Library and Archives Canada, C102533K, Fancy Ball at the Victoria Rink 1865-66

MontrealHerald, 26 January 1864


Grand Fancy-Dress Entertainment at theVictoriaSkating Rink


The first fancy-dress entertainment of the season came off last evening in the Victoria Skating rink, and proved a very brilliant affair.  The building was decorated for the occasion with a profusion of flags, tranparencies, Chinese lanterns, and so forth, and presented a very gay and picturesque appearance.  Early in the evening spectators began to crowd, and by eight o’clock several thousand must have been present.  The promenade round the rink soon became literally jammed.  Most successful arrangements had been made for the musical part of the entertainment, the splendid band of the Rifle Brigade, and Thorbahn’s Orchestra being present, occupying the platforms, on either side of the rink.  Of course, the spectators exceeded by very many the number of those who actually assisted in the fantastic performance of the evening, the number who came out on the ice being about 150 or 200, somewhat smaller it is said than last year.  The costumes were perhaps a little more varied than on previous occasions, but there was as usual, a good deal of sameness in many of them.  The ice was in first rate condition, swept of all obstructions, and as smooth as glass.  The first comers stepped on to it about eight o’clock, and as the night wore on the scene became more and more brilliant and exciting.  The musicians did their share of the work in capital style, keeping up the animation of the high and mighty princes, dukes and folks of lesser rank, who continually swept about in eddying circles and strange inexplicable figures in this magnificent ball room.  There seemed to be a “run” on “gentlemen of color”, whether red skins, or those of that other hue to whom the application is generally supposed to have special reference.  There were doubtless present representatives of all the different tribes, Chippewa, Choctawa, and the other aboriginal class rejoicing in more unpronounceable coguomens.  Of course there were many aspirants to power and authority, and Chiefs abounded, hideous in their war paint, feathers and other decorations and appendages of the leaders of the terrible red men of other days.  The “Darkey” was present in every possible charater.  There were aristocratic ‘gentlemen of color’, plantation hands, waiters, and any number of burlesque characters in the getting up of which opportunities were afforded of displaying the inevitable tail coat, and the usual exuberance of shirt colar.  Some matronly looking characters, who might be supposed to have been bottled up for the last fifty or sixty years, and might be taken for Old Mother Hubbard of the nursery book, also wended their way with due sobriety through the gay throng.  One gentleman was a perfect Peter Simple, whatever the character he really represented.  One might have supposed he saw in another the venerable Pickwick himself, except that if it were him he might have improved his skating since the time of his memorable adventures with poor victimized Winkle, and the other members of the illustrious Club.  A Canadian Habitant was another character, well got up.  A clown and harlequin careened about, playing off many of the orthodox antics, whilst another graced his person in the fancy and striking, if not elegant costume of the circus ring, with a grand tools cap and the legitimate bells.  Then there were the nobles, — Spanish and Italian Counts, Albanian Chiefs, Turkish Pashas, Russian Grandees, and other illustrious individuals, whom we have hardly space to notice in particular.  Firemen in their broad  brimmed hats and red coats, were plentifully mixed up with the gayer and more elegant costumes and the many grotesque representations which glided swiftly about.  There were pantaloons playing their mad pranks, fresh little flower girls, decked out in gay ribbons, and carrying the emblems of their occupation; there were smart little pages, and equally smart little sailors; gypsies and Garibaldians; a Highland lady and gentleman, Di Vernon, Le Fils du Regiments, Mr and Mrs Apinidab Sleek.  A college student, Bohemians, Turks, Chinese, antique old gentlemen with ancient tail coats, and specimens of the old English gentleman; London bill board carrier; who promenaded sedately about, Robinson Crusoe with his umbrella, and his man Friday carrying his gun, drummer boys, military men of the last century, footmen, who sustained their assumed character with remarkable correctness; there was a Lord Dandreary, Tecumseh, Zouave Indigene, Chasseur d’Afrique, Oceanic Islander, Don Ossiar de Bassan Night, La VAssovian, Mephistopholes, Guy Fawkes, a Knight in Armour, a Bohemian girl, a Caban planter, Volunteer Officers, Guardsmen, Gnomes, Imps, Swiss Fishermen, Spanish Mulaturs, and numbers of brigands, pirates & c.  Besides the imps, however, was the “old Gentleman” himself, literally in black.  One of the most amusing characters was one which we suppose would be properly called a Bottle Imp.  The person who sustained it was stuffed out in the shape of a bottle, which was conspicuously labeled “Golden Bitters,” & c, to be kept “this side up with care.”  The right side, however, got down once, but was promptly turned up by friendly hands. Time only permits us to give a brief sketch of the entertainment, which turned out very successful and was kept up till a late hour.  Many of the characters worthy of notice, may have escaped our attention in giving a summary review of this scene.  We may say however, that they ‘make up’ was in most cases very good, and there is little doubt that had some of the more celebrated Shakespearian or historical characters been attempted, they would have been carried out with equal success.  Polkaing, waltzing, quadrilling and other terpsichorean exercises were performed with astonishing dexterity and agility, and kept up with undiminished zeal throughout the evening.  The ever changing scene was of the most attractive and amusing character, and the few accidents and numerous incidents of the occasion will afford material for many ‘long talks’ amongst the brave warriors and others who took part in or witnessed the interesting entertainment.


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