Bessie Smith moved to Philadelphia in 1923. At the time of her death in an auto accident on September 26, 1937, the “Empress of the Blues” lived in an apartment in South Philly.
Bessie’s funeral was held on October 4, 1937.
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 coffin.
Bessie’s casket was taken on a slow tour of her South Philly neighborhood, briefly stopping at the Standard Theater where she regularly performed.