5,000-6,000 celebrate the Fourth of July in Guttenberg in 1903

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This July Fourth float from the turn of the last century features a man in a barber chair and two men holding an oversize pair of scissors — apparently promoting a local barber. The building in the background, formerly an implement business, now houses The Guttenberg Press. (Photo courtesy of the Guttenberg Heritage Society)

By Shelia Tomkins

In 1903, the same year that saw construction of a new public school building in Guttenberg, an estimated 5,000-6,000 people filled the streets to view the Fourth of July parade and other festivities. The following account is from a July 1903 issue of the Clayton County Journal, a newspaper published in Guttenberg.

* * *

Last Saturday, the 4th dawned bright and beautiful, despite the threatening aspect of the weather the night before when rain fell and for a time seemed to promise a continued drizzle the next day. As it was, the dust was kept nicely down, the air for most of the day was cool and refreshing, and all in all it was as nearly an ideal day for the strenuous undertakings of the occasion as one could wish for. 

Immense crowds of farmers from all over this part of the county came rolling into town at an early hour, while strong delegations were added to their number from neighboring towns by boats, rail and private conveyances, until conservative estimates placed the number of people within our limits at from 5,000 to 6,000, all in holiday garb, all wearing happy, jolly faces, and apparently all bent on turning to good account the privileges of a national celebration, such as no other people on earth are permitted to enjoy.

The grand civic parade was scheduled to start at an early hour, and after some delay, owing to the large number of participants and the tedious labor devolving upon the officers of the day in arranging the floats and other displays properly, the parade was put under way, and a grand and mighty exhibit it was too, the likes of which we have seldom before witnessed in towns of twice and thrice the population and pretensions of Guttenberg.

Indeed, from start to finish there was not an inferior or questionable display made anywhere in the line, while thoroughness, excellent good taste, uniqueness of design and earnest patriotism marked strongly every detail, until, had it been possible to obtain a photographic view of the magnificent scene would have been a most attractive picture, and convincing as to Guttenberg's business enterprise, ambition and loyalty to flag and country.

Headed by Aug. Schroeder as Marshal of the Day, who was mounted on Will Kord's splendid gray charger "Manager," with the Cornet Band discoursing some of their finest and most exhilarating music, and with Fritz Miller, Jr., as Assistant Marshal, dashing up and down the line on a magnificent black animal, busy at keeping the displays in position for best effect, the procession took up the line of march on North First Street, passed thence south along First nearly to the great saw mills of Zimmerman & Ives, then east over onto Front Street where it turned north again, and passed into glorious scenic review before several thousands of delighted spectators, who thronged and packed the sidewalks for block after block, all proud of the grandeur of the exhibit, proud of the occasion and proud of Guttenberg as the little city that could thus outclass any sister town in this section of our peerless Iowa in all those attributes that go toward making her the growing and prospering commercial and manufacturing center that she is. 

Parade order

Marshal of the Day, Aug. Schroeder, on Kords' gray charger, "Manager."

Guttenberg City Cornet band, 17 pieces. Members of Hassendeifel Post, Grand Army of the Republic, with Old Glory as proudly waving over their venerable heads.

Mayor Jenkins and Postmaster Schroeder in open barouche.

Large and elegant platform float, terraced, on which were congregated some 40 handsomely dressed little girls, representing the Public Schools of the city with teachers.

(Detailed descriptions followed of 36 floats, including Clemens Kappen furniture and undertaking, Herman Ihm mercantile store, H.J. Overbeck Hardware, the Guttenberg Fire Department - Hook and Ladder Co., Kuempel Bros., Meyer Bros. Cigar and Tobacco Works, Commercial Hotel, Zimmerman and Ives lumber and milling, Schutte and Herboldsheimer Blacksmith shop and wagon factory, Central Meat Market, Ben Lake the barber, and many more).

Additional notes

Some one masked as a huge bear escorted the procession and excited much amusement.

Prof. Pye read the Declaration of Independence to the multitude at the park, and his rendition was scholarly and very impressive.

The descent into the river in he submarine suit by Mr. Wilmot was witnessed by thousands from the bank, and was an event of deep interest to all observers.

The ball in Turner Hall was a splendid success, and the music by the Orchestra was most excellent in every way.

The music furnished by the City Cornet Band was of the very highest order, and was listened to with rapt attention at all times by everybody.

Guttenberg extends her thanks to Cassville, Elkport, Colesburg, Osterdock, Glen Haven, Garnavillo and other sister towns for being so well represented at our celebration by large delegations. Come again and often and be welcomed.

The Dockstaders failed us at the last moment, going to Missouri for a large purse than contracted here. Don't blame Guttenberg for their breach of contract.

In the girls' races Cora Kirch of this city was given 1st prize and Miss Fry, of Buck Creek, 2nd prize.

Joe Williams and his female impersonations attracted much attention and afforded lots of laughs.

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