A Pair of Parties Bring Fun to the Fourth of July in 1904 – Post Bulletin
It’s never too early to throw a party, and if you can throw two at the same time, great.
This was apparently the view of the citizens of Rochester on July 4, 1904.
“A comparative calm reigns where yesterday a perfect pandemonium of noises told everyone that America was celebrating its birthday, and not just that, but Rochester its half-centennial,” the Post and Record newspaper said on July 5. .
Cities and states often wait until they reach their centenary to organize a big celebration. Rochester in 1904, however, seemed in no mood to wait. And why not? In the 50 years since its founding, Rochester had survived the Civil and Dakota Wars, a deadly tornado, flooding, and harsh living conditions on what had been the frontier.
So, in 1904, the city combined a semi-centennial with the 4th of July, for a one-day celebration.
“From early sunrise until late at night, our city celebrated, and did so successfully,” reported the Post and Record.
Plans for the day were announced well in advance, and extra wagons were lined up to bring visitors into town. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad alone added 10 cars on its westbound route to the city and eight cars on the eastbound route. “It is estimated that several thousand came to these,” the newspaper said.
Broadway and Main Street were lined with kiosks offering refreshments and flags flew from each building. Houses and courtyards in residential areas have been renovated. “Those who were our guests praised the overall look” of the city, according to the Post and Record.
It is estimated that up to 10,000 people took part in the festivities, which culminated in a parade through the town centre. Local businesses, from Schuster Brewery to Dodge Lumber Yard to the department store EA Knowlton, advertised their products on advertising posters. Early settlers in the community were transported in horse-drawn carriages, prairie schooners reminded everyone of the good old days, and the Journal Newsboys played music.
Unfortunately, reflecting the sensibilities of the time, the parade included a float “on which sat pick-a-ninnies devouring a melon.” There was also a staged exhibit of a group of hapless Indians “chasing a stagecoach” and engaging in hand-to-hand combat with soldiers who then captured them.
Mid-afternoon, a crowd gathered at the Metropolitan Theater to hear Miss Mollie Markham recite the Declaration of Independence and Judge JA Leonard deliver the official half-centenary address. Leonard’s speech, the Post and Record said, “will long be remembered as one of the finest and most comprehensive ever heard in this city.”
Meanwhile, after a brief downpour, foot races took place along Broadway including a sack race, a wheelbarrow race, a fat man race and a back race. A ball game was held on the campus of the state hospital.
As the sun set, Broadway was lit up with an electric display, fireworks were set off, and to keep the party going, a dance was held at Liberty Hall.
“Never has the fourth been so loud in Rochester, never has a celebration been so successful,” said the Post and Record.
This is what happens when you host two parties at once.
Thomas Weber is a former Post Bulletin reporter who enjoys writing about local history.