Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of the Union Army during the last year of the Civil War who took Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, later served as eighteenth president of the United States (1869-1877) and died at Mount McGregor, NY, 23 July 1885. Grant's Cottage at Mount McGregor is located in Saratoga Co., NY, north of Saratoga Springs. The relative proximity of Cayuga Co., NY to Saratoga Co., NY may have accounted in part for the displays of mourning in Auburn, but it is more likely that Grant's role as the general who won the Civil War was the larger factor for the public mourning. Tellingly, no reference to Grant's presidency, viewed as not particularly effective by historians, appears in the following newspaper clipping, presumably from The Morning Dispatch of Auburn, Cayuga Co., NY, but all references to Grant are to the "old hero" and general. Auburn, as recounted below, honored Grant with many public displays of mourning, perhaps a reminder of how different the early 21st century is from the late 19th century.
-- Roger Post 13 October 2004
AUBURN MOURNS HIS DEATH
How the Sad News of Grant's Death was Received.
Why they Were Scarce Yesterday - Those Who Displayed Mortuary Symbols - What a Dealer Said
The news of the death of General U. S. Grant was first received in this city by THE MORNING DISPATCH. The sad intelligence was telephoned to Mayor Wheeler, and a few moments later THE DISPATCH extra was upon the street.
The limited display of mourning symbols has been unfavorably commented upon. It is true that all who owned flags displayed them at half-mast, and also that those who desired to express their sorrow over the nation's great loss were debarred from so doing by a scarcity of proper material. One gentleman informed a DISPATCH reporter last evening that the merchants were unprepared for the event; that the supply of mourning goods, aside from costly crape, was early exhausted, and that dealers were unable to supply the demand.
"The fact is," said a dealer, "parties down in New York have made a corner in the mourning goods market. As long ago as in April last, when it was thought General Grant was dying some very cute fellows bought all the cheaper grades and held them at such ridiculously high figures that we could not dispose of them to our customers up here. We are now compelled to depend upon the stock we have on hand. When Garfield died our supply was equal to demand. They will make a great splurge in the metropolis, because the body of Gen. Grant will be taken there. There will be a great call for mortuary trimmings and that class of goods will command a very high price. They can realize more money at home than by filling orders from the country:["]
The following is a list of places that were draped yesterday afternoon when a DISPATCH reporter made his rounds: The north window J. K. Tallman's undertaking establishment in State street presented an appearance characteristic of the enterprise of that gentleman. A large bust of the departed commander resting upon a black mat occupied a central position, tastefully draped in mourning. Pendant over this was a sheaf of wheat, held together by a piece of wide, black ribbon. Still higher up were graceful festoons of ribbon representing the national tri-colors. The effect was pleasing and attested the worth of one of America's greatest sons.
One of the windows of George Fullman's millinery establishment in Genesee street attracted the eye of a DISPATCH reporter. A life-like photograph of the dead general, handsomely framed, was in the center. Hanging above it was a liberal display of silk ribbons, black and white. In the background three steps or stairs were neatly covered with black cloth, while on the middle step, in letters formed of black satin, was the single word "Grant." The design was unique and attracted a great deal of attention.
At the court house Hompe & Co.'s men were found busily engaged in making preparations to appropriately decorate the building. They were acting under instructions of Supervisor B. F. Webster of the Third ward, chairman of the committee on buildings. The gentleman in charge of the arrangements, informed the reporter that the decorations would be something different from anything ever seen in Auburn. Between the two large central pillars in front of the edifice, he intended having a large picture of the dead hero. It would be relieved by a heavy black background. Above the portrait would be placed a large rosette, three feet in diameter, composed of red, white and blue bunting. Pending from this rosette would be wide strips of bunting, festooned in a graceful manner and looped up again to another central piece between the adjoining pillars.
The flag at the city hall was at half-mast. Railton B. Stalker, keeper of the city hall, Detective Coneybear and assistants, were busily engaged in winding the large pillars in front with wide strips of black and white. The effect was good, as the design was unlike anything else in the city.
As might have been expected, a large flag, properly draped, was hanging from the rooms of Seward post, G. A. R. Across the street, flying from a window in the Advertiser office was a large national flag. A black border surrounded the nation's emblem, telling but too plainly, the cause of the country's sorrow. At the factory of D. M. Osborne & Co., the stars and stripes were floating idly at half-mast in the sultry and oppresive [sic] air. In Market street, the establishments of George W. Wilson, Weeks, Cossum & Co., and H. W. Brixus were draped in a tasty manner with black and white.
Said a prominent physician last evening: "General Grant's great will power has kept him alive for months. When that was broken he died. If you have carefully watched his case you have observed that he yielded last week and he became broken spirited. That was a very bad symptom and the old hero began rapidly failing and gradually sank. One great fact was established, and it was demonstrated that life can be prolonged in a patient by constant care and attention."
Last evening the following additional store windows were observed to have been trimmed in a very pretty manner:
The chandeliers in the show windows of Hislop & Co. store were gracefully wound with black and white satin ribbons. Griswold & Co.'s windows presented a neat appearance, being handsomely drapped [sic] in mourning colors. In each window of Lyon, Elliott & Bloom's establishment can be seen oil paintings of the old hero. The pictures are surrounded by a liberal display of black and white. In the west window of the store of McConnell & Andersen, was seen a picture of the entire Grant family. The windows of the new store in the Y. M. C. A. building, presented a beautiful sight; graceful black and white festoons reached from the ceiling to the floor. Carelessly and yet carefully arranged in the window were a number of copies of the MORNING DISPATCH, containing an account of Gen. Grant's death.
The north window of Donohue & Todd's dry goods store in State street attracted considerable attention. In the center stands a white monument with a draped portrait of Gen. Grant restiny [sic] against the base. In the background hangs a heavy fall, which is relieved by white illusion suspended in graceful festoons. A pure white dove on the right with outstretched wings holds a quantity of the last named material in its beak. In the south window is a large American flag.
To discriminate would simply excite jealous feelings and THE DISPATCH is satisfied in saying that Auburn merchants have lost none of the patriotism which has characterized their actions in times past.