Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day in 1892 Kalamazoo

On the evening of March 17, 1892, about 200 guests gathered at the Kalamazoo House for the annual celebration in honor of St. Patrick, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. An account of the banquet was in the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph. I'll quote some of the highlights.

“Sons and daughters of Erin's isle, who although they have removed their household goods from the green island and have transferred them to this broader and freer home of humanity, America, have never lost their affection for their 'land of sorrows' nor swerved in their allegiance to their patron, Saint Patrick.”

“Before the doors of the banquetting hall were thrown open 200 ladies and gentlemen spent a pleasant hour in the parlors meeting the honored guest of the evening, ex-Governor Cyrus G. Luce, and in social conversation the interval was agreeably relieved of possible monotony by the rendition” of several pieces of music performed by the Academy of Music orchestra.

“About 9 o'clock the doors of the banquetting hall were thrown open and the guests entered to the strains of a grand march. The entrance was adorned with a portrait of the good patron saint and the hall presented a very pretty scene. At either end were draped American flags, while chandeliers bore the green emblem of Ireland. The tables were profusely decorated with roses and other flowers.”

The menu for the evening included: “oysters, celery, cold meats, loin beef, sugar cured ham, roast turkey, beef tongue, boned turkey with jelly, sardines, spiced salmon, chicken salad, lobster salad, sliced green tomatoes, girkins, pickled pears, horseradish, chow chow, tea biscuit, Vienna bread, chocolate cake, hickory nut cake, jelly cage, angel food, vanilla ice cream, pineapple sherbet, oranges, bananas, grapes, nuts, mixed candy, raisins, tea, coffee and sweet cider.”

The program consisted of remarks by several speakers interspersed with songs sung by locals. James Kinnane began by saying “that although the people of Ireland for countless generations have passed through all the vicissitudes of fortune, and although they have been scattered through all the countries of the globe, yet the true and loyal Irish Catholic, wherever he may be found, is still true to the shamrock and to the memory of Ireland's patron saint.” He then spoke for a bit about Saint Patrick and how he first visited Ireland at fifteen and returned at the age of forty-five as a missionary. Kinnane also spoke about the present movements “looking toward the freedom of Ireland.” He finished saying “Reforms never go backward and the emancipation of Ireland will come in its own good time.”

The mayor of Kalamazoo spoke about “Our City.” “Through a picturesque valley, he said, winds a beautiful river, on whose banks is situated our noble city. From the hills can be seen a beautiful expanse of landscape. Travelers admit that our city is one of the most beautiful in the land. Its fine homes, its schools and colleges and its churches make it a desirable place of residence. There is a proverb 'If you can't live in Kalamazoo you can live near it.' [I've never heard that one before] Kalamazoo has many beautiful and cultured women, God bless them. Her business men, with their push and 'get there' qualities have advertised the city far and wide through a wide range of articles manufactured here. The town is known everywhere as Celeryville and the fame of the succulent article is everywhere. Kalamazoo has never been known to take a backward step. She has only paused at times to rest for a while before advancing on the road to development. Such is the due tribute of praise to our beautiful city of Kalamazoo, our home.”

One last note. I don't know when the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick's Day arose, but it was prior to 1898. The Telegraph reported: “If anyone wanted to know what day this is he wouldn't have to look at a calendar, for everywhere the bits of green ribbon tell the story – it's the day set apart in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.”

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