Our Past: Fundraising - 1881 style

The new year arrived in New Westminster in 1881 with lots of typical announcements, advertisements, mentions of daily events, and comments on the river, steamboats and the weather. That particular year, there were two added features that were going to help to get the town off on a good footing in terms of entertainment.

Announcements appeared in the Mainland Guardian for two upcoming performances. Both were to appear on two evenings while in town and the reporter trusted that the community’s residents would turn out and enjoy the presentations.

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One was called Edward’s Surprise Party and it was to be held at the Drill Hall. Its advert “shouted” encouragement to attend through notations of “Coming! Coming!” and “Fun! Fun! Fun!” Tickets were available at Mr. Keary’s bookstore at 50 cents per adult, 25 cents per child, and reserved seating was 75 cents. We read that Uncle F.G. Richards and Edwards were described as the proprietors of this evening’s entertainment.

The account of this performance says that it was well-received and reported that “our citizens have been well pleased during the stay of this excellent troupe and last evening a fitting conclusion was given to their engagement here.” We learn that food and refreshments were served, dancing followed and there was a song by “Uncle Frank Richards”

Other special guests attending were three old Chief Engineer – Scott, McLeese, and the aforementioned, Richards. These mentions caused us to re-read the earlier descriptions of this evening and things became a little clearer. This doesn’t really appear to be a travelling troupe of performers but rather a community-based, fundraising event for the Hyack Fire Brigade.

It seems to have been a fun, well-attended event in the guise of a professional show featuring an “entertainment” of some kind known as Edward’s Surprise Party. Good kick off for 1881 no doubt.

The other upcoming performance was a travelling professional company also in for two nights – New Year’s Eve and the evening of New Year’s Day. This was “Vertelli, the Great Magician and Ventriloquist’, accompanied and assisted by “Miss Rowland in her Wonderful Cabinet Mystery”.

There would be a couple of performances plus a matinée. Seats were 50 cents, children half-price anywhere in the hall, and 25 cents more for reserved seating. This well-attended event was reported as: “This talented professor of ventriloquism and legerdemain performed to audiences in this city, who were well pleased, and subsequently gave entertainments at Burrard Inlet with success. He leaves this morning by the Princess Louise for Victoria.”

So New Westminster had a couple of interesting shows to kick off the new year in 1881. As a little extra, a bit of research showed that Vertelli had served in the U.S. Civil War and was known for long-range shooting. He also apparently gave performances on the flying trapeze and as a tight-rope walker.

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