By Bob Baker
The new year was celebrated in a variety of ways in the late 1800’s in Prescott. These traditions included dances and balls on New Year’s Eve and courting and family visits on New Year’s Day.
The New Year’s Eve dances (hops) and balls were regularly mentioned or advertised in the Arizona Weekly Miner, Prescott’s local newspaper. The Dec 31, 1874 edition announced the “Odd Fellow’s Ball” on New Year’s Eve would be held at Hatz’ Hall. Each ticket would cost $10 and admit one couple. The paper predicted “Knowing that our Odd Fellows have never yet failed in giving good entertainments, we predict that the coming one will be first class.” On January 4, 1878, the Weekly Arizona Miner reported that “A large number of the residents at Fort Whipple were joined last evening in celebrating the New-year with a hop, at the General Crook Club Rooms…The lunch spread for the occasion was excellent, and the affair, in every particular harmonizing and brilliant.” The Dec 5, 1884 edition advertised a “Masquerade and Fancy Dress Ball” by the Milligan Guards at Howey’s Hall on New Year’s Eve. On Dec 29, 1886, the Arizona Weekly Journal Miner advertised the opening of the new opera house on New Year’s Eve. The opening would include a promenade, concert and ball. On January 5, 1887, the newspaper noted “A ball was given at the Thumb Butte school house on New Year’s Eve.” Again on January 4, 1888, the newspaper reported a “New Year’s dance, Monday night at the Bellevue Hotel.”
New Year’s Day was largely celebrated by ladies inviting gentlemen to call on them at their homes and by visiting with family and friends. The December 31, 1874 edition of the Arizona Weekly Miner warned the ladies “New Year Calls – we hear that a great number of ladies of Prescott, Fort Whipple… are making preparations to receive callers on New Year’s Day, and that is well they are doing so, as the gentlemen are sure to call on them in great force.” The January 4, 1888 Arizona Weekly Journal Miner reminded “Ladies who expect to receive New Year’s callers can have the same made known through the Journal Miner by handing their names in to this office by three o’clock Saturday afternoon.”
Similarly, the entertaining of one’s friends on New Year’s Day was very popular. On Jan 4, 1878, the Weekly Arizona Miner reported “Quite a number of families, in Prescott, received and entertained their friends in good old fashion style of ‘our grandmothers’ days,’ regaling them with cake, mince pie, egg nog, wine, etc., and renewing social amenities of the year. It is a pleasant custom, and one, we trust, that will never die out.” On February 13, 1880, the newspaper reported that “Geo. Ah Fat’s numerous friends, who dropped in to see him this morning and wish him a Happy New Year were treated to a cup of tea and elegant fruit cake…”
Some of the more unusual New Year’s events reported involved a New Year’s Tree and New Year’s Day oratory. On January 3, 1879, the Weekly Arizona Miner reported that “Spencer, Dodson & Co. fixed a New Year’s Tree yesterday at the Diana Saloon … The recipients of presents from that singular tree which bore a strange variety of fruit, will long remember the ’bosses’…” On December 31, 1875, the Arizona Weekly Miner also noted that “…in accordance with time-honored custom among the Carriers’ of Village newspapers, Orrick Jackson will wait upon the people of Prescott with a New Year’s Address in rhyme.”
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