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Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun collection

 Collection
Identifier: RHC-170

Scope and Contents

Collection contains souvenir pins, badges, ribbons and envelopes from the Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun, held in 1897 and 1898. The collection also includes one piece of sheet music for the "Carnival of Fun 2 Step," by Dan Ball, published in 1897.

Dates

  • 1897 - 1898

Creator

Access to the Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

The collection is the physical property of Grand Valley State University, but all literary rights are retained by the original creators of materials, their estates, heirs, or third parties. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure appropriate permissions for publication beyond the bounds of fair use.

Historical Notes

The first Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun was held in October 1897 and organized by the Hesperus Club. Modeled after the “Carnival of Rome,” Grand Rapids’ carnival was a four-day festival of parades, music, Midway acts and games, and the election of Carnival King and Queen. Advertisements and souvenirs featured images of leprechauns, devils, jesters, and people in fanciful costumes.

At a meeting of the Hesperus Club in November 1897, heated debate arose about the worth and morality of the recently concluded festivities. It was reported in the Grand Rapids Herald that during the 4 days of the carnival there were 61 arrests for drunkenness, compared to 8 from the preceding week and 10 for the following week. Such public displays of “immorality and degradation” were met with furious opposition from a number of the city’s prominent businessmen and ministers, including Gen. Byron M. Cutcheon, the very founder of the Hesperus Club itself.

However, since the carnival’s events and attractions brought a great financial boost to the city, Grand Rapids’ Mayor, Lathrop C. Stow, declared that the city was none the worse for having held it. The following summer the organizers petitioned the city once again to repeat the Carnival of Fun. The new mayor, George R. Perry, citing “no law to prevent” the holding of the carnival, granted permission for its use of public streets once again.

The 1898 Carnival of Fun was nearly twice as large as the previous year. It held opening ceremonies, three parades, free shows on four stages, fireworks, Midway games, food stands, and more. Local businesses even ran special carnival sales to attract both locals and out-of-towners.

Following the rousing “hot time” of the 1898 Carnival of Fun, a conference of ministers gathered to oppose the “immorality and drunkenness” of the carnival. The conference demanded that the carnival never be repeated, noting that arrests for public drunkenness increased threefold from the first year to the second. They vowed to fight any future proposals of carnivals with all of the weapons at their disposal. Their efforts were victorious, and the Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun was never held again.

Extent

2.08 Linear feet (2 boxes)

Creator

Title
Guide to the Grand Rapids Carnival of Fun Collection
Author
Annie Benefiel
Date
2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Contact:
Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States
616-331-8726