A Goddess is Crowned in Mansfield: The Feast of Ceres

115 years ago around this time of year, as October became November, Mansfield was the scene of a unique and spectacular multi-day event called the “Feast of Ceres.” The idea of “a colossal exposition of the industries and possibilities of Mansfield” was the brainchild of the Mansfield Mercantile Association early in 1907, and it took months of labor and innumerable people to plan and execute, beginning with involving the whole community in choosing just the right name for the grand event [1].

Naming a Festival

The Mercantile Association decided to host a contest to determine the name of the planned festival, its “hope and pride.” As advertising went, this was apparently a good strategy, because name suggestions came “flooding” in to the offices all in search of the perfect name that would earn the recognition of the Mercantile Association. None of the unsuccessful suggestions have survived, but the winning name “Feast of Ceres” was sent in by one Miss Anna Snyder of Wood Street, who was a teacher in Mansfield. Miss Snyder won the ten dollar prize for her suggestion, and her suggestion was praised for its appropriateness in the newspapers:

“The name is particularly appropriate for the great street fair to be held in Mansfield next fall. The name is in honor of Ceres, the goddess of harvests, loved and honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ceres was the daughter of Saturn and Rhea and dwelt in Olympus till she was incensed by the abduction of her two daughters. She wore a garland of corn [grain] and held a sceptre in her hand. When the people received her hospitably she smiled on them and brought them bounteous harvests. The Mansfield Mercantile Association will erect a temple in which they will have an altar where they will lay their costly sacrifices and pray the goddess, Ceres, to send a bountiful harvest and a big crowd to the fair.”

Mansfield Daily Shield, 23 May 1907, page 2.

Different images of the goddess were created and used by advertisers around Mansfield to tie into the theme of the festival, like this depiction of the goddess from an ad by the A. C. Lantz Company on Fourth Street.

Mansfield Daily Shield, First Feast of Ceres Edition 26 October 1907, page P04.

The Festivities

The Feast of Ceres involved many different opportunities for revelry. The highlight of the Feast was to be the industrial parade, featuring the manufacturers and businesses in the city and county, but other activities planned included a band tournament, a horse parade, a parade of the German societies of Mansfield, free shows with acrobats and trapeze performances, and a masked carnival.

Mansfield Daily Shield, 08 October 1907, page 2.


Black and white photograph showing Main Street in Mansfield. Large crowds of people line both sides of the street, some even standing on the balcony of the Foresters building, while a parade passes through the street The parade includes people on horses and hors-drawn wagons.
Parade of the Feast of Ceres. Sherman Room Photo File.

The Goddess is Crowned

The biggest event at the Feast of Ceres was the crowning of the goddess, who was selected by popular vote. Several Lutheran pastors were “bitterly opposed” to the crowning, and published a resolution that the crowning was “heathenish in its whole bearing and utterly out of keeping with this enlightened age and the name of this city of churches” [2]. Despite the objections, a lavish ceremony was planned to begin the final afternoon of the Feast. It was intended that the queen would be paraded to Central Park with her maids of honor and flower girls. In Central Park, there was a large platform that she would be enthroned upon, and she would be serenaded by 400 schoolchildren singing harvest and patriotic songs.

Unfortunately, as one newspaper put it, “the goddess of rain and the Goddess of the Feast clashed and the latter was vanquished,” and the grand reveal of the Goddess was dampened by rain. Even though the expected thronging crowds did not appear, the procession and performances were held, and in what was apparently a great surprised, the Goddess who had won the vote was revealed to be Miss Nellie Lawrence of Daisy Street, “one of the city’s handsomest young women” [3].

After the Feast

Although there was speculation that the Feast of Ceres would become an annual event, it was never held again. This may have been a result of the timing. In 1908, the city was very busy with planning the celebration of the city’s centennial. For whatever reason, the Feast of Ceres was a monumental event that occupies a unique space in Mansfield history, as a grand celebration of the manufacturing and industry of the city and county.

Sources

  1. Mansfield Daily Shield, 26 October 1907, page 2
  2. Mansfield Daily Shield, 28 October 1907, page 2
  3. Mansfield Daily Shield, 08 October 1907, page 2

Advertising

Newspapers from the Feast of Ceres

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Hog Day in Mansfield

mansfield hog day 1862

On February 15, 1862 an image, most likely taken from the image above, appeared as a sketch in The New York Illustrated News.  In 1922, Richmond Smith, son of Hiram Richmond Smith, had a copy of the “relic” as The Mansfield News referred to it.  The Photo and accompanying photograph, which appeared in The New York Illustrated, paints quite the picture of our little “rural village.”

“Mansfield, a rural village on the Pittsburg [sic], Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad, was sketched by our artist on a winter’s day, as the farmers from the surrounding country were bringing in their ‘pork’ to be shipped eastward for the army and navy.  Although it is comparatively but a small village, it is situated in the midst of as rich and fertile a section as there is in the state.  Over a hundred thousand dollars will have been paid out for pork alone in this market before the season is over.  The meat is bought by speculators and shipped to Pittsburg [sic] and Philadelphia, where it is packed in barrels and it is sometimes resold there for $2.25 per 100 pounds, though the average price is about $2.75.  Government is paying now from nine to twelve cents per pound for last year’s packing, and at Richmond and New Orleans quoted from 23 to 30 cents per pound.  Wool growing is the main employment of the farmers of the neighborhood.  Mansfield is the home of John Sherman, U.S. Senator, who distinguished himself last congress as Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means.  It is also noted for the piety of its inhabitants and may be called the Brooklyn of Ohio, there is no less than none churches to its four thousand inhabitants.”

Source:

The Mansfield News. 16 APR 1922, pp. 5B.

“Human Fly’s” come to Mansfield

During the early 20th century, the “Human Fly” was a spectacle that would bring out thousands of people.  An individual, often wearing everyday clothes and not using any special apparatus or climbing gear, would scale the side of a building to the delight of the crowd.  This happened numerous times in Mansfield.  One of the early accounts recorded in the Mansfield Shield from 1916 tells of “Crazy Jack” Williams.  On April 20, 1916, a crowd estimated at around 2000 people watched as Williams scaled the Smith Building where Maxwell’s was located.  Before the stunt, Williams raised $12 from the crowd, though some were unhappy that the climb took almost an hour to complete.

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Williams was not as well-known as two other dare devils that made climbs in Mansfield.  In October of 1919, Harry Gardiner came to Mansfield to scale the Richland County Court House.  Gardiner started climbing in 1905 and scaled nearly 700 buildings in Europe and North America.  Gardiner scaled the Court House in 35 minutes and began the climb in a white duck suit, which had turned grey by the time he came down.  Upon reaching the top, he encircled the statue, lodging himself on one arm and placing his duck hat on the statues head.  Gardiner returned in June of 1922 and repeated the climb to help raise money for the American Legion.

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Henry Roland was another famed “Human Fly” who made a climb in Shelby in 1926.  Roland was reportedly so taken with the area that he purchased land and decided to make Shelby his future home town.   In 1926, Roland climbed two buildings in Shelby and sat while balancing a chair on the edge.  It was reported that in 1927, Roland would climb the Richland County Court House blindfolded and balance two chairs on the ledge and sit on them.  Roland also performed a stunt from the top of the Leland in 1928.  A few months after the Leland stunt, Henry Roland’s whereabouts were unknown and Anna, his wife, filed for divorce in Richland County, Ohio.  In 1932 neither Anna nor Henry could be found and The Shelby Building and Loan Company foreclosed on their property.

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Neither Gardiner nor Roland had a happy ending.  A man matching Gardiner’s description was found beaten to death at the base of the Eiffel Tower in 1933, but details about his death are unknown.  Roland’s final stunt was in Greenville, Tennessee in 1937.   It was reported in a contemporary trade magazine what happened: “It had long been his ambition to develop a new act that would give more thrills than his former acts, and last winter he realized it by bringing out a high trapeze and swaying pole routing, performed without a safety net, 110 feet above the ground. At the Ottway Fair, Greenville, Tenn.,[sic] October 7, while completing the finale of his trapeze, a forward somersault to ankle catch, a gust of wind blew his trapeze bar from under him and he fell to his death.”  His death certificate identified a “broken right femur, broken bones of hands, probably internal injuries, probably fractured skull” and concluded that he was killed by a “crush injury” secondary to his fall.[i]

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Roland

Prof. La Cardo: “A Drunken, Howling Fraud”

lacardo ad 7_2_88

130 years ago, in 1888, this advertisement appeared in The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner promising a spectacular out-door exhibition for the Fourth of July at the county fairgrounds.  The main attraction was Prof. La Cardo, an aeronaut, who would perform while hanging from a hot air balloon.  Flight and ballooning had become a popular attraction ever since the first balloon flew in Versailles, France 105 years previously in 1783.  A sheep, duck and rooster were the first passengers and flew for about 8 minutes, rising 1500 feet and traveling 2 miles before safely landing.

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Balloon launch in Public Square (Central Park) around 1870.

Ballooning had come to Mansfield in the past.  In 1858 the aeronaut Mr. W. J. Shotts rose about a quarter mile in the air, dropped and came down about two and a half miles north east of the city in an orchard near the residence of Henry Nail.  Also, in July 1863, a Professor Squires was supposed to make a balloon-ascension from Public Square, but, after sending his balloon to the city, decided not to make the flight to the disappointment of many of the citizens.

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Another balloon launch, unknown date.

This wasn’t the last time the citizens of Mansfield would be disappointed by a ballooning exhibition.  Prof. La Cardo and his “group of dead-beats and dead-broke frauds,” as The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner referred to them, left town after the show owning about $75 to local businesses.   One, The Herald Co., was owed $12.82 and Mayor McCrory issued a warrant for the arrest of W. F. Crossley, the manager of the troupe.  Officer Weil found him at the depot and settled the debt for $10 and let Crossley go.  Another warrant was then issued for both La Cardo and Crossley, but they had already boarded the train heading east.  Messages were sent to Loudonville and Wooster.  Crossley was arrested again in Loudonville and La Cardo by the Marshal in Wooster.  Marshal Lemon then went to retrieve the prisoners to take them back to Mansfield.

The company didn’t just skip town with unpaid bills; the show was also a disappointment.  The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner called La Cardo “a drunken, howling fraud,” claiming “he was drunk nearly the entire time he was in the city.”  The balloon didn’t rise more the height of a fence and Zip Tyler and John Emminger, who won contests, didn’t receive the prizes they were promised.   In closing the newspaper said La Cardo and his manager Crossley “should have been given nice summer suits of tar and the stuff our grandmothers made pillows of.”

The men were returned to Mansfield and locked up for the night.  The following day, they stood before Mayor McCrory and were charged with “practicing games for the purpose to defraud and cheat.”  Crossley wished to settle the bills.  Another man, named Cook, left his gold watch and the men went out in the city to raise funds.  They returned about a half hour later, paid the bills, and the mayor released the men.

Later it was also found out that “La Cardo and his gang” were wanted in Shelby for defrauding the citizens there.  Crossley said he could perform a balloon-ascension there, but needed a little money to get it going.  He was successful in getting about $50 from the citizens.