The Philadelphia Record

This newspaper ceased publication in 1947

Friday, May 22, 1914


Citizens Pay Rare Tribute to
Rev. Russell H. Conwell for His Good Works


Receives Tokens and Promise of $50,000 After Repeating Famous Address

Seldom has a clergyman been accorded a tribute by his city such as that which was given to Rev. Russell H. Conwell last night on the occasion of his delivery for the five thousandth time of his celebrated lecture, "Acres of Diamonds."

First he was escorted from his home at Broad Street and Susquehanna Avenue to the Academy of Music by military and civic organizations, riding between cheering crowds all along his route. Then he was greeted in the Academy by 3000 persons who cheered him wildly. Finally, after he had once again delivered his famous lecture, he was presented with tokens of affection and praised highly by men prominent in the affairs of the City, State and Nation.

It was as a reminder to him that the people of Philadelphia appreciate his self-sacrifice and devotion to his self-appointed task of education that the great demonstration was arranged. It was planned as a somewhat feeble payment of Dr. Conwell's labor in building Temple University, the Samaritan Hospital and similar great public benefactions. It was designed to be a work of respect to the man who earned more than $8,000,000 by his lecturing all over the world and gave it all away to public charity.

Give Him Key to the State

Dr. Conwell was overwhelmed with the honors heaped upon him. When he arose to deliver his lecture, he prefaced his remarks with a few halting words of thanks. At the moment, he seemed to be anything but the orator who had faced and charmed thousands of audiences in every State in the Union. Soon, however, he forgot his embarrassment and plunged into his familiar discourse. Five thousand repetitions had not interfered with its interest. As if he was expounding something he had just discovered he hurried forth his words with intense enthusiasm, carrying his crowd with him and stirring them to applause, just as the same words had aroused 4999 audiences before. When Dr. Conwell finished the presentations were made, Attorney General John C. Bell, representing Governor Tener and on behalf of the State of Pennsylvania, presented Dr. Conwell with a gold key, representing the freedom of the State. This key was enclosed in a box made from cedar brought all the way from the Holy Land, surrounded by a gold band and inscribed with gold letters.

To Get Fund of $50,000

Then Provost Smith, of the University of Pennsylvania, presented to Dr. Conwell a silver loving cup, declaring that it was merely a forerunner of what the colleges and schools of the United States are going to give Dr. Conwell in the next few months. In that time a fund of $50,000 will be raised and presented to him, to aid him in carrying out his work.

Nathan T. Folwell, president of the Manufacturers Club, also presented to Dr. Conwell a fine autograph album containing the names of prominent Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians. Ralph Bingham, official representative of the International Lyceum Association, under whose direction Dr. Conwell delivered many of his lectures, presented a bouquet of roses to him.

Prior to the Academy meeting, the parade marched down Broad Street from Susquehanna Avenue to Locust Street. In the lead was Brigadier general William G. Price, as grand marshal, followed by companies of the National Guard and Boys' Brigade Association. Then marched the members of the Men's Bible Class of Grace Baptist Temple, of which Dr. Conwell is pastor. Following them is a carriage rode Dr. Conwell, accompanied by John Wanamaker and Judge Norris S. Barratt. In the rear marched students of Temple University, of which Dr. Conwell is president; students of the University of Pennsylvania and representatives of many churches in all parts of the city.

Crowds Cheer His Progress

Crowds lined the sidewalk all along the route. Flags were hung from many windows, and the throngs cheered as Dr. Conwell passed. He raised his hat and waved his hand to many friends along the sidewalk.

On the steps of the Union League, President William T. Tilden reviewed the parade. Standing with him were Colonel J. Warner Hutchins, George F. Hoffman, Robert M. Green, Colonel Fred T. Pusey and E. A. Brinkeroff.

When the Academy was reached the crowds on the sidewalk began to pour inside and soon the house was filled, 3000 persons crowding the auditorium and galleries. When Dr. Conwell marched on the stage, accompanied by Mr. Wanamaker, Mr. Bell and Provost Smith, it was the signal for a tremendous outburst of applause. The first event on the program was singing by the Temple Glee Club, of which Mr. Conwell was the organizer 24 years ago.

High Praise from Wanamaker

Mr. Wanamaker presided. In his opening address he praised the guest of honor to the skies. He apologized to the audience for starting late, because Dr. Conwell was greeted by so many friends on the way to the Academy that he could not reach there sooner. He said:

"You are honoring yourselves by honoring Dr. Conwell tonight, for he is a great citizen who cannot be matched by any city in the United states. Living all my life in Philadelphia, I am proud of him. I do not believe there is any place in the United States where a private citizen could have had rolled up about him such a sense of ownership as that which the people of Philadelphia have enveloped Dr. Conwell this evening.

"It was a poor Baptist minister 28 years ago, when the schools of the city were only enough for half our children, who saw that it was bad for children to grow up in ignorance and had a vision that the boy without education would make poor homes. So in 1886 he began Temple university and while he has preached at his church almost every Sabbath, he has devoted nearly all his time during the week to finding means for its support. He has spent his life, his self-sacrificing life, building men. Tonight it gives us great pleasure to sheer his great manhood. I believe what you are doing tonight will add ten years we hope more, to his valuable life.

"This is a man who by his own labors produced more than $8,000,000 and he passed it all over to young men, helping to educate them. More than 82,000 young men have been students of Temple university. At present, there are more than 4000 students under his care. Let us rise, then, and greet this man, as for the five thousandth time he delivers a lecture which helped him do this work."

Audience Rises to Cheer

The whole audience arose at Wanamaker's request and greeted Dr. Conwell with a mighty cheer. He said:

"I feel that this is a dream. I am wondering if it will disappear in a moment. I feel so embarrassed. It will take me the rest of my life to comprehend what this means. I could understand if you gave a reception like this to Mr. Wanamaker, but I cannot understand why so many people came out to see me."

Dr. Conwell then began his lecture. He explained that it was not the same lecture exactly because he applied it to the town in which he was speaking. The main thought of it, he said, was that every man neglects opportunities at his door, that no person does everything that he can do, that all can be rich if they try.

Dr. Conwell developed this theme with ancient and modern stories of material wealth, telling them with much humor which kept the audience laughing half the time. He got off many of his well worn sayings, particularly declaring that money was good, that it was wise to be rich, that most of the rich men of America are honest. Finally, he applied some of his talk to Philadelphia.

"Great opportunities for men and women will be here," he said, "when the Panama Canal is opened and the port begins to boom. The only trouble with Philadelphia is that it talks down improvements. It knocks itself, all the time. Let us stop this knocking and begin to praise as all the other cities of the land do."

From the official archives of the Philadelphia Press Association
Article courtesy of the WRTI Alumni Website
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