Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The Washington Post has changed quite a bit in the last 90 years. For one thing, it no longer places a period after its name at the top of page one. For another, it doesn't stink. The Post of Sept. 19, 1909, was perhaps a milestone of what decent newspapers should never do: shamelessly promote themselves. The sin was compounded by lethal doses of outrageous hyperbole. An excerpt:
All Washington agog and astir in Potomac park, a golden September day, a night star-studded and zephyr-laden, mirth and joy driving hard at the wheel, "Old King Cole" serving as the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Momus, and a spirit of the utmost good fellowship permeating the air -- such was the panorama of The Post regatta and Carnival on the banks of the silvery river yesterday and last night.
It was a night of unparalleled splendor in the history of the National Capital, and one which time cannot erase from the minds of 125,000 (police estimate) happy-hearted men, women and children of all walks of life, who thronged "the playgrounds of the nation."
From noon, when the great sun cast his brilliant effulgence in direct rays down upon the shimmering waters of the Potomac and infused energy and fire into the brawn and brain of the spirited contestants in the numerous aquatic events, until the evening star was high overhead, scenes of wonderful variety, charm, and prodigality held the eyes and attention of the multitude.
They had come from all sections of the city. They had even hearkened to the call of the spectacular from farms and fields barely touching on the outermost fringe of the city, and from Virginia and Maryland.
Elbow to elbow, cheek by cheek, all were absorbed, diverted, thrilled, and held in superlative fascination of pageantry, contest, dance, sweet sounds of instruments, illuminations, festivity, happiness and buoyancy. In short, the form and spirit of carnival time was revived and brought back to those prosaic days by the triumph of yesterday.
Beyond all cavil "la Spectacle," as personalized by the French imagination, has found her welcome in Washington, and has come to stay. The illumination on the faces of the vast throng, as if reflected from the radiance of thousands of arc lights and the tongues of flaming sparks from the grim smokestacks of the formidable war vessels in the background of the picture, was proof that the people of Washington have found delight, amusement, and instruction in this form of entertainment.
They strolled, they stood, they motored, they drove fine horses, but always they watched and saw something new, pleasing and exhilarating. Exclamations of wonder and pleasure rent the soft night air as one after another of the splendid bursts of variegated sparks in pyrotechnic arrangements cleaved upward into visual beauty. Like amphitheater gatherings of old, the people thronged the gently sloping terraces of Potomac park and the Highway bridge throughout the afternoon and shouted encouragement to the congesting lithe-muscled athletes in grueling competition, and cheered themselves hoarse doing honor to the winners. In the evening soft voices mingled in human orchestration, while filtrations of light laughter diluted the tenseness of the moments as the great golden showers descended into the glimmering water.