I believe I have no good reason for including among these suburban sketches my recollections of the Peace Jubilee, celebrated by a monster musical entertainment at Boston, in June, 1869; and I do not know if it will serve as excuse for their intrusion to say that the exhibition was not urban in character, and that I attended it in a feeling of curiosity and amusement which the Bostonians did not seem to feel, and which I suspect was a strictly suburban if not rural sentiment.
I thought, on that Tuesday morning, as our horse-car drew near the Long Bridge, and we saw the Coliseum spectral through the rain, that Boston was going to show people representing other parts of the country her Notion of weather. I looked forward to a forenoon of clammy warmth, and an afternoon of clammy cold and of east wind, with a misty nightfall soaking men to the bones. But the day really turned out well enough; it was showery, but not shrewish, and it smiled pleasantly at sunset, as if content with the opening ceremonies of the Great Peace Jubilee.
The city, as we entered it, gave due token of excitement, and we felt the celebration even in the air, which had a holiday quality very different from that of ordinary workday air. The crowds filled the decorous streets, and the trim pathways of the Common and the Public Garden, and flowed in an orderly course towards the vast edifice on the Back Bay, presenting the interesting points which always distinguish a crowd come to town from a city crowd. You get so used to the Boston face and the Boston dress, that a coat from New York or a visage from Chicago is at once conspicuous to you; and in these people there was not only this strangeness, but the different oddities that lurk in out-of-way corners of society everywhere had started suddenly into notice. Long-haired men, popularly supposed to have perished with the institution of slavery, appeared before me, and men with various causes and manias looking from their wild eyes confronted each other, let alone such charlatans as had clothed themselves quaintly or grotesquely to add a charm to the virtue of whatever nostrum they peddled. It was, however, for the most part, a remarkably well-dressed crowd; and therein it probably differed more than in any other respect from the crowd which a holiday would have assembled in former times. There was little rusticity to be noted anywhere, and the uncouthness which has already disappeared from the national face seemed to be passing from the national wardrobe. Nearly all the visitors seemed to be Americans, but neither the Yankee type nor the Hoosier was to be found. They were apparently very happy, too; the ancestral solemnity of the race that amuses itself sadly was not to be seen in them, and, if they were not making it a duty to be gay, they were really taking their pleasure in a cheerful spirit.
There was, in fact, something in the sight of the Coliseum, as we approached it, which was a sufficient cause of elation to whoever is buoyed up by the flutter of bright flags, and the movement in and about holiday booths, as I think we all are apt to be. One may not have the stomach of happier days for the swing or the whirligig; he may not drink soda-water intemperately; pop-corn may not tempt him, nor tropical fruits allure; but he beholds them without gloom,–nay, a grin inevitably lights up his countenance at the sight of a great show of these amusements and refreshments. And any Bostonian might have felt proud that morning that his city did not hide the light of her mercantile merit under a bushel, but blazoned it about on the booths and walls in every variety of printed and painted advertisement. To the mere aesthetic observer, these vast placards gave the delight of brilliant color, and blended prettily enough in effect with the flags; and at first glance I received quite as much pleasure from the frescoes that advised me where to buy my summer clothing, as from any bunting I saw.