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History & Traditions

Tun Tavern: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

Ask any Marine. Just ask. He will tell you that the Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern on 10 November 1775. But, beyond that the Marine's recollection for detail will probably get fuzzy. So, here is the straight scoop:

In the year 1685, Samuel Carpenter built a huge "brew house" in Philadelphia. He located this tavern on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The old English word tun means a cask, barrel, or keg of beer. So, with his new beer tavern on Tun Alley, Carpenter elected to christen the new waterfront brewery with a logical name, Tun Tavern.

Tun Tavern quickly gained a reputation for serving fine beer. Beginning 47 years later in 1732, the first meetings of the St. John's No. 1 Lodge of the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Temple were held in the tavern. An American of note, Benjamin Franklin, was its third Grand Master. Even today the Masonic Temple of Philadelphia recognizes Tun Tavern as the birthplace of Masonic teachings in America.

Roughly ten years later in the early 1740s, the new proprietor expanded Tun Tavern and gave the addition a new name, "Peggy Mullan's Red Hot Beef Steak Club at Tun Tavern." The new restaurant became a smashing commercial success and was patronized by notable Americans. In 1747 the St. Andrews Society, a charitable group dedicated to assisting poor immigrants from Scotland, was founded in the tavern.

Nine years later, then Col. Benjamin Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia. He used Tun Tavern as a gathering place to recruit a regiment of soldiers to go into battle against the Indian uprisings that were plaguing the American colonies. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Continental Congress later met in Tun Tavern as the American colonies prepared for independence from the English Crown.

On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress commissioned Samuel Nicholas to raise two Battalions of Marines. That very day, Nicholas set up shop in Tun Tavern. He appointed Robert Mullan, then the proprietor of the tavern, to the job of chief Marine Recruiter -- serving, of course, from his place of business at Tun Tavern. Prospective recruits flocked to the tavern, lured by (1) cold beer and (2) the opportunity to serve in the new Corps of Marines. So, yes, the U.S. Marine Corps was indeed born in Tun Tavern. Needless to say, both the Marine Corps and the tavern thrived during this new relationship.

Tun Tavern still lives today. And, Tun Tavern beer is still readily available throughout the Philadelphia area. Further, through magazines it is advertised to Marines throughout the world.

Marine Corps Birthday: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

All U.S. Marines are gung-ho. But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.

Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world.

Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.

The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist; it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew and grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952 the Commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. For example, Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine. Among the many such mandates is a solemn reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps.

Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today. Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.







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