February 1, Thursday Luncheon Roundtable – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Speaker is Cara Schneider Bongiorno. Her topic – Philadelphia’s Grand Centennial Celebration
Officially, it was The International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine. It was a grand gesture of pride, power, and patriotism that drew 9 to 10 million visitors to Fairmount Park in 1876 to honor the nation’s centennial. For those who attended the nation’s first official world’s fair, its celebratory grandeur presented views of a glorious past and future and offered escape from a national mood soured by economic anxiety and class conflict. The country was in a depression that began with the Panic of 1873 and became the longest economic contraction in U.S. history, lasting until 1897. Now, as the city prepares for Philadelphia250, a two-day event to celebrate the semiquincentennial in 2026, Cara will tell stories of the six-month event in 1876 and what became of the buildings constructed for it.
Cara Schneider Bongiorno is a veteran tourism marketer who loves to share what she found most interesting in promoting Philadelphia to travel writers for 22 years. She spent her career in development positions at Philadelphia nonprofit organizations, including WHYY and JEVS Human Services, before joining the communications team at Visit Philadelphia, where her work resulted in stories such as National Geographic Traveler’s “Next Great City” in 2005 and Philadelphia’s #3 ranking in The New York Times “52 Places To Go” list in 2016. Mid-pandemic, Cara chose to devote her time to volunteer teaching with Mighty Writers, a nonprofit that teaches kids to think clearly and write with clarity – and to hosting Philly History Pop Ups, where she presents intriguing but little-known stories about the city’s past. Her website: www.phillyhistorypopups.com
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February 5, Monday Quarterback Luncheon – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Dick Ullman is our Quarterback.
February 8, Thursday Luncheon Roundtable – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Speaker is Chris Mullins, Sr. His topic – McGillin’s Olde Ale House: The Long and Short of It
Starting with the long, Chris Mullins, Sr., will tell us that McGillin’s is our city’s oldest continuously operating tavern, started in 1860 – and the short: Today, February 8, is the anniversary of the date in 1993 when he and wife Mary Ellen Spaniak Mullins bought the esteemed establishment, which they now operate with son Chris Mullins, Jr. Their purchase preserved a chain of ownership in the Spaniak family that began in 1958, when they bought it from the McGillin family. The tavern’s history is woven into local, national, and even international events. And it has won abundant awards and recognition as best bar, Irish bar, pub, etc. (even from Gourmet magazine). Philadelpians connect with it in heartfelt fashion as a hospitable spot for celebration, connection, and camaraderie.
Chris worked as a school guidance counselor for eight years after earning his master’s degree in educational counseling at Villanova, but hospitality came naturally to him. He and Mary Ellen, had both worked in restaurants while they were in school, and they had owned pubs in Havertown and Norristown before they bought McGillin’s.
February 12, Monday Quarterback Luncheon – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Roberta Kangilaski is our Quarterback.
February 16, Friday Club Dinner, starting at 5:30 p.m. – Speaker is Amy Cohen. Her topic – Black History in Contemporary Philadelphia: Markers, Monuments, Murals, and More
Amy will discuss her new book, Black History in the Philadelphia Landscape: Deep Roots, Continuing Legacy (Temple University Press, 2024), recounting aspects of the Black experience in Philadelphia from the late 1600s to the 1960s. This history marked the city, and the city now marks the history with monuments, murals, and other features – drawing controversy at times in a period when issues of racial justice are in the spotlight. She will chart Charles Blockson’s efforts to commemorate the Pennsylvania slave trade with a historical marker and detail the path to erecting a statue of civil rights activist Octavius Catto at City Hall. And she will highlight how the city has recognized international celebrities Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, as well as the influential activist and minister Richard Allen, founder of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Amy Jane Cohen is an educator, historian, and writer. After a 20-year career as a social studies teacher, she became Director of Education for History Making Productions and is a contributing writer for Hidden City Philadelphia. Her website: amyjanecohen.com.
February 19, Monday Quarterback Luncheon – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Russell Cooke is our Quarterback.
February 22, Thursday Luncheon Roundtable – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Speaker is David R. Brigham. His topic – The Historical Society of Pennsylvania at 200: Into a Third Century
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is commemorating its 200th birthday throughout 2024. Librarian and CEO David R. Brigham will discuss the breadth and importance of HSP’s collections and their relevance to researchers today, as well as plans to mark the bicentennial through partnerships, exhibits, signature lectures, and a family festival. The society has also published Two Hundred Years: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1824–2024, the first book to survey its holdings of more than 21 million documents, newspapers, graphics, and rare books. The book offers 100 brief essays that highlight carefully preserved materials from the 1600s to the late 20th century.
David Brigham earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Penn’s Department of American Civilization. His dissertation and first book were about Charles Willson Peale’s museum of art and natural history, which operated in Philadelphia from the 1780s to the 1840s. He has been in his leadership role at HSP since 2020, and from 2007 to 2020, he served as Museum Director, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
February 26, Monday Quarterback Luncheon – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Ruth Morelli is our Quarterback.
February 29, Thursday Luncheon Roundtable – 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. – Speaker is Innmate Palmer Hartl, on Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point, a new book by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
With fears of extremism rising in the current electoral season, Palmer will review this new book (Crown Publishing, 2023) by two political scientists who have long studied authoritarian threats to democracies here and abroad. Steven Levitsky and David Ziblatt focused on threats to our constitution and the rule of law in their previous book, How Democracies Die (Crown Publishing, 2018). In contrast, they focus on weaknesses in the constitution itself as conduits for authoritarianism in Tyranny of the Minority. Links to several reviews of the book are here:
Palmer Hartl is a human resources specialist and author of The Ten Commandments of Management. He consults with major corporate and nonprofit clients on transition management, strategic planning and corporate culture change, as well as executive development and team building. A graduate of Grinnell College and Virginia Theological Seminary, he is also a Parish Associate at Christ Church. Currently, he is guiding the FIC Board’s strategic planning process.