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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 2.3 The Philadelphia Story

What’s in a name? Apparently, lots. The name Philadelphia Section marked the first time that a section was named after a city instead of a state (or a union of states or a proper subset of a state). The name itself was certainly controversial. In the late \(1960\)s Albert Bennett reminisced about events surrounding that designation.
At the organizational meeting ... a request for establishing the Philadelphia Section of the MAA 1  was forwarded to Secretary Cairns. His first reaction was that the name was ill-chosen, since all the other Sections were named for States, and to name a section after so small a political unit as a city, would break sound precedent. I wrote back that Pennsylvania had two natural cultural centers, one at the extreme east (Philadelphia), the other at the extreme west (Pittsburgh). One could not expect much of an attendance at either of these places, from residents near the other. Philadelphia should attract persons from Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey. Setting a new precedent might encourage the later founding of a Pittsburgh Section, attracting mathematical instructors from West Virginia and Eastern Ohio as well as from western Pennsylvania. Cairns and Slaught were not obstinate, and in December, the Section was admitted under its proposed name, subject of course to the usual provision of By-Laws, etc., and promises of good behavior.
Bennett was certainly right on target about attendance from mathematicians located in Delaware and southern New Jersey. Delaware has remained an integral part of the section since its founding. However, a New Jersey Section was created in \(1956\text{,}\) and although most residents from the southern part of the Garden State have participated in its activities since its inception, several continue to attend the Philadelphia Section’s programs. As we shall see, mathematicians from Princeton and Rutgers were especially active in the Philadelphia Section in the \(30\)-year period from the founding of the section in \(1926\) to the founding of the New Jersey Section.
If Bennett was accurate about attendance in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, his comments about the western part were uncannily prescient. The Allegheny Mountain Section became the \(19th\) MAA 2  section in \(1933\text{.}\) (The Wisconsin Section was created one year earlier.) As Bennett predicted, the Allegheny Mountain Section attracted mathematically oriented residents of West Virginia and eastern Ohio as well as western Pennsylvania. It should be mentioned, however, that the formation of the second section in Pennsylvania caused the Philadelphia Section to lose its colleagues from Penn State, who became affiliated with the Allegheny Mountain Section. As with some New Jersey mathematicians, a cadre of members from central Pennsylvania participated actively in the Philadelphia Section until the new section was formed, and a few of them continued their involvement after that.