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In turn-of-the-century Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, young Wilbur Fielding, the son of the Rev. Dr. Fielding, learns that he has been appointed vicar of a small Rhode Island parish. Wilbur's new position means that he can finally propose to his sweetheart, Kate Pennypacker, but as he must leave for his new post in one week, Kate impulsively suggests that they marry immediately rather than endure an extended engagement as required by convention. Kate's father, Pa Horace Pennypacker, the proprietor of the Pennypacker sausage factory, divides his business life between his factories in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, spending alternate months in each city, and because he is currently residing in Philadelphia, he is summoned home to Harrisburg for the wedding. As soon as Pa receives his wife Emily's telegram regarding Kate's engagement, he jumps into his automobile and motors to Harrisburg, narrowly missing the Philadelphia sheriff who has come to issue him a summons for promoting a book about Darwinism that prominently depicts the police chief as a monkey. In Harrisburg, meanwhile, Pa's blustery father Grampa protests the impropriety of Kate's hasty marriage. Unknown to Grampa, Emily and the eight Pennypacker children, Pa has sired a second family of nine children who reside in Philadelphia. When Horace III, Pa's eldest Philadelphia son, learns of the summons, he hurries unsuspecting to Harrisburg to warn his father. Horace beats Pa to Harrisburg, and when he appears on the Pennypacker doorstep and introduces himself, Emily is incredulous. Soon after, Pa arrives home and is struck dumb at the sight of Horace. As Emily and her spinster sister-in-law Jane upbraid Horace about his secret life, Wilbur and his father arrive to discuss the wedding. Just then, Grampa barges into the room and announces that his son is a bigamist. Outside, on the street, the sheriff stops Grampa and serves him with the summons meant for Pa. After Grampa strikes the sheriff with his cane, the sheriff arrests him and takes him to jail. As Kate sobs, heartbroken, Emily resolves that her daughter will be happily married. After Horace leaves for Philadelphia, the free-thinking Pa faces the Rev. Dr. Fielding to defend his behavior. Although Pa argues that morality is simply a matter of geography, and that he is doing mankind a great service by propagating the species, Kate declares that she cannot marry Wilbur because it would ruin his reputation. Meanwhile, as an act of defiance against their father, the younger children decide to run away from home. While Emily removes her wedding ring, Pa searches for his brood and is arrested and jailed by the sheriff. Upon returning to his church, the Rev. Dr. Fielding finds the Pennypacker children asleep in the pews. Locked in a cell with Grampa, Pa is visited by his eldest son Henry who informs him that Emily has gone to Philadelphia to meet his other wife. At Pa's Philadelphia home, Emily discovers that the other Mrs. Pennypacker died eight years earlier. Pa is released from jail after apologizing to the sheriff and comes home to a chilly reception. Soon after, Emily returns, slaps Pa and declares their marriage is over. The children then file in and decree that Pa was wrong to conceal his other family. Coming to her husband's defense, Emily tells the children that their stepfamily is motherless and then reassures Kate that there will be no public scandal. Chastened, Pa apologizes to his children and relinquishes their education to Emily. Jane then decides to move to Philadelphia to care for her motherless nieces and nephews. As Pa packs his suitcases to leave, the children beg him to stay, and with Emily's permission, he unpacks. Soon after, Kate and Wilbur are married, and Emily is so moved by the wedding that she asks the Rev. Dr. Fielding to renew her and Pa's vows. As the minister conducts the ceremony, Emily tells Pa to repeat the phrase "forsaking all others."