by John J. Cleary
I. Popular Picnic Groves and Washington Retreat
No city has gone in for play more heartily than Trenton. If "the groves were God's first temples," so they afforded the earliest opportunity to our people for wholesome recreation, and though the picnic grounds of the nineteenth century are now no more, Trenton's present-day park system may be said to be continuing the tradition.
The Picnic Groves
The first local picnic ground was Drum Darrach, owned by John Scully, where the local papers reported several outings, notably "a Fourth of July frolic" in 1827. Drum Darrach, it is said, was a fine demesne in Ireland near which Scully spent his youth and which lingered pleasantly in his memory as he acquired means in the New World. It was located opposite the Beakes homestead or a short distance above the present Junior High School No. 1, running from Princeton to Brunswick Avenues, eight acres in extent, and provided with abundant shade and a stream of water fed from natural springs. There was also a quarry on the property, which doubtless paid the proprietor better than did the picnic rentals. A feature of the Fourth of July frolic, above mentioned, was generous fare and a series of toasts dedicated to patriotic and sentimental thoughts.
We read subsequently that in 1847 the wooded spot was used as a recruiting camp for the Mexican War.
Jackson's Woods was a favorite resort for a number of years beginning in the '50's. Older citizens recall it with agreeable recollections. Situated to the south of Hamilton Avenue and east of what is now Chestnut Avenue, the location seems near today but before the era of improved roads it was quite a journey out Sandtown Road, which was appropriately named, a team of horses painfully pulling each omnibus, well filled, to the scene of festivities. Once arrived, however, a well-shaded grove, with a dancing platform, liquid refreshments, a flying circus and the other appurtenances of picnic pleasure fifty to seventy-five years ago were accounted well worth the difficulties of ,the journey. The local papers mention among the important gatherings at Jackson's Woods the first annual picnic of the Eagle Fire Company, July 4, 1860, a picnic of the Delaware Fire Company on August 6 of the same year, and on September 3 a picnic of the Goodwill Fire Company. The old volunteer firemen, by the way, were conspicuous in the organization of social functions, whether outdoors, or in the dancing halls of the city when the weather was unfavorable. Besides picnics and dances, they contributed not a little to public enjoyment by street parades in gorgeous equipment and by their exchanges of visits with out-of-town departments. Some of those excursions carried them as far as New England and constituted outstanding features of local recreational history until the advent of the paid department.
Other Picnic Groves
Other picnic groves of the period alluded to were Moses Woods, west of Calhoun Street and above the canal feeder; and Evans Woods, on Brunswick Avenue. It is not unlikely that the latter was an outgrowth of Drum Darrach. A "grand picnic of the Operative Potters Society" in the latter grove July 18, 1864, attracted special notice.
Two resorts that enjoyed much prestige were Morrisville Grove and Edge Hill Grove. The former possesses some historic interest since within its boundaries, just south of the main street in Morrisville, General Jean Victor Moreau lived in state while suffering exile from France (1805-13) because of his part in a conspiracy against Napoleon whom previously he had served with distinction at Hohenlinden and elsewhere. His elegant country seat was burned to the ground Christmas Day, ISII, and in after years the magnificent grove adjoining became a much admired picnic ground, patronized not alone by Trentonians but also by excursionists from Philadelphia and other cities. The annual picnic of the employees of the New Jersey Steel and Iron Companies used to draw immense crowds, a special attraction being a program of sports in which the bosses as well as the men participated. Edge Hill Grove, on the Pennsylvania side directly opposite the Trenton filtering plant, was picturesquely situated on elevated ground, not a few huge rocks marking the landscape, and many picnics were held there, especially during the proprietorship of John Thines, a popular Trenton saloon keeper. It was patronized through the '60's, '70's and '80's, but eventually real estate operators diverted the property from its original purpose, as they had done in the case of Morrisville Grove.
Hetzel's Grove, lying along the Assunpink east of Olden Avenue, probably enjoyed a longer reign of favor than any other local picnic haunt. During the Civil War, the property served as a barracks and Jacob Hetzel as early as 1854 established a brewery there. The shaded grounds adjoining later became a resort for parties, public and private. It was in particular favor with the German societies and their Canstatter Volks Fests especially stand out in happy recollection. Target shoots, local Grand Army encampments, demonstrations by political clubs and Labor Day celebrations supplied a few of the many notable occasions staged at Hetzel's. A number of athletic meets were held there, including some of the famous sprinting matches for which Trenton was noted years ago. Trenton produced world winners on the cinder path. Fred Rodgers, 1 Harry Huff, Mike Cody, Wesley Foster, "Chink" Davis and John Jamieson (a one-armed runner) all brought fame to the city, as did Pat Cavanagh, only a hod-carrier, but who figured in various six-day races and once won the belt as national champion, averaging over one hundred miles a day. John L. Sullivan was one of the kings of the fistic ring who boxed at Hetzel's and the occasion was made notable by the fact that Samuel K. Wilson, Trenton's millionaire woollen manufacturer whose life ordinarily was spent in his mills, drove out to feast his eyes on the mighty man of muscle. Other proprietors succeeded Hetzel after 1881 and for a time it was known as Hill's Grove; the ground is now part of a city playground.
1 Rodgers did 132 1/2 yards in 12 1/4 seconds (flat start) over thirty-five competitors in the Manchester (England) handicaps. He and Harry Huff of Trenton took part in the races.
Trenton has had various additional picnic groves, including one at Trenton Junction, and another at Broad Street Park, to say nothing of Cochran Park or Morris Island on the river within sight of Riverview. Cochran Park was a popular picnic resort for some years and it was the scene of numerous sporting events while it lasted. Its name is linked with a tragedy of July 4, 1879, when, the Consolloys then operating the place, the steamboat wharf gave way in the rush evening hour and numbers of excursionists were precipitated in the water. Three persons lost their lives and many narrowly escaped drowning.
Afterwards Andrew Cochran assumed the management and it was for some seasons a popular picnic and sporting resort. Sprinting, boxing and bicycling (then in its prime) were favorite diversions. All the local pugilists tried for purses and on one occasion "Snake" Vaughn and Charlie Moore fought on a barge anchored off the island. The crowning sporting event at Cochran Park was "Bob" Fitzsimmons' daily training there in preparation for one of his battles. It was also the training ground for Charley McKeever, a famous Philadelphia boxer in his day.
Trenton's public park system, which had much to do with superseding the old picnic grounds of fragrant memory, had its start in the acquirement of Cadwalader Park (1888), following a lengthy agitation, newspaper discussion and finally a popular vote. The story of Trenton's public parks, including the joint development of Mahlon Stacy Park by the State and the city, is told elsewhere in this History. The city playgrounds are also sufficiently treated in another chapter.
It is interesting, however, to recall in this place the unique venture of Andrew Quintin, which was the forerunner of the entire local scheme of outdoor entertainment of the public park type, although privately owned.
In 1846, Mr. Quintin, one of the first railroad passenger conductors between Trenton and Philadelphia and very much devoted to patriotic projects, purchased practically all the land running from the Assunpink to Livingston Street and bounded east and west by Montgomery and Broad Streets respectively, laying the tract out as "Washington Retreat," the name recalling the masterly strategy of Washington's flank movement to escape the British Army, January 2, 1777, which ended in the victory at Princeton the following day.
There were three entrances to the Retreat, the main one being from Broad Street under an artistically designed wooden archway bearing in fancy letters the park's title. The grounds were attractively designed in terraced lawns with pretty gravelled walks, a handsome fountain for goldfish, antique benches, several flower beds and a broad flight of steps leading to the water's edge, where there was a boat landing. A fleet of row boats was in active demand, pleasure parties utilizing the creek which was then a broad stream held back by a dam, for a display of masculine skill at the oars and of feminine charm in the stern. In winter the broad expanse of ice afforded opportunity for skating. The park was supplied with rest pavilions and refreshment booths and local society turned out in force to patronize Mr. Quintin's enterprise. There was a bowling alley also. Washington Retreat lasted a score of years and lived much longer in the memories of those who had enjoyed its charms. Growing value of land in this central neighborhood led to real estate operations which eventually encroached upon the entire space at disposal. At one time there was agitation to place the Trenton Battle Monument in the Retreat, the material to be brownstone from our nearby quarries.
II. The Theatres of Trenton
The story of Trenton's theatrical life, if treated with anything like fullness, would make an interesting chapter by itself, but there is space for only a hurried summary.
The old City Hall at State and Broad Streets, erected in 1837, offered our people their first opportunity to witness travelling shows. Performances began at 7:30 p.m. and the public was summoned by ringing of the town bell half an hour in advance. As only occasional programs were available, it is fair to believe that the little second-hand "saloon," as it was called, never lacked "a full house." Panoramas like "The Pilgrim's Progress" and "The Burial of De Soto," sleight-of-hand shows and "The Swiss Bell Ringers" were sample attractions, with a "variety" program once in a while, when some of the Philadelphia companies had an open night.
Temperance and Bechtel Halls
An innovation was welcomed in 1852 when Temperance Hall was built with the primary purpose of discouraging the patronage of drinking places, then scandalously common, and of providing for young men, especially, entertainment of a less questionable type. 2 A stock company purchased the ground at the southeast corner of Broad and Front Streets and put up the building still standing there, though very greatly remodelled for its present mercantile ends. The first floor was cut up into stores and an apartment of large dimensions was fitted up on the second floor, which could be used for church bazaars or stage entertainments. Dramas of the period, Negro minstrels and other performances attracted patronage, but enterprising Trentonians began to wake up to the possibilities of a playhouse pure and simple. David S. Quintin had purchased from Henry McCall, Jr., on August 23, 1853, the land now occupied by the Ribsam floral and agricultural plant on East Front Street, and provided the necessary accommodation for an equestrian academy, which for some years was well patronized by Trenton ladies and gentlemen, but the fickleness of taste in these matters is proverbial and we later find Mr. Quintin abandoning horses for theatricals. The property was altered and now bore the dignified title of "The Atheneum." An experienced manager was engaged and visiting and local troupes offered dramas and farces, the latter being quite popular, but after two seasons the town apparently handed the management "a lemon," or, to be more exact, a vinegar factory succeeded the Thespians. In 1864, Valentine, John and George Bechtel bought the place at a sheriff's sale and soon thereafter "Bechtel Hall" was advertised as a playhouse with a bar on the side. Everything was billed, from firemen's balls and church fairs to prize fights, with a generous intermingling of such plays by touring stock companies as could be given without a surplusage of scenic effects. One of the pronounced dramatic successes was "The Fireman's Bride," indicating the strong hold of the Volunteers upon public sentiment in those far-off days. Showing the embarrassments which players had to contend with, the dressing rooms were located in the second story front and performers had to reach the stage through the basement. Tony Pastor, then a young man, was a favorite entertainer, and "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Carncross and Dixie's Minstrels and like shows also drew well.
2 In the building of Temperance Hall by Henry B. Howell and others to combat the rum evil, "a jug of rum" for the workmen figures in the items of construction. The hall cost $10,000 to build and was dedicated January 28, 1852.
That Bechtel Hall enjoyed not a little prestige is indicated by the fact that more than one gubernatorial convention was held there and that several of the receptions to our soldiers returning from the Civil War also took place within its walls.
Taylor Opera House
The coming of Taylor Opera House (opened March 18, 1867) meant the eclipse of both Temperance and Bechtel Halls as theatrical show places. The former went on for many years as a resort for lectures, fairs, etc., but Bechtel Hall was less adapted for such occasions and was advertised for sale in 1870.
It is an interesting commentary on the state of mind of the "unco guid" at that period that John Taylor who was the chief promoter of the modern playhouse here did not dare to advertise it as a theatre but placated public feeling by calling it "Taylor Opera House." His fellow directors also yielded to public sentiment to the extent that a narrow twelve-foot stage was to be installed suitable only for concerts, lectures and other innocuous forms of entertainment, but Henry E. Finch, the architect, put in a stage 32 1/2 feet wide and told the directors to place the blame on him for misunderstanding orders. A still more rigorous hewing of the line had attended Mr. Quintin's opening of The Atheneum in 1857.
"The influence of the theatre," commented the virtuous State Gazette, "is generally pernicious socially and morally. Nevertheless, we think a place of dramatic amusement can be maintained in this city without detriment, if it be carefully supervised."
Taylor Opera House, which had cost about $110,000, was long the pride of local theatre-goers and not without reason, in view of the generous tributes paid to its modern construction, spacious auditorium and ample stage equipment. It was for a generation the home of the finest in dramatic performance that the country could offer. The greatest stars of the profession appeared here, 3 tragedians, dramatic favorites, queens of the comic opera, with their perfectly trained, colorful supporting companies. To name them would mean merely a recital of the full roll of America's celebrated artists before the -film seized popular favor.
3 Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry played in the old Opera House-possibly the most conspicuous visitors to act here. It is also worthy of note that Sarah Bernhardt played once in the Masonic Temple.
Trenton was growing at such a rate that it became necessary in 1887 to raise the Opera House roof and put in a second gallery. After a few years, the pressure for room manifested itself again to such an extent that when a banner attraction was booked, lines of speculators stood all night awaiting the opening of the box-office in order to reserve seats. The result was the decision by a new corporation to erect a competing playhouse, the State Street Theatre, but the Taylor Hall Association, believing that if there was to be competition they had better control it themselves, purchased the old United States Hotel property on North Warren Street and built the Trent Theatre for vaudeville purposes. The Trent opened December 7, 1903, and two days later the State Street Theatre had its premiere with Minnie Maddern Fiske and Tyrone Powers in "Mary of Magdala." The history of the two latter theatres is too familiar to necessitate lengthy chronicling here. Various ups and downs ensued, especially since the introduction of the movie. The Grand Theatre was erected on South Broad Street opposite Livingston, and later came the large South Broad Street Theatre below the Second Precinct Police Station. The Stacy and Orpheum Theatres on State Street between Broad and Montgomery Streets came along in due course, both designed for moving pictures, and now we have in addition very fine picture houses in every section of the city, including the Lincoln on North Warren Street, opened in 1928, which compares well with the handsomest of its kind in the country.
Meanwhile old Taylor's had become Keith's Capitol Theatre and has been remodelled into a gorgeous palace of amusement. The Grand has been renamed the Palace. It is only rarely that, in any of them, the spoken drama is billed, except by the Trent's occasional stock company. Trenton shares the fate of almost all American cities of its size in being transformed into a film town. In all we have now a score of playhouses, large and small.
In its long and interesting history, the Opera House, apart from theatricals, counted many notable gatherings like political state conventions of both parties, the inaugurations of New Jersey governors and mass meetings at which the cream of Republican and Democratic oratory was represented. Possibly the most historic political event enacted within its walls was the sensational nomination by acclaim of General George B. McClellan as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1877.44 A pleasant feature at Taylor Opera House under the old regime was the presence from time to time of orators of national reputation. Among the best known were Bayard Taylor, Daniel Dougherty, "Bob" Ingersoll, Henry Ward Beecher, Dewitt Talmadge, Carl Schurz, John B. Gough, James B. Dolliver, Bret Harte and many others.
Taylor Opera House and the Trent Theatre were sold to Frank V. Storss of New York November 8, 1919, for the sum of $440,000.
About 1886, William H. Lovett, a grocer at the southeast corner of Clinton Avenue and Jennie Street, made a bid for Chambersburg theatrical patronage by erecting the People's Theatre on that site, and for about a dozen years this amusement resort was maintained with more or less success. With a bar in front and an auditorium about seventy-five feet deep in the rear, vaudeville bills were offered, the house being subsequently enlarged by taking in two adjoining residences. A horseshoe gallery was added and in all nearly one thousand people could be crowded in. A. J. Walker and later Michael Murphy managed the house and Charles M. Blackford was treasurer. Lester Franklin, a Philadelphia theatrical manager, also tried to make a success by rechristening the house as the Novelty Theatre with admission fees of 6, 12, 18 and 24 cents. The successive managements included also C. Fred Ruhlman and James H. Romaine. Elmer Naylor, the one-legged acrobat, was stage manager. Years ago this theatrical venture ended in the conversion of the house into dwellings.
Other indoor amusement resorts of the long ago were Captain John Winter's Variety Theatre where Hoenig, Swern & Co. now have their stores; Patrick O'Neill's Varieties on Warren Street where Hooper's paint shop is located, Philion's Theatre in the Masonic Temple assembly room, Warren and State Streets; the Arcade on Hanover Street east of Broad; and the Eden Musee, under the management of Franklin & Dunn, at 133 North Broad Street. Lady sprinters, sword swallowers and various forms of human and animal freaks were shown in the M-usee, as well as vaudeville -or variety, as it was then called.
Amateur theatricals have always engaged a large measure of interest in Trenton. Various fraternal bodies have developed talent that found expression in every form of stage representation. The drama has been a favorite vehicle, often in neighborhood halls, and not infrequently drawing large audiences to Taylor Opera House and the other regular theatres. Pleasing assistance in bringing these efforts to success has been given by the young ladies of the city. Minstrels also have been organized from season to season and musical comedy has afforded opportunities not only for capable comedians but also for soloists and choruses comprising both sexes. St. John's Hall, Lamberton Street, witnessed many popular productions and the school hall of the Immaculate Conception Church later became locally celebrated for its stage successes. To name the various groups, however, would be invidious since only a comparatively few persons at best could be cited over a long term of years.
Some Outstanding Organizations and Individuals
Some of the organizations were induced to travel to a chain of towns within fifteen or twenty miles of Trenton and invariably they made an excellent impression. Fletcher's Minstrels, the Mercer County Wheelmen, Hills' Minstrels, Pullen's Minstrels, the Y.M.C.A. and Tindall's Ideals were in this class. Men like Thomas St. John, Reuben McDevitt, Marvin A. Riley, Sr., and Ex-Congressman Allan B. Walsh are examples of a considerable number that lent valuable aid in bringing the drama to high favor locally and thereby benefited churches, fraternal organizations and charities. As an instance, the Trenton Players over a period of five or six years, beginning in 1895, gave an annual benefit for St. Francis' Hospital. In that organization were William Rogers, Dr. F. F. C. Woodward, Clarence Morton, former Freeholder John J. Powers, John C. Hills, Frederick Fisher, Clarence Holl, August W. Endebrock, Andrew Holl, Sara Pollock, Sara Gilbert, Bessie Burns, Mrs. Minnie Beakes, Mrs. Ellis Pierson, Ray and May De Hahn.
In the '90's, Trenton enjoyed a brief but brilliant season of amateur light opera, in which a group of young musicians of decidedly superior ability participated. Those were the days when Carolyn Barber-Biddle, one of the best-loved musicians Trenton ever had, Ada Bonney Arrison, Annie Konover (later Mrs. B. C. Kuser), Louis Fischer, William T. Taylor and Ellwood Hutchinson, all local singers, were in their prime. It was this group, supported by a cast of close to sixty people, that staged some of the Gilbert and -Sullivan operas in the old Taylor Opera House, for the benefit of the Trenton City Hospital, now McKinley Hospital.
Two performances of "Pinafore," put on May 20 and 21, 1891, met with such favor that a third had to be given by popular demand, and the theatre was again crowded. An old playbill of "Pinafore" reveals that the leading roles were sung by the foregoing group, supported by Frank Roberts, Robert Howell, and Alex Turford, while the "sisters, cousins and aunts" included many of the socially and musically prominent young men and women of the city. Among the "sailors" were General Frederick Gilkyson, Dr. J. H. McCullough, Edward H. and Albert Manser, Gouverneur V. Packer, now a distinguished United States Army officer, A. W. McGuire, Chris B. Tunstall, Andrew Berrien, E. E. Tatler, J. S. Worthington and John Yard.
So successful were the productions and such attention did they attract that offers were made the performers to accept professional engagements.
In April of the same year, these men and women gave a production of "The Mikado ," which was also tremendously popular. H. C. Taylor was the manager of this show, and Walter West was musical director. Mrs. Barber-Biddle sang "Yum-Yum," John Yard "The Mikado," William T. Taylor "Ko-Ko," Frank W. Bamford "Pooh Bah" and Harriet Dickinson "Katisha." Charles W. Pette was musical director for the "Pinafore" performance, H. C. Taylor stage manager, and John G. Muirhead and H. C. Taylor business managers.
Just before these Gilbert and Sullivan operas were staged, William Fletcher and George Stannard had put on "Fletcher's Minstrels," which, of a semi-professional character, was taken on tour of nearby territory.
Carolyn Barber-Biddle, who was a leading factor in the amateur operas, was for many years a prominent soloist, and besides her appearances in opera, she sang in the choirs of a number of Trenton churches. She was also instructor in vocal culture in Pennington Seminary, then a co-educational school. She was the daughter of Alderman John W. Barber and a niece of Walter Lenox, originator of the world-famous Lenox china.
Rose Stahl played in local amateur productions before she worked her way to the professional stage. She will always be remembered as the star of "The Chorus Girl." Mrs. O. D. Oliphant was an amateur player before she attracted professional attention. Her best work was done with Henry Miller in "The Devil's Disciple" and the Dillingham production of "A Fair Exchange." Ruth Donnelly on the stage and Betty Bronson on the screen are now making theatrical history for Trenton.
The number of young men and women, who have gone out of Trenton to win success in vaudeville in its variety of forms, is legion.
Walter Fox Allen, news editor of the Trenton Times, and Marvin A. Riley, Sr., also a journalist, some years ago wrote "The Searchlight," a comedy drama of American political life, which was played in many of the leading cities, scoring its greatest success in the West.
III. Sports and Athletics
It is doubtful if any other city of its size in the United States has pursued sport in more varied forms than Trenton. Horse racing, baseball, water sports, basketball, football-the list is almost inexhaustible and it would be futile to attempt to write of them all in detail. We must therefore content ourselves with brief accounts of a few of the more prominent.
The Sport of King
The Eagle race course remains little more than a local tradition. The track, located in Chambersburg near the Roebling mills, 5 was in the midst of open country but some of the finest running-horses in the United States fourscore years ago used to show splendid bursts of speed at the periodical exhibitions. Headquarters of the owners, while in town, is said to have been at the Eagle Hotel at Broad and Ferry Streets. David S. Quintin 6 subsequently established a mile track and training stables on what is now Hamilton Avenue just beyond St. Francis' Hospital. Here all the trotters and pacers of reputation in this vicinity raced and Quintin's was well patronized for some years. A considerable colony of modern homes now covers the site.
5 Edward D. Boyd, long of Konover and Boyd's training farm, says the Eagle mile track covered ground westward from the present lines of Chestnut Avenue and south of Hamilton Avenue.
6David S. Quintin was the father of four sons, three of whom became noted drivers and a fourth became a veterinary surgeon. Quintin, Sr., was one of the finest saddle riders in the United States, giving many public exhibitions, training horses for the ring and instructing two or three generations of Trenton youth in the equestrian art. He and his sons opened a highclass riding academy patronized by Trenton's leading young men and women in 1888, which deserved permanent success but lasted only a few seasons. It ran from Academy to Commerce Street, possessed a fine tanbark ring and maintained twenty or more well-trained saddlers. Quintin, Sr., was an inspiring influence and society flocked to the resort while equestrianism remained popular. Originally he was a lithographer and a number of lithographs of famous horses survive to attest his skill. Outdoor employment became necessary for his health and equestrianism was a notable gainer.
"Goldsmith Maid's Two-Fourteen"
The Central Agricultural Society was active from 1866 to 1871 with an annual State fair and .racing program on what in the latter year became H. N. Smith's Fashion Stud Farm, a short distance from the present InterState or Trenton Fair grounds. Mr. Smith, who had become wealthy as the partner of Jay Gould in Wall Street, put up equine quarters for some of the most noted horses-stallions and brood mares-in the country and besides having his home near by, kept up a well-appointed clubhouse where the "swell" horse fanciers of the period were lavishly entertained. Goldsmith Maid, with her then unsurpassed record of 2.14, lived as befitted a real queen of the turf.
"It's admitted that Lou Dillon, Alix, Maud S. and Nancy Hanks With Goldsmith Maid's two-fourteen Played many kinds of pranks. Sunol and scores of others Make you think her star will fade, But for all their speed they missed the fame That came to Goldsmith Maid; As turf lovers all remember That from January to December The mare that won the money was the Maid."
This great mare's winnings under several owners totalled $364,200, said to be a record never equalled in the trotting world. She was foaled at Deckertown, N.J., May 1, 1857, raced eleven years (ten years driven by Budd Doble), and she died September 28, 1885, at the Fashion Farm. 7 John L. Kuser erected a granite monument over the grave of Goldsmith Maid, October 26, 1926, Governor A. Harry Moore presiding at the ceremonies which were largely attended.
7 William H. Doble once kept the Eagle Hotel and had five sons who all became drivers and horsemen. Budd, the oldest, drove Goldsmith Maid in her record-breaking performance of 2.14 in the days of heavy, old-fashioned, high-wheeled sulkies, at Boston, Mass., September 28, 1874.
"Budd Doble whose catarrhal name so fills the nasal trump of fame", is Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes' allusion to this Trenton driver in one of his poems of the period. Budd bought for H. N. Smith the farm which was developed as the famous Fashion Stud Farm. The father, William H., trained horses there and drove in many races on the Grand Circuit.
Mr. Smith in all had 130 head of stock, 90 of them belonging to himself. The farm of 365 acres was in every respect a model establishment, representing an investment of $300,000. Besides the Maid, for whom Smith had paid $40,000, the stables accommodated Jay Gould, once valued at $50,000, General Knox, Socrates, Lucy and numerous others with records. The stock farm was eventually cut into building lots, the stock having been dispersed.
Other race tracks that encouraged raising of horses for speed have been the Ewing track and still later the Trenton Driving Park, both on the Pennington Road. 8 With the advent of the automobile, interest in horse racing declined.
8 The Ewing track was owned by "Mine Host" Howell, of the Cross Keys Tavern at Ewingville, Scudder Phillips, Oliver Gray, Edward McGuire, George McKelway, Dr. Heston Bradshaw and Sheriff Charles H. Skirm. Another favorite track for some years was Henry's at Wheatsheaf, where, too, some excellent stock was quartered, including Anteo by Electioneer, for whom the proprietor paid $60,000.
The Trenton Driving Park received its impetus largely from Joseph Martin, owner and admirer of fast horses. The track was laid out on Pennington Avenue and the Scotch Road in 1892, Chris Huber's 26-acre farm being bought by the association which included Colonel Anthony R. Kuser, Judge Robert S. Woodruff, Major Michael Hurley, Thomas J. Donaghue Captain Lawrence Farrell, George Hildebrecht, John B. Fell and Al Worthington. For an account of various pleasurable events at this park, see the Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, February 7, 1926. The park, which cost $75,000 to purchase and equip, was finally sold for $26,000.
The Pitmans also deserve a place in the niche of local horse fame. For three generations, the family have owned the Pitman farm in Hamilton Township, starting with Caleb Earl Pitman, passing to G. Rusling Pitman and now in the hands of Earl Pitman, a celebrated driver, still active in handling fast horses. He keeps up a training quarters with a half-mile track attached and has scored many victories on the turf, Fonda, a pacer (2.12 1/4), being his particular pride.
While driving for pleasure has ceased, a renewal of interest in horseback riding has become pronounced in and about Trenton in the recent past. Several riding academies are in existence which have the patronage of a large number of persons, notably young people and children. Periodical riding-shows take on a social as well as an equestrian character.
The Inter-State Fair Association
The Inter-State (or Trenton) Fair Association is the one agency that has kept up an interest in the horse to the present and continues to supply an annual event of the first importance in outdoor pleasure. Its exhibitions each autumn furnish a fine program of racing and a source of healthful recreation in the open. This association, succeeding the Mercer County Board of Agriculture's modest exhibition in lower Chambersburg, 9 was set afoot in July 1888, a tract of 10 acres being purchased and subsequently enlarged, on which numerous exhibition buildings have been erected, modern roads laid out and an excellent halfmile track provided, together with an immense grandstand four hundred fifty feet long and large paddock. Products of the farm, agricultural implements, farm stock and many other objects of educational interest to the agriculturist and the urbanite are shown, besides which the amusements fronting the grandstand are manifold and varied. Besides horse racing, there are exhibitions of motor racing and the crowds which attend run well up to one hundred thousand daily, attesting the wide popularity of the concern. John Taylor, who led in the promotion of Taylor Opera House and the abolition of the street markets, was also a prime factor in the organization of the Inter-State Fair, being its first president. John Guild Muirheid was the energetic first manager, succeeded at his death by Mahlon R. Margerum, now secretary, with J. Fred Margerum as active manager. The directors have always comprised a group of Trenton's most enterprising citizens. 10
9 The first show of the Mercer Board of Agriculture was held October 7, 8 and 9, 1885, on the former Trenton baseball grounds, South Broad Street, and later was transferred to ground at the southerly end of Clinton Avenue. There was no horse racing but a mechanical and agricultural display was made with various amusement features. Ralph Ege was the original president with Franklin DeCou as the general superintendent.
10 R. Baxter Konover, for years prominently connected with the Trenton Fair, was superintendent of the Fashion Farm (1873-76) and had much to do with its early success. Later he conducted with Ed. Boyd a stock farm with a half-mile track for training. The property was absorbed in the De -Laval Steam Turbine enterprise about 1896. About sixty head of brood mares and colts usually occupied the Konover and Boyd place.
Among other outdoor pleasures of which we see less-today than formerly was boating on the Delaware. 11 It was a pretty spectacle when dozens of trim craft with white sails spread lay off the Sixth Ward and there was stimulation in the sight when they set off in a regatta for speed records. Among the celebrated racers of the period, built also for pleasure yachting, were John A. Wilson's John P. Stockton, built in 1880, and his Joel Parker; the Minerva, owned by Frank P. Ferry and James H. Wilson; the Nellie, of Fred Weise; and different craft belonging to the John W. Stokes Yacht Club. Motor yachting introduced by the Thropps gradually supplanted sailing and now the river misses its spread of white canvas but witnesses marvellous feats of speed by steam and gasoline-propelled boats.12
11 The Edwin Forrest began to run between Trenton and Philadelphia May 8, 1849. It and its successor of the same name were in service for forty-five years (until 1894). At least one steamboat ride to Philadelphia and back was one of the indispensable joys of juvenile life every summer. Over half a century ago, also, the William C. McCall, a flat-bottomed excursion steamer, plied between Trenton and White's Island, carrying passengers in the hope of creating a public picnic ground there. The smoke-stack was in sections permitting it to be lowered in passing under bridges.
12 Nor was the sport of sailing confined exclusively to summer. At different times, notably during the extremely cold winters of the early '80's, there was ice-yachting on the Delaware in which hardy sportsmen indulged. Captain John A. Wilson and his son Alfred entertained many visitors on a cat-rigged craft with iron runners, which they had constructed.
Rowing added to the pleasures of our local waterfront years ago. 13 The proper holiday diversion was to take one's best girl rowing either on the Delaware or on the Assunpink. Canoeing also had its devotees as detailed in Chap. XVII, below. 14
13 Henry S. Little, clerk in Chancery, was president of the Trenton Boat Club in 1872 ; its headquarters were at Calhoun Street bridge, and rowing was the pastime of many well-known citizens.
14 Among prominent early canoeists were Arthur H. Wood of the First Mechanics National Bank, Newton A. K. Bugbee, Edmund C. Hill, and Harry C. Allen who once won the national championship. John Boyle O'Reilly, the famous Boston poet and orator who cruised the Delaware from its source, camped over night on the river bank at Trenton.
Bicycling, Sleighing and Skating
No city became more enthusiastic over bicycling in its palmy days than Trenton. Century runs were participated in by men and women. The Mercer County Wheelmen, organized in 1889, and the Trenton Bicycle Club (1884) were two of the most prosperous organizations. 15 Among notable race riders here were Jack Colgan, Josh Lindley, Hamilton Crisp and Harvey Rogers.
15 See Chap. XVII, "Social and Fraternal Organizations."
Of course sleighing is one of the forms of pleasure that have vanished, too. Time was when Broad Street, from the prison bridge to State Street, was a speedway after every heavy fall of snow. There were no street-car tracks, but the street markets above State Street presented a barrier. In the bunch of racers were magnificent turnouts in which citizens of means held the reins over fast-steppers. Animated crowds lined the, sidewalks and cheered the contestants. In later years, the sport was transferred to Greenwood Avenue and South Warren Street with equally stimulating scenes. The automobile sounded the death knell of snow racing.
A winter sport which was exceedingly popular fifty to sixty years ago was skating. The Assunpink, east of Broad Street, was perhaps the most popular spot of all for an exhibition of skill in speed and in graceful figure skating. Crowds stood along the Broad Street bridge to view what was indeed a rarely beautiful spectacle and the young men and women of the town, with the glow of health upon their cheeks, did their utmost to excel. The Lady Pond back of the State House was patronized by the less venturesome, and the canal and canal feeder offered opportunity for the long-distance skaters, who thought little of doing the stunt to Princeton or other points and return. Spring Lake Park below Chambersburg, and a city-managed pond in front of Cadwalader Park, also live in the memory of those who liked an ice carnival.
The most ambitious effort to make this winter pastime a permanent sport took place in 1867 when the Trenton Skating Park was opened by Isaac Weatherby, D. Cooper Allison, J. Beatty Lalor and other prominent citizens. The park, properly enclosed and appointed, was located just north of Bellevue Avenue at Calhoun, where a large low field 225 by 600 feet was flooded and where, when the ice-king favored, there was daily a gathering of Trenton's most representative young people of both sexes. Championships were contested for and out-of-town experts gave exhibitions. Moonlight night events were particularly popular. It proved a profitable venture for several seasons but the uncertainties of the weather gave the park its final quietus.
Indoor roller skating also had its day as a sport sanctioned and patronized by the best society.
Baseball's Lengthy Record
Horse racing may be the sport of kings but the king of all sports for Americans is baseball. In its day, dating back to the period immediately following the Civil War, Trenton has had professional, semi-professional and no end of amateur clubs.
As early as 1867, we find different sections of the city competing against each other on the diamond, with out-of-town visitors occasionally accepting an invitation to Trenton. The earliest semi-professional games were played on the Commons east of the canal, between Hamilton and Greenwood Avenues. On that diamond the first .recorded game of consequence in this city occurred, July 4, 1867, between the Atlantics of Trenton and the Athletics of Philadelphia. The visitors administered a crushing defeat 66 to 8, but no bad blood resulted. In fact, the occasion possessed as much of a social as a sporting character. Leading citizens of Trenton joined in a formal welcome to the guests, who brought with them a number of prominent Philadelphians. Randolph H. Moore, afterwards county clerk, entertained the party at his home on their arrival, a well-filled punch bowl figuring in the ceremonies. Later there was a complimentary dinner in the finest restaurant in town at which Mayor Alfred Reed presided and toasts were answered by Counsellor William H. Barton and others. After the game, following a pretty practice of the day, Edward T. Green, later judge of the United States District Court, handed the ball to the victors and Colonel D. D. Moore, president of the Athletics, accepted it in a flowery speech. It is of historic interest to preserve the names of Trenton's representative team on this signal occasion: Colwell, catcher; Treadwell, pitcher; Laing, first base; Beasley, second base; Headley, third base; Lear, short stop; Lawton, John May and Dumont in the outfield.
Later on, grounds were found on Chestnut Avenue about where the Immaculate Conception parish buildings now stand. These grounds were enclosed. 16 A feature of early baseball was that some of Trenton's most prominent families were represented in the local team. An incident still recalled is that of a violent collision between two Trenton players while pursuing a fly ball, one of them toppling over as if seriously injured. The game was stopped and an anxious father, accompanied by a couple of physicians, hastened from the grandstand to the youth's side. Fortunately the young man recovered consciousness and next day was little the worse for his injury. That youth of nearly sixty years ago is the present Chief Justice William S. Gummere of the New Jersey Supreme Court.17 Others who played on the Trenton team with the future jurist were the late Assistant Attorney-General William Y. Johnston, who also umpired many games, Mercer Beasley, Jr., James J. Wilson, still living, the late Charles A. May, manufacturing potter, J. Herbert Potts, John Dumont, one of Trenton's earliest and most consistent enthusiasts in the sport, Frank A. Magowan, afterwards mayor of Trenton, John Moore and Jack Bradley, a notable figure on the diamond for many years. Lovett, pitcher, and Fackler, catcher, were a famous battery, the former imported from Philadelphia and planted in a State House job to hold his services.
16 The Chestnut Avenue grounds were advertised for sale in 1872, but may have been used a while longer.17 William S. Gummere was one of the best players on the Princeton college nine while an undergraduate (class of 1870).
Baseball in the '70's and '80's
This carries the game into the early '70's. In 1871, it was said that out of fifty-four games played in and out of town, the Trentons won fifty-one victories. Less activity was noticeable from 1873 to 1875, but in 1876 there was a revival of interest, resulting in numerous excellent local clubs, the Red Stockings, Marions and Resolutes among the number. Thomas Scullin, still on the payroll at the Trenton pump house, was a marvel of speedy pitching and Thomas Marion, still active at the pottery trade, was able, although young and slight, to catch him. Former Chief of Police Judson Hiner was also one of the members of the teams. Others included Howell Quigley and J. Henry Martinette, prominent business men later in life. The Webb family of North Trenton contributed several fine players.
About that time began the rivalry which lasted for a number of years between Burlington and Trenton with honors pretty well divided, although it used to be a claim that Trenton's team was made up of native Trenton players while Burlington strengthened its line with "talent" from out-of-town leagues. It all tended, however, to develop enthusiasm in the sport and at times feeling reached fever heat.
Early in the '80's the Catholic Young Men's Association of South Trenton 18 assumed local leadership and from the Association team the Trenton Club, a professional nine, had its rise with membership in the Eastern League in which Harrisburg, Reading, Richmond, Wilmington, Allentown and other cities held charters. This Trenton team played on grounds just above Greenwood Avenue and west of Chambers Street, later removing to a more central location on South Broad Street, below Cass. J. Henry Klein was secretary and treasurer. It proved too expensive a proposition for Trenton and the entire team, including Manager Patrick T. Powers, was sold to Jersey City. It was in this era of the '80's that Mike Tiernan came to the front, achieving a national reputation which he upheld for a dozen years with the New York Giants. As a batter, base runner and fielder, he was unexcelled. William O. Gilbert, also of Trenton, became a member of the Giants and had the highest batting average in a World Series played against the Athletics.
18 John Smith and Peter J. .Smith, brothers, were catcher and pitcher respectively in the Association club of South Trenton for a time - a powerful battery. They played professionally afterwards. Other outstanding names in the period of the Association baseball club were Douress, McGurk, Harkens and Donohue (a crack battery from New Brunswick), and Frank Parker.
The Trades League
There were more pretentious baseball associations but none was ever better managed nor more prolific of enjoyment for a large class of the population than the Trades League (1887 to 1895). It developed from casual competition on the diamond among our industrial plants and finally a formal organization was effected with these teams, all subjected to close discipline: Cook's East Trenton pottery, the Equitable, the Delaware, the Enterprise and Ott & Brewer's potteries, Wilson's woollen mill, Peter Fell's brickyard and the Walton brickyard. (The Pottery League had existed previously.) Only bona-fide workmen of the respective establishments might play, but a quality of skill scarcely to be expected, came to the surface. Enclosed grounds with a grandstand and bleachers were provided on land on East State Street where the Kennedy lumber yard was later established. No intoxicants were sold, and no salaries were paid but a division of the net gate receipts brought pocket money to all the players. At first, games took place on Saturdays only when the works shut down at 4 p.m., but subsequently three games a week were played. Because the teams were well matched, because there was no professionalism and because the players were well-known fellow-townsmen, great crowds usually attended the sport and much excitement attended the results.
The John A. Roebling's Sons Company also put a team in the field and it proved one of the strongest amateur combinations in the records of local baseball. Among the star players in the Trades League were "Mickey" McLaughlin, "Jimmie" Maguire, and one or two others later regarded as fit for Big League positions. Maguire, in fact, eventually became a member of the Cleveland American League Club. Much of the successful management of the Trades League was attributed to James H. Tallon, Charles E. Hayes and Michael Fitzgerald, officers of the organization.
One of the finest combinations of purely local baseball players ever brought together was the team fostered by the Young Men's Christian Association which for most of its history (1895-1905) gave exhibitions on enclosed grounds on West State Street at Parkside Avenue, John D. Faussett, now law librarian at the State House, was the first manager, upon whose resignation in igoo Richard S. Smith, manager of the telegraph office at the State House, took up the reins. It was a very popular management from first to last and resulted in the development of one of the strongest semi-professional teams in the United States, according to the judgment of visiting experts. It began with one game a week which gradually grew to three games a week, but this rather took it away from the amateur scope originally intended by the Y.M.C.A. and hence its final disbandment. Besides a warm competition between local teams, there were frequent visitors from out of town, including an occasional game with members of the National and American Leagues. The Cuban Giants and Cuban Stars, colored champions of national reputation, supplied some of the best matches ever held on the local grounds. Among the best-remembered of the "Y.M." players are Charlie Klein and Ray Egner, crack pitchers; Hugh McCune, William A. Ross and George Vandegrift, catchers; Charlie Hanford, Gilbert, "Kid" Young, Andy Boswell, Edgar Maitland, Walter Horton and Al Bratton. Several of these went into the major professional leagues and attained notable records.
The Delaware Valley League and the Tri-State
Next came what many regarded as the greatest of all Trenton Leagues - the Delaware Valley League of which Thomas F. Waldron was president and Marvin A. Riley, Sr., was secretary. In this combination .were the Y.M.C.A., Waldrons, Bowmans, American Bridge Co., Morrisville, Lambertville and others.
Through the work of the Delaware Valley League the popularity of baseball grew to such a magnitude that Colonel Lewis Perrine was led to apply for and secure a franchise in the Tri-State League which had been an outlaw organization up to that time. Some of the stars on the Trenton Tri-State League club were Gilbert, who came direct from the Giants, Dick Harley, who had been with Philadelphia, Harry Barton, from the Philadelphia Nationals, Pitcher Leo Hafford, from Boston, Pitcher Poole from Brooklyn, and Brodie, who had been with Baltimore. It was practically a team of stars.
Colonel Perrine, who was president of the local .trolley lines, fitted up first-class grounds with a superior grandstand, a little west of the old Y.M.C.A, field, and a season or two of first-class baseball was served to the public. The Tri-State League included Trenton, Lancaster, Reading, Williamsport, Harrisburg, Wilmington, York and Johnstown. As with previous ambitious efforts locally, the Tri-State failed to make the grade on West State Street and was transferred to the Morris grounds just east of Montgomery Street and above the canal feeder, a group of sport-loving Trenton men of means with James H. Letts as president attempting to keep the game alive. They did so for several seasons, carrying off the League pennant one year, but at a financial loss.
After the Tri-State came the New Jersey League, comprising half a dozen cities with "Ted" Sullivan, a professional promoter, managing the Trenton end. Later still, Trenton tried out a semi-professional league composed of local teams. There is still plenty of baseball here, but not of the professional class.
Other Reacreational Pursuits
Trenton was one of the first localities to take up the modern game of basketball, the Y.M.C.A. assembling the original team for work in its own gym. 19 A little later, we had several lively seasons at Masonic Hall, when Trenton put up a splendid game in what was known as the National League. The Eastern League period was possibly the most prosperous in the history of the sport locally, Adam Exton and Kendrick C. Hill being the Trenton managers. The Armory was the scene of conflict. Fast sport was the order of the day. Since then we have had excellent seasons at the Arena and in the public school courts. Among the names that old patrons recall as stars here are those of "Newt" Bugbee, Al Bratton, the two Coopers, William Harrison, Al Mellick, Charles Klein, Harry Stout, Harry Hough, A. W. Enderbrock, "Pete" Riley, George Cartlidge, "Chris" Stinger, and others too numerous to mention.
19 According to Marvin A. Reilly, the veteran sporting writer, basketball was first introduced locally in the old Y.M.C.A. building, the site now occupied by the Nevius store and Orpheum Theatre. The first game was played in the Y.M.C.A. gym with fifty or more on a side. After that it became normal and the Y.M.C.A. was represented by a nine-man team; later the rules called for seven men to a team and still later to five-man teams. Frank Buckley and Frederick Padderatz were the first promoters of basketball in Trenton and they were followed by Frank Smith, the printer, and the late Robert Bonham, in the days of the first professional basketball organization back in the '90's. Trenton is conceded to have produced more basketball stars than any other municipality in the United States.
Football also has had its devotees, the most notable annual events of late years having been the Thanksgiving Day contests between St. Mary's and St. John's teams, which drew thousands of spectators in the crisp fall air. This sport is now played chiefly by the schools. Soccer football, in recent years, has been played much more extensively in Trenton than the rugby game. Trenton's greatest activity in intercollegiate football came when William J. Davidson was brought to Trenton as the physical director of the Y.M.C.A. A team was organized that made Trenton famous in football. It defeated crack athletic clubs, many college teams and rival Y.M.C.A. contestants. It played Princeton at the Trenton Fair grounds and lost by the close score of 16 to 0. Among the football stars were William P. Conard, former freeholder, State Comptroller Newton A. K. Bugbee, John Conard, a lawyer, William Foster, Albert E. Bratton, Willard S. Konover, Dr. David F. Weeks, later the All-American quarterback playing with the University of Pennsylvania, "Ned" Bray, Counsellor John H. Kafes, Walter Titus, Gouverneur Packer, now a Colonel in the United States regular army, Walter Olden, assemblyman for Mercer County, and many others.
Boxing has been a virile sport that always has had a large following. "Joe" Gaffney's North Willow Street school for boxers (afterwards "Spot" Cobine's) was a favorite in its day. The Trenton Athletic Club in East Trenton witnessed many hard-fought battles through several seasons, and the bouts staged at the Arena are within easy memory.
Crack shots were plentiful years ago when pigeon shooting was legal, men like Miles Johnson, James Sampson, Charles Holt and others pursuing it year after year and scoring fancy records. Quoit pitching has developed its own champions. We have cultivated tennis and golf with fine sporting spirit, the latter at the country clubs, and Trenton has captured national honors at croquet. Bowling, pool and billiards have enjoyed the interest of some of championship class. Even fox-hunting has been indulged in by a select few in recent years and once upon a time we had a Fox Chase Tavern, which leads to the belief that it was in early days a favorite sport.
Cricket was introduced as a local sport by a number of citizens of English birth and descent and it was followed with interest for a number of years. George Fitzgeorge, John S. Wright and Charles Lockwood organized the first Trenton Cricket Club in 1860. Among the players at different times were several of our manufacturing potters. The Hon. A. S. Livingston, Mercer Beasley, Jr., Edward T. Green, Charles Ewing and F. S. Katzenbach also figured in the local team. A number of out-of-town organizations competed against the Trenton aggregation.
One could scarcely cover the ground of old-fashioned recreational events without at least an allusion to our sham battles. Dr. John Hall says that the first celebration of the kind occurred in 1806 with a parade, a dinner and a sermon. Not every year but at frequent intervals December 26 has witnessed a re-enactment of the surprise of the Hessians. The Battle of Trenton was reproduced with attention to every detail, leading citizens personating the parts of Generals Washington, Greene, Sullivan and others of the Colonial Army and no difficulty was found to secure representatives of Colonel Rall and others of the red-coated enemy. Crowds of patriots assembled in Trenton from far and near and, despite the coldest weather, sometimes with snow on the ground, stood by the hour watching a stirring spectacle of flying Hessians and pursuing Continentals from the Five Points to the Assunpink. There was a great discharge of artillery and a rattle of guns, amid which the spirit of '76 was revived. Only in the Centennial year, however, was the whole scene repeated. In that year a party of "ragamuffins," as they were affectionately called, effected a way to Washington Crossing on Christmas night, made the passage of the Delaware and paraded towards Trenton. Truth to tell, this particular venture was so full of painful memories for its footsore, weary participants that nobody afterwards proposed a repetition of the feat which Washington and his army accomplished before the real engagement took place.
After each sham battle, the leading hotels were thrown open to the participants in the spectacle and there was eating and drinking galore. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary in 1926, Trenton did herself proud with a magnificent military display in which Governor A. Harry Moore and many officers and men of the New Jersey National Guard together with the City Troop of Philadelphia and other representatives of the historic fighting divisions of the Revolutionary warriors, mounted or afoot, all bore an honored and spectacular part. Reference is made elsewhere in this work to further features of the demonstration, including President Coolidge's address to the Trenton Historical Society.
Fourth of July has always brought to Trenton a wholehearted celebration, but in the days preceding the "safe and sane" method, the observance was of a more clamorous character than of late. The most noteworthy observance was that of 1876; after a cannonade at sunrise, an imposing parade was made through the streets, cavalry, infantry and civic bodies taking part and a conspicuous feature being the Centennial wagon in which Miss Sarah Smith Stafford, in the midst of thirteen young girls appropriately costumed, rode in state and dignity. The whole town was en fete, public and private buildings being gorgeously decorated. The procession closed at the Court House where before an immense multitude a program of patriotic speeches, music and recitations was rendered. Daniel Lodor was marshal of the parade, and participants in the Court House exercises included the Rev. Dr. John Hall, the Hon. William L. Dayton, the Hon. Edward T. Green, Mayor Creveling, Edward S. Ellis and Professor Thomas J. Stewart. Miss Stafford was the daughter of Lieutenant James Bayard Stafford, of Bonne Homme Richard fame. She proudly waved the "first American flag" on every possible occasion and no patriotic celebration was complete without her presence.
Naturally the laying of the cornerstone of the Trenton Battle Monument, December 26, 1893, and the dedicatory ceremonies, October 16, 1893, were great events in local history and each supplied a chapter of magnificent oratory, notable military display and patriotic expression which can well be set down as among red-letter occasions in this narrative of Trenton's recreational side.
Spelling bees, not for school children but public exhibitions of the orthographical capacity and incapacity of lawyers, doctors, clergymen, editors and preachers, were once all the rage, often to the disillusionment of the participants and the profit of deserving charities. Possibly the most important of these old-fashioned social gatherings took place in Taylor Opera House on the evening of April 27, 1875, for the benefit of the Children's Home. General James F. Rusling and Robert C. Belville headed the opposing forces of a score of leading citizens on each side and there was great fun as one by one the mighty fell down and left the stage to the trombone notes of a mischievous orchestra player. In the Sunday Times-Advertiser of March 16, 1913, Edward S. Ellis who won "the bee" printed an account of it all in a style worthy of the great writer that he was, but the best sentence in his narrative is the following: "In recalling that memorable evening the picture which awakens the tenderest chords in my recollection is that of my daughter, a child of ten years, who when she saw me standing alone, sprang from her seat, clapped her hands and with her chubby face aglow with pleasure, called out so that everyone could hear her, `Oh, that's my papa!'"
Favorite social resorts for patrons of dancing in the older days were Taylor Hall (over the theatre), Washington Hall, St. Mary's Cathedral Hall, Turner Hall (the great resort for all important German-American events), Liederkranz Hall, St. John's Hall and various other assembly rooms of lesser note. The annual Liedertafel Masquerade Balls were heavily patronized and the military companies drew large crowds to their social pastimes. Possibly the most notable public occasion of the sort ever held in Trenton was the reception extended by the Grand Army Posts in honor of members of the old Virginia Infantry, Otey Battery and the Richmond Howitzers-all late of the Confederate Army,-the event being given in 1881 in the Opera House which was specially floored over for dancing. It was a brilliant spectacle and marked the first formal exchange of fraternal greetings to Southerners since the Civil War.
Many other events 20 might be cited, such as gubernatorial inaugurations, church pageants and the like, in testimony of the city's high rank as a pleasant place to live.
20 A memorable outing by reason of its purpose and its social prominence took place in 1875, in preparation for Trenton's part in the Centennial observance. It was held on "the grounds of H. McCall, Esq., near Trenton" (now Cadwalader Park). There was train and stage service from the city. "Lady Washington" presided in the main tent, 46 by 70 feet, and received callers in stately grandeur. Two bands of music, a "flying circus," a gipsy camp, a Swiss Dairy, and other picturesque features were enjoyed by the local swelldom of the period.
V. Music and Musicians
by Elma Lawson Johnson
It has often unjustly been remarked that Trenton is not a musical city. Yet for close to one hundred, years there has never been a time when Trenton has not had two or three active societies, whose members could make and enjoy their own music. Some of these have been factors in the cultural life of the city, and have achieved considerable reputation.
The most successful musical groups have been the singing societies. The first one of these of which much is known is the old Saengerbund. Indeed the German singing societies were for years outstanding among the musical clubs, and some of them are flourishing yet today. There have also been orchestral societies, and even clubs for organists.
Saengerbund and Liedertafel
Musical history in Trenton apparently begins with the Saengerbund, a society organized in 1847 and composed of some of the best-known Germans then living in Trenton. It continued to function until the Civil War, when like so many other organizations, its activities came to an end.
Among those who were influential in the Saengerbund was Karl Langlotz, known to thousands of graduates of Princeton University the world over, as the composer of "Old Nassau." There were also Karl Seitz, conductor of the singing society for many years, Theodore Lechner and John Glatz.
After the close of the Civil War, in February 1867, music-loving Teutons revived the Saengerbund, and renamed it the Liedertafel Singing .Society. Professor John Henry Petermann, whose band was famous here at one time, seems to have been the organizer and first conductor. Later conductors included Christian Hartmann, Edward Knapp and August Schmitt, all of Philadelphia.
Meetings of the Liedertafel were first held in the old Charles Hauser Hotel, 24 South Warren Street, later in a building on North Clinton Avenue, and for a long time in Turner Hall, South Broad Street.
Louis Brandt was the society's first president. Officers serving with him were Leopold Lener, vice-president; Phillip Mathen, secretary; and Charles Hauser, treasurer.
After a long and interesting career, the Liedertafel was discontinued in 1925. The society in 1921 bought a home of its own at North Clinton and Grant Avenues. Due perhaps to post-war conditions and other circumstances, the purchase proved too big a project for the society, and it was forced to disband.
During the many years it existed, the Liedertafel gave annual concerts that were largely attended, especially by the German population. Some of these were held in Washington Hall, the auditorium above Washington Market, at South Broad and Front Streets, but generally they took place in Turner Hall. The programs consisted of songs by German composers, sung in German, with Winkler's Band providing the accompaniments. The Liedertafel often took part in the Saengerfests of the Northeast Saengerbund, held every three years in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Newark or Brooklyn. The society competed in the prize singing contests, and sometimes won.
When the Liedertafel disbanded, many of its members went into the Liederkranz Singing Society. This club, still in existence, was formed in 1882-83, by Christian Guenther, who appears to have been its first president.
The Liederkranz was first conducted by a Professor Lipp, and those who followed him were Christopher Messerschmitt, Professor Kemme, Edward Trossbach, August Buchse and William Laufenberg.
When the Liedertafel was at its height, in the years before there were so many other forms of entertainment, the society had as many as three hundred eighty-five members, and even when it disbanded its membership was about one hundred twenty. The Liederkranz now numbers one hundred sixty.
The practice of giving annual concerts is continued by the Liederkranz, which of recent years has staged its events in the Palace and Trent Theatres, and in the new Junior School No. 4.
Another of the popular German musical clubs is the Cecilia Singing Society, founded June 6, 1889, and incorporated August 2, 1890. Henry Kuhn was the first president.
The Cecilia has the added attraction of being a beneficial society, and pays sick and death benefits. The present officers are: John L. Westenburger, Jr., president; George Fechter, vice-president; David Volz, treasurer; Fred Fechter, recording secretary and collector; Aloysius Buske, marshal; August Ptschyody, messenger; and Anthony J. Westenburger, Joseph Meunel and Frank J. Unsinger, trustees.
The society first met in the People's Theatre, at Hudson and South Clinton Avenues, afterward on South Broad Street near Dye Street, and now at Hudson and Genesee Streets. Edmund Trossbach, Sr., and Fred Sutterlin have been the conductors of the society. As with the other singing clubs, it has been the custom for the Cecilia members to hold concerts, socials, dances and outings, and to visit various cities to participate in Saengerfests.
For many years Trenton boasted several brass bands and orchestras. These flourished as far back as the '50's and '60's, and the old directories in 1857 list a Trenton Cornet and Quadrille Band, at 20 Warren Street. A year or so later there is listed the Trenton Cornet and Cotillion Band, at the same address, with Benjamin K. McClurg as the leader. He was also the founder of the organization. Mr. McClurg is remembered particularly for having brought to Trenton from Philadelphia Gottwald Winkler, father of Albert Winkler, founder and for many years conductor of the noted Winkler's Band.
Some time later the Petermann Band came into prominence. This was founded by Professor John H. Petermann, a gifted musician. He had come to Trenton at the urging of Albert Winkler, who had heard him play the cornet one summer at Long Branch, then one of the most fashionable watering places in the eastern United States. Previously Petermann had been a bandmaster in the German Army.
Some difference of opinion between Professor Albert Winkler, his brothers and Professor Petermann was the occasion for the formation of Petermann's Band. The musicians were all playing in the Taylor Opera House orchestra, conducted by Rudolph Ruhlman, when the disagreement arose. The new band proved to be quite popular, and played at some of the most select society functions and on many important public occasions, including State political conventions.
Professor Petermann later left Trenton to become leader of a government band at Fort Snelling. He afterward gave up that post, and returned to Trenton for a brief time, finally settling in Brooklyn.
The Ruhlman Orchestra, organized by Rudolph Ruhlman, was popular for a number of years at the Taylor Opera House. Its founder was an able clarinet player and violinist, who had come to Trenton from Easton, Pa., in 1864. His sons, John S. and Fred Ruhlman, were both expert musicians. Cassel Ruhlman, the young Trenton lawyer, is his grandson. Professor Ruhlman, gifted as he was, preferred to organize rather than conduct, and frequently Albert Winkler wielded the baton for him. It was Professor Winkler's own orchestra which later succeeded Ruhlman's at the Opera House.
Among the local bands of that period was the amateur organization formed by Edward Fischer, which afterward became the Wilkes Post Band. Of all the orchestras which ever played at the Taylor Opera House none it seems, enjoyed such a glorious but brief career as that conducted by Professor Langlotz. This organization included not less than forty men and on special occasions the players numbered sixty.
Professor Langlotz had been educated in Germany, and in early life he manifested unusual ability. He was a finished player on the violin, piano and organ, and soon after coming to this country he was appointed to an instructorship at Princeton University.
Winkler's Band, which made the Sunday concerts at Cadwalader Park an institution in Trenton, was the outgrowth of the musical interest and civic pride of Albert Winkler. He founded it in 1874. Although it was not the first one in Trenton, it has long outlived any of its contemporaries.
Formed in January 1874, Winkler's Band made its first public appearance on St. Patrick's Day of that year, when it had a membership of twenty. Professor Winkler's announced intention of forming a band was skeptically received, for it was believed that there was neither enough musical interest in the city nor enough financial support to maintain one. To these objections, Professor Winkler replied that-he would give the citizens a musical education, and that as for finances, engagements could be found outside the city, and both of his assertions proved to be true.
Very soon after it was organized, the band was in demand in New York, Philadelphia and other nearby cities for celebrations of all kinds. It was one time the chief attraction at Neshaminy Falls, a favorite amusement resort for both Trentonians and Philadelphians.
G.A.R. posts always sought the services of Winkler's Band for public occasions, and once the musical organization accompanied the Trenton veterans to a national convention at Baltimore. There it won the praise of President Arthur, who was in attendance, and was accordingly designated as the official concert band for the rest of the session. To be thus singled out was regarded by Professor Winkler and his men as a great distinction.
Other outstanding engagements were those in New York, when the band played at the laying of the cornerstone and dedication of Grant's Tomb and at the interment of the great General. One of its early engagements was at the Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876.
The volunteer fire companies, in their prime in the late 1800's, also made use of Winkler's Band. The volunteers indulged in parades and similar festivities on every possible occasion and Winkler's Band was always in the line of march. It even travelled with the companies when they visited other cities. For the residents of that day, it was a common sight to see the musicians, at the head of the firemen in their picturesque uniforms, swinging up Warren Street, where two of the companies were located.
In his efforts to provide good music for the education and entertainment of his fellow citizens, Professor Winkler conceived the idea of Sunday afternoon concerts at Cadwalader Park, which should be free to the public. To carry out his idea, Professor Winkler rejected a profitable engagement at Neshaminy. These musical events had to be met by subscriptions from public-spirited men and by the sale of program advertisements. The first park concert for which the band was paid was given July 16, 1888, and General Richard A. Donnelly, father of Mayor Donnelly, financed it. During that summer other Trentonians contributed the expenses of the concerts, among them being Owen Locke, North Broad Street shoe-dealer, who paid for the second Sunday concert; George Farlee, Scudder & Dunham, South Trenton Lodge No. 36, I.O.O.F., and the Trenton Street Railway Company.
Although the Sunday concerts were long established and popular events, it was not until commission government was adopted in Trenton that the city appropriated money to meet the expenses. But despite the financial struggle, thousands of Trentonians were given a wholesome and educational Sunday recreation by Professor Winkler and his musicians.
After the death of the band's founder-conductor in 1922, Martin Mayer became director. He had been a member of the .band. for more than twentyfive years, having joined as a student musician and advanced himself through his own studious efforts. He continued the traditions of Professor Winkler, and increased the size of the band, which now includes some of the finest instrumentalists in the city.
The National Guard units, with headquarters in this city, selected Winkler's as their official band, and as such it accompanied the members to Sea Girt annually. It attended the inaugurations of both President McKinley and President Wilson. Year after year, the band has entertained thousands of persons who attend the Trenton Fair.
Mendelssohn Choral Union
One of the earliest choral societies in Trenton was the Mendelssohn Choral Union which came into existence November 20, 1882. A group of earnest young musicians, some professional and some amateur, interested in advancing musical art in Trenton and developing a taste for music of a high type, organized themselves into a miniature choral society. It was their aim to start a club on such a plan, and with such governing principles as would insure its existence for many years.
Membership in the Mendelssohn Choral Union was limited to one hundred forty, and was open to singers with sufficient musical ability to be acceptable to the membership committee. Those who were among the first members, and whose names appear on the program of the Union's initial concert, were some of the best-known singers of the city in that day.
For a number of years, the Mendelssohn was a musical institution in Trenton, and a great deal of its success was due to the personality and musical ability of its first conductor, George R. Ewan, who served until 1889, when he resigned to go to New York City. He must have resumed his duties later, however, for programs of 1893 and 1894 list him as conducting the society in the concerts of those years.
Under his direction, the Mendelssohn Choral Union gave its first concert January 24, 1884, in Taylor Opera House, singing Mendelssohn's "Hymn of Praise." Miss Jennie Hatton was the accompanist and Mrs. Clementine Lasar-Studwell, soprano, and Fred W. Jameson, tenor, were the assisting artists.
After Mr. Ewan left Trenton, Charles W. Pette, the club's accompanist, was elected to serve a brief period as leader, and then B. C. Gregory, for many years superintendent of the Trenton public schools, became the Choral Union's conductor, and proved a most able director.
Under the leadership of Messrs. Ewan and Gregory, the old Mendelssohn sang such notable works as Mendelssohn's "Saint Paul," Haydn's "Creation," Handel's "Elijah," Rossini's "Stabat Mater," Mendelssohn's "First Walpurgis Night," and "The Seasons," Sir Arthur Sullivan's "The Prodigal Son" and Mendelssohn's "Rose Maiden." For many seasons the concerts were held in the Taylor Opera House, and were attended by the music lovers of the city. The last concerts were staged at the State Schools auditorium.
Men and women who have been prominent in the life of the city were members of the Mendelssohn, and notable names appear among its officers. Old programs of the first concert in 1884 list judge Edward W. Scudder as president of the organization; William Burgess, vice-president; Clayton L. Traver, secretary; S. Butler Murray, treasurer; and Harrison W. Stout, librarian. Other presidents, whose names are taken from programs, included: the Rev. Dr. Samuel Studdiford, for many years pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church (of whose choir Mr. Ewan was at the time conductor) ; Alfred C. Foster, who served from 1887 to 1893; and John L. Parsons.
The executive committee serving at the time of the first concert was composed of E. V. Richards, Alfred Foster and E. T. Hutchinson, while the membership committee was composed of Miss Jennie Earley, Miss Sallie Poland, John Hulse, William H. Cauldwell and Mr. Ewan.
Eight O'Clock Club
Perhaps the most exclusive of the older musical groups of the city was the Eight O'Clock Club, formed by Thomas J. Macpherson, gifted member of the Macpherson family so long identified with Trenton. In 1882, while in business in New York, Mr. Macpherson was coming to Trenton several times a week to continue his musical teaching and his duties as director of the choir of the Third Presbyterian Church. It was the custom for his students to give rather frequent recitals, and out of these grew the Eight O'Clock Club.
The society was formed in May 1883, in the old Macpherson home on Mercer Street, and rehearsals were also held there until the club became too large. They were then transferred to the Joseph Wood School.
Members of the Eight O'Clock Club were some of the leaders of the then younger set of the city.
Barker Gummere, Jr., who was a pupil of Mr. Macpherson's, was the club's first president and FitzJohn Porter was treasurer.
During the three years of the club's life it was the custom to give a spring and fall concert, and these were largely patronized by the socially elect of the city. Excellent programs of classical music were given, and the club even sang oratorios and similar works.
Mr. Macpherson, the club's conductor, was unusually talented. He was born in Trenton, and while still in his teens went abroad to study music. He received most of his musical education in New York, London, Paris and Dresden. Before he was twenty years old he had organized vocal classes for men in Trenton. He was a singer of ability and during the years he directed the Third Church choir, that church was noted for its music. Later Mr. Macpherson moved to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he became choirmaster of the Washington Street M.E. Church. Shortly after his removal from the city, the Eight O'Clock Club disbanded, and many of the members went into the Mendelssohn Choral Union.
The Harmonie Club was organized September 24, 1887, by Godfrey W. Schroth, then twenty-two years of age, with twenty-five members. The organization was purely amateur in personnel.
The first officers were Joseph B. Kessler, president; Charles Wittman, vice-president; Louis J. Wagner, secretary and treasurer; and John L. Paffe, librarian. Mr. Schroth was named musical director and Miss Bridget Wilson piano accompanist. Miss Wilson was later succeeded by Miss Madge W. Mershon.
Within a few months, the membership grew to fifty mixed voices, which included some of the best-known non-professional singers in the city.
The first concert was given in the old Taylor Opera House May l0, 1888, when the society, assisted by Winkler's orchestra, made an auspicious debut under the direction of Mr. Schroth.
The occasion also marked the first performance of Mr. Schroth's orchestral composition, "Harmonie Waltzes," dedicated to the club, and his four-part lullaby, "Rock Me to Sleep."
The patron list contained the names of many of the then leading citizens of the city.
The second concert of the organization was given in the Taylor Opera House January 17, 1889, by fifty-five mixed voices, with orchestral accompaniment, under the direction of Mr. Schroth. According to the old press reports available, the chorus rendered a difficult program with distinction, showing artistic improvement. During the first two years of its existence the Harmonie Club made a number of other successful public appearances.
In 1889, Mr. Schroth resigned as musical director of the Club. Mr. Joseph Allen was chosen as his temporary successor; under him the society is known to have given at least one concert. Shortly thereafter, a reorganization took place, with the return of Mr. Schroth as musical conductor, and with a membership increased to eighty voices; but after about a year of apparently considerable activity, the society permanently dissolved.
Arion Glee Club
There were many persons, singers as well as patrons, who regretted the passing of the Mendelssohn, leaving no organization to carry on its traditions. In response to the general sentiment, Mr. Gregory and a few of his singers determined to form some sort of a club for choral work, and accordingly the Arion Glee Club was organized. Its first rehearsal was held February 25, 1896, with Mr. Gregory conducting.
Its objects appear to have been to promote the love of music, and to do so at the least possible cost to concert-goers. Its first concerts were subscription affairs, although the seats not thus taken were disposed of to the general public.
Mr. Gregory continued as the Arion's conductor for four years, and at the end of that time William Woodhouse, Jr., who had been a member of the club, was elected to succeed him. Mr. Woodhouse is still, holding that position. Otto Polemann was also director of the Arions in 1911, the club's fifteenth season.
The Arion's first concert, December 14, 1897, was held, like so many of its subsequent events, in the old Association Hall, East State Street. Mr. Gregory conducted; Charles W. Pette was the accompanist; and the assisting artists were Mrs. A. Douglas Brownlie, soprano; Hugo Wittgenstein, flutist; Henry Moorhouse, violinist; and George Stannard, banjoist.
Membership in the Arion was limited to fifty, and these met for rehearsal Tuesday nights in the Y.M.C.A.
Hugh H. Hamill was president that first year, and for many years after, for as late as 1908 his name appears on the programs in that capacity. Others who have served are Edward W. Dunham, Harry A. Hill, Charles E. Sommers and A. B. Kaufman.
The Arion Glee Club was one of the first to bring noted musicians to Trenton either as assisting artists or to appear in concerts. John Barnes Wells, Maude Powell, and Erwin Nyiregyhazi are among the stars whom the Arions have presented to Trenton audiences.
One of the most flourishing of the foreign singing societies at the present time is the Aurora. This was organized as the German-Hungarian Singing Society May 17, 1905, in Padderatz Hall. The founders were Otto Breyer, John Fisher, Peter Hill, Joseph Kestner, Joseph Majofsky, Martin Schmidt, Adam Slovenyak and Peter Wilwol.
John Merkel was the first president; Joseph Kestner, vice-president; Joseph Majofsky, secretary; and Peter Wilwol, treasurer.
In 1912 the society bought its present headquarters, the building at Morris and Division Streets. At the same time, the members changed the name of their organization to .the Aurora. In 1925 the building was enlarged and is now valued at $20,000.
At the present time, the Aurora has three hundred eighty-five members. Rudolph Huebner, of Philadelphia, is the director. Philip Kramer is the president and the other officers are: Martin Mayer, vice-president; Anthony Schmeltz, secretary; and Nicholas Bohn, treasurer.
Trenton Quartette Club
Another group which, during its brief career, contributed much pleasure to the music lovers of Trenton was the Trenton Quartette Club. This club was organized some time late in 1907, and it gave its first concert February 27, 1908, in the auditorium of the State Schools.
Otto Polemann, at one time a member of the Music Department of the State Schools, later director of the Trenton Music Festivals, conductor of the Trenton Male Chorus, and now chairman of the Trenton Music Week Committee, and for many years a leading figure in musical events in Trenton, was the conductor of the Quartette. C. Dudley Wilson was its accompanist.
The club disbanded in May 1912, and its last act, an expression of its respect and admiration of Mr. Polemann, was to send him to the May Festival in Cincinnati.
Monday Musical Club
To the Monday Musical Club belongs the distinction of being the first musical society of the city composed exclusively of women. Before its advent there had been singing 'clubs for mixed voices, but none just for women.
Professor Charles S. Skilton, of the piano department of the State Schools, now head of the music department of the University of Kansas and a widely known composer, originated the idea of a women's chorus. It met with general approval and in February 1901, at a meeting held in his studio on North Clinton Avenue, the club was organized. There were fifty-two members enrolled, and many of these had been members of the old Eight O'Clock Club and of the Mendelssobn Choral Union.
It was the object of the organizers to develop artistic part-singing by women's voices, and in connection with this to bring to Trenton distinguished soloists. When it was felt that the club had fulfilled its purpose, and was no longer needed, it was disbanded.
Immediately after the club was formed, rehearsals were begun. These were held each Monday night, a custom from which the club took its name. For a number of years the rehearsals took place in a little back room in the Barlow Music Store, East State Street, but when the store was remodelled, the rehearsals were held in Library Hall. Its first concert was given April 25, 1901, in Association Hall, where all the society's events were staged for twenty years. After the first year, the club gave a May and a December concert.
Professor Skilton conducted all of the concerts until 1903, when he left Trenton to go to the West. Professor Paul Ambrose, who succeeded him at the State Schools, was promptly and unanimously elected as the club's new conductor. He assumed his duties February1904, and held that post as long as the club continued. His first concert was given in conjunction with the Arion Glee Club, when under the leadership of William Woodhouse, Jr., the two clubs sang Handel's "Messiah."
Miss Laura C. Johnson, of West State Street, was the club's first and only president. She was chosen at the organization meeting, and so ably filled her post that each year she was unanimously reelected. Miss Johnson has for many years been a patron of musical art in this city.
Miss Clara .Stelle was the first accompanist of the Monday Musical, acting for three years, when she was followed by Miss Elizabeth Thomas, who served eight years. She was in turn succeeded by Miss Stella Eccles (Mrs. Lowell Emerson), who was followed afterwards by Miss Alma Warren and then Mrs. J. Milnor Dorey.
The first secretary was Miss Ada Apgar.
Central New Jersey Chapter, N.A.O.
On October 7, 1919, a meeting of organists from Trenton and this vicinity was held at the residence of Paul Ambrose, organist of the First Presbyterian Church, for the purpose of forming the local chapter of the National Association of Organists.
It was decided to invite the organists of Trenton and .this district to meet at Rutgers College, November 20,1919. At that session, the local chapter of the N.A.O. was formed and adopted the name of the Central New Jersey Chapter. The first officers chosen were Norman Landis, Flemington, president; Paul Ambrose, Trenton, secretary; and Edward A. Mueller, Trenton, treasurer.
Presidents of the chapter since Mr. Landis have been Mr. Mueller, Charles Ford Wilson, Mrs. Kendrick C. Hill, George I. Tilton and Paul Ambrose. Among the chief aims of the Central New Jersey Chapter has been the raising of the standard of music in church services, to make them in greater conformity with the church atmosphere and to arouse public interest in the organ as a solo instrument. To this end, recitalists of national repute have played here annually, and there has been each year a Members' Recital, at which members of the society play. Through meetings a closer cooperation has been created between the clergy and the organists, and also between the organists and the Sunday school officials.
Not the least important project of the chapter has been the conduct at the Trenton School of Religious Education of classes in "Music in the Church School." The aim of this has been to acquaint those in charge of music in Sunday schools with the finest ecclesiastical music and with the best ways of getting this into use.
Another undertaking, which is likely to be far-reaching in its effect in bringing children into close contact with the church, has been the establishment of children's choirs. While this has in several cases been done in Trenton by individual organists, members of the chapter, the chapter has endorsed such activity and fostered its development.
Trenton Male Chorus
During the half-dozen years of its existence, the Trenton Male Chorus was one of the leading musical organizations of the city, and its concerts were delightful affairs. In addition to its pleasing programs, the club was noted for its excellent assisting artists.
The first concert of the Trenton Male Chorus was given January 18, 1915, at the Trent Theatre. Otto Polemann, who was conductor of .the club during its entire career, directed that first event. Madame Alma Gluck was the soloist, and Charles W. Pette was the club's accompanist.
Fred W. Mathews was the first president; Harry A. Hill, vice-president; Charles M. Titus, secretary; James E. Wassel, assistant secretary; Ambrose H. Allen, treasurer; and Daniel J. Henry, librarian.
Concerts were given annually until 1920, and among the soloists were Anna Case, Mabel Garrison and Sophie Braslau.
St. George's Glee Club
The St. George's Glee Club, a male chorus, comprising members of the three Trenton lodges of the American Order of the Sons of St. George - Chatham, Sir Charles Napier and Royal Oak-was formed to provide entertainment for the delegates to a Grand Lodge convention of the order held in Trenton, Labor Day 1918. The success of the club was assured from its inception, and this was contributed to by the fact that many of its members and its conductor, Leonard Moreton, had been associated with some of the widely renowned English choral organizations before coming to this country.
Following its first appearance, the club rapidly gained in popularity and for several years made many appearances at local functions and in concert. It donated its services to many charitable organizations and churches, and assisted them to benefit financially by these concerts. The club also entered the Welsh Eisteddfod competitions held in Philadelphia on New Year's Day 1920, 1921 and 1922.
In 1920, the St. George's Glee Club was formally organized, with Frank W. Thropp as president; the Rev. W. B. Rogers, George Ellis, Albert Cooper, Arthur J. Cartledge, Alfred Croot, Arthur F. Wildblood and William Jarvis, vice-presidents; and Frederick J. Stephenson, secretary and treasurer. Constantine Diamond and Herbert Nicholls were the accompanists, and Professor Leonard Moreton, organist and choirmaster of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, was the conductor.
Because of the death of some of the most prominent members and the removal of others from the city, the club has not made many public appearances in the last few years, confining its work to smaller group-singing in lodge functions of the Order.
Trenton Teachers' Chorus
Women teachers of the Trenton public schools interested in music organized in 1929, for the purpose of presenting works adapted to women's voices and of advancing the cause of music in the city. Membership in the organization, known as the Trenton Teachers' Chorus, has been kept open to all teachers, and many of those identified with the cultural arts have belonged to the society.
From 1920 to 1924, the Trenton Teachers' Chorus staged at least one concert annually. At these events they had as assisting artists some of the world's most famous musicians, and Mme. Schumann-Heink, Frieda Hempel, Pasquale Amato, Kathryn Meisle and Efrem Zimbalist are some that have been heard under their auspices.
Miss Catherine M. Zisgen, long supervisor of music in the Trenton public schools, was active in the organization of the Teachers' Chorus, and has been its only conductor.
Miss Anne V. Dickinson was the club's first president; Miss Mary B. Rathbun, vice-president; .Miss Emma G. Taylor, secretary; Miss Mary C. Dorety, treasurer; and Miss Lucy Bird, librarian. Miss Dickinson, Miss Rathbun and Miss Taylor are still serving; Miss Florence Ditmars has succeeded as treasurer and Miss Sadie M. Coombs as librarian.
Through the efforts of Harry Colin Thorpe and Muriel Tilden Eldridge (Mrs. R. B. Eldridge), a mixed chorus known as the Music Makers was organized in 1924. Its purpose was the study of modern choral music, and its first program presented to the public was Elgar's "Music Makers," from which the club took its name.
In its earliest days, when it was a mixed chorus, Dr. Milton F. Graver was the president. About a year after its formation, the club was reorganized as a women's chorus and Mrs. J. S. Wright was elected president. Its most ambitious undertaking after the reorganization was the presentation of Deems Taylor's "The Highwayman," in The Contemporary club house.
The Music Makers is now a study club, the aim being to provide for the artistic growth of .the club by aiding individuals to develop their talent. Miss Isabel Goulding is the president; Muriel Tilden Eldridge, accompanist; and Harry Colin Thorpe, director.
Friday Chamber Music Society
Trenton's first chamber music society was organized in 1925, largely through the efforts of Miss Jean Haverstick, a gifted young organist. The purpose was to present before Trenton audiences, each year, some of the most delightful music written for chamber music groups. From a small beginning the society has grown until it now includes about two hundred members, who support the ensemble through an annual membership fee.
The ensemble is composed of young Trenton women, all of them professionally trained in music. They are Rosalind Porter, violinist; Lou Sutphin Lawshe, cellist; Marion Bloor Compton, harpist; and Miss Haverstick, pianist and organist. S. Wesley Sears, organist and choirmaster of .St. James Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, is the director.
The society began its career in a modest way, the artist members giving chamber music concerts Friday afternoons that first season in the Bowen School, West State Street. As the audience grew in numbers, the concerts were taken to the ballroom of the Stacy-Trent.
United Choirs' Association
In October 1925 a group of organists and choirmasters of the various Trenton churches formed the United Choirs' Association, for the development of ecclesiastical music among church groups. George I. Tilton, then president of the Central New Jersey Chapter, N.A.O., was the leader in the movement to establish the association.
George H. Zimmerman was the first president; Wilfred Andrews, vice-president; and William James, secretary and treasurer. These officers have been reelected and still hold office.
The chorus of the association made its debut at a recital Sunday evening, May 9, 1926, when it presented a program of sacred choral music in Keith's Capitol Theatre. A similar program was given May 8, 1927, and May 6, 1928.
Trenton Music Committee
Numerous attempts have been made through the years to give Trenton musical opportunities but, as in the case of many other cities, these attempts have not always been successful. The result of the last unsuccessful efforts in 1926 was the formation of a Trenton Music Committee, composed of about twenty influential members.
Considerable regret was felt throughout the city when in 1926 a civic course of concerts was cancelled because of insufficient support. It was recognized that to permit the failure of such courses was to deprive the citizens of Trenton, and especially the youth of the community, of an important cultural experience. Consequently, at a meeting in January 1927 a Music Committee was formed for the purpose of sponsoring an annual course of concerts. Miss Frances M. Dickinson was chosen as chairman.
The committee has staged successfully two courses and is planning for future series.
Trenton Choral Art Society
The most recent musical group formed in Trenton is the Trenton Choral Art Society, which resulted from a volunteer chorus that sang in the autumn of 1927 in the Y.M.C.A. auditorium, with the ensemble of the Friday Chamber Music Society. So successful was the joint appearance of the two musical units, that the singers then decided to organize themselves into a choral society.
The detail of organization was carried out by Miss Jean Haverstick, organist of the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church, and pianist and organist for the Chamber Music Society. Through her efforts, judge Joseph L. Bodine became president of the society, and a group of men and women interested in developing musical appreciation in the city became the other officers and directors. Miss Mildred Apgar was named honorary vice-president; Miss Haverstick, secretary and business manager; Miss Elma Lawson Johnston, publicity manager; Mrs. Gertrude Schultz, concert manager; and Mrs. Charles H. Waters and Raymond Michael, representatives of the chorus. Mr. S. Wesley Sears, organist and choirmaster of St. James Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, was chosen as the conductor.
The society made its first appearance after its organization in Philadelphia, when it sang in March 1928, in St. James Episcopal Church, assisting the choir of that church in a presentation of Dvorak's "Stabat Mater." The first Trenton appearance was April 2, the Monday of Holy Week, when the same oratorio was given in Crescent Temple.
Trenton Music Festival Association
No account of musical clubs and societies in Trenton would be complete without some mention of the Trenton Music Festival Association under whose auspices three May festivals were given here. The association eventually met disaster on financial reefs, the cause of similar troubles in cities throughout the world.
The first festival was a direct outgrowth of the Trenton Quartette Club, which in 1908-11 gave oratorios with steadily increasing interest on the part of the public. So widespread was this interest and so generous was the support accorded The Contemporary when it gave a music festival in May 1910, that it seemed to be a logical time to give Trenton a musical festival with choruses and noted artists.
In The Contemporary festival, the Monday Musical Club, the Arion Glee Club, Trenton Quartette Club and the Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Albert T. Stretch was conductor, all participated. In the autumn of 1911, at a meeting in Mr. Polemann's apartment, it was decided that the Arions and the Quartette Club would combine for a festival and form the largest chorus available.
These two groups staged the first May festival held in this city, in April 1912, at the Trent Theatre. The New York Symphony Orchestra, with Walter Damrosch conducting, and a quartet composed of Paul Althouse, Arthur Middleton, Pauline Welch and Gertrude Rennyson, were the assisting artists. The local chorus numbered one hundred thirty-five voices. This festival was a great success both financially and artistically.
A second festival followed in 1913 at the Armory, and in 1914 the last one was held. This was also staged at the Armory. This last festival left a deficit of $3,255.78. It was felt that much of this had been unwisely expended, and the festival sentiment waned. Six guarantors assumed the unpaid balance.
Officers of the Trenton Music Festival Association were: Mrs. Otto Polemann, president; Harry A. Hill, vice-president; Elizabeth MacCrellish, secretary; and Edward W. Dunham, treasurer.
Some Prominent Trenton Musicians
Of Trenton's many highly gifted musicians, a few have sought and found recognition in the wider musical fields in the United States and Europe. Chief among these are Emma Thurston Whitehead, Richard Crooks and George Antheil.
Emma Thurston (now Mrs. C. Louis Whitehead) studied in New York City, where she was born, and while still very young sang in schools and churches there. Later she became prominently identified with the famous Beethoven Society of Chicago, of which Carl Wolfson was the leader. As the Society's soloist, Mrs. Whitehead, a mezzo-soprano with a legato voice of two and one-half octaves range, sang the most famous oratorios, an experience which was of great value to her later. Mrs. Whitehead also was soprano soloist in Trinity Episcopal Church, Chicago, for about five years. It was then that she became a member of the Remenyi Concert Company, organized by Edward Remenyi, the famous Hungarian violinist. The other artist in the company was Ferdinand Dulken, pianist, a pupil of Mendelssohn. Occasionally Teresa Carreno, the great American woman pianist, was soloist with the Remenyi Company. The trio toured the entire country for four years, playing in three hundred concerts in one year, and appearing in all the biggest cities. Connection with the Remenyi group was severed because of a serious illness, but immediately upon her recovery Mrs. Whitehead was offered a position as director of music and soloist in St. George's Church, Montreal, Canada. Incidentally she sang in the principal cities of eastern Canada.
Going to Europe she met Dame Albany, one of London's greatest singers, who was responsible for Mrs. Whitehead going to Milan, Italy, to study for nine months with the famous teacher Lamperti, who had been Mme. Albany's master. Worried over the illness of her mother in Chicago, Mrs. Whitehead broke a contract that she had made for singing Italian opera in Italy and returned to the States. Trinity Church, Chicago, asked her to come back with that choir and as an inducement offered to pay her salary for the time she had been away. It was about this time that the then Emma Thurston met and fell in love with C. Louis Whitehead, married him and came to Trenton to make her home.
Richard Crooks, who is affectionately remembered by hundreds of music-loving Trentonians as "Alex" Crooks, the boy soprano of Trinity Episcopal Church, is achieving unusual distinction in the musical world here and abroad. As a little lad, Crooks was often heard in solo work in the downtown church, under the direction of Sidney Bourne, organist and choirmaster of Trinity. He also sang in the Auditorium in Ocean Grove, where he was heard by the choirmaster of All Angels' Church, New York City, who promptly engaged him for that church where he sang as a soprano soloist for two years, later going back as a tenor soloist.
While still a young boy, Crooks sang at one of the local music festivals at which Mme. Schumann-Heink was soloist. Dr. Walter Damrosch, then conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra, also heard Crooks about this time and the two great artists became interested in him and encouraged him to study. To them much of the young man's success is dtte. Their advice was accepted, and Crooks devoted himself seriously to study until the World War, when he enlisted in the air service and won many honors as an aviator.
Returning from the service, with a finely matured voice, Crooks competed with forty-five other candidates for the position of tenor soloist of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, and won the appointment.
Soon after, the young tenor was engaged by Dr. Damrosch as soloist with the New York Symphony, and he was started on his way to fame. Since then Crooks has sung with practically all the great orchestras of America, has made his operatic debut in Berlin with astonishing success, and has sung with popular approval in Vienna, Munich and London, He has been one of the most popular concert artists in the American musical world today, singing in all the leading cities. Mr. Crooks married a native Trenton girl, Miss Mildred Pine, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry S. Pine.
In a different field George Antheil, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Antheil, of this city, is achieving remarkable success. Antheil, although not yet thirty years of age, has composed some of the most spectacular modern music, which has been the subject of intense controversy both in Europe and America.
Young Antheil, of German extraction, was born in the Sixth Ward, Trenton, July 8, 1900. He got his education in the Trenton public schools, and early manifested a tendency toward music. His first acquaintance with this art came through his mother, who sang the little lad to sleep to the melodies of the old German hymns and folk tunes. At nine years of age, Antheil began to study with local teachers, but it was soon evident that he knew more than they did, and he was finally placed under the instruction of Mae Messerschmidt, now Mrs. Alfred G. Franz. After studying with her some years, George's father placed him with Mercedes O'Leary Tucker, the brilliantly gifted musician who resided in this city several years.
Both Miss Messerschmidt and Mrs. Tucker recognized the boy's great ability, and encouraged him in his musical work. In igig his father took him to the famous Constantine von Sternburg, who was then conducting his school of music in Philadelphia. Von Sternburg, the teacher of some of the world's great artists, was impressed with the lad's gift and outlined for him a four-year course of study in harmony, counterpoint, technique and composition. The last two subjects von Sternburg was to teach the boy himself, and the first two he was to receive from Uselma Smith, of Philadelphia. Smith after a short time declared that he could teach the boy nothing more and he completed the entire course with von Sternburg in a few months. After that he studied with Ernest Bloch, the now noted Jewish composer.
His great chance for fame came in 1922 when he was invited by Martin H. Hanson to go abroad to play a scheduled series of concerts that were to have been given by Leo Ornstein. The boy played Chopin to rather cold audiences, and pricked by his reception and at once realizing his weakness as a performer, he stayed abroad to study with Schnable in Berlin.
After that he toured the cities up and down the Rhine, until he found himself dead broke financially. With a young American newspaper man, named McDonald, Antheil formed an informal sort of partnership, which resulted in a spectacular concert in Budapest. Antheil was the artist and McDonald the business manager. Just after that,.in Paris, Antheil played his much derided "Ballet Mecanique," a glorification of noise, which drove critics to despair. Antheil had discarded the composition until 1927 when he was persuaded to bring it to America. He played it in Carnegie Hall to a crowded house. Then the storm broke, and the critics of New York joined those of Europe in ridiculing and abusing the young composer.
Antheil, a product in art of the world unrest following the war, is now passing into another phase of composition and is writing operas. Three of these have been contracted for by one of .the great musical publishing houses of Europe. His opera "Glare," written on an American theme, with a libretto by himself, is the first one scheduled for production.
Mr. Antheil married abroad, and his wife is the former Mlle. Boska Marcus, niece of Arthur Schnitzler, Austrian playwright. The young Trentonian is now living abroad.
© 1929, TRENTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY