August 4, 1909, Gloucester Day brought an audience of 20,000 to Stage Fort Park in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The 1909 pageant of “The Canterbury Pilgrims” by Percy Wallace Mackaye was touted as the “greatest open air performance ever attempted in the country”.
“Stage Fort Park was the magnet which attracted thousands of people at the close of the grand afternoon parade yesterday, the procession in that direction, commencing early and continuing all through the evening, until between the hours of 7 and 8 o’clock, there was a continuous mass of moving color along both sides of the boulevard, with the middle of the street almost covered with the swifter moving carriages and automobiles. This scene was most inspiring, giving one something upon which to build an imagination for the greater display to come, when the play and pageant were presented for their consideration. The vast amphitheatre, with its great stage, were soon filled, the latter by nearly 20,000 spectators, in the boxes, on the seats and in automobiles, while the wings of the latter were filled with (thousands of) players.”
William H Taft (1857 – 1930), the 27th President of the United States from 1909-13, planned to be in attendance, thanks to host, John Hays Hammond, Sr., his boyhood friend and college classmate at Yale. The Mayor of Gloucester at the time of the 1909 pageant was Hon. Henry H. Parsons. Artist Eric Pape (b.Oct 17, 1870 San Francisco – d.Novembre 7, 1938), Master of the Pageant, directed the Canterbury performance. He was the lead design for Gloucester’s enormous bronze plaque and granite bas-relief commemorating the Founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony set in tablet rock at Stage Fort Park and dedicated in 1907.
Few days left to bid! Link to more photos of the collectible and sale found here: sale on capeanntiques, ebay seller
July 30, 1909 Gloucester Day Badge – Unique Design to Commemorate Event
“The Gloucester Day badges have arrived and are certainly worthy of the occasion. The special gold badge to be presented to the president is fo the same design as the others. It consists of a bar, backed by anchor stock, with the cables running along each side, and in the center a miniature of President Taft, flanked by the dates 1623-1909. Suspended from this bar by two chains is the embossed shield, the central figure of which is a Georges handline fisherman, riding at anchor under bare poles. On either side, clinging griffin-like to the inner circle dividing th ose parts is the inscription, “Gloucester, mass. Settled 1623. Incorporated, 1642” and beneath this is a representation of the Roger Conant house, with the word “built” on one side and the date “1623” on the other, and the inscription, “Roger Conant House,” beneath.”
“May be worn as badges or watch fobs…Design selected after keen competition.” They were pre sold for 50 cents.
July 14 1909 press release from Fred W. Tibbets
Park, except enclosure, will be open to public
No charge will be made to enter it on Gloucester Day
Pageant will be greatest open air performance ever attempted
For the benefit of our citizens and all others attending Gloucester Day, which will be observed August 4, Fred W. Tibbets has issued the following information concerning the day and the arrangements for the grand pageant to be held at night, which will be the greatest open air performance ever attempted in the country:
“To the Editor of the times: – I desire to make some very positive statements with reference to the Gloucester Day pageant. As secretary of the committee, I am in a position to make these statements with authority.
All persons who take part in the pageant, whether they compete for prizes or not, will be admitted free. Some people would like to convey the impression that it was not so. All persons who are in the adult chorus will have their costumes furnished to them without any expense and will also be admitted free. All children who are in the children’s chorus will have their costumes furnished them without expense and will be admitted free.
No Charge to Enter Park
Admission will be charged only to the enclosure where the pageant is to take place. It is not true that it is necessary to buy a ticket to the park outside the enclosure, and then buy a ticket to the enclosure. The public will have free access to any portion of the park that is not closed in for the purpose of producing the pageant.
One or two other matters I will speak about now. The president will be at the pageant in the evening. If it is stormy, the performance takes place the next pleasant evening.
There will be extra car service on both steam and electric roads to all points after the performance. The Boston & Maine railroad will run special trains here all day and there will be excursion rates.
The performance takes place in the open air, neither the boxes nor the seats are covered, and it is a veritable mid-summer night’s festival.
Location of the Stage
The stage is built south of the boulder and borders the beach which runs towards the western entrance of the park. It is 120 feet long by 60 feet deep, elevated five feet from the ground and with a slight rise toward the back, in order to give a more effective setting for the acting. Elaborate stage setting and back ground will be provided. By placing the stage in this position, it is possible to build all the boxes and the seats on the ground and the natural rise of the land makes one tier of seats higher than the one next below it so that the last seat in enclosure will (illegible) of the (illegible) and moreover whatever is spoken on the stage can be easily understood even by those who are the farthest away.
The performance will commence at 7:30 o’clock and the pageant will close with a magnificent display of fireworks at 10:30 o’clock. The music which Walter Damrosch has especially composed for this performance is the best that he has yet put forth. those who have been privileged to hear it pronounce it superb.
There will be in the play and pageant 2000 people.
The enclosure will be brilliantly Lighted
both by electric and calcium lights. For the stage and pageant, 100 calcium lights will be required and these will be brought from New York and even as far as Chicago. Twenty five experienced men will have charge of the calcium lighting.
The officers of the High School Battalion for 1909 and also those who will be in command under Major Edgar W. Taft, will be the ushers. Competent men will be selected for ticket takers and ticket sellers at the park, and will also have the placing of the automobiles.
A conservative estimate of the number of automobiles which will be in the enclosure places them at 300 in number.
The enclosure will not be opened to the public until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, as the reset of the day will be required to get this great performance in shape.
Greatest Open Air Performance Ever Attempted.
And it is the great performance without any doubt, the greatest open air performance in the evening that has ever been attempted in this country. The performance of Maud Adams at the (Harvard) Stadium in June was certainly superb. In many respects this performance of August 4 will be far more effective, in all respects it will be its equal; but above and beyond the performance is the setting. The finest sea shore park in New England, historic ground, here where the first settlement of the Massachusetts bay colony was made, the great warships of our navy riding at anchor in the harbor close at hand, countless pleasure yachts adding brilliancy to the scene, the entire North Shore summer colony uniting with our own people to pay just tribute to the magnificence of the performance, and best of all, the presence of the president himself, the greatest honor that has come to our city and our citizens in these later years.” Fred W. Tibbets, Secretary
The president is coming! No he’s not!
Tickets are Now on Sale
July 24, 1909 “tickets are now on sale” annoucement explains that proceeds will go towards a future Roger Conant historic house museum-
Admission Tickets are now on sale at the hotels and at stores of Newton, the Druggist, Foster & Blanchard, Shackelford & Reynolds, and Peabody, the Piano Dealer.
REMEMBER- The entire net receipts of the Gloucester Day Pageant will be put away as the nucleus of a fund which will reproduce in permanent form on its original site the house (first built in 1625) of Roger Conant, First Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as a memorial historic museum.
“Miss Georgianna W. Sargent of Lennox has forwarded to Eric Pape, her check for $100 as a contribution towards the fund for the Roger Conant house to be erected at Stage Fort Park. Miss Sargent is a descendant of William Sargent one of the earliest settlers of Gloucester, and his contribution manifests her interest in the home of her ancestors.”
Accomodations Wanted for Two Thousand People
Over 500 children attended rehearsals for the chorus
Police protection was assured
crowd control “be aware of pickpockets” amenities like drinking faucets were established
President Taft’s summer home in Beverly
“The Leaders of the Many Able Committees Who Have Made Gloucester Day a Glowing Success” Hon. W.W. French, Chairman of the General Celebration Committee and Fred W. Tibbets, Secretary and Treasurer of the General Committee
and John Coffin, Walter King, Patrick Longan, Warren Bennett, H Bert Knowles, Archie Moore, John Morgan, Charles E. Story, William D. Lufkin, Charles A. Russell, Marshal Marchant, Winslow Webber, Capt. Frank S. Elliott, Addison Burnham, Hon. Henry H. Parsons, and Hon. John J. Somes
Who came and who was invited
Excerpt below from a long winded share July 9 1909 letting readers know that the upcoming pageant was in the same league as the smash Joan of Arc production, The Maid of Orleans, starring Maude Adams held earlier at Harvard University Stadium; in fact it would be better and bigger.
“Every magazine in the country and many of the leading papers have contained comment of some character upon the coming pageant in this city August 4th. “The Listener” in a recent issue of the Boston Transcript contained the following self-explanatory mention bearing upon the master of the pageant and the great event:
“Eric Pape, as “Master of the Pageant” at Gloucester in August is tolerably sure of success, combinging so remarkably each day the taste of (illegible) and the enterprise and ex ability of the entrepreneur. Perhaps as a result, we in New England here as the straightest lineal descendents, may develop something of the same zest for the historical and dramatic out-of-doors pageant that has taken posession of old England of late years. At the proper and resprectful provincial distance we always follow England in all liberaliziing and reforming politics and fashions of social advance; we are going to have the New Theatre at about the same time London gets the new National Theater in commemoration of the Shakespearian tercentenary: and now we are beginning with the pageants that have of late made Enland dream at times of the “Merrie England” of legend, so happily have they united all classes of society together again in neighborhood loyalty and harmony by virtue of the common bit of sport and work to which everybody contributes according to his or her ability–this one an ox cart that one a chario-and-four. The custom has spread to the Continent, and in Bruges the other day the procession through picturesque old streets (in themselves always a historical pageant) was filled with ladies representing the nobility and the highest classes of society in costumes reproducing the masterpieces of Flemish art. Ross Turner, the artist, created the pictures at Manchester-by-the-Sea a few years ago. The distinguished painter, John W. Alexander, grouped masses in the pictures for Maude Adams’s production at the Stadium–the general direction of some such trained eye and hand as Mr. Pape’s is the sine qua non–for the time and place, more imporatant than the President and more essential than the Secretary of the Navy and the battleships, though they may draw the automobiles, which are to pay five dollars a piece for standing room besides the dollar for each occupant.