Luther Parker and others with trumpets led fellow Chamber members through the streets to marched through the streets to Pike’s Opera House. Onlookers were “astounded and uncomprehending.”
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper picked up the story of the Chamber’s frolics and took it national. Merchants are seen here pelting a newcomer with bags of flour.
A greased pig turned loose always adds to the fun in Porkopolis.
As I am writing this, the staff of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is busy preparing to move its offices out of the Carew Tower to Three East Fourth Street over the last weekend of September 2014. The Chamber has moved without incident many times, but one move, went dramatically wrong and drew unwanted national attention.
After 12 years in the Smith and Nixon Hall, the Cincinnati Chamber and Merchant Exchange was scheduled to move to “handsome new headquarters” in Pike’s Opera House after the close of business on November 23, 1881 (Thanksgiving Day). The plan was to close early, at 1 p.m., have a short musical program followed by a series of speeches by each of the living ex-Presidents of the Chamber—a dignified, if unexciting, plan.
According to a report in the Cincinnati Daily Gazette the next day, 45 minutes before the festivities were scheduled to begin, someone threw a sack of flour across the floor of the exchange and within 10 minutes “flour and grain were flying in every direction.”
Although some members of the Chamber were initially indignant, within minutes everyone joined in and a “half an hour (of) bedlam reigned supreme” leaving the floor of the Chamber “literally white, and the air was filled with dust.
”When part of the crowd tried to leave, someone released a greased pig, adding to the mayhem. About that same time, Currier’s Band marched into the hall, “heightening the confusion."
When Sidney Maxwell, the Superintendent of the Chamber, called for order, he was greeted with a burst of firecrackers, filling the hall with “smoke and the smell of powder.
”If nothing else, this incident undermines the image of the Chamber of Commerce as a stodgy organization and reveals it, in the words of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd a century later, as a bunch of “wild and crazy guys.”
By Dan Hurley, local historian, host of the weekly “Local 12 Newsmakers” program and former director of Leadership Cincinnati for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
This is the eighth in a series of 12 essays about the history of the Chamber and Cincinnati business, to commemorate the Chamber’s 175th anniversary.