Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 44, Part I

By Holice and Debbie



Some of the Brilliant annual Entertainments of the Old Department. -- Wealth, Fashion and Beauty at the Terpsichorean Entertainments. -- All for Charity. -- Organizations that were Concurrent with the Fire Companies. -- Target Practice. -- The Gulick Guards and Others. -- Chowder Parties. -- What the Old Boys did with Themselves after the Disbandment.

At the beginning of the present century the Fire Department was in very fair working order, so far as the men and discipline were concerned. Soon the members followed the example of military and other organizations and celebrated annually the establishment of their Department. The ball was considered the best form of celebration, and in time became one of the most notable events in city life. The Benefit Fund was the beneficiary of these entertainments, which were got up in the very best style. Ladies and gentlemen of wealth and position attended, and often the reunions were quite exclusive in character. Some of the finest entertainments the city has seen took place at various times in the Park Theater on Park Row, Niblo's, the Academy of Music and the Astor Place Opera House. The world of fashion, which is seldom or never eager about anything, seemed to be eager to attend these gatherings, and often thirty dollars were paid for the price of a ticket. The price at the first ball was two dollars, afterwards it was twelve dollars. Every one had to pay--there was no complimentary list. As one of the newspapers remarked in 1859, these balls we gotten up by a committee of the oldest and most respected firemen, who carefully guarded "against the slightest possible indecorum." Every gentleman came in full evening dress, and as a matter of course the ladies endeavored to outvie each other in the brilliancy of their toilet. The first ball took place in the Bowery Theater in 1828, and the magnificence of this entertainment was a fitting beginning to a long series of brilliant events of the same kind. Every company was eager to contribute something, and on the night previous the decoration committee used to take possession of the theater, and worked incessantly almost up to the opening hour of the ball. The ball tickets were very elaborate cards of artistic design. One of the handsomest was printed on the occasion of the ball which took place at the national Opera House on January 25, 1841.

The twenty-fifth annual ball, which took place at Niblo's on January 23, 1854, was one of the brightest and most beautiful of these events. The parquet of the opera house was boarded over for the dancers, and around the wall flowers and Venetian mirrors were arranged in an artistic and tasteful manner--the whole covered by an immense parti-colored tent. On ascending the staircase another large ballroom was to be found. To this room other and smaller ones adjoined, forming suites of elegantly furnished apartments, affording rest and quiet to those weary of dancing. The galleries were thronged with visitors, and it was estimated that three thousand persons were present. The supper was said to satisfy even the most fastidious. The proceeds of the ball amounted to three thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine dollars and five cents.

The twenty-ninth annual ball was held at the Academy of Music on January 25, 1858. The house was handsomely decorated. At the extreme end of the stage, within an enclosure, were arranged the apparatus of No. 1 Eagle Hose Company, No. 1 Adriatic Engine Company, and No. 7 Ringgold Company. In front of these upon one side were a splendid model of Engine No. 19, a miniature engine, hose carriage, hook and ladder, fireman's caps, trumpets, etc., worked in gold. On the other side was a statute representing a fireman in the act of rescuing a child from a burning building, and a model of Hook and Ladder No. 9, wrought in ivory. Just beyond the railing enclosing these were handsome gas decoration, with the sentence in blazing letters, "New York Fire Department." the stage was canopied over, and in the center, suspended from the ceiling, was the banner of the department. the fronts of the galleries were tastefully festooned with wreaths of flowers, interwoven with groups of trumpets, axes, torches, trucks and other apparatus of firemen. From the upper tier were suspended numerous banners belonging to various companies. The floor and the private boxes were crowded. Dodworth's band furnished the music. The receipts amounted to four thousand seven hundred and forty-four dollars and ten cents. The following were the names of the officers:

Door and Police Committee (Pink badge):

Henry A. Burr, chairman

C. V. Anderson

A. P. Pentz

John Coger, Jr.

O. W. Brennan

Peter W. Titus

J. G. Keater

H. L. Butler

Lorenzo Delmonico

A. J. Delatour

Daniel Stanbury

Daniel T. Willetts

C. McDougall

W. A. Woodhull

C. C. Pillow

Floor Managers (white badge):

Robert McGinnis, chairman

Henry B. Venn

D. D. Conover

C. H. Ring

James Y. Watkins

Edgar E. Holley

John G. Fisher

Jacob Ostrom

W. S. O'Brien

H. M. Graham

Samuel Waddell

James F. Wenman

W. D. Baker

S. Burkhalter, Jr.

Lawrence Taylor

Alonzo Slote

Noah L. Farnham

T. S. Thornell


Saloon Committee (blue badge):

William S. Bates, chairman

James L. Miller

John S. Belcher

John Garcia

Ralph Trembly

J. J. Westray

Josiah Hedden


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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