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Fourth of July 1889

The Milwaukee Sentinel, July 5, 1889


Thousands Go to the Soldiers’ Home.

The Day’s Observance as usual very pleasant.

A Magnificent Display of Pyrotechnics During the Evening —

Picnicking, Music and Dancing the Principle Amusements.

It was a splendid day for Fourth of July enjoyments. The weather was fine, and the main attractions called out crowds of spectators. Thousands went to Athletic park to see the baseball games and the street-car lines were taxed beyond their capacity. Thousands went to Whitefish bay, thousands to the Irish picnic, and thousands to the Soldiers’ home. There was a great crowd at National park and hundreds went up the river in steamers and row boats, while hundred of others preferred a ride on the lake. The parks were all filled with people and the streets, with their changing throngs, gave evidence of the great holiday. There was the numerous small boy with his big or little fireworks, and there was the usual noise, the booming of cannon, the firing of torpedoes, the frightened horses, and when it was all over, the usual credit of casualties which the celebration of the Fourth always demands.

Over 30,000 people celebrated at the National Soldiers’ home yesterday. It was the big feature of the national holiday in Milwaukee. By 8 o’clock in the morning people began to arrive, and by 10 o’clock there were not less than 5,000 people on the grounds. They were mainly country people who came to spend the day and brought their picnic dinners with them. Their weary steeds were tethered beneath the trees away from the close-shaven lawns and the people scattered over the premises seeing their sights. Many who had never been there before looked with awe upon the grandeur of the vast area with its many attractions and sources of comfort to the army of the nation’s defenders who are so generously provided for by the government they risked their lives to save.

It was noon before very many people began to arrive from the city. Then they came in full force. Every fifteen minutes a train of ten coaches arrived on the St. Paul road and until well toward night all trains arriving were crowded. Other crowds came by the line of omnibuses which ran from the end of the street car line to the home, and there was a constant procession of carriages laden with light-hearted, happy-faced people, from whose eyes patriotism sparkled and whose features were redolent with smiles of gladness. At 4 o’clock fully 30,000 people were scattered over the 300 acres of undulating park, upon which are situated the home buildings. They walked, sat, rolled and played beneath the cooling shade of the elms, maples, oaks and other trees with which nature has do planted the rolling acres; they swarmed around the lakes, the ice cream booths, restaurants, the dining and the dancing halls, and everybody seemed happy.

A police force of seventy old soldiers patroled and guarded the building, maintaining perfect order throughout the day. At the beer hall the sale of beer was stopped at 1 o’clock, by order of Gen. Knox, governor of the home, and from that time on only summer drinks were sold, yet from the sale of these and from refreshments at the dozen ice-cream booths and the restaurants nearly $2,000 in cash was realized. All the profits of these sales, amounting to nearly $1,000, go into the National home post fund for the general benefit of the old soldiers at the home.

Music for the occasion was furnished by the National Home band, of twenty-two pieces. During the forenoon they played in the open air for the edification of the people. In the afternoon they repaired to the large concert hall where dancing was commenced and kept up till midnight, with a crowd of 2,000 or 3,000 people constantly in and about the hall. This was the band’s benefit, the receipts at the dance hall being wholly turned into the band’s treasury by the order of Gov. Knox.
The old soldiers performed all of the police and other work about the premises during the day and evening. A feature of the day was the special dinner prepared for the veterans. They feasted upon clam chowder, roast lamb with green peas and mint sauce, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, bread and butter, cheese, crackers, rhubarb pie and coffee, and the stacks of these things which the 1,800 veterans disposed of was a matter of amazement to those who were favored with a look into the culinary department of the home before and after dinner.

The evening scene at the home was grand beyond description. All the buildings were illuminated, the 6,000 flags which had fluttered among the branches of the thousands of trees during the day drooped gracefully as the day of glory died away, and the light of 5,000 Chinese lanterns hung among the trees and along the miles of drives throughout a hundred acres, tinged the vast scene with a peculiar and picturesque grandeur. Around the lakes were hung hundreds of Chinese lanterns and their reflections in the silent waters were like myriads of mirages reflected from miniature clouds of fire.

But the grandeur of the evening was capped by the magnificent pyrotechnic display costing over $800, lasting over an hour and a half and was witnessed by at least 20,000 people. In front of the main building of the home, the master hand of nature formed the land into a great natural ampitheater. Gov. Knox thought this the place where the people could get the best view of the display. Upon a rise of ground beyond, the fireworks were displayed. Several acres of the ampitheater-like lawn were packed with people and for nearly a quarter of a mile the broad drive was crowded with carriages filled with people. The display commenced at 8 o’clock with a grand aerial cannonade, and for an hour and a half the air was filled with pyrotechnics of every description, intermingled with cheer after cheer from the great crowd.

There were showers of stars of every hue, myriads of serpents of fire darting through space, battery illuminations, bayonet torbillions, explosions of monster musical shells, Indian serpent charmers and a number of very fine set pieces, among which was one specially ordered by Maj. Rowley. As it was lighted there appeared in a semi-circle the words “Three cheers for Governor Knox,” and below the words there appeared, in lines of fire, the full form and features of the generous and popular governor of the home. As if by magic, the vast concourse of people caught the idea and the three cheers went up and echoed far across the Menomonee valley and reverberated through the groves. Another set piece which brought forth cheers was “George Washington on horseback.” It was a beauty and needed no label to be recognized as “the father of his country.” The “good night” piece was followed by a “grand feu-de-joie” and the explosion of an array of large rockets and bombs, ending the entertainment.

The fireworks were paid for out of the post fund, and the people who enjoyed it are indebted for it to the old soldiers, for whose benefit they fund it and through whose efforts in managing the ice cream booths and other means of entertainment at the home the fund is kept up. It was a great day at the home and the celebration was a fine success.
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