250th Anniversary Celebration
1666 - 1916
(from "Common Council Manual - 1916 - Newark, New Jersey)
Since the 1915 issue of the Common Council Manual, which contained a preliminary forecast of the 250th Anniversary Celebration of Newark, much has been done in the way of preparation, and the public has become well acquainted with the Committee of One Hundred and its work.
The task of getting ready for the celebration, and of deciding upon the form it should take, has engaged the thoughts and interest of many leading citizens. The fund of $250,000,00 was raised without much difficulty, and the whole community early entered into the spirit of the occasion with a good deal of zeal and enthusiasm. Indeed, it is hard to realize the vast amount of time and consideration that has been devoted to every detail by men who are always intently occupied with their own affairs, and yet who have made any necessary sacrifice to meet the exigencies of this vital public occasion.
Early in the period of preparation a Poster Contest was decided upon, which not only proved of immense value for publicity purposes, but produced a set of prize posters which have attracted wide attention throughout the country of both artists and laymen. The cash prizes in this contest amounted to $1,800.00, but it would be difficult to estimate the value of the newspaper publicity, coming from hundreds of the leading papers in commendation of the posters and of the celebration of which they were the forerunners.
The first prize poster has been reproduced in various forms, as a hanger 21x28 inches, and with the two other prize posters as poster stamps. The first will form the big displays on the twenty-four-sheet boards within five hundred miles of Newark; the hangers will be used for railway stations, hotels and other public places, and the poster stamps will be supplied to merchants and citizens who wish to send them out in their letters. They will also be sent upon application to persons who enclose two cents postage. Only fifteen million of these stamps have been printed, but the demand is certain to exceed the supply.
In order to have a fitting place for the National Amateur Athletic Union Track and Field Events, it was decided to build a special track in Weequahic Park, one of the fastest in the country. This track is so situated as to allow upwards of fifty thousand spectators to witness each event.
Elaborate designs have been perfected for decorating the streets and buildings in the central part of the city, and for transforming the Armory into an Exhibition Palace for the Industrial Exhibition.
A large corps of workers are preparing the costumes for the great Historic Pageant, in which a living picture will be shown embracing the more salient features of Newark's interesting career from 1666 to the present time. The music and scenery for this colossal drama are also in course of preparation, and several thousand persons are being enlisted to perform the parts, and take their place in the choruses.
The legislature authorized a bond issue of $1,500,000.00 to provide for a Memorial Building if the people would support the plan by a referendum vote. This was heartily done at the November, 19115 election; a site has since decide on by the Memorial Building Committee and unanimously approved by the Common Council, and it is expected that the erection of the building will be begun during the celebration. The Memorial Building is to contain a spacious auditorium for the use of the people, and is intended, in the truest sense, to provide a community resort of the first grade in all respects. The exact details of its construction have not yet been decided, but its high character is assured by the experience and reputation of the men who have it in charge.
A suite of offices was secured in the Kinney Building for the business of the anniversary and here the Committee of One Hundred installed a force of employees to carry forward, under its direction, the many activities which are required to shape the celebration into a complete and successful whole. As an indispensable factor in this work the committee took over the Newarker from the Public Library to serve as its official organ. Some very notable articles have appeared in the Newarker on the Historical, civic and industrial phases of Newark, articles that would have done credit to any American magazine.
The Newarker has also carried the story of the celebration to all parts of the country and has been the means of providing the city with thousands of items of favorable newspaper comment throughout the land.
As in the case of all such functions, this celebration will have to provide its own interpretation. Nothing that can be said now can touch the real moving springs which are in the human heart, and baffle exploitation. Newark will receive much valuable publicity from the celebration, but she has not inaugurated it for that purpose. She is bound to proclaim her enterprise, her public spirit, and the united civic genius of her people in the nature of the case; but she does not put these forth as perfect, but as attributes which she hopes to develop and enlarge upon. And she hopes that the experience, the exchange of views, courtesies and even of commodities growing out of the celebration, will tend to hasten such development.
As the executive adviser of the Committee of One Hundred observed in one of his early addresses; "To have lived and labored for a period of two hundred and fifty onward years is an achievement worth our highest endeavor to fittingly signalize. It is no week-end party of transitory pleasure. It is, on the contrary, an inspiring opportunity for every citizen of this great city to pay due homage to the municipal mother which has nurtured him into manly statue and vibrant well-being. I cannot conceive of any boy or girl, any man or woman of Newark failing in this obvious duty to the home of their birth or adoption." Indeed, the golden life is here, it only needs minting into current coin. There are institutions in the city, founded for commercial gain, which have proven themselves the forerunners of the latest word in all that is altruistic. There are organizations in trade here so perfect that they have served as models for some of the most colossal industrial concerns in the country.
Somebody has said that while Newark has escaped the fate of being a theocracy, as her founders intended, she has yet preserved to the present hour some of the best things that were inculcated by her forebears. The celebration will not find her immaculate, but it will testify that she strives ever for better things, and that her course is always 'onward and upward.'
The city's aspirations today are as far above those of earlier times as her skyscrapers are above the humbler buildings they have displaced; and the high ambitions which spring, naturally, from such a celebration as the city has projected for 1916, show that she is able to strive toward a goal of more lofty achievement than any she has yet imagined.
Essentially dramatic in the broadest sense of that word, the Newark Celebration will appeal to person of all tastes, and to every degree of intelligence. In each day's doings there will be elements to please the scholar of the workman; the man from the counting room, or one from the street, the man of literary and artistic learning, or one who cares only for scenes of sport and action.
Opening with a grand Music Festival on May 1, which may be called the overture to the great drama of the season's festivities, the art of melody holds the stage for four days and nights. It will be a glorious beginning, with the streets in gala attire, and throngs of people from everywhere making their heavy demands on all lines of communication, upon the hotels, and upon the hospitality of Newark's citizens.
The First Regiment Armory will present a gorgeous spectacle on the opening night. An audience of ten thousand music lovers will pack the building to its full capacity, and the structure will be brilliantly lighted and decorated. With an orchestra of two hundred and fifty pieces, immense choruses, and famous stars of the opera, a musical feast is assured, the like of which has rarely been served in any country. When it is added that some of the music will be presented for the first time-music which is classed by judges as among the best ever created-it will be realized that here is a time for enthusiasm which will strike a keynote for all subsequent events of the celebration.
At the close of the Music Festival the Armory will be quickly transformed into an Exposition Palace, and the Newark Anniversary Industrial Exposition will be opened Saturday, May 13, by President Wilson. It will continue until June 3. All that can be said at this time of this phase of the celebration is that it will demonstrate the resources, the processes and products of Newark's varied manufactories, and show some branches of her industries in operation. It will be distinctly local affair in every respect, to show what the city is, and the important part it plays in the commerce of the world.
On May 17 the ceremonies of Founders' Day will be observed. These will be largely of a religious character.
An epitome of Newark's history will be given in the most graphic way possible, by a pageant enacted by several thousand specially trained men, women and children. the performances of this drama will begin on Tuesday evening, May 30, Memorial Day, and continue on the nights of May 31, June 1, and 2, with appropriate music, scenery, costumes and appointments. The stage will be erected in a beautiful section of Weequahic Park, and the audience will occupy seats in an immense natural amphitheatre which will provide space for forty thousand spectators. The lighting and other effects are intended to surpass anything yet done in American pageantry.
Mass meetings are being held at social centers throughout the city to awaken interest and enlist recruits for the Historic Pageant. The demonstrations by Miss Mary Porter Beegle and her aides at these meetings, have aroused a lively interest in this tremendous undertaking.
In making a festival for the two hundred and fifty years of Newark's achievement, it is most reasonable that Newark should take one clear look at the life of these years as they passed by. It is to make this glimpse the clearer that the pageant is to be produced. After all, the city is not celebrating its mere duration; it is celebrating the growth, through that duration, of its community life.
The pageant will set forth in broad, graphic action the successive phases of the city's experience. To the younger generation the study of history in books, especially of local history, is likely to have but a limited significance. Events must be seen, historical works must be heard, and the whole must be suffused with the dramatic feeling which accompanies the crises of the struggle, in order that these years may live again in their imagination.
This problem, the problem of making the past speak for itself, potently, in ringing tones, is the problem which the pageant attacks. It goes about this work directly. Have we in the history a time when the Puritan spirit was driven by its own sense of righteousness to this place; when the founders moored their boats and made their bargains? This time the pageant sets before our eyes. The founders, in their character and habit as they lived, moved and spoke, and had their being; the establishment of the town, its consistencies, its prejudices, its ideas - all these things reach the audience of the pageant easily and directly.
The growth of the modern city through the less isolated, but frequently very important events of the first half of the nineteenth century furnishes us, roughly speaking, another act in the drama, and after all it is the sequence of events, this cumulative common experience, that gives motive and meaning to our celebration as a whole.
So it is most fitting that the pageant should be the first phase of the celebration; and having looked back over its two and a half centuries of life, the city may then turn its attention to its living present and its festival year.
The pageant is not a parade or a carnival, but a great drama of the city's life. It does not take place in the streets, but in a magnificent woodland amphitheatre, under the stars. The pageant will be produced and enacted by Newark people for Newark people, for a better understanding of what Newark has been and may be. In the pageant will be seen the great men and women who, in the past, have made Newark a great city. The pageant will be a magnificent spectacle, wonderful in its color, in its scale, in its music, and in its dancing and movement. The pageant comes almost at the beginning of the anniversary celebration. Make it a success and the success of the whole celebration is assured.
Important Field Days, Parades and Conventions cover the entire celebration period as follows:
Opening Day, May 1,
Music Festival to last until May 4, inclusive.
Next, in the way of major events, comes the National Interscholastic Field and Track Contests on June 10. It is not yet known in detail, exactly which teams are to take part in these contests, but it is certain that they will be among the most notable in the annals of American athletics. The committee has set aside about $40,000.00 for prizes and expenses in connection with athletic features of the celebration.
One of the most interesting and striking parades will be that of the entire National Guard of New Jersey. On this occasion, the date of which cannot now be given, the Governor and his staff will be present, with the finest bands of music in the State, and the event will be characterized by all the pomp and splendor of a great military demonstration.
Next in interest will be the City Schools Athletic Championships, also in June, which will bring forward the prowess of the Newark school teams, and provide a program of the highest importance to local talent.
The committee has set apart about $5,000 in cash for the Amateur Junior Drivers' harness Races, which take place July 20, 21, 22, at Weequahic Park. It is known that some of the finest harness stars in the country will enter for these races. This will be a racing event of the finest magnitude and is certain to draw immense crowds from New York and the surrounding country.
The star athletic event of the autumn will be the Field and Track National Championships of the American Athletic Union, on September 8-9, in which the most noted athletes of the country will take part. These events will bring to Newark the lovers of outdoor sports form all parts of the United States and Canada.
The Church Participation Committee has made ample provision for the emphasis of the religious side of the celebration and appropriate services will be held in the churches of all denominations Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21. On May 28 there will be an open air union service in Weequahic Park.
The Historical and Literary Committee arranged a Poetry Competition, which is arousing interest all over the United States. Thirteen prizes in gold have been offered, amounting to $1,000, for the best poems upon Newark and its celebration. The contest closes April 10 and the following persons have kindly consented to act as judges:
From Newark - Hon. Frederic Adams, judge of the Circuit Court, State of New Jersey; Hon. Thomas L. Raymond, counselor-at-law, and Mayor of Newark; Miss Margaret Coult, head of English department, Barringer High School; William S. Hunt, associate editor, Newark Sunday Call.
At Large - Professor John C. Van Dyke, professor History of Art Rutgers College, lecturer Columbia, Harvard, Princeton; author; editor college histories of art; history of American art; New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Thomas L. Masson (Tom Masson), literary editor "Life"; author, editor humorous masterpieces of American literature.
Theodosia Garrison, author, "The Joy of Life" and other poems; "Earth Cry" and other poems; contributor to magazines.
The same committee will, on October 30 publish a very handsome memorial volume, which is to be a permanent record of all the most interesting features of the celebration.
We hope that after the celebration it over our citizens, as well as the thousands of travelers who judge Newark by what they see from a car window, may realize that Newark is not celebrating her industry, or her high set homes, or any other of the excellencies to which in her less modest moment she rather reluctantly confesses.
Newark is celebrating in the hope that her people may thereby be led to take note of themselves, to discover that they form a live and active thing, a Modern American City; that this live creature, their city, has its own potencies and powers, and that it can therewith do excellent things for its own people, and that it ought to do them.
In a word Newark celebrates, not because it is so excellent a city, but in the hope that it may become much more excellent.
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