Smedley Darlington Butler was a Major General in the Marine Corps and the only “Devil Dog” to ever win two Medals of Honor and a Marine Corps Brevet Medal. For two years, Butler, known occasionally as “Old Gimlet Eye,” was the Director of Public Safety for his hometown of Philadelphia. Given the unenviable task of enforcing the Volstead Act in extra wet Philly, Butler’s first forty-eight hours in office constituted a “shock and awe” campaign against the city’s illegal speakeasies, cabarets, brothels, poolrooms, and other dens of iniquity. According to Hans Schmidt, Butler’s greatest biographer and the author of Maverick Marine: General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History, in those two days Butler and his men closed down 973 of the 1,200 saloons that sold blackmarket hooch in the city, while another 80 percent of known underworld haunts were closed temporarily. Philadelphia bootleggers showed their appreciation for Butler’s tactics by firing shots at the top cop one morning in 1924.

More… “The Bite of the Devil Dog”

Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Boston. He is the author of Hands Dabbled in Blood.


The Pope is in the house. As the Smart Set closes its doors for his visit to our fair city, we leave you with beers, dogs, and traffic schedules all influenced by the Holy Father’s visit, along with a history of the less pope-ular Vicars of Jesus Christ.

Fellow priests put one of the first popes, Sixtus III (432-40), on trial for seducing a nun. He was acquitted after quoting from Christ in his defense: “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.” In the centuries to follow, political skullduggery and a corrupt election process thrust one improbable candidate after another into the position as god-fearing believers looked on in impotent horror. In fact, so many Vicars of Christ have been denounced as the “Worst Pope Ever” that we have to settle for a Top Ten list. •

Read It: Vatican Hall of Shame by Tony Perrottet

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It’s 1979, and it’s Pope John Paul II’s visit to Philadelphia, and I’m standing next to Alexander Calder’s river god fountain at Logan Circle, next to the male figure grasping a bow. Buried in my backpack are hundreds of freshly minted coins. My father, who owns a company that makes commemorative medals, struck them earlier that week. Pope John Paul II’s bronze image is sculpted on the front, and my father has asked me to sell them at the special Mass the Pope is conducting on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

I’ve just graduated from college. Having majored in English, I’m unemployed, living at home, and about as miserable as a 22-year-old can be. My boyfriend doesn’t call me as often as I’d like and I spend too many nights hunched over the pink princess phone on my night table willing it to ring. When my father passes by my door, he yells at me for waiting around for a boy who is obviously not interested in a serious relationship. The truth hurts, and around 9 PM when my boyfriend still hasn’t called, I’m too distraught to do anything but sleep.
More… “Papal Work”

Harriet Levin Millan‘s debut novel, How Fast Can You Run, based on the life of “Lost Boy” of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch has been selected as a Charter for Compassion Global Read. She’s the author of two books of poetry, and a third to appear in 2018. Among her prizes are the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing at Drexel University. Click here for more essays on The Smart Set.


All is not well. But we do not see that at first. The white house and the white picket fence are in perfect order. The sky is blue and bright. The flowers are red and yellow. The grass is green. We’re surrounded by primary colors and clarity.

“David Lynch: The Unified Field” Through January 11, 2015. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

The man watering his lawn doesn’t notice the kink in the hose. The water pressure is building. The pressure in his neck builds, too. Suddenly, the man grabs his neck and falls to the ground. He is having a heart attack, or a stroke. The water from the hose shoots into the air as he falls. The man’s little dog bites ferociously at the stream. The camera pans down into the grass, into the muck… More…

Imagine yourself as a child, frolicking through your parents’ back yard and digging up worms. Your mother calls you in from the kitchen for dinner and you bound in through the back door, smelling the roast she’s been tending to for the past few hours. At the table your father sits reading the newspaper, your sister fidgeting with a bow in her hair. Before you is the same familiar spread: off-white plates, clear glasses, spotless silverware, uniform serving utensils, and of course, the butter dish. You think nothing of the materials off of which you shovel food into your mouth, moving as quickly as possible to resume your outdoor activities. For hours your mother slaved over the stove to prepare your meal, but that won’t cross your mind until present day when, as an adult, you prepare meals for yourself and maybe even your own children. Now is a time… More…

There was a time before the camera and the microscope, before x-rays and MRIs, when doctors and artists needed one another. Achieving insight on the body’s form and function was a truly demanding challenge, and everyone was better off for the doctor-artist partnership.

“Anatomy/Academy” Through April 17. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

This collaboration reached an apotheosis in Philadelphia during the late 1800s, when the city was a center of innovation for both fields. Well-regarded artists worked within walking distance of great medical innovators, and the proximity paid off. Sculptor William Rush carved “gigantic size” anatomical sculptures of small parts of the body — the inner ear, sphenoid bone, temporal bone, the right maxilla — which anatomist Caspar Wistar used as models when lecturing in the medical school amphitheater.

William Rush, “Model, Sphenoid… More…

There’s a grand old tradition of celebrating the Fourth of July through dissent. Of famously dissenting July Fourths, the 1976 Bicentennial comes to mind, when World’s Fair-style displays of pyrotechnics and nautical parades were joined by civil rights protests nationwide (including a celebrity-organized rally on the National Mall by the People’s Bicentennial Commission featuring Jane Fonda and Dr. Spock). The most notable has to be the first Fourth of July, in 1776, when the founding fathers finalized the Declaration of Independence, which was, itself, met with a certain amount of dissent. Plenty of Americans were still loyal to the British government. They used the Declaration as an opportunity to publish their own dissenting tracts, like that of Thomas Hutchinson, who served a short stint as colonial governor of Massachusetts. Hutchinson proclaimed the newly independent nation to be the insidious effort of a few rabble-rousing conspirators. He also called members of… More…


Go to a dog show on a rainy day and the first thing you notice is the smell. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever owned a dog or been around a dog or heard people talk about just how bad a wet dog smells, but it does. Those dogs are pets — sloppy, misbehaving, food-stealing pets. With show dogs, we anticipate perfected specimens of the animal world that never chew the furniture, never hump company, and never find themselves caught in the rain.

This was the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s annual two-day dog show. The show does not have the distinction of being the nation’s most prestigious dog show. That would be the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City, which will be held in February and broadcast on… More…


None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used by any State or local government, or any private entity, for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool. – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (or, The Stimulus Bill)

When the oldest zoo in America was planning its 150th anniversary, it probably never thought Congress would compare it to a casino just weeks before the celebration. Such was the case for the Philadelphia Zoo, which marked its sesquicentennial this past weekend. The issue isn’t access to the stimulus funds (though that couldn’t hurt), but more the implication that, like swimming, golfing, and gambling, zoogoing is nice but not necessary.

So maybe it’s appropriate that the zoo’s party was thematically more about looking to its past than… More…


It’s hard not to feel for the people behind the Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest in the world and the oldest in America. When they chose this year’s theme — “Bella Italia” — they couldn’t have known that the stock market would hit its lowest level in more than a decade during their show, and that it might therefore be an inopportune time to celebrate flowers and Italy and events that are “the largest in the world.”

Indeed, the entrance to the 180th anniversary show is so suggestive of Roman decadence that the theme seems almost tongue-in-cheek. Just inside the doors, soaring columns topped with urns of overflowing flowers line a row of fountains that ends at a tall temple where opera singers and choirs give daily performances. Other displays celebrating the art of Florence, the fashion of… More…