Friday, July 2, 2010

A Joyful Celebration

I found this 1894 Fourth of July celebration advertisement a few years ago in the Aledo (Ill.) Democrat and had to copy it because it amused me – partly because of the headline, and partly because of the description of the event's "amusements."


The ad is for a celebration in Joy, Ill., a small town where my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, lived during the summers in the early to mid-1890s (during the school year, he taught at the Iowa Wesleyan University's Conservatory of Music in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa).  G. Oliver's parents, Jasper and Rebecca McManus Riggs, had grown up in the Joy/New Boston area and returned to Joy in 1890, where Jasper ran a hardware store for many years.

Some words under "Amusements" are difficult to read, so I'll repeat the description here:

Sack Race, Wheelbarrow Race, Egg Race, Greased Pole, Women's Race, Young Ladies' Race, Fat Men's Race, Three Legged Race, Calathumpian Parade.  Liberal prizes to winners of races, and liberal prize for the best and second-best make-up in Calathumpians.

Buses to and from the grounds all day.  Plenty of good seats and water.  Three good eating stands that will serve lunch and dinners at reasonable prices.

Come to Joy and pass a really enjoyable day the 4th, and stay and see "Tony the Convict," at night at Crane's Hall.  Admission 25 cents.

I don't have much information about the Joy Cornet Band that performed on the 4th; who was in it, or what it played.  I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that G. Oliver was in it, but I'll need to do more research to confirm that.  I do know a bit more about "Tony the Convict," though.  It was a five-act drama performed that summer by young people in the community.  G. Oliver directed the music, and his future wife, Islea Graham, played the piano.  Money raised from admission went to the town's sidewalk fund.

I had to look up the term "Calthumpian," and according to the explanation on the Oxford University Press website, a Calthumpian Band was "made up of discordant instruments ‘such as tin horns, bells, rattles and similar instruments’" that performed on occasions like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.  

The summer of 1895, G. Oliver directed a cornet band in Aledo, a bigger town 7 miles east of Joy where my great-grandmother, Islea, grew up.  The Aledo Cornet Band performed several times during the city's day-long Fourth of July celebration, which took place at the courthouse.

The Aledo Democrat's July 9, 1895, description of the celebration is worth reading.  Here's a excerpt:

The people were allowed perfect freedom of the courthouse and they fully appreciated it.  The large building was thronged with visitors all day.  During the bicycle races the belfry tower, the roof and windows were filled with people.  In the evening they swarmed over the lawn and occupied the rooms on the north side.

The reading of the Declaration of Independence by Miss Lutie Chamberlain was closely listened to.  This feature of a program for Independence Day should never be omitted.  It is one of the grandest documents ever penned and all should be familiar with it. ...

The Aledo Band boys, in their spotlessly white uniforms, looked just too sweet – so the girls said.

It is a good thing to celebrate.  It attracts people to our city.  It promotes a better feeling among our own citizens.  It is a splendid lesson in patriotism to the young.  Let's do it again.

Hear, hear, Aledo Democrat!

Joy will celebrate the 4th.  I look forward to it.  Hope yours is wonderful, too.

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