John Philip Sousa Dies at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel – On this day 1932

Written by



On Saturday, March 5th, 1932 John Philip Sousa was in Reading, Pennsylvania to guest-conduct the Ringgold Band in celebration of their 80th anniversary. The concert was scheduled for Sunday, March 6th at 3:30pm at the Park Theatre. On Saturday evening a dinner was held at the Wyomissing Club in his honor, and it was noted that he had been coughing hard throughout the day. He retired to his hotel room at the Abraham Lincoln around 11:30 at night, and around midnight his secretary checked in on him and found him laboring to breathe. A doctor was summond and “artificial respiration” administered but Sousa perished around 12:30. It was determined that he died of a heart attack. The next day an article ran in the Reading Eagle, in which Ringgold Band conductor Eugene Weidner shared his feelings,

All of my life I have been a lover of Sousa, he was my idol. Today was to have been the happiest in my life, due to the fact that my idol had come here to conduct our band on its 80th anniversary. The sudden death of Mr. Sousa is one of the saddest events in my whole life. Now my hopes have been dashed asunder. My idol answered the last roll call. Music lovers throughout the world will share with us the loss of this great bandmaster.

Eugene Weidner, March 6th, 1932 Reading Eagle
John Philip Sousa
The last photo ever taken of John Philip Sousa, with Ringgold director Eugene Weidner, a few hours before he died

Sousa was referred to as “America’s March King“, led the “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Corp band from 1880-1892. He composed many famous marches including “The Stars and Stripes Forever“, “Sabre and Spurs” and “Semper Fidelis” which is the official march of the Marine Corp.

The dinner event at the Wyomissing Club was attended by roughly 100 people, and Sousa arrived escorted by Weidner around 8:00. The article mentioned that nothing appeared physically to be wrong with him, but when he stood to speak he spoke in a weak voice. It was also pointed out at this event that while the Ringgold band was celebrating 80 years, Sousa himself was celebrating 40 as a conductor of his own band, which formed after his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corp band. After his unexpected death the anniversary Ringgold concert was postponed.

After his arrival in Reading Saturday evening Sousa stopped by the Ringgold Band headquarters at 133 North Fourth Street to briefly rehearse with the band for the concert the following day; it would be the last time he would hold the conductor baton. John Philip Sousa’s legacy lives on in American music culture, and Reading holds the very final chapter in his story.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Marilyn Grill Heffner
Marilyn Grill Heffner
4 months ago

John Phillip Susa wrote a march for the
Hampden Fire Company marching unit played by the
Ringold Band. At the end of every parade the march was played.

Berks Nostalgia