Celebrations at the Hall
The Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia was founded in 1724, making it the oldest existing organization of its kind in the United States today. Fifty years later, in 1774, the First Continental Congress met within the Company's newly built Hall. Both of these events are noteworthy, and certainly both merit celebration when anniversaries arrive.
However, in 1774, on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Carpenters' Company, there is no indication in the CCCCP minutes for the period that any special events were held at the Hall, or that the Company participated in any related events.
Again, in 1824, there are no indications in the CCCCP minutes of any special events, either for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Company or for the fiftieth anniversary of the assembly of the First Continental Congress.
A 1924 publication by the CCCCP, however, written about the 1874 celebration, states:
"July 21, 1873, Walter Allison, D. Henry Flickwir and Richard K. Betts were appointed a committee to memorialize Congress to celebrate the Centennial Meeting of the First Continental Congress in Carpenters' Hall on September 5, 1874. By October 20, the Memorial was prepared and approved... the committee was directed to present a copy to the President of the United States and to both houses of Congress.
"July 20, 1874 the committee reported that Walter Allison and Richard K. Betts had proceeded to Washington and presented the memorial as directed. Mr. Allison offered a report, which stated:
Whereas the Congress of the United States have NOT deemed it expedient to celebrate the event as a National one, therefore, be it resolved, that in order to celebrate so important an event in our nation's history a committee of three be appointed whose duty it shall be to have an oration delivered in this hall and any ceremonies appropriate to the occasion.
"Invitations were extended to President Grant and his cabinet, to Vice President Henry Wilson, and to both Houses of Congress, the Chief Justice, the governors of the states and other distinguished officials and private citizens."
Therefore, in 1874, on the 100th anniversary of the First Continental Congress, a celebration was held in the Hall. There are brief notes from a Carpenters' Company Scrapbook, which describe the celebration of the day. On September 5, 1874, a crowd gathered around Carpenters' Hall. Admission to the Hall was by ticket, but the crowd gathered in the windows and around the Court as well. At two-thirty, the Committee of Arrangements, along with the officers and guests for the day, descended from the library and took their seats on a platform set up in the Southern part of the Hall. The man presiding in place of the Governor of Pennsylvania, John Welsh, Esq., and the Vice-President of the United States, Henry Wilson, sat in two original chairs used by the Congress members in the center of the platform, between the two columns.
The Hall was decorated with relics given to the company or loaned for the occasion. A likeness of the Reverend Jacob Duché, who made the first prayer in Congress in 1774, was displayed, as well as one of Thomas Mifflin, a Pennsylvania delegate to the First Continental Congress. At the end of the room, an original portrait in oil of the Continental Congress President, Peyton Randolph, was hung.
There followed a series of introductions, ceremonies, and presentations, highlighted by a speech by Henry Armitt Brown. DeWitt Clinton Moore then led a hymn written for the occasion, and the audience joined in. A vote of thanks was tendered, and the meeting was then adjourned.
Excerpts from the CCCCP 1924 celebration book tells of another celebration, that of the 200th anniversary of the Carpenters' Company and 150th anniversary of the First Congress:
"Subcommittees were appointed on Publicity and Information, Invitations and Speakers, Decorations and Dinners, and Receptions and Entertainment.
"The time originally set was early in September, but for the better convenience of Congress, the date was fixed for September 25, 1924."
At a Quarterly Meeting of the Carpenters' Company held July 21, 1924, the Honorable Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, was elected the first and only Honorary Member of the Carpenters' Company. He was then invited to their celebration in order to accept the membership and join in the activities. On September 15, 1924, the Carpenters' Company received a letter of acceptance of their invitation from President Calvin Coolidge.
Necessary arrangements were made for broadcasting the speeches delivered at Carpenters' Hall and for broadcasting the performance planned at the Academy of Music, together with a general history of the Hall, all of which were relayed to distant parts of the country."
The entire Anniversary Committee met the City Council Committee on Celebration, by request, in the Mayor's office, His Honor the mayor being present. The entire program of celebration was discussed. On September 9,1924, the Anniversary Committee met and approved the final program as to all its details.
The Thursday, September 25,1924, celebration at Carpenters' Hall, as described by a Carpenters' Company Celebration Book:
"At 2:00 p.m. the parade formed on the Parkway, marched around the City Hall, proceeded down Chestnut Street to Independence Hall, where it was officially reviewed by the Mayor and city officials and the Carpenters' Company guests. The line of march continued up Third Street to Market Street and back to City Hall, disbanding at 16th Street and the Parkway.
"After the parade had passed the reviewing stand, the three hundred guests of the Carpenters' Company proceeded to Carpenters' Hall, where at 4 o'clock, they witnessed an inspiring reenactment of the convening meeting of the First Continental Congress, exactly as it occurred 150 years ago.
"At the close of the pageant, which held the audience spellbound, two of Pennsylvania's former governors, Hon. Edwin S. Stuart and Hon. William C. Sproul, addressed the meeting. On this occasion, a certificate of Honorary Membership in the Carpenters' Company was presented to the Hon. Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States, and was received on behalf of the President by Senator George Wharton Pepper."
Later that evening a 200th Anniversary Banquet was held at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel. Throughout the dinner, the Philadelphia Orchestra played musical selections. Immediately following the banquet, all the guests of the Company were escorted to the stage of the Academy of Music to greet the President of the United States and to participate in a notable meeting to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the meeting of the First Continental Congress of America.
"At the close of Mr. Beck's address [the evening's final speaker], and after the applause subsided, the entire audience arose and stood during the rendition by the orchestra of the 'Star Spangled Banner.' The President and his party were then escorted to his special train and left for Washington."
With this, the anniversary of the Congress ended.
In 1999, on the 275th anniversary of the Company and 225th of the Congress, celebrating on October 26 (the final day of Congress), the Hall sponsored a day of music, featuring the Hildenbrands. This musical couple played period music and instruments. The evening program featured a speech by Temple University Professor Emeritus Dr. Russell F. Weigley, titled "Why the Continental Congress Assembled in 1774."
Though there have not been many anniversaries to celebrate, they have been noted and observed, and will continue to be recognized in the years to come.