maple Street, (known as “Little Italy” back then) were parading along Maple Street in celebration.
By 3:15 a. m. when the end of war was confirmed factory whistles began to blow and church and fire house bells joined in to spread the good news. The big whistles on mills and factories were tied down and there was great continuous noise. Relay lines of men were stationed at bell ropes at the churches and fire companies and the bells rang for hours.
On the morning of November 12, the Conshohocken Recorder Newspaper headline read:
VICTORY HILARIOUSLY CELEBRATED;
BUSINESS SUSPENDED AND ALL
JOIN IN GREAT PEACE HOLIDAY
The Fall of Germany Proclaimed by Blowing of Whistles and the
Ringing of Bells—People Began to Parade at 3:15 A. M.—
A Demonstration Held at 4 A. M. –Great Peace Parade Last
Night—Kaiser, in Effigy, Executed by Hanging and Burning
While a Band Played “The Star Spangled Banner” and
The Great Crowd Cheered.—West Conshohocken Has a Joyous
Celebration—Woman of Three Wars Leads Marchers.
By dawn, when the Recorder headline hit the newsstands and paper stores the streets were filled with men, women and children celebrating with drinking, banging pots and pans and arrangements were underway for a great parade.
The great parade that was held the following evening was led by Grand Marshall John Pugh, an East Fifth Avenue resident and a veteran of the Civil War and every organization agreed to participate. The parade was considered the largest ever with the parade marching line stretching out more than a mile. Every organization, the fire companies, school children, Church groups, Red Cross and citizens not attached to any of the above all marched. There were many automobiles and floats lined up on First Avenue, down Spring Mill Avenue. The parade marched up Fayette Street to Twelfth Avenue and then countermarched to First Avenue where a grand celebration took place. A portion of the parade veered off Fayette Street and marched along Maple Street and regrouped with the main parade on lower Fayette Street.
In the procession were many effigies of the Kaiser, (German Emperor) and floats made by the Schuylkill Iron Works and J. Wood Department of the Alan Wood Iron and Steel Company brought forth great applause along the route. Standing on a great white pedestal, were Uncle Sam and the Goddess of Liberty holding a beacon torch of Liberty.
The residents of the neighborhood of Eighth Avenue and Maple Street arranged a mock execution of the Kaiser. They erected a scaffold at Eight Avenue and Maple Street and when a portion of the parade was passing, a halt was called and the ceremonies began.
The effigy of the Kaiser was taken to the scaffold. The executioner put a rope about his neck and he was drawn into the air. After the hanging, the body was taken to a stake about which was heaped great piles of wood. The pyre was lighted and the stuffed shirt representing the German Emperor was consumed by the flames. The band played the Star Spangled Banner and the crowd cheered.
The George Clay Fire Company, the Red Cross and residents of West Conshohocken organized a parade and after parading the streets of the West Borough they crossed the iron bridge and marched through all the streets of Conshohocken.
Most of the borough’s churches were holding thanksgiving services in honor of the wars end.
According to several newspaper sources the party and celebrations in both boroughs went on for more than 48 hours. In days and weeks to follow the borough provided a hero’s welcomed to all of our servicemen and service women.
The borough of Conshohocken was honored by the federal government for their participation in World War I. The borough was recognized for sending more men and women off to war than any other community in the country per capita. The town’s patriotic contribution was noted by the United States Congress who ordered a merchant marine ship built at the Chester Ship Yard, christened “The Conshohocken” and set sail in January 1920.