“This Revelry of the Flowers”: The Official Program of the Twenty-Third Annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses, 1912

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, marked the first time since World War II (1942, 1943 and 1945) that the Tournament of Roses Parade was cancelled. While there is a surge of the less-lethal Omicron variant, the 2022 edition of the event will be held on Saturday. The tournament was launched in 1890 by the Valley Hunt Club and, five years later, as the event grew in scale, the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association was formed to manage it.

In 1902, a football game was included as part of the festivities, this being the first Rose Bowl game, though it was another fourteen years before another contest was held and became an annual tradition. In the meantime, the word “tournament” literally meant chariot races along with other sports. This year’s edition of the gridiron contest features the 6th-ranked (by the CFP system) Ohio State Buckeyes, making its sixteenth appearance in the game, against #11 Utah, which is participating for the first time and with the Utes considered a decided underdog.

Los Angeles Times, 2 January 1912.

Tonight’s post takes us back 110 years to the 1912 edition of the Tournament of Roses, when chariot races were still being held, through the official program, printed courtesy of the well-known real estate development firm, the Janss Investment Company (which advertised its “Van Nuys-Lankershim Lands” and “North Lankershim Acres” in the San Fernando Valley, “Sierra Park,” formerly the Navarro Tract, along Huntington Drive in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, and “Ramona Acres,” now Monterey Park, south of Pasadena) for what was the twenty-third edition of the event. As an extra-special, year-end bonus for readers, we’re including a trio of photographs from parades of that time, specifically a couple from 1913 and the other from two years later.

The front cover lists the officers of the Association, including President Edward T. Off, manager of an electric express company in Pasadena, who was on his second two-year stint at the helm, while the vice-president was Southern California Edison’s president, John B. Miller. Perhaps the bet known name among the eight directors was Walter Raymond, who was a successful travel company owner in Boston before coming to the Crown City about thirty years prior and who built the famous Raymond Hotel in South Pasadena.

The “Line of March” included the traditional beginning on Orange Grove Avenue, the so-called “Millionaire’s Row” to Colorado Street and then east to Fair Oaks Avenue and through a variety of the city’s streets until the end at Tournament Park, now part of the campus of the California Institute of Technology.

Times, 2 January 1912.

For the Floral Parade, the Long Beach Municipal Band kicked things off and then was followed by the Pasadena Police Department; Association officers; Company I of the National Guard; Grand Marshal Edward H. Groenendyke of the Union National Bank of Pasadena, along with his aides; the city’s mayor and council; and members of the Pasadena Board of Trade and the merchants association.

There were seven divisions of marchers, including the Pasadena Municipal Band and the band of the Whittier State School for troubled boys as well as ensembles from Glendale, Venice and Los Angeles; marshals for each group; local educators, members of the Grand Army of the Republic comprised of Union Army Civil War veterans; the Pioneer Society of Pasadena; a fife and drum corps; and others.

Times, 2 January 1912.

There were also classes of floats and other entrants, including one for “historical or representative characters;” vehicles led by tandem horses; and vehicles led by one and two horses and ponies, four-in-hands and six-in-hands; civic entries; commercial floats; riding clubs; equestrians on saddle horses and ponies, including Shetlands; and, of course, automobiles with two or four or more persons and electrics. A separate class was for the Pasadena Fire Department.

The fourth division was under the theme of “The Mask of Vanity Fair” and there were about two-dozen entrants, including that of “Rose Tree” provided by John S. Cravens, a former tobacco company owner who was briefly a president of Edison Electric (precursor of SCE), as well a banker, businessman and real estate developer and whose massive house, long owned by the American Red Cross is now the residence of singer Michael Feinstein.

Other entrants of note include John B. Miller’s “Parasol,” banker Henry M. Robinson’s “Pompadour,” Mrs. Raymond’s “Pendant,” realtor David Blankenhorn’s “Summer,” Crown City Bank’s John B. Coulston’s “May Day,” and 1913 Tournament King Harrison I. Drummond’s “Christmas.” Finally there wre “flowers scattered from the clouds” twice by “transcontinental flyer” Cal P. Rodgers, whose feat took place from September to November 1911, but who was killed in an aerial exhibition at Long Beach in April 1912 when his craft flew into a flock of birds.

The “Program of Sports” was for events held at Tournament Park at 1:30 p.m.. following the parade, and lasting until about 4:30. The activities began with “Judging for best drilling in [the] Marching Club Class” and included a “shooting act by Princess Winona,” this being famed sharpshooter Lillian Frances Smith.

Among the competitions were a Cossack’s Race with the riders standing while guiding their horses, a “Girl’s Relay Race” with the 101 Ranch Cow Girls, including the famous rodeo rider Tillie Baldwin, a “Roman Chariot Burro Race,” and a “Roman Standing Race” in which a rider straddled two horses. The main events, however, were the one-mile chariot races, with a pair of these conducted through three heats during the course of the afternoon.

Finally, there is a “New Year’s Day” statement that began with the note that it was cold in the eastern states, with bitter winds, frost and snow “and everywhere discomfort,” in stark contrast to Pasadena and its “fete of the roses.” The essay then proclaimed:

This is the gala day of the year or those so delightfully blessed that they may sit without doors, beneath the balm of sun, and watch the pageantry of the flowers, the beauty of face, the marvelous decorative conceptions of rose and carnation and violet, and thrill with the charioteers and their eager steeds.

The piece continued that the Tournament was initially “a Harvest Home, given in jubilation of the wondrous weather and in thankfulness for the bounties of nature.” It grew, however, “until now it is a fete known in every corner of the world, and one to which travelers come from far parts.” Rather than a New Year’s Day, it concluded, the event was a “Thanksgiving for those who here participate in this revelry of the flowers in Pasadena-land.”

In its coverage in its issue of the following day, the Los Angeles Times observed that “a mass of color, gorgeous beyond description, calling of the midst of summer whgile the snows of midwinter hid the summits of the distant mountains—that was the Rose Tournament at Pasadena yesterday—twenty-third in the history of the Crown City and most succesful of all that have been given amid the palms and verdure that shade Pasadena’s streets.”

The paper praised the “four miles of glorious beauty and color” with the many floats making the “Rose Vista a Fairyland.” The parade, which began at 10:45 a.m., was deemed “the most magnificent in the history of the Rose Tournament” and “effects were produced which caused the hundreds of thousands who lined the streets to stand almost awe-struck at one moment, at the next to break out in rapturous applause.”

Brewer Adolphus Busch’s prize-winning “four-in-hand” entry in the 1913 parade.

Attendance was pegged at about 250,000 with about 195,000 of those visitors carried by the Pacific Electric Railway, reorganized in 1911 by the Southern Pacific Railroad after the retirement of active management by capitalist and art and book collector Henry E. Huntington, and another 15,000 by the large railroads, like the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific. The remaining roughly 50,000 attendees came by auto in what was seemed a never-ending caravan entering the Crown City from west, east and south.

As for Rodgers’ flight, the Times wrote “out from the east, with the warm sun bathing in snowy whiteness the wings of his huge machine, with the heavy scent of rose petals and the pungent perfume of thousands of carnations, assailing his senses, came ‘a stranger from Mars.'” As he flew at 2,000 feet over Colorado Boulevard with its continuous caravan of floats and marchers of all descriptions, “the transcontinental birdman who flew coast-to-coast . . . was now paying Southern California a tribute by showering her with roses from the skies.”

A snapshot of a decorated Pasadena Fire Department engine, also from the 1913 event.

For the chariot races and other sports events, there were said to be some 30,000 persons on hand at Tournament Park, where the most thrilling moment was when C.E. Post, son of a Chicago millionaire, collided with his opponent Albert Parsons, who lived Lemon, now the City of Walnut. The third heat was won by Post, while the other chariot race did not have quite the excitement and interest, though Edward J. Levengood of Santa Ana, who’d lost the 1910 contest to Pasadena stable owner and future champion horsebreeder in what is now Chino Hills Revel English, defeated E.B. Cornell for the first time in their five matches against each other.

For comedic relief, George Clark and T.W. Johnson delighted the crowd with their burro race in miniature chariots, while wearing ballerina costumes as well as makeup and wigs for their contest, apparently won by Johnson, though no one seemed to care. The women’s relay race was won by Bessie Herberg, with Baldwin finishing in second, and Martha Allen bringing up the rear.

In an editorial, the Times stated,

Once again Pasadena has astonished the Southland with its wonderful Tournament of Roses . . . Reveling in the sunshine and the flowers of the winter that is spring, thousands of people yesterday agreed that the lives of those who dwell in Pasadena are cast in one of the pleasantest places in the world . . . Pasadena has enduring assets and advantages that secure its permanency as a high clas residence city, and the visitors of yesterday could not fail to grasp this fact. Of course it is one of the objects of the Tournament of Roses to impress upon possible home-seekers the attractions of the city as a place where they can settle down for the rest of their lives and be sure of comfort and pleasure amid beautiful and inspiring surroundings.

As for the photos, a real photo postcard shows the winnter of the “Four-in-Hand” grouping of floats, this being the entry of famed brewer Adolphus Busch, whose Arroyo Seco estate had famed gardens once accessible to the public. This information is typed on the reverse including a list of the four occupants, one of whom, Otto Mathi, signed the card on 18 January 1913.

An unidentified float from the 1915 Tournament of Roses parade.  This was also the last year of chariot races and other field events as they were replaced by the Rose Bowl football game afterwards.

The second photo from that day shows a Pasadena Fire Department engine decorated as a flat with a couple of men and two young boys strolling by. The last image is also a real photo postcard and is of an elaborate float, perhaps parked on Orange Grove Avenue bvefore the start of the parade, with several attendants with butterfly wings as part of their costume, one of whom carries a banner stating what the entry’s sponsor wsa, though it cannot be made out.

Obviously, however expanded and more impressive the 1912 Tournament was compared to its predecessors, those involved would be staggered to see what the event is like now 110 years later, so it is certainly interesting to contrast the program and photos with the version of the parade held this Saturday.

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