A Night out with the Romans
On a Monday evening, August 1st 1887.
The hot ticket is a Roman Pageant being put on by THE ORDER OF CINCINNATUS in Cincinnati, Ohio. You stand by the window while your wife gets ready. You kill a little time with a smoke, and that is when you hear the horses pulling up to the front door. You send the parlor maid to hurry ‘the dear’ along. You tighten your white tie, make sure there is no dust on your shoes and tuck at your embroidered silk waist coat. You nub out your cigar and head to the marbled hall to wait for Eloise so that she can make her ‘grand entrance.’ At the bottom of the stairs, the front parlor maid coughs politely and points to the second floor at the top of the stairs. Eloise sweeps down the steps, her feet barely touching the steps, she “floats”…yes “floats” down the steps. There is something about her. You can’t quite put your finger on it…wait…it’s her hair. She has turned her curls into a swept back and tightly wound bun in the back of her neck. She is wearing a wreath of flowers. She is a Greek maiden from a Grecian Urn. She is a nymph, a shepherd girl of a Roman Tableau. “Exquisite,” you say. “Helen of Troy.” She blushes slightly, and the both of you step lively to the carriage at the bottom of the steps.
This is a show programme for a pageant held in Cincinnati back in the late 1880s (precisely 1887). Pageants were held in my father’s youth, and they are still held today. Your church may have held one. A pageant has everything…music, cast hundreds, lots of armor and uniforms, animals (name it…lions, camels, bears), and dynamic scenery. I can imagine ticket holders felt them selves slightly ‘decadent’ as they stepped out of their carriages to attend this event at: ON THE CAMPUS, FOOT OF BANK STREET. If anyone from Cincinnati has any idea where this may have been located in 1887 please let me know. I imagine the pageant was grand entertainment, an instructional tool, and a way to bring attention and business to Cincinnati (Named after the great Roman General Cincinnatius – who took dictatorial powers, repelled the enemy, and returned to his farm. It should be noted that Cincinnatius holds a certain sway for Americans as George Washington emulated the ancient general in giving up his commission and returning to Mount Vernon. What’s more Washington has endeared himself to American History by turning his back and refusing to take part – thus stopping — a proposed coup made by Colonial Army Officers who had not been paid).
If your looking for an example of a pageant, just YouTube it. You more than likely will come up with quite a few religious pageants that look like a live production of THE PASSION OF CHRIST. One time I found a Syrian production (an excellent rock musical) of Queen Zenobia.
I can’t help to think the 1887 Cincinnati production was titillating, imaginative, over the top, and probably overacted. You know what…it would have been fun to see. The only thing I am a little confused about is how ROME vnder (sic) NERO was chosen for a subject and how it could have possibly reflected good Republican values.
Note* There’s actually an ad in the programme selling pants for $3.00.