Saturday, 30 December 2017

1885-10-02 Victoria Avenue Fire Station

Perhaps it was built before it was needed but would be needed in the fullness of time as the anticipated growth of the City of Hamilton progressed steadily in an eastward direction :

“A year ago, the brick building, commonly known as the Victoria Avenue reel house, was relegated to dust and cobwebs. Except when an election was on, it was unoccupied. It invariably looked like what it was – deserted. The growing exigencies of the city, however, made it expedient to use the station for which it was constructed.”1

1“A Handsome Station : House Warming at the Victoria Avenue Reel House Last Evening.”

Hamilton Spectator.    October 02, 1885.

The firemen and equipment to be located at the Victoria Avenue station moved into the building in the spring of 1885. However the firemen desired to make their work and living quarters much less utilitarian than what greeted them, and they went to work :

“Simultaneously, the dust and cobwebs vanished. Light streamed through the doors and windows. The domain of dirt and desolation  yielded to the seductive influences of brooms and soap and water. The boys were not content with this though, great as the improvement was. Neither were the residents of that section of the city. A number of the more generous of them sent and gave money to the boys for decorating the station. When sufficient had been accumulated, a handsome carpet was bought and laid on the upstairs floor, the walls and ceilings were artistically papered, neat black walnut bedsteads were put in, and the windows draped by elegant cretonne curtains. Bedroom and sitting room were transferred into marvels of beauty. Someone with artistic tastes superintended these matters, and turned the station into what a gentleman termed last night the handsomest one he had ever seen a paid department occupy.”1

To mark the completion of the work, the firemen organized an evening event at which the station could be displayed:

“The staff at this station consists of A. James, foreman, and Thos. Canary, Alf. Rouse, Thomas Capes and J. Thomas, and last evening they celebrated the completion of the furnishing by a little housewarming, at which a number of gentlemen spent a strictly temperate but exceedingly jovial time until nearly midnight. His worship the mayor filled the chair, and Mr. James Fairgrieve the vice chair. Aldermen MacKay and Kavanagh, Mr. John Hoodless and a number of gentleman residing in the east end, and representatives of the press, were present, and with song and sentiment managed to make the evening pass pleasantly and agreeably. The boys provided an excellent spread for their visitors in the sitting, and after this had been attacked and vanquished, an equally successful assault was made on the toast list. Everybody was toasted and everybody responded, and the only thing to be regretted in connection with the whole affair was that the chief was not there to participate in the evening’s festivities. Listeners, it is said, never hear any good of themselves, but if he had been present last evening, he would have heard many a compliment paid him both personally and professionally.” 1

One of Chief Alex. Aitchison’s many inventions to make the task of getting to fires as fast as possible was called the Quick Hitch. The horses, wagons and men could be readied in seconds, while at the same time, the big doors of the station would be rolled up to let them get going:

 “The boys hitched up several times. One itch was times, and they did it 3 ¾ seconds.” 1

By October 1885, the station was in perfect shape, and at the housewarming, the firemen expressed publicly thanks to the gentlemen who rendered them such material assistance in making it so handsome.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

1886 - Queen's Birthday

 “Next Monday is the sixtieth anniversary of the birth of our beloved Queen. A list of the attractions which are offered to help Hamiltonians spend the day pleasantly is printed below.”
Hamilton Spectator     May 21, 1886.
May 24, 1886 was a public holiday much anticipated by Hamiltonians.
The Spectator handily provided a guide for the options local citizens had in order that plans could be made as how best to enjoy the day :
          DUNDURN PARK
“Monday will afford the many lovers of baseball in this city to see two most interesting games. At the morning game, McArthur and Sommers will be the Hamilton’s battery, and at the game in the afternoon, the plucky Morison brothers will fill the position. Hamiltonians will see their team play ball that day. The grand band of the Seventh Fusiliers will render a choice programme. The band will parade through the streets and march to Dundurn before each game and for the evening celebration.
“At night, Dundurn will present a most attractive appearance. Prof. Hand will give a magnificent display of fireworks, amongst other pieces a representation of the Hamiltons, and many other choice pieces never before seen in Hamilton. During the intervals, the Seventh band will render a choice programme of music. The Mikado selection will be a treat, and the grand overture, Romantique, will be given for the first time here. The euphonium solo by Sergeant McGregor, Il Pirate, by Bellini, will be well worth going to hear. The children at provided for, at cheap rates, and no more pleasant spot is in Canada to spend an interesting, healthful holiday than Dundurn. Makins’ string band will be in attendance during the afternoon and evening for the entertainment of those who may wish to trip the light fantastic.
“The street car company will run a special line of cars to and from the park, day and evening.
                   AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE
“The annual picnic of the St. George’s society, to be held in the crystal palace grounds, will be one of the most extensive and enjoyable affairs that Hamilton people have seen for some years. The energetic committee having the matter in hand has spared no expense in providing first-class entertainment for all comers. The park will not be cleared at any time during the day and evening – once inside the whole show belongs to the vistor. Jeakie’s pony hippodrome, comprising fifteen wonderful flying mites of horses, will delight and astonish everybody with their unique and marvelous performances. This exhibition will be given during the day, and in the evening under the electric light, the ponies will have a chariot race for a substantial prize. There will also be football matches, trotting races, open to all for good purses; running races, competition drill for big prizes, the Thirteenth band, fireworks by Prof. Hand, and many other features. Excursion trains will come from several neighboring cities and towns, and the attendance will be very large. The prizes are all good and the various games and races will be well-filled and stoutly contested. St. George’s society propose to make the affair a grand success and has gone the right way about it.
                   THE OCEAN HOUSE
“This popular place of resort will doubtless be visited by thousands of people. Hamilton beach and its numerous attractions are too well-known to need to be enlarged upon. A five mile ride from the city by the Northern and Northwestern railway to where the fresh and helath-giving breezes are never wanting is a pleasure at any time. Leave Hamilton 7 and 10 a.m., 2, 3:50 and 6:15 p.m. ; leave Burlington 10:45 and 11: 45 a.m., 5, 7, and 9:07 p.m.
                   BAYVIEW PARK
“From 9 o’clock in the morning until 11 at night, the steamers Maggie mason and Lillie will ply between Simcoe street wharf and Bayview every fifteen minutes. Bayview is a beautiful place and, with the special attractions which it will have on Monday ought to draw large crowds. The new inclined railway, of course, will be in full operation. A baseball match will be played in the afternoon between two good teams, and the roller rink will be open. The Independent band will be in attendance afternoon and evening.
                   AINSLIE PARK
“This pretty spot on the line of the Hamilton and Dundas street railway is free to all persons holding H. and D. return tickets. It will receive a good share of public patronage on Monday. The manager of the road has arranged for special attractions, among them a baseball match in the afternoon. Pratt’s quadrille band will be in attendance for dancing.
                   A.O.F. EXCURSION TO BUFFALO
“The uniformed branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters has arranged for an excursion to Buffalo, via Northern and Northwestern railway. The train leaves the King street station at 7:15 a.m., arriving in Buffalo at 10:30. Excursionists will have nine and a half hours in Buffalo. The return trains leave Buffalo at 8 o’clock, but those who desire to remain in Buffalo can return by the 7 a.m. train on Tuesday morning. The return fare is only $1.25 and 65 cents for children, and as the route is a popular one, the excursion should be well-patronized.
                   THE S. K. EXCURSION TO BUFFALO
“A Queen’s birthday without an excursion to Buffalo would be a novelty which a great many people would not appreciate. The Select Knights, Ancient Order of United Workmen, have arranged with the Grand Trunk railway company to run a special fast train, leaving at 7:45 o’clock and arriving in Buffalo at 11 o’clock. Those patronizing the excursion are promised eight hours in Buffalo, yet will be able to reach home at 10 o’clock. The tickets are $1.25; children under 12 years of age, 65 cents.
                   THE RAILWAYS
“The Grand Trunk and Northern and Northwestern railways will issue return tickets to all stations upon their respective roads at a single fare for the return trip, good to return on Monday only. Tickets are also being issued now good to return on any regular train up to and including Tuesday, May 25. These excursion tickets will not bew good on the St. Louis or limited expresses, Grand Trunk railway.
“A cricket match will be played on the Hamilton grounds between the Hamilton and Guelph clubs. It is likely that, according to the usual custom, wickets will be pitched at 10 a.m., and the match will last all day, so that no admirer of the game need fail to see any portion of it.
                   LANDSDOWNE PARK
“This pleasant resort on the bay shore at the foot of Wentworth street, will offer strong attractions to picnickers if the day proves favorable. Landsdowne park has been improved in several ways since last season, and is an ideal picnic grounds. It will be opened for the season on Monday. All necessary conveniences are furnished by the lessees.”1
The 24th of May 1886 was a holiday for nearly every Hamiltonian, except for those employed by the Hamilton Spectator which went to press that day and was sold on the streets.
The following editorial appeared in that day’s issue :
“Today Canada, in common with other parts of the British empire, will celebrate the birthday of our beloved Queen. Victoria was born on the 24th of May, 1919, and is consequently 67 years of age. She succeeded to the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV, on the 20th of June, 1837, though the ceremony of coronation was not performed until the 28th of June, 1838. If she live so long, she will in June of next year, have reigned for half a century.
“When her Majesty ascended the throne, Hamilton was a village, having about 3,000 inhabitants. It had hardly ceased its rivalry and jealousy of Ancaster and Dundas. The population of Wentworth county was 14, 657. That of Upper Canada was less than 400,000, not a fifth of its present population. Canadians are not given to boasting, but it is a matter for some pride that the people of this province have increased in numbers five fold in fifty years. The first mile of railway in Ontario was not constructed till her Majesty had reigned fifteen years.
“When the Queen ascended the throne, the Stockton and Darlington railway – the first ever built for the conveyance of passengers – had been constructed ten years, and the Liverpool and Manchester road had been opened five years. She had reigned five years before Cooke and Wheatstone patented the first practicable electric telegraph. The Sirius and the Great Western demonstrated the practicability of navigating the ocean by steam after she had reigned nearly a year. Ironclad navies had not been dreamed of; ‘brown Bess’ was looked upon as the best infantry weapon which human ingenuity could devise, and rifled cannon were still scientific toys.
“For nearly half a century, Victoria has retained the respect of the world and the affection of her people. She rules over a mightier empire than any the world ever dreamed of – greater in extent, greater in wealth greater in power, and, with the exception of the Chinese, greater in population than any other upon which the sun ever shone. Adulation is merely an empty ceremony. For Victoria her people pray with humble and earnest fervor – ‘God save the Queen.’ ”2
2“The Queen’s Birthday”
Hamilton Spectator     May 24, 1886.
Also in that same issue, a patriotic poem was included:
Again has dawned the festal day –
          The happy twenty-fourth of May  :
            With joy we celebrate;
          Long years ago on this glad morn
          A nation’s noblest gift was born –
            Victoria good and great.

          God bless our noble sovereign Queen,
          The noblest that for long hath been
            Seated on England’s throne;
          Long may she have Dominion o’er
          Old Britain’s isles from shore to shore
            And peace her empire own.

          Her people pay the homage due
          To her whose hand, so kind and true,
            Does ruling scepter away;
          Proud nations own her royal worth,
          And booming cannon herald forth,
            The dawn of her birthday.

          Gay banners wave o’er all the land,
          While strains from many a martial band
            Diffuse sweet music round;
          Our noble Queen is well-beloved –
          And this her people long have proved,
            Where e’er they may be found.

          A woman’s heart of tenderness
          And charity she doth possess:
            God save the Queen we pray;
          And when she lays the scepter down
          May she receive the glorious crown
            That fadeth not away.
Hamilton, May 24.                           FORGET ME NOT1

1“The Queen’s Birthday : By a Hamilton Girl”
Hamilton Spectator     May 24, 1886.
The Spectator reporter chosen to attend some of the Queen’s Birthday events and describe them for the readers of the Great Family Journal produced the following, quoted in full, which appeared on May 25, 1886
“We celebrated it in various ways. Some of us went on excursions; some on little private picnics where in shay nooks we nibbled at our sandwiches and sipped our iced claret; some of us took in the ball games and alienated between frowns and smiles as we lost or won; some of us stretched our languid limbs in hammocks or on springy lounges and whiled away the time with the latest novel; some of us took in Bayview and the beach and others of us lost ourselves in the vast crowd at the crystal palace.
“But one and all we did what was our bounden duty to do – we enjoyed ourselves to our heart’s content. We made up our minds for enjoyment early in the morning, when the incessant popping of firecrackers roused us from our slumbers, and we looked out from our bedroom windows and saw good-natured and red-faced mamas struggling down the street with a baby on one arm and a basket laden with provisions on the other, while papa walked leisurely alongside., twirling his cane and scolding the children. We made up our minds for enjoyment when we heard the bands a-playing, when we saw the bright faces and the dainty dresses that brightened the streets and made us thankful one and all that it was a nice day, neither warm nor cool but comfortable, on which to honor the sixty-seventh anniversary of her most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.
“As usual the principal attraction locally was St. George’s Society’s Annual Demonstration. Owing to the formation of the International League, Dundurn was devoted exclusively to the interests of baseball, and the society held its yearly outing in the crystal palace. And right here let it be said that the demonstration was a success. The society had gone to great trouble and expense to provide suitable attractions, and the result of this was that the demonstration was one of the best ever held under the auspices of the society which takes its name from old England’s patron saint.
“As early as 9 o’clock in the morning people began gathering to see the procession. There is always something attractive about a procession. It may be as mournful and miserable as a sick dog in June, but it draws the people. The small boy goes there with his pockets stuffed with fireworks and Sara Jane stands on the sidewalk and looks at the show from beneath the lace border of her parasol.
“The procession of the St. George’s society was worth looking at. The Thirteenth band, the uniformed societies and Jeakle’s pony hippodrome made up a glittering and gorgeous array. The hippodrome was the principal attraction at the palace in the morning, as indeed it was all day. The ponies are fine, sturdy beasts, and tore around the track at a marvelous rate of speed. In the morning, they covered the ground, 1/3 of a mile, in 41 seconds, but lowered the time to 38 ½ seconds in the afternoon. Mr. Jeakle has a perfect goldmine in the fifteen handsome ponies that he exhibits. They were the admired of all admirers yesterday, and the greatest interest was taken in all their races. The Roman chariots and the noble Roman charioteers go a long way towards making a unique and interesting exhibition. The football match was one of the features of the afternoon. It had been intended to have the game between Canadian and American clubs, but it was found impossible to make the necessary arrangements, and the Rangers of Berlin tried for victory with a scratch team from Toronto. The game was lively, exciting and well-contested.
“Hamilton overflows with uniformed societies, but the prizes offered for drill competition did not tempt many of them out. The Crimson Knights of the ‘Prentice Boys and the Scarlet Knights of the Loyal Orange order, were the only two local societies that turned up. There were two outside corps competing however – the uniformed rank of the Victoria hook and ladder company, of Brantford and the Dundas hook and latter company. Easch corps drilled for fifteen minutes, and at the end of that time Col. Gibson, Major Moore and Capt. Stone, the judges, gave the Brantford boys first place, the Crimson Knights second and Dundas third. The result was too much for the victorious corps. They gave three cheers for almost everything and everybody, and started going through an almost interminable maze of right obliques, counter marches and other things which they didn’t finish until they got safely outside of the horse ring.
“Beside the chariot racing, the society had prepared some speeding for local horses. By the time the racing was over, the day was getting sleepy. People began to think they had business at home and they started to move. The Thirteenth band had been patiently turning out its sweetest melodies all the afternoon, and now the band had gone. And when the band goes, the spectators experience a sudden yearning for a short session at the tea table. They did not stay out long, however. The last echoes of the afternoon’s music had scarcely died away before the people began trooping in again for the evening’s fun. The grounds were brilliantly illuminated with electric lights and Prof. Hand & Co. supplied fireworks. The horse ring was lighted by electricity , and Jeakle’s pony hippodrome hippodromed some more to the intense delight and general satisfaction of the cheerful and loquacious mass of people around the fence.
“Altogether it was probably the most successful demonstration the society has ever held. The weather was magnificent, the attendance was enormous, no liquor was sold on the grounds and so everybody was sober and nothing happened to mar anybody’s pleasure.
“The gate receipts for the afternoon alone were over $1,200.
The attendance through the day was between 10,000 and 12,000, and half as many more were there at night.
It cost the society $500 to bring Jeakle and his pony hippodrome here.
A quadrille band ground out dance music in the palace proper afternoon and evening.
Small boys and firecrackers managed to set fire to one of the sheds. The prompt application of a bucket of water, and the tearing down of a couple of burning boards, prevented what might have been a serious conflagration.
The Thirteenth band never played better than it did last night. One of the prettiest numbers was accompanied by a castanet solo by a little coon mascot who belongs to the Crimson Knights. Whether the solo added to the music’s effect deponent sayeth not but bandmaster Robinson does.
                   The S. K., A. O. U. W. EXCURSION
“The excursion of the Select Knights, O. U. W., to Buffalo, via the Grand Trunk railway, took about 300 people, from the city yesterday morning. The trip was a pleasant one both ways. The train left on time and arrived in Buffalo on time. The return train arrived home at 10:30, with everybody safe and happy.
                   DUNDURN IN THE EVENING
“About 1,500 people assembled at Dundurn park last evening, and put in a delightful time watching Prof. Hand’s fireworks, listening to the music of the Seventh Fusiliers, strolling about the beautiful park or enjoying the merry dance. Everything passed off most pleasantly. The fireworks were decidedly good, some novel devices got up especially for the occasion, being particularly fine.
                   THE FORESTERS’ EXCURSION
“It was a large train that carried the excursionists who went to Buffalo under the escort of the Ancient Order of Foresters, and every car was crowded. The trip was a successful one, being both enjoyable and financially satisfactory to those who had it in hand.
                   OTHER ATTRACTIONS
“Bayview was visited by a great number of city people, who got a lot of enjoyment out of the many attractions afforded at that pretty resort. Many people also passed a pleasant day picnicking at Lansdowne park and the beach. At Ainslie park quite an ambitious programme of games was run off, and there were a good many participants.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

1885 - Company Picnic at Port Dover

 “Port Dover is a pleasant place for picnickers from this city. It is a Scott act village, and the Sabbathlike stillness that broods over it like an Indian summer haze is very refreshing to people coming direct from the stir and noise of a large town.
Hamilton Spectator.     August 24, 1885.
For their second annual summer outing, to be held on Saturday August 22, 1885, the employees of the Hamilton and Northern Railway travelled to the popular lakeside town at the southern end of their line: It was a popular choice:
“Port Dover has a public resort called Erie park. Erie park is not so extensive as Fairmount or Central parks, but it is larger than the only public park that Hamilton can boast – our petite but precious Gore.
“Erie park is well-shaded, and though the only flowering plants to be found there and Canadian thistles, there are expanses of fresh green turf beneath the trees to sit on and lie on; and then, its chief advantage, the park overlooks Lake Erie, with its long narrow strip of yellow sandy beach, which gives its color to the water a quarter mile out from shore.”1
“Fun on Erie’s Shore: Annual Picnic of the N. and N. W. R. Employees : A Big Crowd at Port Dover – Exciting Baseball Match – Cranks Furnish Fun – Full List of the Sports”
Hamilton Spectator.    August 24, 1885
The number of visitors invading Port Dover for the picnic was immense :
“There must have been 2,000 persons who went to Port Dover on excursion trains, and 8,000 people in and about the park. Three trains carried the excursionists – the regular which left Hamilton at 7:15 a.m., a special, which left at 8:45, and a Beeton special, which left here about half an hour later. There were in these three trains 28 passenger coaches, and most of them were crowded. The excursionists on each train were met at the station by the Port Dover brass band, which led the way to the park, playing with all the power of their lungs.”
Om arrival at Erie Park, the employees of the railway settled down for some food and drink before the sporting events were to begin :
“It was crowded in the park, when the picnickers, gathered into little groups, opened their baskets, spread their tempting contents on extemporized tables on the grass, and proceeded to discuss them. It was like a vast family party. The committee and guests had dinner at the Dominion Hotel.”1
A baseball game kicked off the afternoon’s sporting schedule:
 “As soon as possible after dinner, the baseball match between teams from the mechanical and traffic departments was begun. It took place in an open field a short distance from the park. It is possible that baseball games have been played on worse grounds, but that probability is so small that this field may safely be considered the worst baseball ground in the country. It was picturesque, the eye of the spectator was pleased with its varied scenery of hill and vale.
“The catchers occupied a commanding eminence from which a beautiful view of the lake was obtained, and the pitchers, standing down in a valley, played an uphill game all the way through. It is probable that the field was used as a pasturage, for their was incontrovertible evidence that cattle had recently roamed on its thousand hills. But the players were by means discouraged by the character of the ground. When a low-hit ball came towards a fielder, and when he reached for it, struck an eminence in front of him and bounded ten feet over his head, it was taken as a matter of course. There were many errors on both sides, but if they were published, the majority of them would have to be given to the ground.
“At first, it looked as if the men of the mechanical department were going to have it all their own way. They scored in every inning, and in their second made 5, whilst the score of the traffic team was kept well down in the first half of the game, and they were goose-egged in their third and fifth innings. In the seventh and eighth innings, however, the traffic men did some hard hitting, and assisted by costly errors on the part of the mechanical fielders and the ground added eight to their score. When the traffic team went to bat in the ninth inning, they had to make three runs to tie the mechanicals. This they did. Then the first three mechanical men who went to bat in the tenth inning were retired, and the first goose egg was recorded against the team. There was great excitement when the traffic teams went in. M. Beasley was the first batter. He reached first base on a hit, stole second, got third on a put out at first, and came home on a hit by Parks. The traffic department thus won the match, $10 and a box of cigars.”1
After the baseball game, there were a number of contests for individual picnickers such as foot or swimming races. That portion of the day went smoothly, except for an unexpected intrusion by some uninvited interlopers:
“About the middle of the afternoon, party of a dozen or more Salvation army soldiers, headed by a drummer, filed into the park and forthwith began to hold services and call on the unrepentant holidaymakers to repent. Moreover, a couple of buxom hallelujah lasses went through the crowd selling War Cry to such of the unregenerates who would buy. Nobody objected to these vendors of the red hot literature of the Salvation army type, but there were numerous objections to the soldiers who were holding the services, for they interfered considerably with the other amusements. The zealous little band took their stand near a refreshment booth, and the proprietor of the booth complained that they were spoiling his business. At length, they were requested to retire. For a time they persisted in continuing the services but eventually were compelled to leave the park. They rallied, however, on the road outside the park fence, where the games were in progress, and attempted to gain the attention of the sinners that the games were neglected for a while and all the sinners ran after the army. The poor soldiers were hooted at and hustled and unkindly referred to as nuisances. They were driven off the road and into a neighboring lot, and three or four of the band who resisted, were picked up and incontently thrown over the fence. The scattered force rallied again, but its rallying point was far from the madding crowd, and the rub-a-dub of the drum could be heard through the trees growing fainter and fainter as the detachment retreated from the field.”1
Once the Salvation Army had been taken care of, the games resumed and in the late afternoon, the picnic broke up. Several Hamilton and Northwestern trains would return all to Hamilton by the early evening.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

1885 - Buffalo Bill

 “Buffalo Bill is in town. The town is flooded with white sombreros and red paint. Shut your eyes and a string of mustangs, mules, cowboys and Indians float before them. Open them and the strange procession is still there.”

Hamilton Spectator.    August 27, 1885

It was one of the most-anticipated street parades ever to take place in the city of Hamilton :

“Thousands of people thronged the streets yesterday to watch the procession. Barnum’s circus never drew a larger crowd. The corner of King and James streets was almost impassable. It would have been entirely so had it not been for the policemen.”1

1 “Wild Western Scenes : Buffalo Bill’s Great Show in Hamilton”

Hamilton Spectator.  August 27, 1885.

It was a long, colorful parade, led by one of the most world-famous individuals of the day:

“Buffalo Bill himself headed the procession. A hackful of Indians came next. Nate Salsbury was not among them. More Indians on horseback. A band. Cowboys. Some pack mules. A pretty girl on a pretty horse. A dilapidated coach drawn by six mules and carrying a couple of Indian women. Then Indians and cowboys in single file to the end. Some of them carried banners.”1

The parade was well-received, especially by those of the younger set:

“Hundreds of small boys followed the processionists. Thy yelled like mad and flung their hats in the air. The fever was upon them. Last night they dreamed of shooting Indians, and rescuing fair maidens from the clutches of the reckless dime store denizens of the boundless west.”1

The purpose of the street parade was to promote the huge Wild West Show, scheduled to take place in an area just beyond the eastern limits of the city:

“The afternoon was chilly, but the air was bracing and the sun shone brightly. It was not a bad day for an open air exhibition, and a big crowd went down to Simon James’ driving park to see the Wild West show. The special trains over the great Western Railway and Northern and Northwestern railway lines were crowded, and a great number of people drove down.”

The grounds of the race track had been utterly transformed:

“Before the performance, the crowd strolled about the ground examining the horses and mules and steers and the rickety Deadwood stage coach and the other paraphernalia of the show, watching at a respectful distance the three buffalo and the elk, and peering curiously into the tents and wigwams at the east end of the park. The wigwams were the greatest objects of curiosity. Most of the Indians who inhabited them were stretched at full length, apparently asleep; others were arranging their toilet, bedaubing a few more artistic touches of paint on their faces; while, in one or two lodges, several braves were absorbed over a game that looked like dominoes. But no matter what they were doing, they all regarded with stolid indifference the spectators who intruded on their privacy.”1

The Wild West Show was an amazing series of events, which the Spectator reporter at the show was challenged to describe them for the paper’s readers, but did so successfully:

“The performance was given on and inside the track, in front of the grandstand which was packed with humanity as it had never been before. It was exciting and interesting all through, and to many who had read romantic and thrilling tales of the Wild West but had never seen anything of the kind, it was instructive. It is a bold and original idea, this, of reproducing, in mimic, the scenes which have been blood-curdling realities, and which have furnished material for numberless romances to fire the soul and disturb the dreams of English-speaking youth in both hemispheres, but, as most bold and original schemes are, the scheme is successful; and Buffalo Bill has already made a fortune out of his Wild West Show. He was himself the principal attraction, and came in for the lion’s share of the applause. When he dashed down the track on his handsome dappled grey pony, and suddenly stopping, wheeled around and faced the grandstand, it was not necessary for the ‘lecturer’ to inform the people he was ‘Hon. W. F. Cody,’ better known as ‘Buffalo Bill.’

“Mr. Cody is a splendid specimen of manly beauty. He rides his horse as if he were part of the animal, and in his embroidered, magenta hunting shirt and white sombrero, and with his long hair flying in the breeze, he looks every inch the ideal scout, and is a figure picturesque and attractive enough to make an artist’s eyes glow with delight and cause a woman’s heart to beat faster. Buffalo Bill’s record is well-known, and it is hardly necessary to say that he is the most famous and successful of the western scouts and frontiersmen since Kit Carson. But there were other personages in the show who were also regarded with interest. The old Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, was an object of great curiosity. He wore a crimson tunic, and his head and back were covered with tufts of eagle feathers. The famous old warrior didn’t take an active part in the performance, excepting to lead the war dance. Buck Taylor, ‘the king of the cowboys,’ who was here with Dr. Carver last fall, was received with loud applause by the crowd. The people welcomed the big, good-humored, dashing fellow as an old friend.

“The performance lasted nearly two hours and the interest never flagged. It began with a grand processional parade in which the whole troupe of Indians and cowboys appeared, all mounted. The events followed without a pause. There was a close race between a Cowboy, a Mexican and an Indian. Billy Johnson showed how quickly the pony express rider can change horses. A race between a mounted Indian and an Indian on foot was won by the latter. A general skirmish between Indians and cowboys occurred, in which a great quantity of blank cartridge was fired, and in the course of combat Buffalo Bill showed how he killed Yellow Hand in single combat and took his scalp in 1876. Johnny Baker, ‘the Cowboy Kid,’ did some wonderful rifle shooting at short range, holding his rifle in a dozen difficult positions and never failing to hit the mark. Miss Annie Oakley also did some clever marksmanship (or rather markswomanship) with both rifle and shotgun. But the best shooting was done by Buffalo Bill himself. He shot at 24 clay pigeons sprung from a trap, hitting 21 and missing 3 in one minute and 18 seconds. He also did some splendid shooting with his horse running at full speed. An Indian galloping alongside him flung about a dozen balls in the air in quick succession, and Mr. Cody broke every one of them. The riding of bucking horses by cowboys was greatly enjoyed. One of the riders had a narrow escape from being injured. The horse reared so high that it was impossible for its rider to keep his seat and he tumbled over on his back and came near being trampled on. Buck Taylor gave an exhibition of his perfect horsemanship – leaning down, and picking up his hat and handkerchief from the ground, while his horse was galloping at full speed. The Indian dances were grotesque and funny, but rather tame. The warriors, gathered in a circle, stamped their feet and jerked their bodies in time to the monotonous music from a coupe of tom-toms, keeping up a continuous falsetto squeaking and looking as hideous as possible. The Indian war dance is peculiar, but does not bear upon the mind of the spectator a very vivid idea of the poetry of motion. The corn dance appears to be the war dance with the final war whoop omitted. For this reason, aboriginal terpsichorean art was tame., the attack on the Deadwood stage was just the opposite. The stage was attacked by a score of mounted Indians, for a time it looked as if the passengers and guards would be utterly paralysed by the tremendous noise of the blank cartridge and the terrific war whoops of the painted warriors; but presently a band of cowboys came to the rescue, and as they could fire blank cartridge more quickly than the red men and could yell louder too, the red men were soon put to flight, but not before two or three of the painted savages had carefully dismounted and lain down and died. The stage coach was drawn by six mules, and driven by a gentleman who, the master of ceremonies said had been a bosom friend of the famed Hank Monk. At the end sat ‘Con’ Grover, the cowboy sheriff of the Platte. He was sheriff of Lincoln county, Neb, and in the graphic words of the M.C., ‘he had made the county, which had been the home of hoodlums and desperadoes, a haven of peace and repose.’ The gallant sheriff looked anything but the personification of peace and repose, with his rifle in his hand and a formidable array of revolvers and bowie knives in his belt. After the desperate encounter just mentioned, Mustang Jack (known in civilization as Geo. W. Hamilton) gave an exhibition of high jumping, in which he, probably, excels any living man. He made a standing leap with dumb-bells over a horse of ordinary height. The grand finale of the show was an attack by Indians on a settler’s cabin, and the rescue of the settler and his family by a band of cowboys and Mexicans after a desperate and deadly conflict in which all the blank cartridge was used that was left over from the previous battle.

“The cowboys’ brass band was present throughout the performance, playing most of the time. Everything the band played, it played well – excepting God Save the Queen.”1

Above - Buffalo Bill, pictured with Sitting Bull
Below - Annie Oakley.