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The Firemen's Ball

Friday, July 30, 2010

 Generally when I post such a depressing ad as yesterday's, I like to try and balance it out with something more cheerful.  These ads, all from the same day, I think are just about perfect.




If the lady who was at Firemen's ball, wearing pink tarlatan flounced dress, black lace over back of skirt, will send address to Admirer, Broadway Post office, she will oblige a friend.

The lady in corn colored silk dress, black velvet ribbon trimming, white and blue striped opera cloak, who was at Firemen's ball, would oblige a frequent admirer by addressing J.J.J., Union square Post office.

Will the lady who was at the Firemen's ball, wearing pink silk dress, and pearl ornaments in the hair, oblige an admirer, who sat near her in balcony, with her address, by addressing Solitaire, Broadway Post office?
These are so cute! I think my favorite part is that all three men are addressing different women, which, I don't know, there's something a little charming about that.  They each think they met the prettiest, sweetest girl in the room.  Isn't that nice?

I did a little research but couldn't find a thing about the Firemen's ball from 1862, the year of these ads, but I did find a New York Times article from about 20 years later, and I'm assuming that the two events would have been similar enough that this description is more or less accurate:


The arms that so often in days gone by have wound themselves around the cold relentless fire engines of New-York had a holiday last night, and by way of pleasing variety closed around the warm and willing waists of maidens fair.  The owners of the arms discarded everything connected with their calling, and donning dress suits, white ties, and an air of tranquility, prepared to be happy.  It was...at the Metropolitan Opera House, which was thronged.  Three fire engines of the ancient type adorned the end of the opera house, and a long red table inclosing them bore the hats of dead firemen, which were not beautiful but massive.  A scene representing an old street formed a background...During the interval between dances there was a song and chorus, "The Old Volunteer Firemen"...dedicated to the New-York City Volunteer Firemen's Association and received with much applause.


So much fun!  Now interestingly, firemen until 1865 were volunteers, so they tended to be men who were financially stable enough that they could leave work at a moment's notice, should a fire break out, and not expect to derive an income from the work (though they could get paid, by the insurance company for the building on fire).  Apparently, by being firemen, you could be exempt from jury duty and militia service - which would explain why these guys were all dancing at a ball in New York instead of being off at war (this being during the Civil War).  So you could have some fairly well-off and influential men in fire companies.

Anyway, I just thought these were kind of adorable, especially coming on the wake of the saddest thing ever...

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein

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