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Carnival history

March 10, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Honcho Democrat in Franklin County, Joe Pickreign (I mean how many of us have been invited to Christmas dinner at the White House?), has given me a copy of the souvenir edition of the Adirondack Enterprise for 1898.

It is a reprint by the Enterprise, but as with so many historic documents, the reprint has no date. The Enterprise deserves a thank-you for preserving such an important piece of Saranac Lake history.

The first winter carnival in Saranac Lake was held in 1898, entitled the "Pontiac Club Carnival" organized by and apparently greatly financed by the club members. The Pontiac Club was organized in 1896 with its purpose outlined in the club constitution "the object of the club shall be the promotion of out-door sports and games and the encouragement of social intercourse."

Article Photos

The officers that first year were Dr. E. L. Trudeau, president; R. H. Coleman, vice president; G. V. W. Duryee, treasurer; C. H. Mellon, secretary; Dr. E. R. Baldwin, Edward A. Hall and E. R. Young. Isn't it interesting that first names were not used?

The plans for that first "ice fortress" were drawn by Architect Coulter assisted by Wilbur Sanders who "superintended" the construction. The fortress was 100 feet in length and 50 feet in height.


Hockey, skating and snowshoe notes

"The programme of the afternoon opened with an exciting, closely contested hockey game between the Malone and Pontiac Club teams. The result of the game was a tie, no goals being made."


"In the Class B one-mile skating contest, contestants were Cantwell, Conklin, Morhous, Rogers, Conrad, Danforth, Slater and Blauvelt. The prize was won by Slater. Cantwell dropped out in the fifth lap and Conklin in the seventh. Rogers' skate came off in the fourth lap."

"In the one-mile cross-country snow shoe race the contestants were Frank H. Turner, Frank Harris and John Benham. It was won by Harris with Benham second. One of Turner's snow shoes very unfortunately came off as he was getting ready for the final spurt."


The Enterprise March 14, 1898

Allen L. Vosburgh and Carl D. Smith were listed in the masthead as the publishers of the Enterprise and designers of this special edition from which these quotes are taken. This souvenir edition is a work of art with more than 40 photos and amazing writing the editors suggesting that the village should organize a similar summer event it sounded as though this edition was going to be widely circulated to promote the carnival.

Excerpts from the editorial:

"The carnival was of great benefit; that its value as and advertisement of the greatest all-around-the-year resort in the United States, if not in the world, was almost incalculable can be safely asserted, with no greater evidence than that already in hand. Far in the shade have been thrown all other efforts which we have made to entertain out guests. Our merchants, our bankers, our laboring men are in unanimous in the feeling that the Pontiac Club Carnival of 1898 was a signal success not only from an artistic but a pocket-book standpoint as well.

"It remains for some genius, whose love for the village, her prosperity and reputation is great enough to furnish inspiration for the task to evolve a summer fete which shall be a companion piece for our winter carnival and thus furnish a like attraction for summer guests. Such an entertainment has been carried out in Saratoga and other summer resorts and may be here."


Many photographers

There were many photographers used in this edition: Baldwin, Katherine E. McClellan, Farrington, Start, Peck, Allen and amateur photos. There is a special mention of Miss McClellan;

"Miss McClellan is, perhaps, the only lady professional photographer in this part of the state and is one of the very few in this country. Her studio is delightfully situated in the midst of what is known as Highland Park, the mountain home of her father, Dr. E. S. McClellan, and is reached by a beautiful drive of but a few moments from Saranac Lake village.

"Miss McClellan makes a specialty of landscape photography, though she has done, at the request of friends some very clever portrait work."


A feast or a famine - too much snow

"The worst set back which the carnival received was, of course, the terrible storm of Monday and Tuesday. There is no doubt that hundreds of people who had planned to attend the carnival were deterred from doing so by the forbidding weather. Then, too, it was necessary to engage a large force of workers to remove the snow from the ice, etc., and this made much extra expense. The 21st Infantry Band, which left Plattsburgh at 7:30 Tuesday morning, did not reach here till late Tuesday afternoon."

Some events had to be postponed but the overall assessment of that first winter carnival as described in the newspaper was "a very successful one." We may quote from this valuable piece of history from time to time in the future.



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