When the city of Amsterdam celebrated its 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial, in 1954, there was a dramatic spectacle called “Horizons” that played for seven nights in July at Mohawk Mills Park, today’s Shuttleworth Park.
Starting with the Mohawk Indians, the pageant showed scenes from Amsterdam’s history through the end of World War II. The final scene predicted that America is “certain to make the Atomic Age the age of Utopia.”
There were two queens of the celebration. Dorothy Wozniak was Miss Amsterdam Sesquicentennial and Nancy O’Meara was Miss Mohawk Valley.
One of the features of the sesquicentennial was creation of 60 neighborhood chapters of the Brothers of the Brush, who did not shave, and Sisters of the Swish, who wore long dresses. Amsterdam’s taverns were among the sponsors of the clubs that held dances and even sponsored a mock or kangaroo court.
According to Tony Pacelli’s history book, “Past and Present,” the kangaroo court was at the corner of East Main Street and Vrooman Avenue.
“If any member broke a rule, such as shaving or a change in costume, they went before a judge and jury and were fined,” Pacelli wrote. “I recall a friend of mine was to buy a keg of ale, another bought candy for the youngsters.”
Harriet DePaulo was chairwoman of the Sisters citywide and the chairman of the Brothers was Clement Ciulik.
The names of the chapters were indicative of the high spirits of the sesquicentennial, which lasted 10 weeks and was highlighted by a huge parade. Sisters of the Swish chapters included the Swishers of Veddersburg, Jezebelles, Dizzy Dames, Flora Dorettes of Florida and the Gabby Ups. Brothers of the Brush chapters included the Crow Hill Croppers, Teeters Tippers, City Hospital Mad Boys, the Slobovians, Itchy Koos and the Dog House Brush Club.
One of the floats in the then Rug City’s sesquicentennial parade was a flying carpet, a harbinger of the future. The next year Bigelow Sanford Carpet Company moved from Amsterdam to Thompsonville, Conn.
Just say 'no'
In late 19th century America, there was a growing movement to just say “no” to alcohol. A Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society was affiliated with St. Mary’s Church in Amsterdam, according to a church history compiled by Jacqueline Murphy.
Pastor John McIncrow, who died unexpectedly in 1896, was known for his pointed sermons, frequently summarized in the newspapers. Rev. McIncrow once lectured parishioners on sins of excess committed at a summer picnic for factory workers.
In 1885, McIncrow struck a blow on behalf of working women: “In our mills our virtuous Catholic girls have to listen to impure expressions and ribald jests. Should a boss or any other man in any of our mills use such language to our girls, that girl should immediately inform the Knights of Labor and get the man who so insulted her Christian modesty removed from his possession — discharged from the mill.”
Randall the abolitionist
The hamlet of Randall in the town of Root is named for abolitionist Alexander Williams Randall, born in 1819. He was the son of Judge of the Common Pleas Phenias Randall. The elder Randall lived and practiced law in the village of Ames in the early 1800s.
Alexander Randall moved west and was elected to two terms as governor of Wisconsin. He served President Lincoln as ambassador to the Papal States, was appointed assistant postmaster general in 1862 and postmaster general in 1865.
Randall alienated many Wisconsin residents with his support for President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor. Randall did not return to Wisconsin after his years in Washington. He did not go to Randall, either, but lived until his death in 1872 in Elmira.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.