Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments
Chapter 44, Part II
By Holice and Debbie
In the following year the annual ball was held at the same place on Monday, January 24. The stage was enclosed in an immense marque, with spacious balconies on three sides. There was on exhibition, among the ornaments, the engine of Columbia Company No. 14, just as it was received from Philadelphia a few days previous, whither it had been sent to be rebuilt. It was held to be a splendid specimen of mechanism, the brass and ironwork glittering in the gaslight, and the polished panels resplendent with the limner's art. Among the decoration center pieces of radiated hose pipe shone like rays from the various points. Up in the second tier of boxes one hundred musicians were placed, but the music of their brazen instruments sounded soft and sweet through the vast auditorium. At ten o'clock there were nearly five thousand people in the building. It was calculated that nearly five thousand dollars were realized. The Tribune next morning said "the floor was full of stalwart, robust men, and healthy, roseate women, and the galleries were crowded with spectators. What with flashing lights bright-hued dresses, ruddy cheeks, and sparkling eyes, brimful of hope and happiness, it was truly a scene to kindle the warmest emotions."
The ball that took place on February 28, 1867, at the Academy of Music, was among the most notable. The Herald describing the decoration, said: "The background of the mise-en-scene was formed of an appropriate painting, of rather Gothic, ensemble, representing a solitary castle upon the top of a lofty crag, and lighted at the windows as if cataracts of fire were about to burst there from, and flood the Academy within. Beyond this the whole decorative system was conceived and carried out upon the single idea of the modulation of light and the compelling of the gas imp to wreath fantastic forms and mottoes in red letters, which should be expressive of the purpose of the ball and the benevolent aim which had called the guests together. It was in front of this painting over the state that the principal device of illumination was located. From beneath a huge gas pipe had an been caused to rise, like the body of a serpent, through the flooring, and as if for the head of this serpent, at a point ten feet above, where the flooring had been broken into, numerous small pipes, out of which, wreathed and twisted together, was formed an engine of gas jets, which an hour later, flickered and blazed uneasily upon the moving forms of the dancers beneath them" the crush at this ball was almost unprecedented, and was the talk of the town for days after. Five thousand three hundred and seventy-two dollars and eighty-three cents were netted.
The fortieth annual ball was held on January 25, 1869, at the Academy of Music. In front of the balcony was a well-designed representation of a hose carriage brightly gleaming and typifying the machinery and brilliancy with which the working of the Old Department was accompanied. In elegance and tastefulness it was said this ball surpassed any of the season. The "Vets" came in large numbers.
The guests were attended to by Messrs. William H. Wickham, Henry B. Venn, Charles Delmonico, Joshua S. Morley, Robert McGinnis, J. Corbey Perrin, Jr. and Sam. A. Besson:
Five thousand four hundred and sixty-six dollars and sixty-one cents were realized.
The Academy of Music was crowded again on January 31, 1870, with the wealth, industry, intelligence, and enterprise of New York, on the occasion of the forty-first annual ball. Almost all of those mentioned above were present. The decorations were handsome, and among them was a full view of the museum near Spring Street on the morning after the fire, the front covered with icicles, and sheets of crystal hung as a drop at the rear of the stage. In front of this, in jets of fire, was a ribbon enclosing the title of the ball, and below a representation of the old style hose carriage. About eleven o'clock Prince Arthur (who was visiting America) arrived with his suite; Messrs. Thornton, Archibald, Thane, French, and Elphinstone, all in full evening dress. They were escorted to the chief Proscenium box at the right of the hall, and as they entered, the word went like wildfire through the house that the prince was present. All eyes were turned toward the box, and as he approached the front a general and spontaneous reception was given, the gentlemen clapping their hands and the ladies waving their handkerchiefs. He acknowledged the salute by kissing his hand and bowing, and then sat down and gazed awhile on the merry dancers. At the close of the dance the prince descended to the floor and took part in the promenade. Grafulla's orchestra struck up "Love among the roses." Shortly after midnight he retired. The following was the form of invitation sent to the prince:
NEW YORK FIREMEN'S BALL COMMITTEE
Compliments to his Royal Highness, prince Arthur, and respectfully invite him to their Forty-first Annual Ball in aid of Widows' and Orphans' Fund, at the Academy of Music, on Tuesday evening, January 21, 1870.
James F. Wenman, Fred. White, Jordan L. Mott, Alonzo, Committee.
The highest amount netted by these balls was six thousand two hundred and forty-four dollars, in 1868. After this year, the receipts steadily declined until 1873 only one thousand dollars were realized. In forty-three years, from 1830 to 1873, the total net receipts were one hundred and twenty-five thousand, nine hundred and twenty-eight dollars and thirty-seven cents. The last ball took place in 1875 at the Academy of Music. Mr. James F. Wenman had always been conspicuous on these occasions, and he, on the last, led the grand opening march. The dresses of the ladies were remarkable for beauty, and the whole scene was one of unusual brilliancy. Banners that had figured for years in many a parade adorned the proscenium boxes, and here and there were firemen's axes, trumpets, and other apparatus, all intertwined with fragrant flowers and handsome vases. One of the striking features of the event was the illumination of thirty-thousand gas jets, which illuminated the representation of a hose carriage and truck in front of the stage. In the background was a painting of the 1835 fire. Although it was the night of a blinding snow-storm, the number present was unusually great.
The ball committee was composed of the gentlemen whose names are given above. After 1875 the committee gave other entertainments, such as excursion and concerts. The concert they organized in the Academy of Music on October 2, 1878, for the benefit of the yellow fever sufferers, was attended by eight thousand persons. Nearly five thousand five hundred dollars were realized. Dodworth's and Grafulla's bands assisted and among the singers and instrumentalists were Mlle. Ilma de Murska, Signor Tagliapietra, and levy, the cornetist.
Besides the grand annual ball of the department, the individual companies gave balls, to the expenses of which the members contributed ten dollars, five dollars, or three dollars, as they were able.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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