Special contribution by Local Historian “Sharon Merolli.” The following is a description of the first and only parade of the Mummers’ Association in Reading on January 1, 1908, from various news articles by the Reading Eagle and Reading Times.
On a crisp and sunny Jan. 1, 1908, Reading had its one and only Mummers’ Parade before thousands of cheering merrymakers.
The first parade of the Mummers’ Association, held today was a success in every way and a credit to those who worked hard the past year arranging the details. Parades of this kind have taken place in Philadelphia, Shamokin and various towns in the coal regions for a number of ears, but this was the first time that an effort was made to have one in Reading. That it will hereafter be an annual affair was illustrated by the enthusiasm shown by the members of the various clubs participating and the thousands of people who viewed the procession from the Sidewalks.
The streets along the route of the parade were lined with people, including many out-of-town visitors. Penn street was roped off from Fourth Street to Eighth, and the police did excellent work keeping the crowd on the sidewalk. All along the route the participants were cheered for their excellent make-ups. Each organization in line kept the style of their costume a secret from all except those who were to wear them, and this made the members of Reading’s many social clubs very anxious to see how their friends would be attired.
Origin of Association.
The Mummers’ Association was started by a number of members of the 1900 Beneficial Association in March of 1907. Andrew J. Flemming, George B. East and Albert G. Holt were the committee appointed at the 1900 meeting to consult with other organizations to form the Mummers. Since the association was formed meetings have been held twice a month and the officers and delegates worked hard to make it a success.
There were many surprises not only for the members of local social clubs but for the people who were on the streets to see the turnout The costumes were among the most expensive that have ever been seen in a parade in this city. Besides the costumes there were many floats in line, which were of original design. All of the floats showed careful preparation. Every organization was accompanied by a band of music.
No expense was spared. The costumes worn by the various organizations and individual participants represented thousands of dollars, one organization – the Owls – expending more than $1,200 in an effort to capture first prize. Many of the Philadelphia guests in attendance said that the costumes were as fine as they had ever seen in a New Year’s parade. It must be remembered that the Philadelphia parade on the first day of the year is one of the largest events of this kind held in the country.
In Silk Satin and Velvet.
As the long procession moved up Penn street the beautiful costumes of satin, velvet and other materials, glistened in the sun. The marchers represented kings and noblemen dressed in all the regalia of their exalted state. It was something entirely new for a Reading street scene. Part of the parade resembled the grand march of a masquerade ball.
The participating organizations included the Owls, West End Club, Amphions, Haymakers, Schuylkill Fire Company, Green Leaf Association, Electric Wheelsmen, 1900 Beneficial Association, Meta-comet Tribe, June 26, 1900; Jackson Club, Union Association, Northeastern Democratic Association, Quakers, Dips. McIntyre’s Country Circus, King of the Garbage Isles, the Haymakers’ Association of Lebanon, with 200 men, the Jolly Sports, Kelly’s Prize Winning Indians, and boys done in various costumes.
The clubs formed at Second and Penn streets and, promptly at 1 o’clock, on one tap of the fire alarm, moved up Penn street and over the parade route.
The judges rode in G. M. Britton’s automobile and inspected the clubs at different points along the line of parade.
The first Mummers’ Parade for Reading left its wake nothing but pleasant memories and a deeper sense of pride in the city and its people. It was the most gorgeous and picturesque demonstration of its kind ever witnessed in this city, and only praise and commendation was heard for the committee of public-spirited citizens who labored so unselfishly for the success of the undertaking. Nature aided very materially in adding to the city’s pleasure for the sun shone clear and reflected brightly on the glittering costumes and the temperature was just right.
Photos of Parade.
Below are photos from the Reading Public Library microfiche collection. The photos are a bit better than what shows in the Google Reading Eagle archives, but the quality still isn’t that great.
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