Alan Mays

Alan Mays

Posted on 02/22/2016


Photo taken on February 21, 2016


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Washington Birthday Reception, Philadelphia, Pa., 1890s

Washington Birthday Reception, Philadelphia, Pa., 1890s
"Washington Birthday Reception, Prof. Carroll's Auditorium, 1102 S. Broad Street, Monday, Feb'y 22, 8 to 12. Special attractions!"

Today Washington's Birthday seems to be an excuse for car dealers to hold month-long "Presidents' Day" car sales. But once upon a time, the day to celebrate the first President of the United States was set aside for orations, teas, dinners, and other special celebrations.

This paper hatchet is an announcement of one special Washington Birthday Reception that was held in Philadelphia, probably sometime in the 1890s (either 1892 or 1897, I believe, which were years when February 22 fell on a Monday). The apocryphal story about George Washington and the cherry tree is, of course, the reason for the hatchet shape, and the punchline to the story --"Father! I cannot tell a lie! I did it with my little hatchet!"--is printed on the other side (see below).

Professor Carroll's title wasn't an academic rank like we use for college and university teachers today but instead identified him as a dance teacher. He may have been a member of the American Society of Professors of Dancing or one of the other dance teacher organizations that were established in the late nineteenth century (for more on this, see Philadelphia Dance Teachers: Taking Steps, a posting on the Philadelphia Dance History Journal blog).

I haven't been able to determine what activities or "special attractions" might have taken place as part of Professor Carroll's Washington Birthday Reception from 8:00 p.m. to midnight on that Monday, February 22, although presumably dancing was involved. I did find this complimentary though vague description of a "monthly reception" that was held in 1894 (from A "Doings in Dancing Circles" column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 21, 1894, p. 15):

"Professor Carroll's Auditorium, 1102 South Broad Street, was nearly full to overflowing at the monthly reception last Monday night, and a prettier picture than this beautifully decorated, brightly lighted hall, with so many handsome well-dressed people, could not be found. Mr. Carroll is such a genial whole-souled fellow and so capable of carrying out to a success such a party as this that one hardly ever questions who will be there, for they know in advance that every one and every one of the best would not be absent on such an occasion."

Father! I Cannot Tell a Lie!

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