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Austin Treasures: Online Exhibits from the Austin History Center

star border View of the Capitol from a distance Capitol Views View of the Capitol from a distance View of the Capitol from a distance star border
View of the Capitol from a distance View of the Capitol from a distance
Photograph of dedication attendees gathered in front of the Capitol Building
People began to gather early on the morning of the formal dedication of "the Grandest State House in the Union." At 8:30 a.m. the crowds were already in place along Congress Avenue and the Capitol Grounds. Those lucky enough to secure a seat along the second story ledge of the new Capitol could watch the parade and the ceremonies that followed from one location. [AR X.16 Caldwell H-10] enlarge image

Photograph of crowd looking south down Congress Avenue from the steps of the Capitol Grounds
The crowd at the head of Congress Avenue watching the parade held in conjunction with the dedication ceremonies on May 16, 1888. The Austin Daily Statesman reported that an estimated 20,000 individuals lined Congress Avenue as military drill teams, representatives of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Texas, and Gilmore's Band--the most famous band in the country at the time--passed in review. [AR X.16 Caldwell H-9] enlarge image

Photograph of Chickasaw Guard marching up Congress Avenue toward Capitol
The Chickasaw Guard from Murpheesboro, Tennessee was one of the many drill teams to participate in the military procession in honor of the new Capitol. Drill team members traveling to the dedication received a special one-cent-per-mile fare from the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In addition to the parade, the drill teams participated in competitions held every afternoon at the encampment grounds. [C 00226-B] enlarge image

Dedication Ceremonies

During the week of May 14-19, 1888, more than 20,000 people flocked to Austin to help celebrate the completion of the Capitol. Flags and banners lined the streets for a parade every day. Military drill teams from around the nation, dances, baseball games, German choruses, opera performances, fireworks displays, festive dinners, speeches, cowboy roping exhibitions, and "the Grandest aggregation of musical talent every witnessed in the South" gave the visitors plenty to keep occupied

On May 16, the official dedication day, a mile-long parade headed by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas led the crowd to the Capitol where state officials accepted the building in a series of flowery speeches. That evening the Dedication Ball was held, for which special music was composed, "The Texas State Capitol Waltz."

Proud Austinites had spent months working in citizen committees to prepare for the occasion, with visitors from around the state and nation. Special railway and streetcar lines were built to the encampment grounds one mile from the city, which featured "six days of famous and magnificent attractions[s]" including military displays, band concerts, and "the most extensive, original and brilliant display of fireworks ever witnessed in the south." They put on quite a party. Entrepreneurs were also ready with a variety of souvenirs which visitors could buy to remember the festivities--spoons, vases, medallions, programs, samples of red granite, and special newspaper editions.

The national media came as well, including 106 editors just from Texas, to help celebrate. They gave the dedication press coverage that would be the envy of any public relations firm. The articles were filled with elaborate drawings, enthusiastic eyewitness accounts, and heartfelt pronouncements of the importance of the event.

Quote: Never in the history of the city, never in the history of the state, was there another such day.

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