Bessie Smith House

Bessie Smith moved to Philadelphia circa 1922. After her marriage to Jack Gee on June 7, 1923, she lived on Christian Street in South Philly.

The “Empress of the Blues” died in an auto accident in Mississippi on September 26, 1937. Her funeral was held in Philadelphia on October 4, 1937.

Bessie Smith2

The funeral was moved from Upshur’s Funeral Home to O.V. Catto Elks Lodge to accommodate the 30,000 mourners who filed pass her casket.


Bessie’s casket was taken on a slow tour of her South Philly neighborhood, briefly stopping at the Standard Theater where she regularly performed.