November 6, 1920: John Philip Sousa performs at Armory on his 66th birthday

On this day in Duluth in 1920, America’s “March King” John Philip Sousa celebrated his sixty-sixth birthday with two performances at Duluth’s 1915 Armory. The first show was a matinee and the seats were filled by 5,000 Duluth school children, including residents of St. James Orphanage who presented him with a huge birthday cake. (Sousa had the cake packaged and shipped to his wife and daughter in New York.)During the evening performance Sousa received a gift from his band: a “huge anchor of yellow chrysanthemums, emblematic of Sousa’s membership in the United States Navy.” Following the show a dinner was also held in Sousa’s honor at the Spalding Hotel, hosted by Duluth’s Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lion’s clubs. Business leader F. A. Patrick introduced the famous band leader, who launched into a series of stories described as “one round of humorous incidents after another,” which set off many rounds of applause from the 500 dinner attendees. Following Sousa’s speech, “John Christie’s band, consisting of boys form the ages of 14 to 16, from Morgan park, played several selections.” Christie had been a member of Sousa’s band for several years and received kind words from his former boss. While visiting the Zenith City Sousa told the newspaper his secret to staying young: “Avoid being envious…and keep active. I do not eat or drink between meals and though I love a good cigar, I never smoke till after lunch.”

John Philip Sousa