Sunday, 18 December 2011

Circus - 1883

At 7 p.m., Sunday evening, July 22, 1883, the arrival of three trains from Toronto marked the beginning of circus fever in the city of Hamilton.
The arrival of the P. T. Barnum circus train had been anxiously awaited by Hamiltonians of all ages, many of whom watched as the trains were unloaded of their cargo consisting of 614 men, 400 horses, countless animals of varying descriptions, thousands of yards of canvas for tents as well as innumerable props for the performers of various acts.
It took over three hours to unload the trains and transport the cargo to a vacant lot on Wentworth street north, near Barton street where the circus was to set up shop.
As described in the following day’s Spectator, “while unloading, the crossings at different streets on the railway were crowded with curious citizens, toughs, loafers and small boys, all anxious to see whatever was to be seen. The dull rumble of the heavy wagons sounded strangely along the quiet streets on a Sunday evening. People in church would stop in the middle of their hymns, look at each other anxiously, and wonder if a big thunderstorm was coming up. But now and again the loud ‘ki-yis’ of the peripatetic small boy resounded outside, and the devotees knew that it was part and parcel of Barnum’s big show that made all the noise.”
The biggest individual item to be unloaded was the famous elephant Jumbo who had a railway car all of his own. The car, 14 feet in height, rode within 6 inches of the ground in order to accommodate the huge pachyderm. Jumbo had to enter his car from the side and stand all the way since there was not room enough for him to sit down. When the elephant moved from side, the whole car would rock.
On Monday morning, July 23, 1883, the downtown streets of Hamilton were alive with a huge concourse of humanity awaiting the street parade to be put on by the P. T. Barnum circus company. Unfortunately the morning began under cool and threatening skies. By the time of the parade, a drizzling rain somewhat dampened the enthusiasm of those present.
At 8 a.m., the gigantic procession moved out of the grounds on Wentworth street north, followed by a tremendous crowd of eager spectators, including an observant man from the Spectator who wrote ; “the route was straight along King, and at the corner of King and James, the crowds were so great and exited that they rushed into the road and it was with difficulty that the colossal chariot containing a brass band and drawn by six prancing horses could make its way through.
“The first band was followed by cages of lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, bears and other animals and in the dens with them were the keepers sitting as cool and unconcerned as if the animals were mere kittens.
“Following these were magnificent golden chariots surmounted with picturesque groups of Zulus, Nabians, Indians and Highlanders. Interspersed among the chariots were droves of camels and dromedaries, racing camels harnessed to glittering chariots and driven by female charioteers, thoroughbred horses, cowboys, and male and female equestrians on richly comparisoned horses.
“A clown dressed in his grotesque costume attracted the attention of a horde of small boys, while a richly gilded chariot representing Mother Goose and another of Santa Claus elicited exclamations of admiration from all sides.
“A herd of usually large elephants preceded a great number of very small ponies, some running loose, others harnessed to gilt chariots driven by ladies, and the whole paraphernalia of the gigantic procession was brought to a close by a chariot which was colossal in size and magnificent in appearance followed by the steam organ or calliope which was one of the wonders of the procession. The crowd on the street was the largest ever seen on an occasion of this kind.”
Shortly after the street parade, tragedy struck the camp of the P. T. Barnum circus. Prince, one of the circus’ large elephants and most popular performers, had been showing signs of illness, acting in a similar fashion as a horse with a severe stomach disorder.
Again, the Spectator man on hand eloquently described the painful episode of Prince’s passing : “upon arriving in this city, his sickness increased, and yesterday morning, his condition became very alarming. Rum and molasses, which is said to be an unfailing remedy for the ailments of these huge brutes, and copious doses of laudanum, were administered, but without the desired effect. Usually when an elephant is ill, he droops and presents a shriveled up appearance. Prince was not at all drowsy, but on the contrary was exceedingly active. He seemed to be suffering intense pain, and his grand form was shaken with mighty tremors. He would lie down and roll for a few minutes, and then jump up and roar with pain. In one of his paroxysms, he tore the stake to which he was attached from the ground. Fearing that he might become unruly, he was hobbled with heavy chains, and Gypsy, another elephant, was employed in helping to push him outside the tent, the canvas of which had been raised for the purpose. He was got partly out when he fell backward, his limbs shook as if with palsy, his trunk turned itself in the air, and with a mighty groan, he gave up his professional career.”
Prince’s death caused great sorrow among the performers and workers connected with Barnum’s show. Mr. Bailey, one of the show’s managers, was interviewed by the Spectator reporter about Prince.
Mr. Bailey had worked with the elephant since 1876 and had travelled all over the world with him.
He said: “when we were at sea and a storm came on, he would seize a stanchion and roll with the ship with all the grace of an old sailor. He was a highly intelligent animal. If he hadn’t a kind word for everyone, he had a kind caress. Why, I do not know what I would have done without him when I was travelling. He did the work of twenty men, loading, unloading, pushing and pulling. Prince could do everything but read the papers, and we didn’t want to teach him that until after the elections.”
Despite the disappointment over the death of Prince, the circus performers carried on nonetheless and gave two enthusiastically received performances.
The matinee attracted between twelve and fourteen thousand spectators who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the spectacle.
Before that afternoon performance, Mr. Thomas, one of the agents of Barnum’s circus, invited the local reporters and several ladies to accompany him on a tour of the circus facilities.
The description carried in the Spectator of that behind the scenes tour reflected his excitement: “by a mysterious short cut, the ‘clergy,’ as Mr. Thomas facetiously designated the party, found themselves in the dressing tent confronting a glittering cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen mounted on spiral steeds all ready for the grand entry.
“The discipline among the attaches of the show was perfect, not the slightest confusion occurred as the procession walked into their proper places, neither was there any rough talking or swearing. Indeed, as Mr. Thomas remarked, a lady might pass through every department of the circus without hearing any word that would cause her to blush.
“After the grand entry had taken place, in which bands of horsemen, elephants, camels, giraffes, llamas, zebras, scared cattle and other animals took part, the party entered the main tent and were shown to reserved seats in a spot that ensured a splendid view of the two larger rings and the elevated platform.”
The Spectator reporter was surprised that the spectators in the circus audience were so good-natured and orderly, despite the somewhat suspicious reputation of circuses.
After deciding that order was maintained because of the overwhelming number of performances going on at one time, the reporter then described in some detail what he next witnessed :
“Every spectator had an uninterrupted view of the various performances. Performances were held simultaneously, both on the stage and in the rings, so that the audience found themselves troubled by an embarrassment of riches, and in endeavoring to take in the varied attractions of really three circuses, failed to get a proper idea of even one.
“Among the acts on the programme were the various gymnastic and acrobatic exhibitions which were very clever, and were got through with lightning rapidity.
“Then there was the boxing bout between the Davenport brothers, and an assault between two fencers, Col. Albert Gaston and Capt. Armand Thiebault. The last two gave a very pretty exhibition of the various tricks of fence, showing also the different thrusts and parades, and closing with a brilliant example of the disarm.
“The three Girards did some capital high kicking and grotesque dancing. The bicycle riding of the Elliott children was much and deservedly admired and applauded, and their act was one of the features of the show.
“Then there was the lady with the iron jaw, Miss Emma Jutta, who was drawn along a 200 foot wire, while suspended by her teeth, and who, while hanging by her legs from a trapeze, supported by a 170 pound man by a sling which she held in her teeth.
“Then there were two men also with iron jaws who lifted heavy tables by their teeth and performed other feats of abnormal strength.
“There were also the tricks of the educated elephants, who did astonishing things, the bareback riding of a number of equestrienne artistes, some laughable scenes by their roller skaters, Rose, Harris and French, the funny business of a trio of clowns, some exhibition wrestling by a couple of Hindoos, and finally, the hippodrome races, the whole winding up with a representation of an Indian chase for a wife and a fight with cowboys.”
The hippodrome races were particularly admired by the Spectator’s young man : “the riders flew round the lengthy track at lightning speed, and the races were sufficiently closely contested to arouse the greatest enthusiasm.
“The finest display of skill in driving was certainly the chariot race, with four horses, abreast. The animals flew past at full gallop, the earth thundering under their tread, and it seemed a miracle that the charioteers were not hurled from their places during the sharp curves at either end of the track.
“A comical race of ponies with monkeys on their backs for jockeys excited much amusement.”
During the evening performance, it was announced that a special concert would be given after the main show. It was said that the large center platform would be transformed into a stage and some famous comedians and a minstrel troupe would entertain.
But, the promise was less than fulfilled : “several thousand purchased tickets and remained expecting to see something great, but as soon as the circus was over, the reserved seats and platform were taken away. A few boards were thrown out for a platform and an orchestra played a tune, and amid the clatter of boards and the hauling of posts, a bearded woman, four giants and a few other trifles were exhibited for a moment and then passed out, after which a little girl danced a jig, two girls sang and a number of darkies gave a chorus.
“Then the lights went out, preventing anyone seeing much, and the noise of the men working prevented hearing.”
It was a tawdry ending to an otherwise magnificent circus experience. The trick played by the circus managers to ring out a few extra dollars from the Hamilton audience was condemned by the Spectator man who wrote:
“This should not be done. If a concert is announced, a concert should be given. If it is not given, public confidence in the announcements will soon be shaken.’

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Grand Opera House - 1880

On April 19, 1880, an article appeared in the Hamilton Spectator which contained news that theatergoers in the city welcomed enthusiastically.
Under the headline, “New Opera House : A Few Definite Facts About It,” the reporter from the Spectator confirmed rumours that Hamilton would soon have a new and large theatre, and where that new theatre building would be located : “the site will not be, as stated by our contemporary a few days ago, on the corner of Hughson and Rebecca streets, but on the corner of James and gore streets, where the temperance tent formerly stood.”
The article went on to state that the land had been purchased for $5,800 and that it was proposed to erect “a building of which the city may be proud.” The total cost of the project was estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $25,000.
On Saturday, April 24, 1880, a meeting took place in the offices of Hamilton lawyers Mackelcan, Gibson and Bell. The directors of the new theatre project, Messrs. Frank Mackelcan, Edward Mitchell, C. M. Counsell, R. A. Lucas and J. R. Rainey, gathered to examine the architectural plans submitted for their approval.
The plans of Toronto architect, George H. Lalor were the choice of the directors. Lalor had also designed the Grand Opera House in Toronto, and his vision for Hamilton’s Grand Opera House were similar in nature.
The proposed Hamilton theatre would be able to seat 1200 persons, and was so laid out that, despite that many people being inside the hall, the building could be evacuated within five minutes in case of emergency.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Architect Lalor was give instructions to proceed at once with the completion of his plans and o begin to award contracts for the building’s construction.
Less than a month later, on May 17, 1880, Lalor’s plans and construction specifications were received at the law office of Mr. Mackelcan. In the next day’s Spectator, some specifics of Lalor’s plans were detailed : “the plans show that the front, which will be on James street, will be a combination of Gothic and Eastlake, and entirely different to anything now in the city. The front will be two stories in height, with Mansard roof, surmounted by an iron casting, with a centre tower and two smaller elevations, one upon either side, also surmounted with iron crestings.”
As part of the Grand Opera House project, there were to be storefronts, facing James street, included in the plans : “the stores will be handsomely fitted up, having offices in the rear, also, stairways leading to dwelling apartments above, consisting of a parlor, dining room and kitchen on the second floor, and three bedrooms under the mansard roof.”
On the Gore street side, the building had a depth of 154 feet. On that side, there was a private entrance, a gallery exit, a restaurant with two wine rooms, a room suitable for a shop or office which led to another room to be used as a board room for the Grand Opera House company, a stage entrance and a scene room with a high narrow doorway for the moving in and out of scenery.
Passing through the James street entrance, there was to be a ticket booth placed on the left side of the way to the main vestibule. On the left of the vestibule, a stairway led to reserved seats in the gallery, while on the right of the vestibule led to the rear portion of the gallery.
Beyond the vestibule was a lobby, from which patrons could enter the theatre by one of the three large doorways. Also, in lobby were doors leading to the retiring rooms.
Within the theatre auditorium, the arrangement of seating was complex, but extremely well-considered : “on entering the theatre by the centre passage, it will be observed that it narrows as it approaches the stage, a very good arrangement, and the incline of the floor is not broken by steps. The seats are arranged in a circular form, excepting the orchestra chairs, which will be ranged in straight rows. The orchestra chairs, with three rows of seats, upholstered outside of a circular rail, will be furnished with folding chairs, upholstered in crimson rep. These will constitute the highest priced seats. In the rear of these will be six rows of sofa seats, upholstered in crimson rep, with dividing arms of iron. In the gallery, the first two rows will be cushioned sofa seats, which will be divided from cheap gallery seats in rear by a partition and passage. The occupants of the cheap gallery seats will make their exit by way of Gore street, thus preventing any annoyance or inconvenience by the crowding of the other portion of the audience who will go out by the grand entrance.”
The Lalor plans also called for four proscenium boxes in the auditorium, two on either side of the stage, one above the other. These proscenium boxes were to be richly furnished and hung with crimson curtains.
The illumination of the theatre was to be done by means of a large number of gas jets, under a sunlight reflector, with side and other lights.
The major statistics of Hamilton’s Grand Opera House were that it would be 75 feet in length, exclusive of the stage, and 55 feet in width. The seating capacity would be as requested in the 1200 range.
As the construction of the Grand Opera House was nearing completion, there was some disappointment expressed regarding the external appearance of the building.
A Spectator article attempted to address those concerns as follows : “of the exterior of the building, in its present, unfinished state, it is not necessary here to say much. Fault has been found with its height, the style of its architecture, and the material of which it is built, but be that as it may, if any citizen may have formed his opinion of the Opera House on the alleged shortcomings of its exterior architecture, a genuine and most pleasant surprise awaits the citizen upon his first visit to the interior of the building. Here, no expense has been spared to make it complete in every respect. The best artists and artisans in their respective lines were engaged, the most modern and improved designs were adopted, and the result is the handsomest, most comfortable, best fitted, coziest and most generally excellent opera house in the Dominion, and one that compares very favourably with the most modern theatres in North America.”
For the interior, artistic painting of the plaster, the fresco artist hired was Leon H. Lempert, from Rochester, New York.
The Spectator carried the following detailed description of the fresco work as seen by its reporter during his tour of the nearly completed Grand Opera House : “the ceiling is done in a medieval pattern, principally in the decorative flat styles, with some semi-relief and some relief painting about the sunlight, which constitutes a centre for beautifully tinted radiating panels done in imitation of tapestry. Crimson and gold panels of most elegant pattern give variety to a beautifully harmonized ceiling. The walls are tinted, with a rich border above and below, and every portion displays skilful manipulation of the artist’s brush, and a perfect eye for the harmonization of color by gaslight. The proscenium arch shows, in the centre, a large and nicely painted Dominion coat of arms, flanked on either side by cartoons representing Painting, the Drama, Music and Sculpture. The proscenium border is frescoed in the Queen Anne style. The gas brackets and pendants are of graceful design, and the whole appearance of the auditorium is pleasing in the extreme.”
As regards the stage of the Grand Opera House itself, it was 25 ½ feet deep, and 55 feet wide between the side walls, enough room the Spectator reporter “to handle the largest New York scenes, and no traveling company will be necessitated to make an apology for the non-appearance of scenery on account of the smallness of the stage.”
As for the curtain, the Spec man felt it was in itself a notable work of art, “the scene is a view of Constantinople and the Golden Horn, and contains all the elements for a first class curtain – foliage, figures and fountain in the foreground, water and architecture.”
The Hamilton Grand  Opera House was opened for business on Monday, November 29, 1880. The theatre was full to capacity, if not somewhat beyond capacity.
The assembled citizens were all interested and somewhat excited to see the interior of the new theatre for the first time.
However, as noted in the Spectator account of the evening, there was a section of the crowd that was more boisterous than others :”some of the gods made a reckless attempt to be noisy; but, the management put its foot down firmly, and gave the irrepressible small boy and rude hobble-de-hoy to understand that henceforth, when they visit the Grand Opera House, they must behave themselves.”
On the rising of the curtain, Theatre Manager J. R. Spackman appeared at the footlights.
After thanking the audience for their attendance, Spackman introduced Hamilton Mayor O’Reilly who said :
“Ladies and gentlemen – At the request of the Managing Committee of the Grand Opera House Company, I propose to say a few words to you in respect of our beautiful hall – although anything I say will be more in the nature of garnishing to the dish – of conventional propriety rather than of real import. Our citizens have long felt the want of such a theatre as this; many first class artists have passed Hamilton by because of its lack in the matter of a good theatre, and a few public-spirited gentlemen of the city formed themselves into a company, and in an almost miraculously short space of time have succeeded in erecting this beautiful hall. While all the gentlemen connected with the scheme are entitled to great credit, I must refer to Mr. Henry Mackelcan, who has given much attention to the erection of the hall, and who succeeded in completing it in all its details, having spared no pains to secure all the modern conveniences for comfort. The safety of the audience has been well looked after, there being no less than five exits from the hall. It is fortunate that Mr. Spackman has been chosen as manager, as that gentleman has had great experience and has a thorough knowledge of the various artists in the profession, and he promises to secure none but the first class companies. The character of the gentlemen connected with the management is a sufficient guarantee of the character of the entertainments to be presented here, and citizens can rely upon the fact that they will always be such as they can bring their wives and families to see. I must congratulate the management upon the audience present to witness the opening, and consider it a guarantee of future success. I also congratulate them upon having been able to get the building completed in a little over two months. The contractors have completed all their undertakings, and the gentlemen of the committee have succeeded in overcoming all difficulties. I may say, in the language of the day, that they have no more rivers to cross. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will leave you to the enjoyment of The Brook, which I know you are impatient to see. (Applause)”
The Spectator reporter, and theatre critic for the night, considered that The Brook was an inspired choice as the first play to be given at Hamilton’s Grand Opera House. He wrote that play provided “two hours and a half of such rare fun, bubbling wit, sparkling vocalism, excellent acting and general excellence as it is rarely one’s lot to encounter. The dramatis personae are not many; but they are artists every one, and a smoothly running, outrageously laughable, and most extraordinary potpourri of artistically interwoven funny sayings and funnier doings, relieved by excellent singing and a bit of fine dramatism here and there, is the enjoyable result.”

Monday, 5 December 2011

Hermit at Coote's Paradise - 1882

During the month of January, 1882, rumours circulated concerning a hermit having taken up residence beside the Dundas Marsh. On the 25th day of that month, a Spectator reporter was sent to locate the man. The following day, the interview the hermit, Thomas Williams, appeared in the newspaper.
About 600 yards west of the Desjardins canal bridge, Williams had constructed a small hut out of bull rushes and driftwood. This lonely abode was low ceilinged, about 6 feet long and four feet wide, hardly affording its occupant room to turn his knees, much less stand up.
          When the reporter descended the hill from York street to confront the reclusive Thomas Williams, the hermit poked his head out of a hole in the hut that served as a door and greeted his visitor with a cheery “good morning.”
          The reporter noted that the man’s long grey hair hung out from under the man’s fur cap, and that his clothes were “much the worse for wear, through very, very clean.”
          About 5 feet, 6 inches in height, the man was described as having “ bright, intelligent grey eyes and open countenance.”
          Tom Williams’ curious history was then slowly unravelled to the man from the Spectator. He was 51 years old, having been born at a place called Hogsback Hocks on the Rideau river. As a young man he went to work in a silver plating factory, but had to give up that line of employment because the effects of potash on his system rendered him invalid.
          Since boyhood, his greatest passion was music, and his greatest ambition was to be a performer in a negro minstrel show. He chose his current lifestyle because it afforded him the opportunity to compose songs in solitude, and then obtain a livelihood by singing them whenever he could obtain an audience.
          When Williams also claimed to be a dancer, the reporter took him up on that point since he had previously claimed to be an invalid because of the nature of his earlier employment.
          Reporter : “ You are a dancer too. Didn’t I understand you to say that you were unable to work ?”
          Hermit : “So I am, that is with my hands, but I’m a smarter man below the hips that you can find in Canada at my age.”
          Reporter : “Have you any relations living ? “
          Hermit : “ Not that I know of. My father left me when I was a small boy, and I haven’t seen any of my relations.”
          When the reporter asked Williams if he ever had been married, his cheerful expression  fell and in a low voice, he said : “ I’ll tell you, between you and me, that that is the great cause of my solitude. No. I was never married, but at the age of 19, I got awfully gone on a gal in Buffalo named Mary Hicks, but her folks got her out of the way because they thought I was beneath her in station. The last time I saw any of her relations they told she had died in a certain poorhouse. I spent a great deal of time in trying to find out if this was true, and I found that it was not. She is living some place in the States and I’m bound to find her.”
          When asked if he always lived in huts made of bull rushes and driftwood, Williams confessed to preferring no particular style of architecture, having spent the previous winter in a deserted cellar beside Lake Erie. In the summer, he slept outside in the woods.
          As the interview wound down to a conclusion, Williams volunteered the information that he did not use either liquor or tobacco, although at one time he did.
          Reporter : Do you ever have any trouble ?”
          Hermit : “Sometimes. I was shot at several times. The boys sometimes throw stones and yell after me in the cities, but I’m used to that.”
          Reporter : “Do you always intend to live in this way ?”
          Hermit : “No, I intend to travel with a musical entertainment if I can get a chance. You don’t find many people at my age with any ambition in them, but I have. My undying ambition is to be a musician, not a common musician but one that composes music.”

Sunday, 4 December 2011

1884 - Lights Out

“Hamilton looked more like a country town than ever Saturday night. Hitching posts, verandahs, spouts that empty water on the sidewalk and sidewalk signs – all these things are very villagey – to coin a word – and make the city look bad enough, but they are nowhere beside the terrible state of affairs Saturday evening.”
                                        Hamilton Spectator. December 1884
About a quarter to 9 on the evening of Saturday November 29, 1884, the city of Hamilton was plunged into darkness.
        A main pipe of the Hamilton Gaslight company malfunctioned for some unknown reason, resulting in the complete stoppage of gas for home, business and street lighting throughout the city.
It was not a complete, all-at-once failure, but rather a long, slow process where in the gas slowly ran out in various places. Here and there, one after another store, or set of street lights, or light seen through a window in private residence would flicker then disappear.
As colourfully described in the Spectator of the following Monday, no a soul in Hamilton was unaware or unaffected by the situation :
“The greatest confusion and excitement prevailed. Merchants rushed from their shops and up and down the streets to see if their neighbours had been treated the same as they were. Candles and lamps were in great demand. More candles and coal oil were burned in the city on Saturday night than have been before in a good many years. Merchants speedily had long rows of lamps and candles on their counters, and sold their goods by this light. The streets were dark. The appearance of the stores was most peculiar.”
Hamilton’s large, elegant Royal Hotel at the corner of James Street North and Merrick street, was one of the few public places in the city at the time that was supplied by electric power for lighting.
The Royal Hotel not only provided luxury accommodation for travellers, but for Hamiltonians, it was a popular place because of its barroom and billiard parlor. Because the Royal Hotel had lights, both the bar and the billiard parlor suddenly became well-patronized after the gas failure. Players were charged, and were more than willing to pay, the increased fees to use the Royal Hotel’s billiard tables, fees increased because of the situation in every other billiard hall in the city.
As described the Spectator reporter, one prevalent business type in the Hamilton core, barber shops, were the scene of uncomfortable disruption because of the lack of gas to light those particular  businesses :
. In the barber shops there was many a funny scene. Customers lay in their chairs while the lather dried on their faces, and the knights of the strop and razor were hunting up lamps. In at least one place, lights could not be procured, and those who were yearning for an application of soap and steel had to take it out in yearning. “In the barber shops there was many a funny scene. Customers lay in their chairs while the lather dried on their faces, and the knights of the strop and razor were hunting up lamps. In at least one place, lights could not be procured, and those who were yearning for an application of soap and steel had to take it out in yearning.”
The Spectator man dropped into the Grand Opera House across James street from the Royal Hotel, and his detailed description of the aftermath of the end of the gas supply to that theatre is vivid and very well-written :
“Probably the state of affairs was worse at the Opera house than anywhere else in the city. The management had received word that the gas supply was liable to give out, and during the first act, Mr. Boucicault announced this to the audience to do away with any possibility of a panic. To some people who were there, the information was very welcome. Some young men sat straight up in their seats, put on an unusually pious look and kept it there. Some young girls allowed gentle blushes to suffuse their soft cheeks, while they turned their bright eyes towards the slowly dying gas, seeking to know how long it would be till this devotedly to be wished for consummation. But their hopes were doomed to bitter disappointment. The management procured a quantity of candles, and by candle light the performance was proceeded with. There were candles everywhere. Along by the footlights, on the orchestra rail, in fact, wherever there was a chance to stick a candle, there a candle was. The sight was the most unusual one that probably ever greeted Hamilton theatre goers. The performers came on carrying candles, and to one interior scene, additional light and grace was lent by a stable lantern on a mantle piece.”

For the rest of Saturday evening, downtown Hamilton was the scene of the greatest confusion. Stores, theatres, and many other places of business tried to carry operations, with varying degrees of success. In the residential districts, people, unable to see to read, or cook, or much else, simply chose to go to sleep early.
Once the nature of the problem was discovered and the gas supply returned throughout the city, Thomas Littlehales, engineer and manager of the Hamilton Gaslight company issued the following statement which was reprinted in the press :
“For the first time in 35 years Hamilton has been in darkness, and if careful working, forethought or ordinary skill could have prevented such an unfortunate occurrence as that of Saturday night, it would not have taken place.
        Up to the hour when consumers were lighting up on Saturday evening, not the slightest indication whatever was shown of anything being wrong. But soon afterward a serious stoppage was found to have occurred in the leading main pipe from the works to the gas holders, rendering it impossible to get the gas into either of the two old holders, through which all gas passes into the city, the supply from the new holder and that being made, being cut off by trouble hereafter explained. I hoped for a time that the difficulty could have been overcome without interference with the supply to the city, as we had about two hours’ supply in the old holders when the trouble was first discovered, and all possible remedies were tried without success. It was impossible in the dark to have attempted making any break in the connecting pipes or valves, as such a course would have been taken at enormous risk to property and also to life by explosion. Therefore the only thing which could be done was to guard as far as possible against any escapes taking place and involving danger when the gas was again turned on and to protect the crowd in the opera house from any panic, which, thanks to the forethought of our president, was done the moment the true state of affairs was known.
        The cause of the trouble was this morning discovered to be the breaking of a key connecting the valve gate to the rack and spindle which lifts the same. And even if the exact cause had at the moment been discovered, it was absolutely impossible to have avoided putting the city in darkness except at the terrible risk before mentioned.
        The directors of the company, as well as myself, exceedingly regret that the consumers and the public suffered the inconvenience which was no doubt experienced. But the occurrence illustrates the force of the old adage that “We never miss the water till the well runs dry.”