Tired of Summer? Tired of the muggy heat? Good! Because today we are going to pretend its winter.
While going through the vertical file the other week this item caught the eye.
The annual sleigh-ride of the Cambridge City Council? Yup, sleigh-ride. Sleigh rides were popular entertainment in the Victorian winter time. The Cambridge newspapers hold numerous postings about YMCA sleigh-rides, church sleigh-rides, women’s clubs and the city government. Who would have known? Well not the archivist of the city papers because as a January 15, 1881 Cambridge Chronicle points out, the revels were “not to be printed with the city documents”.
And why is that? Well it seems like the good gentlemen of the city government had a little more fun than the average stoic Victorian male should. The sleigh-ride consisted of men from the previous term of City Councilors, now relieved of the “cares of office” and free to celebrate with a sleigh-ride to Lexington.
The newspaper description of the 1881 revealed that before hand they drank so much “milk” that the landlord complained that “the cows were dry and the sleighs ready”. Off they went whisking away, loudly singing such songs as “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. They stopped for a rest and proceeded to draw up a resolution (they must not have remembered that they were no longer actively serving) to give themselves the title “Honorable” but half of them were too drunk to sign it. Finally when they were all sober again and had eaten the listened to each other give speeches. After which were numerous dances and no doubt more to drink.
The journalist writes
…the small hours came round unnoticed, till finally few had strength left to even laugh aloud, but their faces had gotten so fixed in position that they were left at their various houses sometime toward morning still smiling over the frolic of the City Government of 1880.
The City Government of 1886 must have learned what sort of press bad behavior got their predecessors and the accounting of their sleigh-ride festivities is less than thrilling. They left on time, had a “smoking hot supper” and “reached Cambridge on their return at good Puritan hours” recounts the Cambridge Chronicle. Perhaps it just became too dull a tradition to maintain…