Jun 25

Hurrah for the 4th of July, San Luis Obispo 1883

Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo on July 4, 1883. From the collection of Mrs. Doris Shaw.

Monterey Street and not an automobile to be found.
The image is spliced together from two copy prints in the Tribune archives. According to penciled notes on the back of the prints the image was scheduled to run on page 8 of the Telegram-Tribune Centurama edition of May 9, 1956.
The writing says the print is from 1888, Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, Sinsheimer building on right and offers an index number.
However before the image was published in 1956, Rileys Department store bought a full-page ad for that page and as far as I know this photo remained unpublished.
Typewritten Centurama captions in the folder say Fourth of July Celebration 1883 from Joe Keyes, col[ection] Mrs. Dora Shaw.
Centurama was a huge multi-page section published over the course of several days on the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of San Luis Obispo.
So what year was the photo from?
The San Luis Obispo Tribune of 1888 records that the parade route was scheduled to start at City Hall on Higuera St. then proceed to Chorro-Monterey-Court-Higuera to open grounds at the intersection of Higuera and Marsh Streets. This would be the wrong direction of travel for this photo.
The 1883 Daily Tribune also presents a problem. The line of march is from City Hall down Higuera-Nipomo-Monterey-Santa Rosa to the grove behind the Graves residence.
This is also the wrong direction of travel. However the parade order from this edition seems to make sense of the photo, as does the description of the scene.

The front-page story said the Sinsheimer and Tribune buildings were covered in flags, as was most of the downtown. Some added drapes to the decorations. Castro’s Saloon and Forrester’s real estate office was considered to be the best decorated. The telegraph office was described as well decorated. The lines in the photo are connected to the Western Union Telegraph office at lower left.
In fact almost the whole front-page story was a Who’s Who of potential advertisers and how nice their establishments looked. Apparently Morro Street was saloon row at the time and even they decorated.
The article finishes with a sideswipe at Chinatown and an attempt to write in dialect that sounds misguided to today’s sensibilities.
The publishers and proprietors Charles Maxwell and Myron Angel did offer Ah Luis a compliment for patriotic decoration at his store. Luis was also an advertiser.

The Chinamen celebrated also by taking extra doses of opium. “Fourth July alle sam Melican man.” Ah Luis had his store decorated with American Colors.

A story on an inside page said the parade order consisted of:
Mounted Police
Band under lead of Fred Finey
Rifle Company commanded by Captain Stadfenbell
Grand Marshal E.B. Morris with 22 other dignitaries
Good Will Fire Company with handsomely decorated carriage
Women personifying Justice, Hope and the Goddess of Liberty on a car [float?].
Officers of the day in carriages.
A car [float?] with 38 girls representing several States.
Rescue Hook and Ladder Company with handsomely decorated truck
Mounted citizens, carriages, etc.

The parade was followed by speeches, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, songs and poems. About 3,000 came for the speeches. Tables 400 feet long were covered with bread and meat. Four beeves had been slaughtered to feed the crowd but it took three hours and four clearings of the tables to feed everyone.
Foot races and other amusements kept the crowd busy for several hours then the procession reformed and marched to City Hall.
Perhaps this is when the photo was made.
After the officially sanctioned events it was time for “the horribles” to take to the street. The men wore masks and funny attire and in the great American tradition of satire made fun of the more serious events of the day. The leader burlesqued an original poem offered earlier and another recited the “Declamation of Dependence”, made fun of local prominent persons and performed “fun and horrible music.”
Firecrackers, bombs and rockets kept boys excited and the timid frightened until the late hours with the most noise near the theater on Monterey Street.

After a time the noise ceased and this morning all except a few drunks some of whom slept off their debauch in the watch house, returned to their work well pleased with the 4th, and glad that it was over.

It sounds like they knew how to party hard in 1883.

This 4th of July celebration ad ran sideways in the columns of The Tribune in 1883, rotated here for your reading enjoyment.

Related posts:

  1. 1968 San Luis Obispo at night
  2. 1963 San Luis Obispo, Monterey St.
  3. The movie ‘Stunts’ films in San Luis Obispo
  4. New traffic lights downtown San Luis Obispo
  5. Panama Pacific International Exposition, July 4, 1915 San Francisco, The Leonard collection