Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle I (1874–1948) was an eccentric millionaire whose fortune allowed him to pursue theatricals, self-published writing, athletics, and Christianity on a full-time basis. He was the man upon whom the book “My Philadelphia Father” and the play and film “The Happiest Millionaire” were based, but even before that Biddle was eccentric…to say the least. Biddle was a trainer in hand-to-hand combat in both World War I and World War II. In fact, Biddle was an expert in hand-to-hand combat. He also had an unusual way of training his men. It was not unusual for Biddle to tell his trainees to attempt to kill him!! I can’t say for sure that he allowed them to use live ammunition, but he did give them “chance” to try to kill him before he could disarm them.
An officer in the United States Marine Corps, Biddle was an expert in close-quarters fighting and the author of “Do or Die: A Supplementary Manual on Individual Combat,” a book on combat methods, including knives and empty-hand skills, training both the United States Marine Corps in two world wars and Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was considered not just an expert in fighting, but also a pioneer of United States Marine Corps training in the bayonet and hand-to-hand combat. He based his style on fencing, though this approach was sometimes criticized as being unrealistic for military combat. At one point, when it looked like there was no way out of a drill he assigned to his men…they were surrounding him, and for all intents and purposes, they had him. Nevertheless, the outcome was not what anyone would have expected, because within in a few minutes, Biddle had completely disarmed each and every one of the men.
Born on October 1, 1874 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Edward Biddle II and Emily Drexel, Anthony was grandson of banker Anthony Joseph Drexel, and great-grandson of banker Nicholas Biddle. Biddle was a graduate of Germany’s Heidelberg University. He was a fellow of the American Geographical Society and founded a movement called “Athletic Christianity” that eventually attracted 300,000 members around the world. A 1955 Sports Illustrated article called him “boxing’s greatest amateur” as well as a “major factor in the re-establishment of boxing as a legal and, at that time, estimable sport.” He joined the Marines in 1917 at the age of 41, and convinced his superiors to include boxing in Marine Corps recruit training. In 1919, he was promoted to the rank of major, and became a lieutenant colonel in 1934. In Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia, Biddle opened a military training facility, where he trained 4,000 men. His training included long hours of calisthenics and gymnastics, and taught skills such as machete, saber, dagger, bayonet combat, hand grenade use, boxing, wrestling, savate and jiujitsu. He also served two years in the National Guard.
In 1895, he married Cordelia Rundell Bradley. Their marriage was blessed with three children, Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle Jr. (1897–1961), who married Mary Duke (1887–1960). They were the parents of Mary Duke Biddle (1920–2012) and Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle. Their second child was Cordelia Drexel Biddle (1898–1984), who married Angier Buchanan Duke (1884–1923), the son of Benjamin Newton Duke. They were the parents of Angier Biddle Duke (1915–1995) and Anthony Drexel Duke (1918-2014). Their third child was Livingston Ludlow Biddle (1899–1981), who married Kate Raboteau Page (b. 1903), daughter of Robert N. Page. They were the parents of Livingston Ludlow Biddle III. Biddle died May 27, 1948 from a cerebral hemorrhage and uremic poisoning.
My nephew Riley Birky is growing up so fast, in fact, I can’t believe how tall and adult like he is getting. Riley is a Freshman this year, and that has given him a chance to learn public speaking. Public speaking, to me is a subject that should only be taken by those who truly want to become public speakers. I am definitely not one of those people. I’m far to shy for it, and from what I hear, Riley and I have that in common. I hope for Riley’s sake that he can overcome that shyness, because it is hard to live with.
Public speaking is quite possibly the only thing that Riley is shy about. He has be practicing Tae Kwon Do for two and a half years now. He loves the challenge of fighting, so the next logical step was for him to start boxing. He is pretty excited about learning to box. While Tae Kwon Do, Judo, boxing, or any other form of fighting is not my cup of tea, I have to say that they are very interesting to watch. It takes a great degree of skill to learn these arts, and a lot of dedication and discipline. I think Riley has those traits, and that they will take him far.
Riley loves music, especially Rap music. Personally, I could never see the draw that Rap music has, but then I am not a teenager. It seems to me that every generation has a new type of music. I know my own parents absolutely hated the Rock music my sisters and I listened too, and now that I’m a grandmother, I personally go for Country music, so now I can agree with my parents’ thoughts on Rock, or any of the other music of today’s generation…sorry Riley.
Riley may be growing up fast and spreading his wings in many ways, but one thing has never changed. Riley loves his mom and his little brother, Tucker. He may not always see eye to eye with them, but he loves them nevertheless. Riley is also loves his dad, sister and family, and gets along well with his stepdad, my brother-in-law, Ron. The teen years are tough, no matter who you are. Lots of changes are going on within you, and you are trying decide who and what you are going to be. Riley still has time to make the choices about his future that are his alone to make, and I’m sure that he will be a success in whatever career choice he makes. He is a kind and loving young man, and that will carry him a long way…no matter what he decides to do with his life. Today is Riley’s birthday. Happy birthday Riley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It’s strange to think about the amount of things you don’t know about your dad, or anyone else for that matter, but when I think about my parents, I expect that I should know most things about them. I guess there are stories that were never told, or little things that just didn’t seem important, and so were passed over. Such is the case with my dad’s time in World War II. I’m not talking about the major things that Dad couldn’t talk about in his letters home, but some of the smaller things. Today I was reading his letter dated August 1, 1944, in which he talks about having a little down time from flying missions. He and a friend went to the gym. In his letter, my dad mentioned punching a bag for a while, among other unnamed exercises.
I never knew that my dad had any interest in boxing, although I vividly remember playing a little boxing game with him every once in a while in the hallway at home. Of course, he never hit me, it was a game. Dad was very quick, and no matter how much I tried to defend my face, he always managed to get a tap in. Looking back, I think my dad taught me a lot about self defense in those little sparring matches, but it never occurred to me that he had any real interest in boxing. I just thought it was a natural ability he had.
Dad had a great time with those sparring matches, and I guess I must have been a bit of a Tomboy, because I did too. I managed to get in a few good taps during those years, but I promise you, it was very few. Talk about feeling uncoordinated!! Nevertheless, if I got one in, I knew it was real and it was an accomplishment, because he didn’t just let me get one in…which is something I was always grateful for. Letting a little kid win at a game once in a while is fine, but if you do it too often, they don’t learn to play well, nor do they learn sportsmanship. Dad’s laughing, fun way of teaching me self defense was something I will always remember fondly about him, and now I know a little bit more about what he was like back then.