Number 40

Being the proceedings of the Meetings of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, June 17, 1914 and October 14, 1914


by Walter H. B. Remington


by William W. Crapo


by Job C. Tripp

Proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
At the Outing and Clambake held Padanaram
June 17, 1914

About 200 members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society participated in the outing at Padanaram June 17, 1914, which began with a clambake at 2 o’clock, and ended with a dance in the New Bedford Yacht Club station.

Walter H. B. Remington, city clerk, read a paper on “Notable New Bedford Fourth of July Celebrations in the Past Century,” which proved to be an interesting review of what has happened in this city to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

Fourths of the Past

By Walter H. B. Remington

Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society:

When your representative called on me, the Monday following Memorial Day, and requested me to prepare a sketch on the subject “Notable New Bedford Fourth of July Celebrations in the Past Century,” I was in no position to refuse, inasmuch as the Standard of the day before had featured a statement, which I had made, a year previously, and had almost forgotten, advocating a patriotic and popular celebration of the glorious Fourth. I could see no way of getting out of it, and on the theory that one might as well be hung for sheep as for a lamb, I readily consented, apparently much to the surprise of George H. Tripp, who made the request at the behest of your president.

With my spare time occupied in the work incident to assistance in the preparation of a Fourth of July celebration of the present century, I am afraid that I have not been able to give the matter as much care and attention as it deserves, and for this reason I desire to offer an apology, at the outset, if what I have found fails to interest you, and to make the criticism that your worthy president ought to have known better than to have made such a suggestion.

I have been unable to find any record of the celebration of the glorious Fourth in New Bedford until the advent of the New Bedford Mercury, the publication of which was begun in 1807.

In the town records of New Bedford, the 8th article in the warrant for the annual meeting of 1790 contains a phrase which, when my eye caught it, in my search, led me to believe that I had found what I was looking for. In this article, the townsmen are cited to assemble “To do what they think proper relative to purchasing a town stock of ammunition, agreeable to law.” It developed, however, that this town ammunition was not for the purpose of celebration, but for the preservation of peace, and the protection of the citizens in the case of need. Inasmuch as a similar article appeared, year after year, for several years, in the annual town meeting warrants, I was puzzled, at first, to know what became of the ammunition, since there was evidently no necessity for using it for the common defense. It then occurred to me that the ammunition was used at the annual training meetings of the militia and the constant need for replenishing of the stock was explained.

A fairly full report, for the time, of the doings on the Fourth of July of 1809, which was the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, appears in the issue of The Mercury following the day.

“In this town,” says The Mercury reporter of that day, “the celebration was unusually brilliant. At an early hour of the day a large number of our fellow citizens, joined by several gentlemen from the neighboring towns, particularly the gentlemen officers of the regiment, assembled at Mr. Nelson’s, where, after a friendly interchange of civilities and attentions, a procession was formed, under the direction of Col. Benjamin Lincoln, consisting of Capt. Coggeshall’s company of artillery, Capt. Barstow’s company of militia, the officiating clergyman and orator of the day, the president and vice presidents, committee of arrangements, gentlemen officers of the regiment in uniform, the municipal officers of the town, the citizens and strangers. At 11 o’clock the procession moved to the meeting house, where, after an appropriate address to the Throne of Grace by the Rev. Mr. Kirby, an oration, distinguished for classical purity, firm patriotism, and correct sentiment, was pronounced by Lemuel Williams Jr., Esq. The company afterwards participated in an excellent dinner, prepared by Mr. Nelson. In the evening there was a handsome display of fireworks prepared by Mr. Benjamin Hill Jr., and several lanthorns, made by Mr. Arnold Shaw, very judiciously arranged, exhibiting the names of a number of American Worthies, together with a representation of Liberty.”

The description closes with the statement that “the exhibition was truly pleasing and gave great satisfaction to a crowd of spectators.”

That must have been some show! You can look back, in your imagination, and see the artillery company and the militia assembling, with true military pomp, at Mr. Nelson’s. There was no discussion, at that time, as to whether the men who played the drum and fife to which the brave soldiers timed their martial tread were or were not members of the musicians’ union. There was no walking delegate to bust up the procession because the members of the village school, with tin whistles and battered dish pans, led the parade a few feet ahead of the stately figure of Colonel Benjamin Lincoln. And then the “friendly exchange of civilities and attentions” after the companies and the citizens and the strangers had assembled at Mr. Nelson’s. I am unable to find that there was a governor of South Carolina present to suggest to the Massachusetts men that it was a long time between civilities; and probably there was no need.

Following the dinner at Mr. Nelson’s, after the parade was over, there was the customary string of toasts, that to Washington being drunk standing, as was the courteous practice in those days. If each toast required a drink to wash it down, Mr. Nelson’s helpers must have been kept busy filling the glasses, for there were 33 toasts, some regular and some volunteer. Most of them would be considered rather stilted, in their style, at this time, but they all bristled with patriotic sentiment, which was the proper thing, and is to be commended. The first toast, for instance, reflected the political situation. It ran:

“The day:  the reign of visionary philosophy and the gloom of an unlimited embargo never again be permitted to shroud its glory.”

The preliminaries of the second war with England were going on, and the embargo on shipping had left its bitter impress on the community. New Bedford was a strong Federalist district, it will be remembered, and the authorities at Boston and Washington were not conducting themselves in a manner satisfying to the New Bedford citizens, as a whole.

Things reached a rather high pitch when the time came to celebrate the day of national independence in 18ll. On that day, after the usual procession and the oration at the Congregational meeting house, the paraders proceeded to Caldwell’s hotel on Main Street, where they sat down to what the Mercury describes as “an entertainment worthy of the occasion.” The paper further says that “The Hon. Edward Pope presided, and order and propriety marked the proceedings.” Quite needless to state!

While the usual giving and taking of toasts was going on, a committee, headed by Colonel Benjamin Lincoln, was chosen to frame and report resolutions expressive of the citizens in relation to “the recent alarming measures of our national and state executives.” Resolutions a column in length, denouncing the conduct of the state executive and decrying the possibility of war with Great Britain, which it was said, in 57 varieties of ways, would be “ruinous to our republic,” were unanimously adopted, after which the celebrators proceeded to more toasts, not forgetting “The Ladies, God Bless Them.”

The Fourth of July, 1812, found the second war with England a grim fact, and the country was in such a serious state that it does not appear, from the newspaper record, that there was much of a Fourth of July celebration in New Bedford.

Patriotic enthusiasm, as demonstrated by celebrations, seems to have died out on the New Bedford side of the river for several years. The “Corsican Jigs” over on the Fairhaven side, however, were not backward with their patriotic displays, and processions, and fireworks, and orations, with dinners at the Fairhaven Hotel, were the order of the day.

Finally, in the issue of The Mercury of Friday, July 4, 1823, a communicant who signed himself “Observator,” and who wrote from the Fairhaven side of the river, dipped his pen in gall and wormwood and wrote after this style:

“Among the general preparations throughout the country for the celebration of the anniversary, why is it that the respectable village of New Bedford is alone silent and inactive? Are not the inhabitants Americans, descended from the sons of the fathers of ’76, and can they let such an opportunity pass without manifesting, in some measure, that they inherit the spirit and feelings of their forefathers?”

Evidently the shaft went home, for the respectable village of New Bedford woke up, the next year, 1824, and The Mercury historian says, “the day was noticed with more than the usual spirit.”

I am of the opinion that the elder Lindsey took the day off, that Fourth, and that a printer named “Grouch” set up the remainder of the celebration description, for the story continues:

“While we find much to gratify us in the celebration of the day, we must enter our protest against the ringing of bells. It ought to be entirely discarded on such occasions. We hear this ding-dong three times a day during the week, and three times three on Sundays. Let that suffice.”

It appears that the young men of the town did not forget this editorial complaint the next year, and they evidently believed that Mr. Lindsey penned the protest. For the Mercury‘s account of the Fourth of July celebration of 1825 goes on to say: “After a day which ended with a splendid ball, at which grace and beauty mingled in the mazy dance, the town was serenaded by a band of music which continued until the dawn of the 5th.”

Instead of grumbling, this time, however, the Mercury editor did the graceful thing. “Perhaps nothing can be more grateful,” he wrote, “after nature has partaken of her restorative sleep, than to be awakened from the late slumbers of night by a melodious serenade.” That is what I assume to be the retort courteous.

The fiftieth anniversary of the birthday of the nation was celebrated in New Bedford July 4th, 1826, by public festivities and impressive ceremonies “in every way worthy of the momentous occasion,” to borrow the Mercury‘s phrasing. An extensive procession was formed and proceeded to Rev. Mr. Dewey’s meeting house, where prayer was offered, the Declaration of Independence was read by Russell Freeman, Esq., and an appropriate and animated address was pronounced by Thomas Rotch, Esq., to a crowded and highly satisfied auditory. An ode, prepared for the occasion, was sung, and at the conclusion of the exercises the procession marched to the town hall where about 200 citizens sat down to a sumptuous dinner provided by Mr. Cole. John Avery Parker, Esq., presided, and toasts all patriotism and a yard long were drunk. There were so many of these toasts that I am inclined to take with a grain of salt the editor’s description, in a final paragraph summing up the events of the day. He wrote, “Sobriety, good order and good feeling pervaded throughout the celebration, and we may safely say that not the slightest untoward incident marred the general enjoyment of our citizens.” Good feeling, undoubtedly, but with the long list of toasts, sobriety must have flown out of the town hall windows early in the evening unless our forefathers were made of different stuff than the modern New Bedford citizen.

The first Fourth of July celebration after New Bedford became a city occurred on the 5th of July, 1847. The steamers Massachusetts and Naushon, from Nantucket and Edgartown, arrived in New Bedford at an early hour, deeply freighted with some 1700 passengers, “including a larger proportion of the fairer creation,” to quote the newspaper account, which continues, “Groups of lively and animated faces were moving in every direction, and altogether our beautiful city presented in every part a scene of gaiety and rational enjoyment never, perhaps surpassed.”

A procession led by the local fire companies, together with fire companies from Fairhaven and Nantucket, marshalled by General J. D. Thompson, and including the New Bedford Guards, under Captain Seth Russell, with divisions of Sons of Temperance from Dartmouth and other surrounding towns, paraded through the streets. Exercises were held in the North Christian Church, with an oration by J. A. Kasson, who later became famous as a writer of treaties. Of Mr. Kasson’s oration, the Mercury says: “The oration was listened to by a numerous assembly, and it is warmly eulogized for its purity of language and elevated moral and patriotic sentiment. We had intended to publish a sketch of this masterly production, but have no room today.” There was room in the paper, however, for a column of Fourth of July oration delivered by Edward Everett, in Boston, and it may be presumed that in the eye of the editor, the Edward Everett production was more masterly than that of Mr. Kasson.

Of course, there was a burst of fireworks in the evening, attended by a great concourse of people.

It is interesting, to me at least, to compare the cost of this celebration, which was paid for from the city treasury, with the cost of the celebration which we propose to have this year. The total cost of the celebration in 1847 was $546.36. There were 16,000 people in New Bedford at that time, as appears from the figures in the Municipal Manual. That would make the cost of the celebration 3.4 plus cents for each individual. It is proposed to spend, this year (if we can get the money) §3000 at the outside. There are 111,000 people in New Bedford according to the latest census figures. This means that the celebration will cost 2.7 cents plus for every individual. So it seems, that while the cost of living is popularly supposed to have advanced, the cost of Fourth of July celebrations has shrunk. I do not know whether this condition can be traced to the tariff or not, but I do know that the copper cent of 1847 was considerably bigger than the copper cent of 1914 and for this reason it may be fairly argued, I assume, that the figures which I have quoted (and you know that figures never lie) show that we are getting more for our money in the way of celebrations today than our fathers did when New Bedford was an infant.

Just to show you that things have changed in other respects, I will read to you from the statement of the 5th of July expenses as shown in the finance report of the city covering that year.

The first item is:

Lewis Boutelle. 72 dinners $72.00

It seems that “junket” feeds are not the novelty that some of our reformer politicians would sometimes have us believe. The report continues:

Citizens Brass band $136.00

Evidently the bands didn’t blow their heads off for nothing in those days.

L. A. Mace, ringing bell $1.50

This is about half the current price for ringing bells, but at that time a day’s wages for the ordinary man was about half what he receives now, so the difference is not great.

Lewis C. Allen, policeman $3.00
Shubael G. Edwards, policeman 3.00
William O. Russell, policeman 3.00
Marshall B. Bird, policeman 2.00

With the exception of Bird, the policemen fared better than they do today, assuming that they did the regulation day’s work.

Lewis L. Bartlett, ringing bell and cleaning church $5.50

The janitor question does not seem to be a new one, after all, and it appears, that the janitor was worthy of his hire then, as he is today.

Thomas B. White, amount paid for fireworks $194.00
New Bedford Guards, music 50.00
Hiram D. Wentworth, hack 8.00

The hack was probably for the committee on fireworks, who could not be expected to walk, of course, with the burden of responsibility for the success of the day upon their shoulders.

In the account of the Fourth of July celebration of 1848, The Mercury reporter took occasion to do a little eagle screaming on his own hook.

“If the Fourth of July is now celebrated with something less of boisterous hilarity than in former years,” he said, “it has at least lost nothing of the sentiment of grateful veneration for the wisdom and patriotism of the illustrious statesmen of the Revolution whose firmness and valor achieved for us the glorious heritage of freedom and prosperity that we now enjoy. They sowed the seed, while we gather the fruit; they planted in tears and should we not reap with grateful hearts?  From 1776 the course of the republic has been continuously onward and upward. We had then 13 colonies and four millions of people. We have now 30 states and twenty millions of freemen, and with corresponding improvement in the social condition of the masses. Long may the Fourth be cherished, and while it continues to be observed as a great national festival we shall have little fear for the republic.”

That is the sentiment which is well worth repeating today. With the millions of people who have come from other shores to become a part of our great country, many of them ignorant of the hardships and struggles from which our country has resulted, and careless of the principles involved, it is not amiss, once a year, at least, that the eagle should scream a little, just to make an impression on the minds of these foreigners. No American community is too small, nor too large, to give one day in the year to pressing home the lessons which the history of our country teaches. The object lesson which the display of patriotism, demonstrated by Fourth of July enthusiasm, furnishes to these people is well worth the price, and no truly enthusiastic American can afford not to do his share. “Do it now,” is a good motto, to be applied to Fourth of July as well as to business. If there is one within the reach of my voice who hasn’t contributed his part to the coming Fourth of July, either in money or in service, I ask him to think, for a minute, what this country would be without that which Fourth of July stands for; and when that thought has sunk in, let him ask himself if the individual, or the community, or the country, can afford to let the Fourth of July go by without recognition.

To go back a little to The Mercury’s account of the 1848 celebration, there may have been a little reason for the editor’s patriotic words, presumably to offset something of the spirit of commercialism which it appears, from reading between the lines of the story of the celebration, had begun to show itself. This portion of the story is not found in the newspaper, but in the city’s financial statement of the cost of the celebration, which was under municipal auspices.

This statement shows that the Boston Cornet Band was engaged at a cost of $196.37, to which must be added $26, paid to Sihon Packard for “boarding band,” there was a $400 display of fireworks, and S. B. Robbins received $24 for 24 dinners. While the day was supposed to be in celebration of the event which ensured free speech, the Fourth of July speech of that year was not entirely free, since there is an item in the expenditure account of “Amount paid orator, $25.” The most interesting thing in the items of expense, however, is the charge “William Hall, expenses after music, $8.00.”

I can imagine the committee on audit of that day, as they gathered to approve the monthly bills, two or three weeks after the effects of the celebration were worn off. William Hall’s bill is read, and some member of the audit committee, who was not on the Fourth of July committee, pricks up his ears. “What’s that?” he asks, and the bill is read again, “What does that mean?” he asks, aghast. “Oh, that,” answers one of the audit committee, who was also on the Fourth of July committee, “that’s all right; you see, after the music, the committee had to have a bite to eat, etc.; we had been working all day, looking out to see that the boys didn’t fire the set pieces before evening, and none of us had a chance to get any supper, so after the fireworks we went over to Hall’s and had a snack. Of course, if the committee doesn’t think it was all right, I will pay the bill myself,”—and more at length. And at last, after talking about it for half an hour, the bill is passed and ordered paid. Times have not changed much, after all.

We now come to the celebration of 1851, which was so novel and successful as to deserve special notice from The Mercury.

“The usual municipal procession was dispensed with,” reads the account, “but instead of fat aldermen (they will pardon us for mentioning what everybody knows), instead of the usual parade of council in carriages, we had the dear children, all marching as proudly as if they had been soldiers in earnest. The boys dressed in their best, and the girls, who would have looked unexceptionable dressed in their worst, paraded in a style which would have done honor to veteran troops.” The parade was led by John F. Emerson, principal of the High School, and each school represented bore an appropriate motto. The High School led the procession. “The notable feature of this department was a car in which appeared The Muses, appropriately dressed and bearing the proper emblems. The Charles Street grammar school appeared with a young and beautiful personage who had been duly elected and installed as “Queen of the Pageant” together with her maids of honor, all members of the High School, seated in a splendid barouche elegantly decorated with wreaths of flowers. The Market Street Primary rode in a young mass of youthfulness and innocence upon a finely decorated van. The Grove Grammar school carried the motto “Get good and be good.” The Charles Street Intermediate carried a banner on which was inscribed, “We are destined to fill our places,” and so on.

Engine Company No. 6 did escort duty, and afterwards dined at the Parker House, after which they appeared in a procession with blazing torches, accompanied by two bands of music, and proceeded to the house of the mayor, where they were greeted by a handsome and complimentary speech. There was the usual display of fireworks, viewed by the “immense concourse of spectators” which the reporter of the period was so fond of describing. In summing up the features of the day. The Mercury says, “Although not marked by as usual pomp and circumstance as may have attested previous occasions, it was nevertheless one of the most pleasant and satisfactory which we recollect.”

The festivities of the next year, 1852, were marked by an incident which for a time threatened to sadly alter the plans made for the celebration. In the first place, it was the hottest day of the season, and the number of visitors had never been exceeded on the New Bedford streets. While the parade was forming, an alarm of fire was spread. The fire was on the roof of the extensive hardware establishment of Taber & Co., and was caused by fire-crackers, of course. When the alarm was given the fire companies, which composed the important feature of the procession, immediately left the line and proceeded to the fire, pell-mell, followed by the throng.

“Their numerous guests,” says the story, “while watching the efforts of the New Bedford boys to show how they put out fires, also lent their own exertions to repress the raging element. The brakes of No. 7 were manned entirely by the Pioneer Company from Providence, who showed that they knew well how to brake her down. A member of the Warren Company of Charlestown exhibited a feat by climbing through a bow window of the building onto the roof, which for hardihood and daring could not be surpassed. In the heat of the moment it could not be expected of our gallant firemen that they should act in a perfectly cool manner. They knew that there was a fire, and they knew, too, that it was in a very dangerous locality. Their sole object was to crush it, and they did so very effectively. The fire was thoroughly extinguished in about 20 minutes.” After the fire there was a great to-do to get the procession together again. The Mercury jokes a little as to the fact that a Fourth of July procession was never known to start on time, and the fact that this procession was about an hour and a half late did not detract from its interest. The only thing that marred it was that the engines, which had been handsomely decorated, as was the custom, appeared stripped for business, but you may be sure that this did not take from their appearance in the eyes of the true firemen. This procession, by the way, contained a carriage with a group of Revolutionary soldiers, the oldest 93 years of age. Captain Timothy Ingraham was the chief marshal.

The celebration of July 4, 1855, was interrupted by a fire which interfered with the firemen’s trial. This fire caught in the stable of George Howland, at the corner of Walnut and Seventh Streets, and before it was put out it burned several other stables with their contents.

“Various causes have been assigned for the fire,” said the Mercury‘s account. “Crackers ought to bear the blame, for they were fired in close proximity to the stable which first took fire. Another report is that the coachman was smoking in the stable that morning, and that his pipe is answerable for the consequences. Unfortunately, editors have to take facts as we find them, or we should declare for the crackers. We wonder not that so many buildings are destroyed annually, but that any escape. But those most interested in knowing the cause incline to believe that the tobacco was guilty, which we are very sorry for.”

This Fourth was made notable by the laying, at sunrise, of the cornerstone of Liberty Hall, the old theatre building which occupied the site of the present Merchants Bank building, and where, before, an older Liberty Hall had been built and burned. Joseph Dearborn, Esq., made a brief and spirited address, and Rodney French, then mayor, laid the corner stone. Under the stone was placed a copper box which contained, among other things, “An address delivered at the consecration of Oak Grove Cemetery by James B. Congdon, Esq.” not a too appropriate pamphlet, it would seem, to place under the corner stone of a play house. This was not the only joke tucked away under the Liberty Hall corner stone, for the box contained “a fine set of artificial teeth made by Dr. Ward.” Included in the documents in the repository were the transcripts of several speeches made by the statesmen of the day,—N. P. Banks, Anson Burlingame, W. H. Seward, Charles Sumner and among them, T. D. Elliot’s speech on The Nebraska Bill. “From the exceedingly political character of the deposit,” said the editor, “we cannot infer much for the dramatic prospects of the hall, but when the corner stone of its predecessor was laid, the anticipations were less Shakespearian.”

You may have noted, as I did, that the Mercury‘s descriptions of Fourth of July doings contained a drift of pessimism. The secret is explained when we come to know the editor’s ideal of what a real Fourth of July should be, and make comparison with what the real Fourth of July usually was. In writing an editorial which was printed on the Fourth of July, 1856, the Mercury‘s ideal is so clearly expressed that I cannot refrain from quoting it here, although, perhaps, it is not exactly a part of the story. This editorial is headed,


and reads as follows:  

“We don’t wish to interfere with any preconceived plans for celebrating today on the part of our readers, but we can tell them one or two things they can undertake, if it seems to them agreeable.

“Those who prefer seashore entertainments may take the Eagles Wing for Newport, or the Spray for Horseneck Beach. Mr. Nye, who keeps the hotel at the latter place is well qualified to make the day satisfactory down there.

“But whether people go forth to make demonstrations or remain at home, it is best to take things easy and keep cool. After the boys have spent all their money for fireworks and let them off, they should not cry for more powder. And all manner of rowdyism and ugly dissipation should be avoided, as utterly beneath the notice of a reasonable man.

“On the whole, those who have friends in the country, who live in old farm houses or new villas, where the air is pure, and green trees and fields of sweet smelling grass and clover abound, where strawberries and cream are not in a minority, and quiet and comfort can be secured,—we say, on the whole the pleasantest thing for the dusty and parched citizen is to visit these country friends on the National Holiday and so get rid of the noise and confusion of the town. If there is any better way of celebrating the Fourth of July than this, we have not heard it particularly alluded to.

“Then in the evening, we can all return and witness the fireworks, so liberally provided by the city fathers, and conclude in the end that we are about the greatest Yankee nation on earth.”

This is the prophesy. Look at the fulfillment, as it appears on the next day’s page:

“Celebration of the 4th of July began with a comfortable rain much needed by corn and potatoes but not by boys and girls. There have been, during the last 67 years, or since 1789, thirteen rainy Fourth of Julys, and this might have been added had not the elements proved kindly at about 1 p. m., when mere patches of blue sky made their appearance. During the night of the 4th, some enterprising calithumpians were on hand, and discoursed hideous music and peals of crackers in various localities, but on the whole silence reigned. At about 3 a. m. the wind chopped round to the north and again obscured the sky; we had more rain, next a clear sunset, and no fireworks by the city. Liberty Hall, the engine houses and ships in port displayed flags, and in spite of the moist weather, the young people did a good business in crackers.”

It seems a little cruel that after such a sweet dream of strawberries and cream, and peaceful quiet spent in green meadows, that the editor and all the rest of the people should have been doomed to spend a rainy Fourth within doors, with the monotony broken occasionally by the horrible noise of the calithumpians and peals of fire crackers. There is, after all, some excuse for the bitterness which may yet be traced, after half a century has passed in some of the writings of the man who carved the notches in history with the pen which was mightier than the sword.

You have recently read, in the Sunday Globe, Mr. Peases’s allusion to the celebration of 1865, when the returned soldiers from the Civil War were publicly welcomed by the people and 3000 school children were in line; of the celebration in 1868, when the Wamsutta Base Ball Club defeated the Onwards, by a score (49 to 13) which in these days would lead one who read about it to think it was a cricket match; of the centennial celebration in 1876, at which William W. Crapo delivered the oration, telling the story of New Bedford and the whaling industry so well and completely that no one has had the temerity to try to better it.

In my recollection and yours, are the celebrations when we were boys and girls, with their noise, and heat, and balloon ascensions, and processions, and whaleboat races, all of them paid for from the city treasury, and some of them, it must be confessed, loaded down with second hand patriotism. You are familiar, through recent publications of the story, as to how Councilman Charles W. Jones, when a boy, was caught in the grappling anchor of a balloon, as it ascended from the Common and when the rope was cut, dropped through the trees, saved by their branches from instant death, so it is not necessary to repeat these things. Of course, our enthusiasm has somewhat dimmed, since those days, and we view the events from a different angle but nobody can take the memory of these Fourth of July celebrations from us. And as we grow older, and our children and grandchildren call for the unearthing of these memories, they will come back again, fresher and fresher as the years go by.

So much for the Fourth of July of the past century. The story has been but imperfectly, told, because there was not time, with the demands of the day, to read between the lines and analyze the words which will remain as the record forever. Through it all, however, there stands out from the printed page, in type which is magnified as the years go forward, the patriotic sentiment of the men and women who enjoyed their pleasures and mourned their sorrows fifty and a hundred years ago.

The reading over of these records teaches its own lesson. In spite of the petty annoyance brought by the music of the calithumpians, and the hideous clanging of the bells, and the dangerous nuisance of the firing of the powder crackers, there stands out the underlying love of country which cannot be hidden. These men and women were not content to let the spirit of the day die. Their varied modes of attracting attention to the lessons of the day by the different celebration in vogue from time to time, were all calculated to make an impression on the boys and girls of the day, lest they forget. They kept the patriotic feeling alive, at some inconvenience to the individual, perhaps, but in the interest of the good of all.

The New Bedford of that day was not the New Bedford of today. Then the Yankee stock predominated. It is true that the whaleships brought men of many nationalities to New Bedford, but they did not come to stay, and after a brief shore respite they went their ways, most of them never to return. Vast colonies of foreign people did not exist as they do today, when more than half of our population is either foreign born or born of foreign parents.

If it was worthwhile to celebrate Fourth of July in those days, for the purpose of keeping alive the spirit of ’76, is it not more than worthwhile that we, today should make our best efforts to keep the lessons of the holiday before the people?

It is my belief that New Bedford cannot afford to let a single Fourth of July pass without some public observance. And I am glad to say that my belief is shared by many. This year, we are trying to see what can be done to rouse public spirit by an observance of the holiday in which representatives of all the nations which go to make up New Bedford’s diverse population shall have a part, and I feel confident that when the last rocket fired on the Fourth of July 1914 has spread its meteoric splendor on the midnight sky, that we all shall feel that we have done something to make better Americans of the people of New Bedford.

Proceedings of the Meeting of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society
New Bedford, Massachusetts
October 14, 1914

To Boston by stage in 1838 was pictured Wednesday afternoon, October 14, 1914, by William W. Crapo before a large audience of members of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society at the rooms of the society on Water Street. Though Mr. Crapo was only eight years old at the time of the trip he has remembered almost every detail. His account of the journey and his experiences in Boston could not but carry one back there on the lumbering stage and in the quaint city of culture in the early half of the last century.

This was Mr. Crapo’s first visit to Boston. He went with his father. The trip took a day and the route was by the way of Bridgewater and Randolph. In the evening Mr. Crapo attended a play in which he remembers a huge man, dressed as an Indian who strode in and said: “You have sent for me, I have come! What are your commands?”

The almost Arabian Nights tale of Nakahama Munger, a Japanese boy who rose from a shipwrecked boy to a prince of the flowery kingdom was told by Job C. Tripp, who went to school with the boy in Fairhaven. Mr. Tripp said that the boy finally decided to go back to Japan and after sailing most of the way in an English vessel, made the remaining 400 miles in a whaleboat.

President Cushman made a brief report, m behalf of the secretary, stating that since the first of the year, 200 names had been added to the membership list. He said that 500 more were desired, and appealed to each of the present membership to help in securing them. Since June, 780 people have visited the rooms, 330 of them coming from out of town. During the summer, 500 of the society’s members visited the rooms, which President Cushman said showed that it was wise to keep the rooms open every day.

He announced that the entertainment committee had not yet made up its winter program, but that one event had been decided upon—an exhibition of old-fashioned costumes. This will be given on Nov. 3, from 3 to 6 o’clock, and it was announced that anyone who would loan old-fashioned costumes, capes, wraps, or caps, would be of great help.

Following a delightful rendition of “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonny Doon,” by Miss Edith Drescott, President Cushman announced that at the conclusion of the program, old-fashioned refreshments would be served in the colonial room, although he jokingly declined to go into details as to what the refreshments were to be.

A Trip to Boston in 1838

By William W. Crapo

Mr. Cushman introduced William W. Crapo with a description of a parlor game in which one of the party starts the telling of a story, and at a certain point tosses a soft ball to one of the others present, who must take up the story and carry it along.

“I will toss the first ball to Mr. Crapo,” he said, and suited the action to the word by tossing a frilly bouquet to the latter, whereupon, Mr. Crapo began his remarks.

The speaker said that he would tell the story of his first trip to Boston. “It was made in 1838,” he said, “and I was a lad of eight. At that time, communication by Boston was by means of the stage coach. The railroad to Taunton was not then constructed. The stage route was owned by Elias Sampson, and the stages started from here and from Boston, every week-day. His stable was located on the north side of Union Street, at the head of what was then Third Street. Third Street started from the south end, and went north to Union. Ray Street started from the Acushnet road, and went south in a line with Third Street, stopping at Elm. Afterward, both streets were joined, with the name of ‘Acushnet Avenue.’

“Close by the entrance to the stable was a small wooden building, which was called the stage office. A person wishing to travel by the stage, went to the office and placed his name on the book, with the place of his residence. Then he was booked as a passenger for Boston the next morning. The stage was a huge vehicle, containing three seats for three persons each, so that nine people could ride inside; and there was also accommodation on the outside. The stage, drawn by four horses, left the stable in the early dawn; in winter even before daylight. The driver started out for his passengers, and when he came to a house he blew a horn loudly as a notification to the passenger. When all the passengers had been picked up, the stable-boy, who had accompanied the driver to assist with the baggage—the driver never leaving his seat on the box—left the coach, and it started on the journey to Boston.

“The first stopping-place was at Sampson’s Tavern, which had a beautiful location, looking out upon Assawampsett Pond. The stop was for a change of horses, and to enable the passengers to have breakfast. The breakfast at the tavern was a famous feature, as, after a ride of fourteen miles in the cool, crisp air, over roads that were by no means smooth, the passengers had keen appetites. We had ham and eggs, beefsteak, sausages, potatoes, brown bread, biscuits, Johnny-cake, and buckwheat cakes and molasses. I will not say that these were all the things that were served, but I will say that it was a meal fit for a small boy or a king.

“Breakfast completed, fresh horses were obtained and refreshed passengers took seats. We went to Boston by way of Bridgewater and Randolph, changing horses at the relay stations; and reached Boston in the afternoon.

“We stopped at the Elm Street Tavern, the favorite hostelry for New Bedford people, as it was kept by a Mr. Dooley, who for several years was a clerk in Coles Tavern here. The latter hotel was located on the east side of South Water Street, between Commercial and School, and was a favorite on account of its location near the wharves, making it convenient for people arriving from the Vineyard or on coasting vessels. Another New Bedford hotel of the time was the Eagle Hotel, on the site now occupied by the Star Store.

“Having reached Boston, you may have some curiosity to know why I made the trip. For several years there had been an agitation in this part of our county for a shorter road to Boston, and after several years’ agitation, the new road, which was simply a cut between two angles, was granted by the county commissioners. The distance of this road, or how much was saved, I do not know. The contract for its construction was given to Jonathan Tobey, a well-to-do farmer, who owned considerable real estate at what is now known as Sissons.

“When the road was completed, a dispute arose between Mr. Tobey and the county commissioners, as to the amount of payment under the contract. Mr. Tobey was very stubborn and would not yield on his claim; and the county commissioners being equally stubborn, the dispute continued for a year or two. At last, Mr. Tobey seeing that a suit must be brought, changed his residence and went to Little Compton, for the reason that he believed he could not obtain justice in Bristol County.

“At that time my father was town clerk, and also a land surveyor. Mr. Tobey had employed him to measure distances and compute the excavating and filling which would be necessary under the terms of the contract. When the case was ready for trial, my father was summoned to appear before the federal court in Boston, as a witness. He had a theory that a great deal could be learned by travel, and that even to a boy it was an advantage to see other places and people. For this reason, he took me to Taunton and Plymouth with him, when convenient; and when he was summoned to Boston, he thought it was a grand opportunity for me to go.

“The case was ready for trial in the morning, and my father, fearing that I might get uneasy and ramble about the streets and get lost, took me to the court house with him. This was quite a novel experience for me. On the bench, the first thing that attracted my attention was a man with a black silk gown. No other man in the room had on a black silk gown, and it was explained to me that the gown was an emblem of his judicial authority. That man was Justice Storey of the United States Supreme Court. The only other individual of the court that attracted my attention was a man who sat at a small desk, with a semi-uniform, and a mace, who I was told was the marshal.

“The attorneys were Daniel Webster, who appeared for Mr. Tobey and Levi Woodbury, for the county commissioners. Mr. Woodbury served in President Van Buren’s cabinet. 

“Webster impressed me not only by his fine figure, but also by his blue swallow-tail coat, ornamented with bright brass buttons. He seemed to ask most of the questions, and do most of the talking. I knew nothing of the proceedings, but the novelty was enough to keep me reasonably quiet. Later, in that same federal court, I was frequently in attendance, but Storey, Webster and Woodbury were not in the court, my contemporaries being Thomas M. Stetson, Robert C. Pitman, Edwin L. Barney, Adam Mackie, and those of that generation. It is possible that I may be the only living person who has seen Justice Storey on the bench, and Daniel Webster presenting and arguing a case before him.

“In the evening, my father took me to the Federal Street Theatre, then the largest and most popular playhouse in New England. When we entered, I saw a large room, brilliantly lighted by sperm-oil lamps and spermaceti candles. On the main floor were benches, where a large portion of the audience was seated; this was the pit. Around the walls was a balcony, where the nabobs and aristocrats had seats; while in the gallery above the balcony were the large boys, clerks and laboring people found places. Most of the noise came from that gallery.

“The play was Matamora, and the star was Edwin Forrest, the great tragedian of America. The play treated of an early incident in Plymouth County, an Indian chief being accused of stealing cattle and destroying crops. The government of the colony was in the hands of the elders of the church, and the Indian chief was summoned before them. There is only one scene of the play that I can remember. There was a table at the back part of the stage, at which sat a group of grave, austere men, the judges. In strode Matamora, a giant of a man, wearing Indian costume and a headgear ornamented with a profusion of feathers. He shouted in a voice of thunder: ‘You have sent for me, and I have come! What are your commands?’ That is all that I can remember; but I have no doubt that when I reached home I told my mother everything I had seen and heard.

“The thought of this trip leads to a comparison between past and present. In those days when a merchant, a refiner of oil or a manufacturer of candles, had occasion to visit Boston on business, he occupied one day in making the journey; the next day he spent in transacting his business; and the third day he came home. Now, when I go to Boston, I take the 8:35 train in the morning, arriving a little after 10; discuss the business matters for which the trip is made; take the train at 12:30, and arrive home at 2:25 in the afternoon—six hours instead of three days. The secret of how so much can be done in a short time is this—I never go shopping.

“This rapidity of motion has entered every branch of human activity, especially in business life. We have had the Stone Age, and the Iron Age. We must call this the Automobile Age. The slogan of the automobile is speed, and the automobile inoculates with the spirit of the whirlwind. The old stage coach was better. The auto has merit and I favor progress; but the auto is not perfect. The old coach is far ahead in the element of safety.

“Speed is not the synonym of progress. When New Bedford had a population of 8000 or 9000, the people began to think that they ought to have better and speedier communication with Boston. They saw that Taunton had built a railroad to Mansfield, and they said that certainly New Bedford could build one to Taunton. Joseph Grinnell was the master spirit of the enterprise, and a charter was obtained, the money subscribed and the road paid for. In those days, a bond was not considered as paying a debt—and today some railroads’ bonds are not held in very high esteem. The new railroad ran two trains a day, at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Soon there came movements for improvements on the line. The old wood-burning locomotives were discarded, and the link-and-pin coupling which was a menace to the brakeman gave place to a safer method. The air-tight stove, which used to be located at one end of the car, keeping that end at a suffocating temperature, while the temperature was Arctic at the other end, was also superseded, and we now have reasonable heating facilities. There was real, substantial progress.”

In contrast to that method of progress, Mr. Crapo cited the career of Charles S. Mellen, and his scheme for the unification of the railroads of New England. “The trouble,” he said, “was speed—undertaking to do in two or three years a work which, if carried along for twenty years, would have resulted in success.

“After coming to the Old Dartmouth Society and seeing what our forebears have done for progress, we should not stop the work that they left off. We must go on; and in doing it, let us build upon the foundation they left us.”

A Japanese Student in Fairhaven

By Job C. Tripp

After Miss Drescott had sung, “Loch Lomond,” Job C. Tripp was introduced. Mr. Tripp told the romantic story of Nakahama Munger, a Japanese boy who attended a private school with him in Fairhaven, over 70 years ago. Nakahama, together with five other Japanese boys, survivors of the wreck of a Japanese junk, were rescued by Captain William H. Whitfield of Fairhaven from a rock in the China Sea, where they had subsisted for 60 days upon seabirds that Nakahama killed, and rain which fell in the clefts of the rock. The other boys were landed at the Sandwich Islands, but Captain Whitfield, who had taken a great fancy to Nakahama, brought him to Fairhaven, and entered him at the school. Mr. Tripp described Nakahama as very polite and kind-hearted, and very studious.

Captain Whitfield was a member of one of Fairhaven’s three churches, and he took the Japanese boy into his pew with him. Finally, one of the officers of the church said to the captain: “We have a pew for Negro boys, and would like it if your boy would sit there.” The captain, who never argued, simply bowed and went out. The next day, he went to another church and hired a pew. After a while one of the deacons informed him that that church had a pew for Negro people. Thereupon the captain engaged a pew in the third church, and from that time on, no one ever objected to the Japanese boy’s sitting with him.

Nakahama learned the cooper’s trade and became very efficient. One day, he announced that he was going back to Japan. Captain Whitfield advised him to remain, but he persisted, and the captain secured him a chance to work his passage to the Sandwich Islands on board a New Bedford whaler. There he found the Japanese boys who were his companions years before. Nakahama purchased a whaleboat, and the captain of an English vessel bound for a port in China agreed to let the party work their passage to a point 400 miles from the Japanese coast, where the whaleboat was launched, and Nakahama, who had mastered the art of navigation, took command. In seven days they had reached the coast of Japan, where they were held prisoners until they had given good reasons for entering the country. Establishing the truth of their story by Nakahama’s successful translation into Japanese of Blount’s Navigator resulted in their release, and Nakahama was permitted to see his father and mother again.

Nakahama was given a government position, and rose in favor until the time of Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan, for the purpose of securing the opening of the port of Tokyo to the United States. The Mikado was prejudiced against foreigners, on account of the disorderly conduct of the sailors of other nations who had been in Japan, but Nakahama assured him that Commodore Perry and his men were gentlemen, and prevailed upon the Mikado to receive the commodore. Nakahama acted as interpreter during the interview, which resulted in a treaty with the United States. Subsequently Nakahama was placed at the head of a commission of seven Japanese students to visit European nations and make similar treaties with them.

Coming to New York, Nakahama had three days there before sailing for Europe, and he took the opportunity to visit Fairhaven. He went to the home of Mrs. Whitfield—the captain having died—and when she saw Nakahama she burst into tears, as did the Japanese, so affected were they by the meeting. He remained in Fairhaven that day, and to every one of his old acquaintances he met, he presented a Japanese gold coin. Mr. Tripp expressed regret that on that day he was out of town, and failed to obtain one of the coins.

Nakahama’s European mission was so successful that the Mikado made him a prince of the empire. Mr. Tripp displayed a portrait of the Japanese in the costume of a prince.

Following Mr. Tripp’s talk, Miss Drescott sank “Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be,” and the meeting closed with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.’ The speakers were extended a vote of thanks for their addresses.

In addition to Miss Drescott’s vocal selections, Edmund Grinnell who played her accompaniments, rendered Mozart’s Minuet, with variations.

The company adjourned to the colonial room, where the old-fashioned dainties promised by President Cushman were dispensed.  In a corner of the room, Miss Mary Bradford poured coffee, from a beautiful old-fashioned urn; while Mrs. William H. Snow presided at the center table.  Miss Margaret Price served cider from an earthen jug; and doughnuts, apples, and popcorn were also served.

The refreshment committee comprised Miss Edith Tripp and Miss Margaret Price, assisted by Miss Pauline Hawes and Miss Marguerite Walmsley.