“It is many years since the Queen's Birthday was so generally observed as it was yesterday in this city.”
Hamilton Spectator May 25, 1876
May 24, 1876 was Queen Victoria’s 57th birthday and a holiday all over the British Empire.
While both the Hamilton Times and Hamilton Spectator did not publish that day, at least a couple of their employees had to work gathering information about how the day was being enjoyed by Hamiltonians.
The Spectator coverage follows :
“During the day the streets were almost deserted ; a majority of the places of business were closed, and everybody that had a heart to enjoy himself was either watching the games at the Crystal, cooling himself at the Beach, boating on the bay, luxuriating at the Horticultural Exhibition, or taking advantage of the excursion trains which were passing up and down the lines every few hours. The weather was all that could be desired. From early morning not a cloud obscured the sun, while a cool and gentle breeze fanned an atmosphere which otherwise would have been too warm.
This magnificent strip of land yesterday seemed a principal attraction. The three steamers, the Florence, Dennis Bowen and Transit, were loaded down with passengers all day, while a great number made the trip in carriages. All the steamers made very good time. The Florence made her usual time, and the Transit which has been refitted throughout shows a great improvement over last year. The Beach from early in the morning till late at night swarmed with people. The Ocean House was filled, and every nook and corner on the Beach was occupied. The Brant House also received its share of the patronage. The beautiful grounds were well filled with strollers, and although the house is not yet completed still every one was accommodated. Many people visited the Square, coming that way more to enjoy the drive than anything else. It is a matter of satisfaction to the proprietors of the pleasure steamers that no one was hurt seriously in their trips. The Beach was also quiet, no unseemly rows disturbing the pleasure of visitors.
The several excursions to and from the city on the Canada Southern, Hamilton and Lake Erie, and the Great Western Railways, were taken advantage of by a great many people, and the extra cars put on were filled in some instances to suffocation. The principal points visited were Caledonia, Niagara, Buffalo, and St. Catharines. Return tickets could be had at single fare rates.
Our fine Artillery band was engaged by the firemen of St. Catharines for their annual picnic, and we believe had a pleasant time in the City of Saints. In the evening the band of the XIII Batt. played in the Drill Shed.
This town was visited by many of our citizens yesterday who went out to dine at the Elgin House and visit the races. Several ladies avoiding the crowd at the Beach drove in this direction relishing the cool air off the mountain.
Last evening very successful theatricals were held in the Town Hall. The attendance was large and the plays very well conducted. The proceeds were large. Several Hamilton ladies and gentlemen took part.
The bay yesterday was dotted in every direction with pleasure boats and yachts, giving the surface of the water a lively appearance. No accidents occurred, and it is not reported that any one got seriously wet.”
The Spectator also carried a lengthy article about events specifically at the Crystal Palace during the Queen’s Birthday, 1876 :
“One of the chief places of interest yesterday was the Crystal Palace, at which a programme of the annual games of the St. George's Society was carried out. At an early hour in the forenoon, large crowds could be seen wending their way towards the west end of the city, and by noon the palace grounds were thronged with an immense concourse of people of both sexes and of all ages and sizes. The band of the 13th Battalion was on the ground and enlivened the proceedings with their splendid music, and the different games and athletic sports were participated in by quite a large number of competitors.
The Baseball Match
between the Standards and the Union clubs was played early in the day. As a very good prize was given for the game by Mr. Wm. Bateman, $15 in cash, it was naturally expected that each club would do its best. The result showed, however, that the Unions had no show with their opponents. In fact, from the commencement, it was evident that the game was a one sided one, the Standards having everything their own way, and finally winning by a score of 35 to 7.
The Cricket Match
was another of the games which should have been an interesting one, but which, from various causes, created but little enthusiasm. The prizes offered were very good ones, that for the highest score being a cricket bat, and for the best all-round player a silver cup presented by Mr. William Bateman. At one time, it looked as enough could not be found on the ground to make out the number required to play the game properly. However, about two o'clock, sides were chosen, and shortly after the game commenced. Three innings were played, when a number of those who had been playing, seeing their chance for the prizes gone, sneaked off, and consequently, the game was not finished. There was considerable of an altercation as to how the prizes should be awarded, but it was finally decided that the gentleman who made the highest score - a Mr. Watson, who had a score of 12 - should receive the bat, and that five of the remainder, who were selected by the judges, should meet on a future occasion to have it decided who should receive the cup.
The Foot Ball Match
which was the last game played in the evening was the most hotly contested struggle of the day. It lasted for about an hour, and was fought with the greatest determination, but, at the same time, with the greatest of good feeling by both sides. Sometimes the ball would be almost through one goal and in a minute after it would be away at the other, at which times the excitement of the crowd was intense and would occasionally manifest itself in hearty cheering when some good individual play was shown. One side proved successful at last, however, and the prize was awarded.
This interesting show was held in the Crystal Palace and drew a large crowd. The display of babies was very creditable, and one of which the city of Hamilton, and especially St. George's Society, may well be proud. Weber's famous Witches’ Wail, as played by Theodore Thomas' orchestra, could not touch the noises that were there. Such squealing, squalling, barking and boo-booing has seldom been heard inside the walls of the Crystal Palace grounds. The judges were to be pitied, but they did their duty nobly ; and although several fond mothers will for all time hold them in contempt as judges of babies, still they made very fair awards.”
Even members of the Hamilton Fire Department were allowed a little recreation during the early part of the 1876 Queen’s Birthday:
“Yesterday morning No. 2 and No. 3 Companies of the Fire Brigade played a match game of base ball on the commons at Wellington street. The game was an uneven one, No. 2 beating their opponents by a score of 73 to 5.”
Dundas was the scene of some horse racing at the driving park.
At the races,where open gambling was permitted, one fellow, possibly having celebrated the holiday with some excessive alcohol consumption, caused a major rumpus:
“Yesterday afternoon a disgraceful row took place on the Driving Park at Dundas. Frank Taaate, a butcher in the Hamilton market, had bought two pools, one of which he lost - winning in the other. He owed $4 to on the lost pool, and was refused the money he had won unless he paid up. He refused to do this and the result was a violent row between him and W.H. Cooper, the pool seller. Stones were freely handled by both parties, and at one time, it was feared that a riot would take place, but for the timely interference of Chief Constable McDonough it is probably that some one would have been hurt.”
The previous day, Dundas was the location of a very odd, very amusing, but possibly very dangerous incident:
They have got a man named Babbington in Dundas who issues marriage licences. The day before yesterday Mr. Mortin, a butcher in Dundas, was driving a herd of cattle through the town from Beverly, when a bull made a break from the rest. He was hotly pursued by a large crowd and unfortunately the licence office door stood wide open, the bull bounced in, much to the dismay of Babbington. He was not got out until he had almost ruined the office. Babbington wants to resign the office of issuer of licences if such characters come round often.
Finally, as May was about to turn into June, the proprietors of one of the city’s most popular steamers, the Florence, placed the following advertisement in the local press:
“By reference to advertisement today it will be seen that until further notice, the favorite steamer Florence will make her trips between this city and the Beach as follows : Leave Hamilton at 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. ; returning will leave The Beach at 11:30 a.m., and 5 p.m. As the warm weather will soon be oppressive in town, our citizens will be glad to avail themselves of a pleasant trip across the bay occasionally, and this cannot be done in any more delightful manner than by the Florence. As the travel increases, the trips of the Florence will be changed to suit.”