There are parades, and then there are im”press”ive parades

One of the gifts the historical newspapers being preserved by the University of Texas give is that of showing how our ancestors lived in the nineteenth century, including how they put on parades.  There were parades, and then there were im‘press’ive parades.   A journalist from Boston reported on the Fourth of July parade held at Baltimore in 1827, observing, “Our fellow citizens of Baltimore, undoubtedly surpassed all others in the splendour and extent of their proceedings. Every thing conspired to render the day one of peculiar interest to them; it was set apart for the commencement of an important work—the railroad from Baltimore to the Ohio river—a work in which the eastern and western states will naturally profit by this new mode of intercourse.  It was honored by the presence of the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, to whom was assigned the honor of laying the first stone, and who performed the office in the midst of a countless multitude.  A long and brilliant procession was formed and conducted by a military cavalcade to the spot, comprising the different orders of mechanics and tradesmen with their several emblems, most of them actively engaged in their employments.”

First were the farmers, then the gardeners, “followed by a car containing a very large and double blossom pink oleander in full bloom.”  Next came the millers, then the tailors, followed by the blacksmiths, “with a furnace, bellows, anvils, hammers, and men at work, who went through a variety of operations with dexterity.”  Next came masons, weavers, carpenters, stone-cutters and hatters.  The reporter reserved a full paragraph to describe the presentation of the printers:  “The Printers’ Car was a beautiful quadrangular temple, containing a complete printing establishment, with an elegant press in operation, issuing copies of the Declaration of Independence.  The master printers on the stage were Mr. Edes, the eldest member of the profession in Baltimore, and Mr. Niles.  Two lads, accoutered as Mercuries, heralds of the day, each employed in distributing with his long Caduceus, copies of the Declaration and of the Ode, written for the occasion.  The Temple was splendidly decorated with silken bands and oaken wreathes.”

On Friday, November 26, New York City “Then followed two platforms, each drawn by four horses, the first having on it two printing presses, striking off an ode written for the occasion, to the air of the Marseilles Hymn, and distributing them to the crowd.  On the other platform was one of the newly invented printing presses, also in operation at intervals, throwing off various publications.” celebrated the French Revolution of 1830 – the one that toppled the Bourbons – with a glorious parade.  The description we have only mentions the presentation of the printers, who led the parade. “The Association of Printers of the morning and evening Journals, marched at the head of the procession, bearing a large standard—the device, a Clymer printing press, over which soared, with wide extended wings, the American eagle, holding in its talons the bust of Franklin; and, in its beak, the following motto:  verite sans peur—truth without fear.  On the right was the goddess of liberty supporting the American flag; on the left, a full sized figure of a slave, bound in chains, who had burst the shackles from one arm, and had laid hold of the press for emancipation.  Behind him was a crown, reversed, and the scepter broken in three pieces, in allusion to the late revolution in France.

They don’t put on impressive parades like they used to.


If you are interested in contributing funds to speed The University of Texas’ massive project of scanning and putting on-line historic newspapers online, please contact Linda Abbey, of UT’s General Libraries, phone (512) 795-4366 or online to the Historic Newspapers Preservation link.

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden