Bidwell’s Fourth of July

Here’s an entry from the General’s diary for July 4, 1877:

Fine cool pleasant day. = Callers: J.W. Gilkyson to excuse committee about calling on Bonte – Haley (Ed. Enterprise) to see Bonte – Mr. Ellis to dine – Rich to call on Bonte – Grand 4th July celebration – Rev. J.H.C. Bonte, orator, Nourse poet, Dr. Dawson reader of poem, St.T. Black reader of Declaration of Independence – Procession began at 9 1/2 A.M. – and lasted one hour – exercises at Pavilion lasted until 12 1/2 P.M. The whole a grand success = in P.M. the Horribles – In evening salute, music, fireworks, dancing.

Most of the General’s entries for the 4th record an oration, a poem, and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. But what were “the Horribles?”  That one stumped me until I did a bit of googling.

According to Language Log, a “parade of horribles” was a popular feature of 4th of July celebrations in the late 19th century. A procession of grotesques–people in masks and costumes–formed part of the festivities of the day. This is probably what Bidwell was referring to in his July 4, 1874 entry when he notes “a hideous crowd, masked, came over from town.”  The Daily Nevada State Journal ran this announcement in 1889.

Glocester, Rhode Island, still holds an “Ancients and Horribles Parade” on the 4th of July. I wonder when it died out in Chico?

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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