On October 14, 1852 citizens of Lancaster gathered to dedicate Fulton Hall as a new cultural institution in the community. Among the events at the opening ceremonies was an address by Judge Hayes, who spoke of Lancaster's condition and the importance of the new Fulton Hall to the social and cultural welfare of the city.
In pursuance of notice previously given, Fulton Hall was formally opened to the public on the evening of Thursday the 14th inst. Fifteen hundred tickets were gratuitously distributed by Mr. Hayes, and though we suppose all who held tickets were, not withstanding the inclemency of the weather, in attendance, the Hall was not uncomfortably filled at any time during the evening. The Hall is of excellent proportions, and is lighted sufficiently for ordinary purposes by 56 gas burners, 12 in the main central chandelier, 12 in the two smaller and 32 distributed along the walls. The room is admirably furnished and in all respects, for size, comfort and beauty, is one of the best rooms of its kind in the state. A great desideratum has been supplied, and through the agency of enterprising and public spirited gentlemen who we hope will reap a plentiful harvest from the investment.
The Philharmonic Society of and the Lancaster Band were present at the opening and played several of their best pieces in superior style. Among those who performed by the former, was the Fulton Polka, produced for the first time on that occasion. Both these musical associations are prospering and are an ornament of our city, as they are frequently a source of gratification the our citizens.
The Address delivered by Judge Hayes, which we are glad to be able to lay before our readers, will be found remarkably neat, interesting and appropriate. It was listened to with most respectful attention and received by the audience with great satisfaction. It contains many facts of peculiar interest, touching the past, the present and the future condition of our city, all of which are arranged and presented with clearness, vigor and conciseness. No one can fail to peruse the production with pleasure.
In the ceremony of opening a Hall, like this, it is an appropriate custom to give some account to the public, of an edifice which is designed for their use. For this purpose, I am invited to address you; and in the few words in which I will discharge that duty, it will appear how naturally so fine an improvement has sprung up in the midst, just when the exigencies of the community require it.
Half a century ago, this our pleasant city maintained the enviable rank, as you are aware, of "the largest inland town of the United States." Its reputations was enhanced by being for many years, the seat of government of Pennsylvania-a Commonwealth, originally distinguished by the name of her illustrious founder , and in the progress of her history deriving additional renown, as the birth-place of our National Independence, and the scene of many stirring events, in our revolutionary struggle.
Greatness, however, is relative; and in the marvelous expansion of our young and flourishing country, many interior towns , north, south, east and West, have been planted, and have advanced long since, to grade far superior to ours, in wealth and population.
The deprivation of our rank, was not the only loss our good town sustained. By the removal of the government to Harrisburg in 1812, in pursuance of an Active Assembly, passed two years before, she ceased to be the Capitol of the State, losing thereby, an important element of her growth; and this in more ways, than one. The money expanded on the spot, in carrying on the Government, which, in so populous and rich a State, as ours, is very considerable,-sufficient, indeed of itself, to build up great town, as we see it has already done on the Susquehanna-this was of course lost to Lancaster. But an extensive inland commerce had concentrated here, where several merchants had large warehouses and conducted a great business by wholesale. In early times, the savings of 70 miles travel and transportation was a matter of much consequence to the merchants and traders of the country; and many availed themselves of a visit to the seat of government to purchase their goods for the ensuing season. Merchants from the back settlement , as they were then called, obtained seats at the General Assembly, and conveniently arranged their private business while attending the sessions of the Legislature.
Following this change of the seat of Government, was the rapid improvement of the means of intercommunication by turnpike roads. That which had been completed to Lancaster from Philadelphia, was soon extended to Harrisburg and continued westward through to Cumberland Valley in the direction of the Ohio River. All such facilities do vastly more for the termini, than the intermediate points; and Lancaster, in this instance, was no exception. The customers who formally stopped here, to make their purchases and lay their assortments, now passed rapidly on to the metropolis of our State, where they could purchase at first hands, and, consequently, at a savings of profits. This put an end to the wholesale trade of Lancaster, and deprived her of a considerable portion of her business. In fact, she seemed deprived of her power of further progress. I believe it consists with the recollections of the older inhabitants, that for thirty years, not withstanding the increase of population in the county, she experienced very slight improvement in her trade, and remained almost stationary. Indeed I feel well assured , from my own observation, that for ten years anterior to 1845, she made no advancement whatever. By many, she was considered already overgrown; to say the least to be quite as large as was necessary for the district, of which she may be regarded as the heart or centre. Attempts were not wanting, to resuscitate her energies and excite a spirit of enterprise; yet, it did seem that there was a deficiency of vitality; there was ever some shortcoming in these efforts: nothing really efficacious appeared to be accomplished. In 1818, the borough was converted into a city, with select and common councils, recorder, alderman, and Mayor's Court, under the expectation, doubtless that this measure would recall some degree of the consequence and prosperity which the town had lost. It conferred, at least, a new distinction. Lancaster was, now, the second city in the State,-the only city, except Philadelphia.
The Supreme Court, at that time, held here a term of many weeks during the pleasantest season of the year; which brought the gentlemen of the bar of five counties, with their business, annually to our town. In 1820, a new tribunal was erected for the trial and determination of civil causes, called the District Court for the City and County of Lancaster, and we had one sitting a year of the Circuit Court. This was also the centre of operations for transporting passengers from and to Philadelphia, over the turnpike roads, eastward, by means of stages; which were considered, as having carried the accommodation of the traveling public to perfection.
One after another, all these benefits passed away. The other Lancaster District of the Supreme Court, was taken away from us, without an effort to prevent it; the Circuit Court was discontinued; the Mayor's Court was abolished; the District Court soon followed, some of our own townsmen, with a wisdom past finding out, having assisted, in the denuding process. As to the great business of stages it was completely run down by the railroad.
Other enterprises, of less importance, have been equally unfortunate. I have known more than one promising effort, to establish reading rooms, fail-several, to establish lyceums. Two or three beginnings of libraries, have shared the same fate. A law school- a gas company and other schemes have had a brief and sickly existence, and then expired like a wasted candle in its socket.
In short, it were difficult to recollect any one considerable object of public interest, during the period of which I have spoken, that has been permanently established except our water-works, which a commanding necessity forced upon us and sustained.
In view of these facts and with a desire to find the means of infusing new life and activity into our too quiet city, some dozen of our citizens, in the summer of 1845, met together to take into consideration a project for building here a cotton factory of the first class-with machinery, to be operated by steam power. Such establishments were known to be prospering, beyond all former example, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. It was known, that many of the villages and towns in those states had been built up under the encouragement afforded by the cotton manufactories; and that same old towns, which had languished for years, had received and flourished more than ever before, in consequence of steam cotton mills being erected among them. A committee was selected to visit New England on a mission of inquiry; which they proceeded to fulfill. Upon their return and report, an association consisting of about 80 citizens, having subscribed more than $100.000, commenced the erection of the Conestoga Steam Mill No.1.
In the month of February 1847, the first loom began to weave, and in the ensuing October, this mill was in full operation. From that time a brighter aspect was given to the city. Fifty percent has been added to the population; more than that to the value of real estate; and much more to the business and commerce of the place. A company has been since formed with an authorized capitol of $100,000, for lighting the city with gas, and has accomplished that most desirable purpose, a new county prison, at a cost of $110,000, has been completed; three large churches have been built; and two others, and a magnificent Court House, are in progress. Two other cotton factories likewise of the first class, have been added to No.1; all of which for a year have been doing full work, giving employment to 800 persons and paying out to them every fourth week, at a rate of $120,000 annually, which are immediately distributed through the channels of general circulation, enlivening, stimulation, and nourishing business of every description. As one dollar, passing through a hundred hands is worth to the community, a great deal more than a hundred dollars, once paid, it is not easy accurately to estimate the public value of these monthly disbursements by the Conestoga Steam Mills, to the 800 employees. The effect, however, is far too decisive and manifest, not to have exacted the acknowledgment of all. I say it boldly, for it is the truth, those factories are the mainspring of the improvement and prosperity of Lancaster, and her vast increase if business within the last 5 years. What else has cause the erection of 5 new churches, finished and in progress, the new prison, the gas works, and the new Court House? To see what else it is owing, that 1000 dwellings within that period, have been constructed, and 5000 inhabitants added to our population? What besides the impulse communicated by the factories, has lighted up your streets and embellished them with some of the finest mercantile establishments to be found in the State? It is the enterprising generated and fostered by them, that has so augmented the value of property within this city, that has produced all these improvements, and that is destined to give rise to many others. We are but the beginning, as we trust, of a new career.
And may this career be distinguished, by the intellectual and moral, no less than material improvement of our community. A brilliant prospect, in that direction, was opened before us, within the past year, in the union of two of our literary and scientific institutions, and the establishment of a splendid college in this city as the first fruits of its scheme.
The raising of $25,000 within the county of Lancaster, being made a pre-requisite to this measure, vigorous steps were taken to accomplish that end. The amount was full subscribed, and has been collected-all but $2000-for want of which, the whole plan, I am told now lies "in cold Obstruction."
Those $25,000 would be immediately expended among us for materials and labor in the erection of the necessary college buildings; and the organizing and carrying on the college, would cause the expenditure here of at least $60,000 per annum, of money principally brought from a distance. These are some of the commercial benefits; but in whatever light the subject may be viewed, the advantages of the institution to the City and County of Lancaster are so great, that it would throw a lasting discredit upon our character for sagacity as well as patriotism, should this project be suffered to fail, or its accomplishment be even retarded, for the want of that small, very small sum-if the importance of the object.
And while I am upon this topic, allow me to say one word to the peculiar guardians of the completed institution. Can you not Gentlemen, effect a reconciliation of the two interests, which unfortunately, in the early stages of the effort to bring about the union referred to, separated like Abraham and Lot of old, the one going to the right, the other to the left;thus depriving the plan of its grandest feature, by which it would have concentrated the patronage and support of the entire German population of the country, as being distinctively the German College of the United States? I believe, and speak not without some grounds of assurance, that this breach may yet be closed; and it is submitted to your wisdom, that no exertion ought to be spared which may, with any probability, result in so desirable a consummation.
From this brief sketch of the past and present condition of Lancaster, it is evident that a great desideratum of our community, is a Town Hall, of sufficient capacity for concerts and other musical entertainment , lectures and exhibitions, and various assemblies. Whilst the city numbered but six of seven thousand, the Court House answered, as well as it might, for these purposes. Some years ago, an enterprising an association of our mechanics, erected their institute on South Queen street. But their Hall, though of greater dimensions, than any other apartment, and far more convenient, is not sufficiently spacious for the increased population of our city; and no sooner was it determined, to build a new Court House and remove the old, which has been so much used by all sorts of assemblages, than the necessity of a large hall, for the public accommodation, became very strikingly obvious.
Fortunately the property of the old prison, passed by purchase, into the possession of a gentleman, who appreciated the public want in this respect, had the spirit to meet and supply it; and on this central and capital site, has been placed in an unusually short time, after the removal of the old structure, the elegant edifice, in which we are here assembled; and which, by a happy choice, has been denominated Fulton Hall in honor of that great genius, whose name reflects credit upon his country at large, and should particularly adorn the escutcheon of Lancaster County which gave him birth.
This building, contains, above the basement, two halls, each more than 100 feet in length, besides five other handsome and convenient apartments.
In all considerable towns, in this country and in Europe, the greater portion of its citizens support themselves by a severity of continuous daily toil unknown to rural districts and performed under the disadvantages of confined, and often ill ventilated, apartments. Worn, fatigued and weary, the mind and body, after a day of such labor, demand recreation. As the bended bow requires to be occasionally unstrung, to maintain elasticity, so the muscular and intellectual forces can only preserve their tone, by frequently-recurring intervals of ease and refreshment. Indeed, nature herself appears to have been adapted to this feeling, and, in the ample provision of means, to point to its rational indulgence. In a world which is adorned with beauty and grace, resplendent with the glorious sunshine of heaven and the flowers and fruits of earth, it surely was not the design of a beneficent Providence, that man should lead a life of unmitigated toil, or of moping indifference to the sources of enjoyment so lavishly spread around him. The philosophy that could be content to dwell in a tub, and be satisfied with a bare support of existence, had but one votary of any distinction; and HE acquired an epithet which classed him with the brutes.
Shakespeare, a better philosopher than Diogenes says:-- "O reason not the need: our basest beggars, Are, in the poorest thing, superfluous: Allow not nature more than nature needs-Man's life is cheap as beast's."
When the Almighty bestowed upon our race, this fair world, so endless in wonders, glowing with the splendor of colors, fragrant with odours delighting the sense and replete with the melody of sounds, exuberant with poetry and gay with mirth and song-"a world all beauty to the eye, and music to the ear"-the scriptures tell us , He saw that it was good - the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Say not, then, it is our duty to abstain from the good which is provided for us, or that we should regard these blessings, with ascetic indifference or contempt; but rather, that gratitude to the divine giver indicates a cheerful participation, as a suitable acknowledgment of His munificence. The instincts of our nature are true to this sentiment. We naturally seek to relieve the cares and perplexities of life, by "heart easing mirth." A desire of recreation necessarily follows upon long continued efforts, whether mental of physical; and hence amusement as properly succeeds business, as the night follows the day.
The municipal governments and corporations in Europe understand this principle. No considerable town or city, there, is without its public gardens, promenades, and parks, not to speak of their great theaters, assembly rooms, orchestras, galleries of statuary and pictures, and other sources of innocent diversion and refined enjoyment. All these things diffuse a genial satisfaction and kindle social affections, adding length as well as happiness to life; between which, indeed it is important to remember there is a close connection; so that in the language of Dr. Southwood Smith, in his Philosophies of Health- "enjoyment in the only condition of life, which is compatible with a protracted term of existence. The happier," says he " the human being is- the longer he lives; the more he suffers, the sooner he dies.
We made profit by the wisdom of those communities, and without learning their vices, reform our own, by the introduction of their elegant and tasteful amusements, which engaging the higher faculties, would withdraw men from the indulgence of gross and sensual gratification's and every low pursuit. To secure advantages so desirable, the various conveniences and facilities, afforded by such apartments as these, are among the most indispensable means.
The saloons, to give the dimensions accurately, is 105 feet 7 inches long, 57 feet 9 inches wide, with a ceiling 20 feet 10 inches in height. It will accommodate upon the floor about 1500 spectators. The assemblies which may be seated here, would justify a visit from the most distinguished artistes. For want of such accommodations heretofore we have lost the opportunity of having with us in Lancaster, the nightingale of the north, Jenny Lind; but we are happily in time for Madame Sontag and Alboni, and shall soon have the pleasure of hearing within these walls, the matchless violin of Ole Bull.
The Philharmonic Society which performed the most agreeable part in this evening's ceremony, and whose general object is to elevate the standard of musical taste amongst us, propose holding in this saloon, their future concerts. In order that their fellow citizens may enjoy the finest compositions and the lovers of music be gratified with the highest efforts in the art, their purpose is to engage the best musical talent in the land. In the course of another week, they will give their first tainment, in which they will be assisted by Ole Bull, Strakosch, Signorina Patti, and Micah Houser.
Here too our fellow- citizens will frequently meet, to admire the various products of the skill and industry of their countrymen. Such exhibitions have become an established custom, and, being designed to encourage the arts, should nowhere be more cherished than in our State; for on the face of this earth, there is scarcely another district so rich in natural resources, and in the abundance of material for the sustentation and supply of all the departments of human ingenuity and labor. With a soil of unsurpassed fertility, we have a climate agreeable and salubrious. Our territory is diversified with mountain and valley, hill and plain, intersected by numerous rivers and streams, furnishing unlimited power for machinery and the means of transportation. Our forests abound invaluable timber; and we have, literally, mountains of coal and iron. The anthracite region, containing the most extensive deposit of that mineral in the known world, supplies a source of wealth, untold, and absolutely incalculable. It is already given to Philadelphia an amount of tonnage superior to that of New York, and made her the greatest manufacturing city of America; so accelerating her growth as to render it probable, that her population will attain to one million, long before the close of the present century.
Our own COUNTY is peculiarly rich in most of the resources for which the State is remarkable. We are sufficiently near to the coal basin, comprising the coal fields Schuyl kill, Dauphin and North Cumberland to enjoy the advantages they afford whilst our mines of iron, are of exhaustless abundance; not to dwell upon the copper, lead and chrome mines within our borders. Lancaster city and county have 100,000 inhabitants; a people enterprising and industrious, and with 800 mills, furnaces, forges and factories, could easily supply their own exhibitions and fill this hall periodically with the products their agriculture and manufactories, which shall win the admiration of all beholders.
As our people are rapidly advancing in education we trust, their entertainment's will assume more and more, of an intellectual character. The higher drama, and lectures of learned and distinguished men, will often, it may be hoped, be presented here.
Moreover, let us hope, that the good taste which has presided' over the plan and execution of this fine edifice, will be suggestive to the popular assemblies, that shall hereafter convene within it, of the decorum which should characterize all republican bodies, and that strangers who happen to witness their proceedings may not only have no just ground to censure our manners, but may take a favourable impression of the sense, the intelligence and the cultivation of our people. We shall not do ourselves or our institutions justice, until we demonstrate, by our conduct and behavior, that an American freeman may be the truest gentlemen, and a meeting of each freemen, the politest assembly in the world.
The text is an article published in the Lancaster Examiner and Herald , October 20, 1852.
Transcription and hypertext markup by Tyler V. Hill.