“Hamilton is on fire with enthusiasm – enthusiasm that has illuminated the city with flames of bunting”
Toronto Globe. August 20, 1889
It was the decorations that first struck the reporter from Toronto as he ventured south after disembarking from a steamer at the James street docks and proceeded towards Hamilton’s downtown core.
The editor of the Globe wanted a perspective by one of his own journalists on the beginnings of the 1889 Hamilton Summer Carnival.
By all accounts that had reached his attention, Hamilton was to be the location of an amazing celebration of its progress as a city of vitality and beauty, and the organizers had done a splendid job in activating the civic patriotism of Hamiltonians.
The reporter was impressed by what he saw :
“The citizens have hung their banners on the outer walls and bid defiance to all comers, unless the comers come to enjoy the city’s hospitality and admire her snap and hospitality.
“Hamilton is called The Ambitious City. She is rightly named, and she has the resources necessary for the pursuit of her ambition as has been demonstrated in times past; but this time Hamilton has taken off her jacket, loosened her purse strings, spit on her civic hands and overshadowed all previous attempts.”
The reporter stated emphatically that the 1889 Hamilton Summer Carnival was of great interest to Torontonians:
“Toronto is in active sympathy with Hamilton i8n this hour of her rejoicing. All this morning crowds of visitors arrived from the Queen City by the steamers and the railway, and were charmed by the spectacle of picturesqueness presented on every hand.
“The scene from the steamers as they ploughed the waters of the bay this morning was grand. There were, all along the Beach, hundreds of sail-clad yachts and boats waiting with their skippers and sailors to compete in the great races of the day.
“There was life seen on every hand. The faces of men, women and children who stood waiting for friends on the docks and at the railway station were radiant with pride and joy.”
As the reporter walked along James street north, he detailed the types of decorations he saw for the readers of the Globe:
“The city was brilliantly set off in her attire of evergreens, buntings, flags, flowers and trophies of all kinds. One wondered how such a transformation could take place, but it had been done by public and private enterprise. Even the street cars that met the wandering visitors were bedecked as never were street cars before.
“Every residence, every public building and business block was arrayed in one mass of foliage and flags. The American flag blended with the British and there were even to be seen, blowing with conspicuous effect, the national anthems of many other countries.”
The reporter was in Hamilton both during the day and after sundown:
“If Hamilton were a scene of beauty in the light of noonday, what language can describe the effect produced when thousands of tinted lights scattered all along the decorations were lighted? The citizens came out to see their fair city illuminated by artificial light, and they stood gazing in groups at the magnificence around them.
“It need not be said that Hamilton had never looked like this before, because it is only just to say that no other city in Canada ever presented so striking and animated a scene.
“There was moving and joyous life. On the streets, public buildings and structures, there were to be seen illustrations of the high pitch to which art can be raised in beautifying a city.”
In August, 1889, as it had been for many years, and would be for many more years to come, the delightful downtown oasis, Gore Park received special attention as regards decorations, and was a locale to which visitors were attracted:
“In the Gore Park, the illumination is dazzling in the extreme, this favorite resort being encircled by continuous jets of gas, which throw their radiance and effulgence all around. In the park itself are all kinds of Chinese lanterns, and these with the ever-spurting fountain in the centre add a magical effect to the whole scene.
“At the head of the Gore are the letters, ‘Canada For Ever.’ It is here that the city fathers put in their best work for the entertainment of the public, and undoubtedly the park will be the chief centre of attraction on each evening of the Carnival.”
The decorations of Hamilton as described by the Globe reporter were a major part of the Summer Carnival in August, 1889, an introduction to the city and the celebrations of the Hamilton which were scheduled to take place during the coming days.