Atlantic Telegraph Cable Celebration in Chicago
Life Span: August, 1858
After the first messages were transmitted over the Atlantic Cable in August 1858 between Valentia, Ireland, and Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, September 1st was declared as the official day of celebration in New York City.
Unofficial celebrations had been held in New York and around the country on August 18th, following the successful transmission of messages between the Queen and the President, and on August 20th an announcement of the official date was made in the New-York Daily Tribune. Similar stories appeared in other newspapers nationwide:
INTERNATIONAL CABLE JUBILEE.
By common consent there will be a great international cable jubilee, on the 1st and 2nd of September, throughout the United States, the Canadas, and Great Britain. Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis, St. John’s, New Orleans, London, and in fact most of the leading cities of this country and England, have signified their desire for such a demonstration, and arrangements are in progress to carry it into effect.
This event is the greatest which history has ever recorded in connection with science or its achievements. The day ought to be a national holiday, as much as the Fourth of July. Independence Day commemorated that glorious event which separated America from the mother country, and for the cause of humanity and freedom it was well that it should be so remembered; but the day which we are now about to celebrate is the re-union of the two nations—the marriage of the Old and the New World—not a union dependent upon the whims or caprices of prices or ambassadors, but a lasting bond, cemented by the eternal laws of Nature. We ought, by all means, to make it a national holiday—for it will commemorate an event fraught with the deepest and most enduring remembrances to the human race—and especially dear and valuable to the people of America and Great Britain. He concluded a most eloquent and brilliant peroration by recommending every member of the Board of Trade to join in the procession to-night, and sat down amid loud and enthusiastic applause.
Atlantic Cable Celebration—The Firemen Lighting Their Torches in Union Square, New York
September 11, 1858
Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1858
The Grand Celebration last evening in this city was a noble one, alike credible to Chicago, her position and relations to the enterprise just completed, and also adequate fully to the importance of the event commemorated, the completion of the Atlantic Telegraph cable. The arrangements seem to have been of the most complete and perfect character, thanks to the Committees of the Common Council and the Board of Trade acting in concert. in this matter.
The success of the evening and festivities that will make it ever memorable in our annals, was due to the remarkable and highly praiseworthy zeal with which our citizens, of all grades and classes, entered into the same.
No expense was spared and all was characterized by a zest and heartiness which gave the humblest achievements a sincerity and earnestness that placed them side by side in worth with the most lavish outlay.
The Committee of the Common Council and Board of Trade met yesterday morning and fixed upon a programme for the day. It is here proper to pay a tribute to the Board of Trade who have acted throughout this whole affair in a manner credible to themselves and to this commercial centre. Early among the events of yesterday came
At nightfall commenced the festivities commemorating the great event, with the firing of salutes from the three Divisions of the city and a general ringing of bells.
The procession commenced forming on Randolph street fronting the Court House square at about half past seven o’clock. A little later the illumination of buildings commenced.
This feature of the evening was beautiful and striking. Though most marked in its effect in the lofty five story blocks along our principal thoroughfares, illuminated throughout all their windows, by countless lights, the illumination extended from these along the streets is all sections of the city. Houses, saloons, and other private buildings, hundreds in number, two miles distant from the Court House, were brilliantly lit up, many of them with a taste of arrangement excellent and remarkable.
Among the most prominent features of this department of the evening’s high Carnival, the Court House building deserves principal mention. It was a blaze of light from all the windows of its Randolph and Washington street fronts.
The Tremont House was illuminated on both the Lake and Dearborn street fronts, and decorated with flags and streamers.
At the Briggs House the flags of England and the United States were displayed across Randolph street, both fronts of the structure were illuminated.
McVicker’s Theatre, on Madison street, was a blaze of light, and bore in front a large and elegant transparency, with an emblematic sketch of the Telegraph connecting England with the United States, with the figure of Peace bearing the olive branch, traversing the depths of the ocean in the new highway just opened. The legend was the very appropriate one—
- OBERON—Be thou here again are the Leviathan can swim a league
PUCK—I’ll put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes.
At the intersection of Dearborn and Randolph streets, thrown across from the office of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway to the Revere House (Kinzie and Clark), was a splendid transparency sixty feet in length, representing the laying of the Cable, and giving in addition, among the new “connections,” the now firmly established project of the Great Union Depot of the West Side. The legends of the transparency were as follows:
The transparency was by far the most tasteful, artistic and graceful of any.
At his office in Kendall’s Block, on the corner of Washington and Dearborn streets, which was illuminated, Allen Pinkerton, Esq., who is too good a police officer to fail to detect the full bearings of the improvement inaugurated, displayed a transparency bearing the following:
The newspaper offices, the PRESS establishment throughout, the Journal, Times, Democrat and Herald offices, as well as those of the German dailiers, were brilliantly illuminated, and the same enthusiasm appropriate to the craft on this occasion was manifested, at the leading independent job offices of the city—Rounds, Rand, and others thus did justice to the evening.
On Lasalle street the banking house of Messrs. Hoffman & Gelpcke was brilliantly illuminated, and bore transparencies. In front was suspended the tri-coler of the German States, the black, red and gold flag. Metropolitan Hall presented a magnificent appearance, and most of the stores and offices below were also illuminated. Messrs. Braunhold & Sonne, stationers, on the street, presented a brilliant array of colored variegated lamps and lanterns.
On Randolph street, opposite Metropolitan Block, the row of saloons displayed a variety of tasteful decorations. At Best’s saloon, further east, near Clark street, was a large transparency,
On South Water street the Board of Trade Rooms were brilliantly illuminated, together with the bank below; and Dole’s building the offices of leading commission firms were brilliantly lighted up
South Water Street
TOP: Franklin to Dearborn
BOTTOM: Dearborn to Lake Michigan
On Lake street the illumination included several of the finest blocks. The marble business palace of W.M. Ross & Co. was splendidly lighted, and bore the legend,
Messrs. J.H. reed & Co., T.B. Carter & Co., W.B. Keen and others illuminated their buildings. The former exhibited a large transparency.
At the Metropolitan Billiard Rooms, on Randolph near Clark, were exhibited two large transparencies,
On Clark street, near Washington, was a large transparency giving the counterfeit presentments of the Queen and the President.
On Lake street, near Wabash avenue, tow or three of the splendid new business blocks were illuminated throughout. There were numerous other stores, and countless dwellings illuminated.
On the avenues much taste was displayed by some of our citizens. Michigan Terrace was illuminated throughout nearly its whole extent. The residence of Gen. Smith and a residence adjoining were illuminated, and the shade trees in front hung with colored lamps with charming effect. We noticed on a beautiful transparency the words
All along State street the display was magnificent. At every corner bon-fires were erected. early all the prominent buildings, too, were illuminated, among which we noticed Mathews’ Block, Doggett’s store, Sutherland and Gould’s Riding Gallery, besides many other private buildings and residences.
The Richmond House, in addition to the lights in windows throughout the whole edifice, was beautifully decorated with colored lanterns. In front blazed two monster bonfires, and the effect was in the highest degree beautiful and striking—the white marble walls of the building and all its decorations being brought full out, it rose like a fairy palace or the “fabric of a dream,” which latter, however, all who know its hosts are aware the Richmond isn’t by any means.
The Metropolitan House, Revere House, Barker House and American House, as well as most of the hotels and hotel boarding-houses in the South Division, especially along the route announced to be taken by the procession, were finely illuminated.
The enthusiastic denizens of the West Side, almost in a body, transported themselves and their enthusiasm to the South Division, where the attractive portion of the celebration was centered by wise arrangements of our City Fathers; consequently, the demonstrations in that part of our city were very limited except in the matter of bonfires, which wre almost without number, extending from Lake street, north and south, and away off on the prairies, as far as the eye could reach. There were some exceptions, however, to the general desertion of this populous division of the city, which we will briefly notice. The first in point of attraction was Collins and Blatchford’s Lead Factory.
This is a large five story building, situated on the corner of Clinton and Fulton streets. In the fifth story is a Masonic Hall. In the other story is a small window fronting on the east, which is filled with variegated glass, and when lighted presented the appearance of a beautiful star. The five stories below this were brilliantly illuminated, the lights being so arranged as to produce very pleasant effects. Nearly half a score of the American and English flags were gracefully yielding to the breeze from the windows, and at the base of the fourth story was a transparency bearing the sublime inscription “ON EARTH PEACE!”
The whole appearance of the building was exceedingly beautiful and appropriate to the occasion, and attracted a large crowd of people.
On West Lake street, several buildings were illuminated, including the West Lake Street House, and others of a like description.
In West Randolph street, the West Market Hall and a number of private buildings showed much more light then is usual on ordinary occasions, as did the dwellings on West Washington, West Madison and other streets; but, as we have before said, almost the entire population of the West Division came into the South Division, to air their enthusiasm.
At the charming and tasteful home in our south-western suburbs, the Garden that bears his name, our friend Dr. William B. Egan outdid himself in a decoratuon by means of colored lamps that made his grounds enchanting and fairy-like. Several powerful locomotive “headlights” were placed as to indicate that the Doctor had no idea of hiding his light under a bushel. The residence of Manor Homes, in the same vicinity, and other residences in that quarter, were also illuminated.
But we must pause with details half gone through with. We cannot do justice to the whole, and we pause without attempting more.
The procession got under way, on its line of march, from Randolph near Clark street about half past eight o’clock, moving through our principal streets as follows:
From Clark to Lake, Lake to Dearborn, Dearborn to Madison, Madison to State, State to Jackson, jackson to Wabash Avenue, Wabash Avenue to Harrison, Harrison to Michigan Avenue.
The order of the procession, which occupied nearly an hour in passing a given point, was made up as follows:
- Gen. Swift, Chief Marshal, and Ains.
National Guard Cadets.
ll these Companies were in full uniform and presented a fine appearance as they passed through our streets. The second division of the procession was.
This was led off by the Board of Trade, the body headed by a triangular transparency bearing a sheaf of wheat on one side, and anchor upon the second, and on the other the following:
The firemen of the city without their machines, in full uniform, in numbers several hundred strong, came next, bearing torches, the line extending a distance of several blocks, a most brilliant spectacle.
A cavalcade of horsemen and a long line of single carriages brought up the rear. The several fire hands of our city discoursed fine music from their several positions in the procession. Throughout the whole time of march the streets were thronged with enthusiastic thousands and the cheering and applause was immense.
The Scene in the Harbor.
As the procession closed its march and ranged its long line of torches and transparencies on the west side of Michigan Avenue, northward from Harrison street, bands playing, the rich uniforms of the military, the red shirts brought out strongly the glow of the brilliant bonfires the scene was grand beyond description. In the background, at intervals, rose the marble fronts of the avenue rersidences, most of them brilliantly illuminated. Down the vistas of the streets extending westward from the lake shore, the eye caught the light of bonfires, and from all around rose the cheer and the din of the gathered thousands, In front along the lake shore park, ever and anon boomed the heavy salutes. A new feature was about to be added.
Suddenly from the outer breakwater of the Illinois Central Railroad, and from the tugs in the xxxx, not before the descried, rose a flight of rockets, and the fireworks held the admiration for nearly an hour, while rockets, and serpents, and Roman candles chased and crossed, and whistled and whizzed, and cut their lines of fire athwart the sky. There were no large pieces provided, but there was an abundance of the more common species named, and the spectacle scarcely could have been finer.
The Song of Steam.
As very appropriate to the celebration of the achievement of the Telegraph, Steam was called in to aid in the rejoicing, and the concert succeeding the fireworks gave in right “Calliopean”-an style the united efforts of our score of tugs, aiding the locomotives of the several depot-grounds in different parts of the city in a voluntary ear-piercing and unmistakable.
The evening was the finest imaginable, with just enough of moonlight to give the usual pleasurable lunar influence for the multitudes in the street, and yet not enough to interfere with the full glow of the bonfires, torchlights, and pyrotechnics of all varieties.
And when the evening waned, and our citizens and their dames and their little ones had gone home, and the streets were left well-nigh deserted, dark clouds gathered along the West and the puny salute of field pieces, and the glare of bon-fires and fireworks was outdone by the flash and book of the artillery of the heavens. How the thunders rolled and reverberated, and the vivid lightnings leaped forth. We could almost imagine that Nature shared in the general rejoicing, at the success of an enterprise which had given her subtlest element a new march of triumph throught he seas.
Although the evening, and its events, were such as will be long remembered by all who participated in them. And it leaves scarcely anything to be regretted or recalled. We heard of no accidents, and nothing in our knowledge occurred to mar the joyousness of the occasion.
Wynkoop, Hallenbeck & Thomas, Printers
New York: H. H. Lloyd & Co., 1858.
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