Sacramento’s 1885 Floral Festival concluded with the gifting of the Crocker Art Gallery

 

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series regarding Margaret Crocker.

 

One hundred and twenty-five years have passed since a grand celebration was held in honor of one of the city’s all-time greatest philanthropists, Margaret Crocker.

This May 6, 1885 photograph shows a western view of the interior of the Pavilion at 15th and N streets during the floral festival honoring Margaret Crocker. Near the center of the photograph are young girls dancing around a maypole, while a banner reading, “Lover of Our Homes,” hangs in the background. / Photo courtesy, Crocker Art Museum

This May 6, 1885 photograph shows a western view of the interior of the Pavilion at 15th and N streets during the floral festival honoring Margaret Crocker. Near the center of the photograph are young girls dancing around a maypole, while a banner reading, “Lover of Our Homes,” hangs in the background. / Photo courtesy, Crocker Art Museum

On the afternoon and evening of May 6, 1885, practically everyone in the city turned their attention to this woman who had donated so much for the good of Sacramento.

Among Margaret’s most notable contributions were her donations of a large tract of land to increase the size of the city cemetery, the Bell Conservatory (a large greenhouse structure that was built to supply flowers for the city cemetery), and the Marguerite Home, a home for “aged gentlewomen” at 1617 7th St.

As an extreme showing of gratitude for the generosity of Margaret, who was the wife of Judge Edwin Bryant Crocker, a well-known art collector and the brother of railroad baron Charles Crocker, a grand floral festival paid tribute to this self-sacrificing citizen.

Prior to this free-of-charge event, newspapers in and outside of Sacramento previewed the upcoming gathering and showered Margaret with much deserved compliments.

The San Jose Times-Mercury, for instance, published the following words regarding Margaret: “Her name for years has been the synonym of disinterested charity. She has shown by her works how worldly possessions can adorn a noble character. She has poured out her money in every conceivable channel of benevolence without ostentation. She has aided all public-spirited enterprises and has contributed without stint to adorn and beautify the city in which she lives. Her benefactions, which have known neither creed nor religion, amount to millions of dollars. Sacramento does well in honoring one so noble, and this testimonial by a grateful people will mark an epoch in the history of that city.”

The Colusa Sun echoed the words of the Times-Mercury and many other newspapers of the time through the following words: “Mrs. Margaret E. Crocker has endeared herself to the people of Sacramento by a long life studded with gems of charity. Her whole life has been one of charity and love for her fellow beings.”

And locally, the Sacramento Record-Union in its May 5, 1885 edition posed the question, “What more fitting oblation could they bring than these free gifts of nature, sweet lovely flowers?”

This floral display, which was a tribute from the Congregational Church, which was located at 909 6th St., was among the many exhibits that decorated the interior of the Pavilion on May 6, 1885. / Photo courtesy, Crocker Art Museum

This floral display, which was a tribute from the Congregational Church, which was located at 909 6th St., was among the many exhibits that decorated the interior of the Pavilion on May 6, 1885. / Photo courtesy, Crocker Art Museum

In likening Margaret to flowers – “Odors of Edeu and offerings divine” – the Record-Union published the following words: “Mrs. Margaret E. Crocker has wealth of gold, and like flowers, she distributes its {sic} brightness and its {sic} worth for the benefit of the sick, weary and homeless, and for the lovers of the beautiful. This will no doubt be the most magnificent floral fete in the world’s history.”

And in making it such an event, many people consistently worked for an entire week to prepare for the gathering, including those men and women who constructed the elaborate floral designs.

This latter work, which was enhanced by attached cards bearing words of affection for Margaret, was such an undertaking that the Record-Union of May 7, 1885 reported that “in no floral display were pieces of such magnitude ever attempted in this country.”

As the greatest demonstration of honor for a private citizen in the city’s history, the floral festival, which featured flowers from throughout the state, was held at 15th and N streets in the then-new Pavilion of the California State Agricultural Society on May 6, 1885.

On this day, every business was closed throughout the city and thousands of people gathered to pay tribute to Margaret, and many people, businesses and organizations that were unable to be present at the event sent letters of remembrances.

Those entering the Pavilion saw displays of flowers of every variety and hue throughout the building, pine, cedar and evergreen trees, hanging baskets of ferns and evergreens and large banners bearing the inscriptions, “Consort of Our City” and “Lover of Our Homes.”

The scene was illuminated by both gas and electric lights, with the latter being made possible through the introduction of electric lighting in the city during the previous year.

Electricity of a different kind entered the pavilion at 2:30 p.m., as Margaret and her party were greeted by about 3,000 children who created double lines at the Pavilion’s entrance.

A guard of honor consisting of 20 girls strewed flowers in the pathway of the procession.

After Margaret was escorted to her seat on the grandstand, the aforementioned children passed by Margaret and delivered floral offerings to the stage.

The afternoon program, which was attended by a crowd, which was widely estimated to have consisted of 12,000 to 20,000 people, featured tribute banners carried by local schools, musical presentations and a maypole dance by the young ladies’ guard of honor.

An even larger crowd, which was primarily composed of adults, arrived for an evening session.

Margaret was seated on the grandstand shortly after 8 p.m. and the program began with floral tributes, including a unique presentation in which members of the California Pioneers marched from a miniature model of Sutter’s Fort prior to presenting their floral offerings.

The Pavilion, which was located east of the state Capitol, was the site of a floral festival honoring Margaret Crocker on May 6, 1885. / Photo courtesy, the Lance Armstrong Collection

The Pavilion, which was located east of the state Capitol, was the site of a floral festival honoring Margaret Crocker on May 6, 1885. / Photo courtesy, the Lance Armstrong Collection

The program also consisted of musical performances, including a grand chorus performance by the Ladies Choral Society, Turner Harmonie and others, a speech made by George W. Chesley, president of the Sacramento Pioneer Association, and a maypole dance by the same young ladies who performed in the afternoon session.

But by far the most notable segment of the evening was Margaret’s gifting of the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery – presently the Crocker Art Museum – to the city of Sacramento and the California Museum Association “in trust for the public.”

Prior to handing Mayor John Q. Brown the key to the gallery, Margaret briefly addressed Brown.

This address included the following words: “Mayor Brown, in this midst of this sweet atmosphere of love and fragrance and upon this occasion – one of the happiest days of my life – it affords me great pleasure to make a formal delivery to you of the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery; the bestowal of which I feel sure I am but carrying out the wishes of my late husband, and the only wish I breathe as I bestow it is that great good may come to Sacramento by its possession.”

With the recent, $100 million, 125,000-square-foot expansion of the Crocker Art Museum, Margaret’s dream for the gallery has likely exceeded her wildest expectations, and coupled with the prosperity of the city cemetery, the name Margaret Crocker continues to be a name worthy of a grand celebration like the one held 125 years ago.

lance@valcomnews.com

Donate a coat and receive free admission to Fairytale Town

SACRAMENTO – Fairytale Town is accepting coats for the News 10’s Coats for Kids, serving as an official drop-off site.

To help inspire the spirit of giving for children and families, Fairytale Town will offer one free child’s admission per coat, with a paying adult. The collection will run through Nov. 28, during operating hours. The collected coats will then be delivered to the News 10 Station.

The News 10’s Coats for Kids drive is celebrating 20 years of collecting coats to help families in the Sacramento area. The drive asks for a donation of new or gently used coats.

Over the last 19 years donors have helped collect and distribute more than 475,000 coats to children and families in need. The News 10’s Coats for Kids goal this year is 25,000 donations to make it to the one half million mark.

“The News 10’s Coasts for Kids drive is a great program, and we are happy to serve as an official drop-off location and extend free admission to encourage participation and donations,” said Sharlene Lal-Hernandez, education and program manager of Fairytale Town.

Coats can also be dropped off at Swansons Cleaners, Rogers Jewelry Co., Century 21 M&M and Associates or the News 10 Studios.

For more information call (916) 808-7462 or visit www.fairytaletown.org.