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John T. Gibson

February 23, 2012

Although a meek 5’3” in stature, and with only 110 pounds to spare, John Trusty Gibson was an entrepreneurial giant of his time. His area of focus was the arts, as he owned three theaters in Philadelphia. Gibson opened his first theater, The North Pole Theatre in 1910 on South Street. In 1918, he invested half a million dollars to finance The New Standard Theatre, located on South and 12th Streets. This endeavor made Gibson the first Black businessman in Philadelphia to make such a large property investment. The Standard was the most popular of Gibson’s establishments; it brought in famous Black Vaudeville stars of the time, such as Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. In 1921 Gibson obtained the Dunbar Theatre, which he later named after himself. The Gibson Theatre venture made him the sole owner of all the major Black theaters in the city.

Born in Baltimore, MD, Gibson moved to Philadelphia during the 1890s economic opportunity, which he certainly found. In Maryland, he attended local public schools and then enrolled into Morgan College Preparatory School (now Morgan State University) for two years. In addition to his dominance in Philadelphia’s black theaters, Gibson was also the director of Douglass Hospital, as well as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade.

Brittany Greene, SAS

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