from The Webster Weekley Times, May 7, 1864 (Volume VI # 9), 
The Aid Society’s Fair

The gathering at Webster Hall last Wednesday evening, in response to the Webster Soldiers Aid Society’s call was all, in point of attendance, interest, and pecuniary results, that could have been expected. The main audience room was densely packed most of the evening, notwithstanding that the three principal rooms of the building were made available for the purposes of the fair. the experience of Wednesday furnish another proof that our town is still without a hall of sufficient size to accommodate anything beyond the most ordinary demands of public entertainments. any object of sufficient attraction to draw out our population in sufficient numbers beyond four or five hundred, must suffer in its interests by the meager accommodations which our best hall affords.

The fair was opened at five o’clock in the afternoon, although little of interest occurred before evening. It was our good fortune to have an opportunity for examining the articles and their general arrangement at an early hour, before the advent of the crowd, and before anything had been disturbed by customers. Without doing intentional injustice to either of the festivals which have preceded this the present season, we are free to say that the display of rich and costly loaves of cake, of creams, jellies, ect., upon the center table, was the finest we have ever seen in town. We noticed a score or more specimens of fruit or pound cake which were appraised at figures varying from three to a dozen dollars. One loaf was appropriated as guest cake: it weighed twenty-two pounds fourteen ounces, and was taken by a little girl, Miss Mary Tourtellotte, whose guess was two ounces above the precise weight. A smaller loaf, but quite as pretty was sold in shares, at twenty-five cents each share. The holder of the fortunate number was Mrs. John A. Haven. A ring cake was disposed of during the early part of the evening; the lucky person in this adventure being Miss Hattie Goddard. A large number of loaves were sold entire, while enough, to meet the demands of consumers was cut and disposed of by the slice. This center table was very prettily decorated with wreaths, boquets, ect., and in all its features made a splendid show.

Upon the north side of the hall was located the table containing fancy articles. the principal object of interest here was a splendid “Afgan,” or infants carriage blanket, in crotchet and fine embroidered work. we understand it to have been contributed from the millinery rooms of Mrs. G. Hartshorn, which it was elaborated expressly for this occasion. It was a rich and costly affair. This was sold in shares and netted the society twenty-five dollars. Number forty-seven, held by Mr. Wm. S. Slater, took it. we noticed here an almost endless variety of needle work, in the form of fidies, toilet cushions, slippers, handkerchiefs, ect., all of which, workbaskets, mats, watch cases, were done with exquisite taste and skill. Beside these, there were a number of comic toys and burlesques, prominent among which was a case of images made entirely from the shells of peanuts, hickory nuts, Brazillian nuts, and English walnuts, by Mrs. William H. Larned, and labeled “Jeff Davis and his Staff.” A moss and bark cottage upon this table was sold in shares, and also taken by Mr. Slater. a collection of articles, comprising an oil painting, set of silver spoons, pocket bible, photograph and autograph albums, and other articles, were made up from this department and sold in shares; H., Thomas Jepson the bible, M. Dresser taking the spoons, Miss Clara Larned the autograph album, Oscar F. Chase and Ebenezer Ames the photograph albums.

In the northeast corner of the hall was the ice cream table, at which the snug sum of $34.45 was realised from the sale of cream. in connection were the more substantial luxuries of oysters, hulled corn, ect. which met with ready sale. opposite were the tea and coffee department, which from appearance we judge to have been well patronized.

Games of chance seemed to form a prominent feature of the fair notwithstanding the stigma which many are accustomed to attach to this method of adding to the interest and profit of such occasions. Anything from a card photograph to a barrel of flower, was obtained in shares; and the list included many articles of so high value that, offered singly at their appraised value, they would doubtless have remained unsold. A very fine crayon sketch of Harpers Ferry by Mr. Asher Joslin. Various works of art, paintings, drawings, prints, ect., adorned the wall, many of which were contributions to the society, while others were placed there merely for ornamental purposes.

Mrs. Partington and Ike, accompanied by Brother Jonathan, were admirably personated upon the platform at the west end of the hall. Mrs. P. we understand to have been a Southbridge lady; the character of Jonathan was taken by Mr. John Pratt of this town, a person eminently qualified by nature for the important position which he occupied on this occasion. This feature of the fair furnished a limitless source of amusement for the audience. The old lady was surrounded upon the stage by antique articles of furniture, including an old spinning wheel, churn, ect., all of which were put to legitimate use as the occasion required. Mrs. Partington also had charge of a sort of whirlgig, another “chance’ affair, by the aid of which a number of steel plate pictures of general Washington were sold.

The main hall was very prettily festooned with evergreens, and fancy baskets hung from numerous parts of the ceiling, giving to the room a fine appearance. In the fireman's room, below, was spread the farmers dinner, presided at by ladies dressed in the style of “ye olden times”. The bill of fare here embraced everything which is supposed to be essential to complete a genuine Yankee boiled dinner, meats, vegetables, coarse bread, pastry, including meat, apple, custard, pumpkin, and huckleberry pies, ect. The quantity furnished may be inferred from the fact that six bushels of cowslips were cooked, and the other eatables were in due proportion. To the untiring exertion of Mrs. Rufus Freeman, Mrs. H. E. Bugbee, and a few other ladies, the success of this department is mainly due.

In the adjoining Engine Hall a series of fine tableaux were presented, embracing nearly a score of scenes combining the patriotic, the comic and the sentimental. This department was under the especial supervision of Dr. brown. We have not space for a description of each scene, but will give a list of the pieces represented.

1. The Three Graces 2. Fortune telling
3. Little Red Riding Hood
4. Plotting mischief
5. The Muses
6. Othello& Desdimonia
7. Off to War
8. Light of other days 9. Fates 10. Night and morning
11. The Old Batchelor
12. Maiden’s prayer
13. Manual of Arms
14. Camp Scenes
15. Spirit of the Proclamation

All were very creditably presented, and highly appreciated by those who were fortunate enough to see them. The “Old Batchelor” was one of the most amusing, giving the various parts of the experience indicated in the rhymes:

I lived by myself,
And all he bread and cheese I got I laid upon the shelf;
The rats and the mice they made such a strife I was forced to go to London and get me a wife
The lanes were so broad and the streets were so narrow
I had to take my wife home on a wheelbarrow
The wheelbarrow broke and wife she got a fall
The deuce take wheelbarrow wife and all

The ludicrous appearance of the closing tableau brought down the house. The “maidens prayer” was presented with fine effect; so was’the Muses”; so were all of them. A quartette of singers, under the direction of Mr. White, with Mrs. P. McQuaid at the piano interspieced the excercises with excellent music. A large number of persons who would have been glad to witness this exibition and listen to the music, were unable to do so, on account of the insufficient size of the hall. Not above two hundred were able to gain admission at one time, while fully that number went away without witnessing this very pleasant feature of the evening’s entertainment.

At eleven o’clock, a considerable portion of the fancy articles and refreshments remaining unsold, they were disposed of at auction. Messrs. S. Shumway and H. I. joslin acting in the capacity of auctioneers. Some of the things brought very good prices, while others were sold at nominal rates to close the affair before morning. The main part of the audience remained untill everything was disposed of; and the hall was closed about two hours past midnight.

In every respect this fair may be considered a decided success. the gross receipts, from all sources, reach the sum of $570,15. the expenses will be very light, and when paid will leave a net profit of about $525.00. What direct disposition of these funds will be made, we are now unable to state; the best channel will doubtless be selected, so that they may ultimately find their way to the sick, wounded, suffering and needy among our soldiers.

In view of the fact that this is the fourth fair we have had in town the present season, we think that the people of this vicinity are entitled to especial credit for the prompt and generous manner in which they have responded to the call of our Soldiers Aid Society. We might mention instances of individual liberality worthy of remark, were it deemed advisable. There seemed to be a general interest manifested in seeing the thing well through, and the result indicatesthat all performed their respective parts well and nobly.

The officers of the society, Mrs. S. Shumway and Mrs. F. D. Brown, have done important service as have Mrs. H. H. Stevens, Mrs. N. Joslin, Mrs. Julia Clemens, and others of the board of Directors whose names do not now occur to us, and all the other members of the society. The gentlemen composing the Committee of Arrangements, are equally deserving of praise. All who have been concerned, directly or indirectly, as patrons or friends, have the satisfaction of knowing that their labor and patronage have resulted in giving to this worthy society the most successful fair ever held in Webster.


15th Massachusetts VI