On This Day in History, January 19: Popcorn Snowballs and Lemonade Springs — Raising Money in 1902

We could learn a thing or two about fundraising from the Brooklyn ladies living in 1902. On Jan. 19, of that year, the Eagle ran a feature in its Sunday edition about an upcoming fundraiser at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, then on Montague Street (but not for long, it would burn down a year later and be rebuilt where it stands today in Fort Greene).


Called “From Colonial America to the United States, Its Colonies and Protectorates,” the fundraiser was a craft sale, history lesson and art exhibition all in one. Because of the cumbersome name, everyone just called it the “Midwinter Fete.” It was to raise money for an organization known as the Church Charity Foundation, which was comprised of five different charities. 


“Modern ingenuity” and “feminine enterprise” were responsible for the show, the article explained. “The barnlike Academy will be transformed into a little cosmos of beauty…nothing beyond the exterior will be recognizable.”


Parishes from all over Brooklyn and Long Island  — 128 in total — were involved in pulling it together, and each parish was responsible for different booths at the fete.


 Mrs. J. Eliott Langstaff, the chief organizer, said, “The fete means something more than the mere raising of a large sum of money for a worthy purpose. It means the sympathetic fellowship, the working together for one cause of a large body of people, it means the creation of an enduring interest in this cause …”


The following is a description of the event at the Academy:


“The bare entrance will become Washington’s old home and the visitors will come in, most appropriately, through the gates of Mount Vernon finding even the posts metamorphosed into trees and the blank walls into landscapes.


“The inner foyers will reveal charming vistas: to the left, palms, bamboo vines, flowers and fruits: this is Florida, in charge of Christ Church. In perspective is seen Key West, and in a sea corner the women of St. Marks church, Islip, will sell fishing accessories such as nets, decoy ducks and trout flies made by the people of Bayswater.


“The right corridor will represent a street in New Orleans with the quaint old Spanish cabildo in the foreground and marshes beyond. Here charming maids and matrons of St. Mark’s Church, garbed in costumes of the First Empire, will vend French candy, while in an old southern cabin molasses candy, crete and sugar cane will be sold.


“Entering the auditorium, the entire front will show a semi-circle of gay shops, where every conceivable thing may be purchased.


“In ‘Ye Olde Booke Shoppe,’ in charge of Holy Trinity Church, will be found books and pictures, interesting photographs and signed copies. In commemoration of the first book shop established by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia the maids in attendance at the book stalls will wear the prim Quaker costume, while those in charge of the pictures will afford a striking contrast to the gay gowns of colonial Virginia. 


“Next to the book shop, Christ Church, South Brooklyn, will conduct a cotton and linen sale in a shop fitted up with looms and old spinning wheels…


“Of special interest will be an old Dutch kitchen where St. Paul’s Church, South Brooklyn, will dispense hot chocolate. Its quaint fireplace, leaded windows, pewter plates and steins will make a proper background for various pretty maids in Dutch costume.


“It is not very far from Holland to Alaska at the Midwinter Fete. St. Andrew’s Church has prepared a realistic Alaska with stuffed deer, sleds and plumb snowballs made of popcorn. The attendants will be dressed as Indians or miners and in the corner will be a sandpile where children can dig for nuggets and be sure of finding something for their pains.”


There was also an abundance of dining options at the adjacent Colonial Hall, the article reported, including “a marvelous Ponce de Leon spring which will flow with lemonade.” There was also a “smoking room where cigars and daily papers could be bought.”


The fete opened with a colonial reception on Jan. 27 and closed on Feb. 1. On Jan. 31, the Eagle reported that so many people turned up for one of the art exhibits, that hundreds had to be turned away. Among the pieces on display was a miniature of King Louis XVI of France that had been presented to Benjamin Franklin in 1785.


— Compiled by Phoebe Neidl