2015-07-01 / Star Journal

138th Year Of Independence Celebrated In 1914

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal.

Welcome to July 1914!

This month, 101 years ago, Europe was fast hurtling toward unprecedented human tragedy. Following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June in the streets of Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, touching off a cascading race of military mobilizations that led ultimately to The Great War. Across the Atlantic, however, Americans still lived in isolated bliss in spite of the clouds of war gathering on the far off horizon. That month, scientist Robert Goddard received the first patent for a liquid-fueled rocket, and closer to home in New York City, ballroom couples at the New Amsterdam Roof Garden first danced the smooth, flowing steps of the Foxtrot.

With US entry into World War I a seemingly distant three years away, in July, 1914, the nation had a birthday to celebrate. In Queens, locals took to the streets in song, flag raising and speechmaking in honor of the 138th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In the German settlement in the vicinity of Steinway and Broadway, houses and businesses were gaily decked out in patriotic flags and bunting. In Woodside, Americans of all walks of life removed their hats to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and gathered to listen to an address from Congressman Denis O’Leary. Not to be outdone by their Queens brethren, residents of Far Rockaway marked the occasion with a parade of Civil War and Spanish- American War veterans, Boy Scouts and other children, singing of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and other patriotic tunes, followed by dancing and a band concert in the evening.

That month, Whitestone resident Harry Gallimore, steward of the Beechhurst Yacht Club situated at the foot of 158th Street, certainly had reason to celebrate and be thankful. An expert swimmer, Gallimore was performing stunts in the East River to the applause of an audience gathered on the clubhouse veranda. Suddenly seized with a cramp, he shouted and began to sink beneath the waves. Fortunately for the English immigrant, among the onlookers was actor Franklyn Ardell, who had already saved two people from drowning in the river that year. With not a moment to waste, the intrepid Ardell plunged into the water and struggled to bring the drowning Gallimore to shore as he clutched frantically at his rescuer. In an acting career that spanned decades, New Jersey native Ardell appeared in such films as Mark of the Vampire alongside Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi. The Beechhurst Yacht Club is no longer there, and the whereabouts of Harry Gallimore are lost to the passing of the years.

In late July, Ellnar Sivard, Superintendent of the Wellin Marine Equipment Company in Long Island City, set off on a maritime adventure of a quite different nature. Along with his wife and a small crew, he planned to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a Lundin Power Life Boat. The Daily Star described with excitement the boat’s departure, noting that “factory whistles along the shore blew a parting salute and the river craft blew farewell blasts, making more noise than has been heard in that section of Long Island City for some time.” After news reporters and other dignitaries disembarked at the New York Yacht Club at the foot of East 26th Street in Manhattan, the 36-foot boat with her determined crew set a course for distant shores. The valiant voyager soon returned home, however, with the outbreak of war in Europe.

As the nation celebrated another birthday and Europe rushed headlong into catastrophe, a prominent Astoria family parted with a link to their own past and that of the community. Stephen B. Halsey of Long Island City, son of fur trader and “Father of Astoria,” Stephen A. Halsey, passed away earlier in the year, leaving behind a large estate. That July, appraisers valued his estate, largely derived from the elder Halsey’s business dealings with John Jacob Astor, at nearly $163,000. The fortune, some $3,876,000 in 2015 dollars, was divided between his widow and three children.

That’s the way it was in July 1914!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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