American Troops return from France. January 30, 1919. The welcome began far down the river. The City of Camden, charterd by the Citizens' Committee of Philadelphia, The Fearless, crowded with men and women from New Jersey, the tug Adriatic with a Committee of the Emergency Aid of Pennsylvania on board, and thousands of other gaily decorated craft crowded the Delaware River. Two thousand children waved small American flags. Thousands of others lined the Philadelphia and New Jersey banks of the Delaware.

Work temporarily ceased as shipworkers at Hog Island and at other riverfront plants as thousands of employees occupied every vantage pont and hurled cheers across the water. As the transport ship carrying 2,100 troops from France passed League Island, the guns boomed in salute. A brass band played at Pier 53. The S.S. Haverford had come home.

The Red Cross and other organizations waiting to greet the returning troops.

Originally designed for passenger service, the S.S. Haverford had been retrofitted as a troop transport after European travel across the Atlantic was heavily curtailed at the outbreak of World War 1. The ship had suffered two hits in the North Atlantic, was repaired, and put back into war service. Later in 1919 the steamship was repurposed as a passenger ship, and resumed its accustomed route from Liverpool and Queenstown to Philadelphia.

First Regiment of Marines parading on Broad Street.

When the troops arrived at Pier 53, representatives of the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, and Salvation Army served sandwiches and coffee, "smokes," candy and other gifts. The men were then
marched from the Pier west to Washington Avenue to Broad Street between densely packed lines of cheering relatives and friends. At Broad Street they entrained for Camp Dix, where they received their families or returned to Philadelphia on leave.
The successful landing of the Haverford at the pier and the ease with which the men were taken from the deck to Camp Dix via train received favorable comment from the embarkation officers at Hoboken, and resulted in additional transports being sent to this port throughout the spring and summer of 1919.

Saturday, June 8. Brass bands! Music! Flags! A celebration at Pier 53 of the 100th anniversary of the return of American troops from France. Watch this space for further details.

Ongoing at Washington Avenue Green is the Pier 53 Project—a historical study of the immigrants who arrived at the Pier from 1876 to the 1920's, their stories, and the stories of their descendants. Each story is part of a mosaic that contributes to the history of Philadelphia and its waterfront, and ultimately to the history of immigration in the United States.

Here's the link to the Pier 53 Project page on this site. Pier 53 Project

And here's the link to a podcast first aired on WHYY on June 14, 2018. It includes an interview with Susan McAninley and a description of the Pier 53 Project.

Top art by Susan McAninley. Newspaper photos courtesy of Frank W. Buhler, Stanley Company of America