Join in planning now for #GloucesterMA 400th Anniversary in 2023!

All are invited to have fun, join in, share ideas for Gloucester’s 400th Anniversary possible celebrations in 2023. A public meeting will be held at City Hall on Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 1-3pm. Can’t attend? Email your input to the 400th steering committee: email  and check out the 400th Anniversary Facebook page For More Info

“Although Gloucester’s 400th Anniversary is five years away, we know that those years will go by quickly.  400 years deserves a year long celebration in 2023 and a steering committee has been meeting for the last six or seven months to get the process started. Three Captains have been chosen to lead the group:  Bruce Tobey, Bob Gillis and Ruth Pino. The Committee is sponsoring a public meeting on Saturday April 28, 2018 in City Hall Auditorium…What should happen during 2023? What would you participate in? What would you miss if it didn’t happen?” 

With so much advance notice, it’s fun to ruminate. Three words come quickly to mind for one idea: Virginia Lee Burton. Burton was one of the most influential children’s book author-illustrators of the 20th century and Folly Cove textile designer and founder. She received the Caldecott medal in 1943 for The Little House. Whether for the 400th Anniversary or not, I hope one day that there are tribute commissions for Virginia Lee Burton’s beloved characters Katy from Katy and the Big Snow and Mary Ann from Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel at Stage Fort playground.  Life Story and Song of Robin Hood were also informed by landscape and her life in Gloucester. (The Burton tributes could be massive, interactive and accessible bronze sculptures. Tom Otterness commissions were completed at this scale. Why not Burton? They don’t have to be. Also bring back the monumental sea serpent and the big truck. These memorable imaginative expressions were wood in the past and maintained for years. Perhaps they could be recreated with modern decking materials. And add in Burton’s Little House! )



May 1923 Gloucester Daily Times covers down to the wire plans tercentenary Gloucester Mass.jpg

Gloucester has a history of producing major anniversary celebrations which makes looking back through archives* inspiring for future plans. Here are a few I’ve pulled:

*digitizing Gloucester Daily Times and Gloucester’s municipal archives is another oft repeated plea of mine and others–am sending that one along to a 400th dream wish list…


Link to Gloucester’s 250th memorial celebration BOOK:


August 16, 1942– the city’s second (!) Tercentenary Celebration.


1923 Fighting for public art –  the Fisherman at the Wheel memorial commission

On May 21, 1923, the Gloucester Daily Times published an article about the appropriations and planning for the city’s 300th Anniversary which is remarkable in content and its late date–the celebration was just months away!  The idea itself and related costs concerning a public art commission –the one that would become Gloucester’s renowned Fisherman at the Wheel Memorial– were hammered out at a heated City Council meeting. Here’s the nearly complete transcription:

COUNCIL RECONSIDERS AND VOTES $5000 TO CELEBRATION: Equal Amount Will Be Reserved for Permanent Memorial Fund–Executive Committee Held Prolonged and Animated Session Saturday Evening. May 21, 1923 (*note ______ indicates illegible copy)

After three hours of discussion and a conference of the municipal council behind closed doors lasting about three-quarters of an hour on Saturday evening, it was voted to reconsider their action whereby the $10,000 appropriated for the anniversary committee should be alloted for a permanent memorial and voted for _____ committee to expend a sum not exceeding $5000 for the celebration, and the other $5000 to be used for the creation of a permanent memorial.

The agreement as finally reached is ______________ provide for the dedication in whole or in part of a permanent memorial to be erected and paid for jointly by the _______ city of Gloucester. “The municipal council agrees that a sum of $5000 of the amount appropriated by the city for the celebration will be for the general purposes of the committee if necessary, with the understanding that all expensea for additional police protection incurred by the  committee on public safety will be paid for by the anniversary committee. And with the further understanding that the anniversary committee will do all possible to have this sum of money applied to the permanent memorial in addition to the sum reserved ____ by the municipal _____ surplus after the celebration is over, this surplus also to be for the purpose of a permanent memorial.” The meeting opened at 8.15 o’clock, with a reading of the records by Secretary Harold H. Parsons, and following this there came without hesitation_____ ing of the celebration from those present, and for a time, one was reminded of the old town meeting days. ___________ A Piatt Andrew ___________ carnival parade by members of the art colony of the city were accepted and adopted. 

Plain Talk by Chairman Barrett-  Chairman Barrett then arose and addressed the members present and said: “I sent a communication to the municipal council some time ago to find out just what standing this celebration had with them. The letter I received was not

satisfactory as I supposed the municipal council was back of the celebration as a body. When they go on record as saying they don’t want to be held responsible financially, it is a pretty strong statement to make at this time. The appropriation of $10,000 should be unrestricted and without any strings saying it shall be used for a permanent memorial. I trust the municipal council has confidence enough in this committee and feels that it will not waste any of the funds they may raise. I feel it is a great mistake to have it broadcasted that the city of Gloucester refuses to place any money in the hands of the committee.” City Clerk Allen F. Grant asked on what the chairman based his statement that the city had appropriated no money for the celebration, saying that the letter mentioning the appropriation says the municipal council “wishes” the money to be spent on a permanent memorial. He thought it would be better to have a permanent memorial for the Spanish War veterans and get a $20,000 loan for it. He said the council had in the past appropriated money for Memorial Day, Gloucester Day and Fourth of July and that the city should not be expected_____ city celebration, he said, and the city ______ no another such celebration of a like character for 50 years. He felt the city should appropriate some money without any strings attached to it as other cities have done, and are doing to aid their own celebrations__________state done for public memorial? Representative Thomas was present, answered the question by loudly decrying the council for its ______ thing. The state said Thomas, has appropriated _____ which will permanently mark in some manner the fishing industry of Gloucester. It is very humiliating to see the city act as it has done. You can’t expect the state of Massachusetts to give you money when you’ve got such a cold city. I won’t ask for any more money and get humiliated because the city of Gloucester won’t come up and back this committee up. You, gentlemen, must stand behind your own city, but you also must have someone with backbone to back you up. Col. John W. Prentiss said there is an underlying sentiment around the town, and a lot of the people do not favor a celebration. Perhaps we are up to a point where we must either make up our minds to have it or not have it. So long as the state has appropriated $10,000 to the pot. The difficulty is that if we start arguments, we start dissension and you can’t have a party. If the Chairman feels that the city isn’t going to have a hand in the celebration, this is the time to find it out. We must either give it up or have it. It is not difficult to raise the sum needed from citizens and summer residents but there must be enthusiasm displayed. If Gloucester does not want a celebration, let us quit, for there is no use in having half a one. Representative Thomas, I am sorry to come home and find such a state of affairs; if there is anything behind this agitation against the celebration, let it come out. Someone hasn’t any sand; it’s wicked. It is the talk of the state house and it is all over Massachusetts that there is going to be a big celebration in Gloucester in August (!). Now for Heaven’s sake, what’s up? Let’s have at it. What is the undercurrent behind it all?” Col. Prentiss — If I knew I’d tell you. Mayor MacInnis– As a member of this committee, I am with you. I cannot understand why all the mildew. I said at the meeting that Gloucester could not afford to have a celebration. I also said, and I repeat, that if the wheels of commerce would cease revolving and the people stand with bowed heads for two minutes in silent prayer, that that would be celebration enough. But whatever it is we cannot afford to have the 300th Anniversary of Gloucester Party without some observance. The municipal council are for the celebration as members of the committee and will as members of the committee do just as much work as any other member. I don’t know what more you want if the council is with you. The dedication of a permanent memorial is just as much of a celebration as any part of the program. When the municipal budget was made up we had many new items on it and these new items we explained to the people, and you, Mr. Barrett, were one of my good friends who advised me that $5000 was enough to appropriate for the celebration. Mr. Barrett – No, sir! Mayor MacInnis- You are one who urged me to keep the amount down. You advised me that it was the wise course to pursue. When you people go to collect, you will find people asking you if there is any lasting result forthcoming from the celebration. Shall we lay down because the state has appropriated $10,000? Must we say let the Commonwealth put up a permanent memorial? I don’t know of any lukewarmness. Shall we let adopted sons and daughters of the city contribute and sit back and do nothing? We need the spirit of cooperation; it isn’t the money we need. When the ashes of the bonfire which users in the celebration have been hauled away, we want something that will last. We want something the people of Gloucester can look back on with pride. We want them to remember there was a celebration. The sooner we get together to boom our city and not sit around tables, the better for us. We want a committee that will get up and say we can do it.” Chairman Barrett— Perhaps, gentlemen, I may be the stumbling block in this committee. The different committee heads keep calling to me for money, but I have no money for them, and I don’t know where the money is coming from. I have talked with people who are to raise funds for the celebration and they told me it couldn’t be done. The celebration in the beginning was supposed to involve a sum of $100,000, then this was cut to $60,000 and now it is down to $37,600. I have no desire to ____ a celebration of less magnitude than this amount calls for. I want a permanent memorial as well as anyone else, if there is anything left. But when I say celebration, I mean celebration, and not a permanent memorial. It is unfair to Mr. Prentiss, Mr. Hammond, and Mrs. Farrell, who have contributed between them the sum of $16,000 to have a celebration costing $18,000 and now I dare the members of the municipal council to deny that they are not backing the celebration financially!  Mayor MacInnis – The city is not financially responsible for the celebration and guarantees no deficit. My advice to this committee is to first find out how much the celebration will cost and then cut your cloth accordingly. N. Carelton Phillips said the only thing to do is raise money. If this gets in the press it will mould public opinion. Chairman Barrett felt the city is morally bound to give the committee the $10,000 without any strings to it. Representative Thomas could understand how much the city would be thought of outside when it is known that they appropriate $10,000 that must not be touched. The first thing they asked me at the state house was how much money Gloucester was spending and I told them they needn’t worry that Gloucester would do her share. I can understand how the chairman feels. Pull the string off of that $10,000 and trust to the honesty of this committee. Alderman Parsons to Chairman Barrett– I’ve asked you a dozen times what you wanted. What do you want? Chairman Barrett- I want $10,000 without any strings to it. Carletan H. Parsons said the celebration has gone broadcast, and people from Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great ______and it’s got to go through. Mr. ________ anything in their lives but what there was was a shower of bricks, and after the bricks were fired, then the throwers turned around and hurled bouquets at them. Let’s get together now, man to man, and have the city _________ state’s appropriating $10,000, why can not the city’s appropriation be cited to the celebration, and if there is any money left, add it to the state’s money, and have the memorial of the city restricted its appropriation then _______ will also restrict their contributions in the same manner. Mayor MacInnis said there is an agitation from some of your prominent citizens that too much money was being spent on the celebration. The mistake is that the campaign for raising funds comes too close to the celebration itself, and that is what makes you worry so much. Chairman Barrett said this committee was appointed by the municipal council and now they won’t give us any support. They tell us to go out and collect , but they tell us we cannot collect a penny from them to be expended for the celebration as a celebration. I never knew until a few days ago there was going to be a permanent memorial and now we find that the permanent memorial committee has never held a meeting. Mayor MacInnis– We appropriated money for the mayor’s luncheon. Charles A. Russell. Yes, but the general public will not not be invited to be present, I take it. No one wants to see the city appropriate the sum of $10,000 unrestricted. Ex-Mayor Patch– Let’s go out united; cut the red tape on that $10,000. A motion was then made by Carleton H. Parsons that the chairman, Mr. Prentiss and the Mayor go out and confer to see if something could not be done to have the Mayor reconsider the appropriation of the $10,000, but ex-Alderman Antoine A. Silva said that as the council was present, they should be requested to go out as a body and reconsider it. Chariman Barrett – I see no reason why I should go out with the mayor. Let the council get together and settle it one way or another. Mayor MacInnis- The council will not retire unless the chairman comes out with them. Chairman Barrett – I will be only too pleased to do so. Mayor MacInnis – There will have to be the feature of the permanent memorial to be part of the official celebration before I agree to anything. Council Divide Appropriation – The council went out in the mayor’s office first. This was at 10.10 o’clock. A short time later they called for Col. Prentiss and Chairman Barrett and at 11.25 o’clock, they again returned to the council chamber, where the meeting was being held. Mayor MacInnis acting as spokesperson for the council said: I have proposed that the committee place on the program the dedication of a permanent memorial either in part or in whole as a part of the celebration. This memorial is to be built jointly by the city of Gloucester and the state of Massachusetts. We will appropriate an amount not to exceed $5000 for the celebration and set aside the other $5000 for the permanent memorial. Chairman Barrett – I think that is a fair proposition, and I call for a vote of this committee to accept or reject the offer. The vote was taken and it was unanimously carried. The program as amended in the Times previously with the exception of the dedicatory exercises of the monument, either in part or whole together with the budget calling for $37,500 to defray the expenses of the celebration was then adopted and at midnight, the meeting adjourned. (end of Gloucester Daily Times May 21, 1923 article which seemed full meeting minutes!)

The money problems were addressed rapidly. Throughout 1923, the paper included daily notices serving the community much like today’s email, social media and even crowd funding efforts. On June 10th, the Finance Committee for the Celebration launched a two week campaign to raise $30,000: “The financial campaign to raise funds for the tercentenary celebration was launched at a splendid meeting at “Bliighty,” the home of Col. and Mrs. John W. Prentiss at Eastern Point, on Saturday afternoon. The drive will open on June 24 and continue for one week. The goal will be $30,000 and workers numbering 100 will enthusiastically tackle the task when the campaign opens in two weeks time.” The steering committee furnished more information for the public printed June 20th. “The announcement by the committee on Permanent Memorial that it had definitely decided to erect a group or single piece of statuary at the new parkway comes at an opportune time. While all have been fully aware of the importance of the permanent memorial looming s it does, so largely in the plans of the general committee, the public was in somewhat of a haze about it. The committee’s announcement clears the atmosphere and the citizens may now feel that contributions to the drive will not only help insure the success of each of the four days’ entertainment but will be part of the fund to be used for a beautiful and artistic memorial to commemorate our early history our principal industry and those who have given their lives for our betterment. Just a few days remain before the start of the drive. Every citizen and resident should be a committee of one to remind his neighbor of the importance of a contribution or have him send it by mail. All these things will help the workers and best of all will help Gloucester.”

The paper was also an outlet for updates and outreach for the various committees associated with the Anniversary, like this appeal to students:

“Chairman Abbie F. Rust worked all winter “to interest the children of the public schools in the history of Gloucester. A series of 32 articles has been published in the Times and afterward reprinted and distributed to the pupils in the fifth to ninth grammar grades. The committee announced that an essay contest will be open to the pupils in these grades and to all High school scholars the date of the contest to be the week of June 4th. The subjects for each grade are as follows: Fifth Grade – “Pioneers” Dogtown Common. First settlers at Cape Ann. Sixth Grade – “Exciting Stories of Gloucester Legends” or “Pirates” The Sea serpent Our mysterious visitor. Bearskin Neck. The Fight on Coffins Beach. Any other subject. Seventh Grade – Early Explorers The Vikings, Myles Standish. Roger Conant. Eighth Grade – Gloucester’s Part in War. The French Indian Wars. The War of 1812. Gloucester in the World War. Ninth Grade – Industries The First Schooner. Evolution of the First Schooner. The Fishing Industry. Glue in Gloucester. High School First Year How Thatcher’s Island was Named. The Hermit of Gloucester. An incident from Gloucester History a) Linzee’s Attack on Gloucester b)The Escape of Horton c)The Exploits of Captain Pattillo. Second Year High School Old Forts a)Commercial Street (1744) b) Stage Fort (Revolution) c) The Ramparts (Civil War) The Story of Kettle Cove The Story of Pest House Cove Third Year High School Old Roads of Cape Ann. An interesting Old House on Cape Ann a)Ellery House b)Old Witch c)Master Moore House d)Moorehead House (1637) Gloucester in Literature a)Out of Gloucester Connelly b)Singular Life Elizabeth S P Ward c)Wreck of the Hesperus Longfellow d)Story of Dogtown Charles Mann Fourth Year High School  The Story of Peter Gott. Cape Ann Before the White Man came. Gloucester in art: a)Cecilia Beaux b)Anna Vaughn Hyatt c)John Cook d)Mr. Anderson…Essays must be sent to Mr. Fellows chairman of the judges, on Friday June 8. Prizes will consist of gold medals suitably inscribed, one medal for each grade…presented to the winners during the celebration next August.”

And another with an update about the extravagant Pagent Plans at Stage Fort Going Forward assuring ample arragements were made.

“The contracts call for the costuming of 2000 characters. The lighting specifications include many novel and original effects and this feature will be specialized. –  Accomodations for 10,000 audience – the seating will be an advance on any out doors scheme introduced here. Instead of plank seats, 7000 chairs with backs with 3000 bleacher seats as a background will be employed. As many boxes as may be called for up to 200, each seating ten persons will be provided. Already a number of these have been engaged. The interest in country wide and many expect a new and novel note in pagentry to be presented.

For no place on the continent has the rich material of 300 years of courage and adventure as Gloucester…The state and city have provided adequately for a memorial to the 8000 fishermen who have sacrificed their lives that Gloucester might be what it is and stand for what it does–the highest in Patriotism in Peace and War…the celebration will go forward along the lines planned by the late John J Somes and Fred W. Tibbets.”

The paper sprinkled reminder boxes “GLOUCESTER INVITES YOU TO HER 300TH ANNIVERSARY WEEK OF AUGUST 26.”

gdt advert boxes.jpg

In the spirit of that communication, a reminder to repeat the message for the 400th planning meeting. Spread the word!

Glou 400th

2 thoughts on “Join in planning now for #GloucesterMA 400th Anniversary in 2023!

  1. Thanks for the great overview…I will admit wonder what happened to the civil war Uniform I recall seeing in Manships Barn along with saber 60’s then. Or his Pink Nash Rambler all the classic cars 40’s-60’s on the north End hangout was Wickies “Langsford Street and Washington street near the old days Mason Square.” Quoted of course way before my time 🙂 Dave

    History is so important the look over your shoulder to present advances! History is very strong that way and I love the walks back Fishing and Granite years…all the way back to founding.

    Stagecoach to trolley’s to present day Electric late 1800’s I have read so many interesting stores about history here on GMG and as a result were able to link and research other’s – Like Halibut Points the revolution on Wheels Part I- Five. And talk with relatives/family who have a long history there also Grandmother born in MA 1896,Fenway Park 1912 the same year New Mexico and AZ got statehood.

    “Keep up the great work GMG and all the other sources locally books, paintings, Sawyer Free so many cannot name them all!! makes it come true today as yesterday!” 🙂 Dave & Kim 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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