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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve Countdown in New York City Started by Patrick S. Gilmore in 1888


Patrick S. Gilmore, the famous 19th century musician and bandleader, started the annual tradition of the New Year's Eve countdown in New York City on December 31, 1888.   

In those days, what is now Times Square was simply known as the Long Acre, and was changed to Times Square in 1904 when the New York Times opened its offices there.

During this era the Gilmore Band - part of New York's 22nd Regiment -- was one of the nation's  most popular bands, performing indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the year.  Gilmore conducted many of the concerts nearby at Gilmore's Garden, which later became Madison Square Garden

On this particular New Year's eve, the  Gilmore Band performed for the large audience that gathered up and down Broadway, and then Gilmore led the crowd in a countdown, firing two pistols at the stroke of midnight.  

According to Gilmore scholar Michael Cummings, Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway in 1829, and emigrated to Boston in 1849, where he lived for over twenty years. During that time he established himself as a great cornet player and bandleader.  He was active during the Civil War and wrote the popular tune, When Johnny Comes Marching Home.  He also created two massive peace jubilees in Boston's Back Bay in 1869 and 1872, before moving to New York, where he lived until his death in 1892.

For more information on Boston's Irish-American history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mayor Curley and 20,000 People attend Roxbury's Christmas Carnival, December 1914





Mayor James M. Curley
Photo courtesy of Leslie Jones Collection, BPL

"The opening night of Roxbury's first Christmas Carnival brought 20,000 people to the business district of that section of the city," reported The Boston Globe on December 15, 1914.

Holly was stretched on tall flagpoles along Washington Street and Warren Street and on Dudley Street near the elevated stations.  Ferdinand's Store was covered with blue and white decorations and the Houghton & Dutton Store on Ruggles Street was transformed into a Yuletide picture illuminated with hundreds of lights, the story reported.

The parade was the highlight of the event, in which Santa Claus "substituted a motor truck for his reindeer sleigh and a honking horn for his jingling bells," followed by a line of 90 automobiles.   Among the dignitaries behind Santa were Mayor James Michael Curley, City Councilor Alexander McGregor and Frank Ferdinand, president of the Board of Trade.

A big part of Roxbury's business stagnation, according to officials, was due to poor transportation to and from the neighborhood.

Mayor Curley declared that "after witnessing this celebration I would have no hesitation in advocating for the establishment of a Union Station in the territory bounded by Dorchester Avenue, Albany Street, Dover Street and Southampton Street" as a way of connecting Roxbury to downtown Boston.

Councilor McGregor said, “Everything comes to him who waits is philosophy of other days, not any more in harmony with our times than are the customs of those days.  These restless times demand action, movement, aggressiveness.  A waiting policy is not as a rule a popular one and our generation rather believes that nothing comes to him who waits.  If you want something go after it; no other way is possible."

The carnival continued through Christmas eve, with nightly events planned.

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Irish Connections to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770

Irish sailor Patrick Carr was one of five people shot and killed by British troops on Monday, March 5, 1770, during a confrontation that became known as the Boston Massacre. The shooting came after a tense week of acrimony between Bostonians and the British, which included a fist fight in a local tavern, small skirmishes on the streets and taunting threats by both sides.

There are several interesting Irish connections to this episode:

. The 29th British regiment, led by Captain Thomas Preston, was mostly Irish soldiers who had been conscripted, often against their will.  The names of the British troops involved in the shooting were William Wemms, James Hartigan, William McCauley, Matthew Kilroy, William Warren, John Carroll and Hugh Montgomery.

. It was Captain Preston who ordered his men to present arms to keep the crowd at bay, but the taunting continued.  Only years later was it revealed that the person who yelled out the fatal call to fire on the citizens was Montgomery.

. Thirty-one year old Patrick Carr, an Irish sailor who had come out of a house on Court Street and was moving toward the ruckus with fellow sailor Charles Connor, was the last man to be shot. He lingered for a few days and was able to give dying testimony that ultimately exonerated the soldiers.  Carr and the other four victims are buried at the Old Granary Burying Ground

. As the trial of Preston and his men loomed, the anti-Catholic dimension emerged.  The Boston Gazette revealed that many of the soldiers the British sent to Boston were Irish Catholics...The Providence Gazette suggested that Pope's Day, a virulent anti-Catholic event, should take place on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre so as to include Preston and the others in the effigy burning.

. The famous drawing of the Boston Massacre by engraver Paul Revere was actually done by 21 year old Henry Pelham, half brother of artist John Singleton Copley.  Their mother, Mary Singleton Copley, had emigrated to Boston from County Clare in Ireland in 1736.  Pelham was furious when he learned that his friend Revere had used his illustration without Pelham's permission.

. Over a century after the Massacre, in 1888, when the Boston Massacre Memorial was unveiled on Boston Common, Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly was selected to write and deliver a poem for the ceremony. 

Find out more about the Boston Massacre and colonial history by visiting the Bostonian Society at the Old State House.   

For more about Boston's Irish history, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com

This information is taken from Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past by Michael  Quinlin, published by Globe Pequot Press  in 2013.