“Grand Masquerade at Irving Hall by the Hebrew Residents of New-York.
A successful masquerade is an incident in the records of a metropolis, upon which chroniclers may well dilate with pride and satisfaction. the difficulties naturally attending an entertainment of this character have probably deterred the usually enterprising Gothamites from naturalizing the bal masque here, as has been the case with the pleasure-loving Paris. They say New-York resembles Paris, yet where, among the many particulars in which a metropolis should excel provincial cities, and in which we claim especial credit for our rising town, do we observe this delightful institution?
There is a portion of our community that does not always receive due credit for the good that it accomplishes. The Jewish population, though confessedly less numerous than the members of other denominations, is by no means inconsiderable in New-York. It is not to their monuments of judicious charity, any more than to their excellent position in the commercial world, that we propose referring. It is of another phase in their local history that we shall now speak, and a pleasant phase too. Probably, no classes in our community are more choice and generous in their social enjoyments. A most delightful illustration of this position was afforded by the ‘Chanuka’ Fancy Dress Ball and Masquerade, given at Irving Hall, on Tuesday evening, under the auspices of the Orpheus Club, to which yesterday we had space only to make brief reference.
The Jewish festivals are not all of the same character as regards solemnity. The peculiar ceremonials attendant on most of these festivals, partake mainly of a religious nature. There are several exceptions, however. ‘Purim,’ or the Feast of Esther, celebrated in the month of March, is one of these. It is a season annually given over to jollity and humor, mirth and gladness. For the past two years it has been well commemorated in this City by grand masquerades, the last given at the Academy of Music during March 1863, being the most brilliant social gathering witnessed here for many years.
Emboldened by the absolute success of these entertainments, they determined that the festival of Chanuka should receive the like attention. [Explains what Chanukah is.]
The ‘Chanuka Ball’ was given under the auspices of the’Orpheus Club,’ an Association of Jewish young men who evidently understand how to invest an affair of this character with the elements of success. It is surprising how they manage to exclude all that savors of impropriety. The company was unexceptional, thus triumphantly answering one serious objection urged against masquerades. A general air of sociability was diffused, contributing most essentially to the enjoyment of the guests. It was, in truth, a gathering of prominent Hebrew families, and the concomitants were as might have been foreseen, the same precautions exercised as in a similar affair at a private residence.
Admission was only by card of ‘Invitation,’ bearing the name of the guest and the member of the Committee by whom issued. [Contents of invitation reproduced.]
Upon the fly leaf of the invitation were printed the
1. Admittance to the ball will be restricted to those having cards of invitation, bearing their name and that of the member of the Club by whom introduced.
Cards of invitation are not transferable under any circumstances.
3. All persons must unmask to a member of the Committee on entering.
4. Persons representing drunken, offensive, or other improper characters, will not be admitted.
5. Until 12 o’clock, no person will be allowed on the floor unless in costume. Dominoes and military uniforms are considered in costume.
6. There will be no intermission for supper.
7. Dancing will commence at 9 o’clock precisely.
As they entered the hall, the guests unmasked to the member of the Reception Committee in attendance, and proceeded to the dressing rooms, until the ball opened. About half-past nine, the fine military band of the Seventh regiment, conducted by Mr. Grafulla, struck up the beautiful strains of ‘Dinorah,’ after which the doors were thrown upon, and the guests entered, and made the circuit of the grand saloon, the orchestra playing a march arranged upon Hebrew melodies. Dancing was at once fairly commenced and continued without intermission until four o’clock Wednesday morning.
These were exquisite in taste. The windows on either side of the Hall were hung with bright tricolor drapery, patriotic emblems being displayed at intervals. The hall was brilliantly lighted up; from the brackets were suspended handsome baskets of flowers, artistically arranged. The galleries were adorned with festoons of red, white and blue bunting looped up with shields and stars of feather-flowers. The stage, upon which the orchestra were stationed, was made to assume the form of a garden blooming with flowers, and fragrant with evergreens; at the back, three fountains apparently throwing up jets of spray.
was of a beautiful character, the vivacious predominating; quadrilles, lancers, polkas, galops and redowas followed one another in varied succession, relieved by promenades, during which the military band (placed in the gallery opposite the stage) discoursed sweet selections from the latest operas, and ballads and martial airs of a stirring character. The overture from ‘William Tell’ was brilliantly given. Indeed, the music was capital throughout, and the steps of the willing dancers were ever quickened by the lively melodies to which the figures were set.
[Paragraph on the Committee]
just prior to midnight, was brilliant in the extreme. Costumes of every conceivable variety delighted and even bewildered the eve; it seemed as if we had been transported to a fairy palace, where the spirits of the heroes of the past were engaged in one grand spectacular jollification, and had summoned to enliven the scene the beauty and grace which fairyland alone can command at pleasure. Sultans and beggars, princesses and applewomen, Spanish beauties and Yankees, Greek girls and Irishmen, Italian bandits and Mexican cavaliers, peasants of every nationality, the marchioness of the French court and Don Cesar de Bazan of many courts, the stock broker and the inevitable Paul Pry, the Goddess of Liberty and the contraband; Mrs. Shoddy, in full feather, with magnificent stock of brilliants, and the dashing Helen McGregor, in all the ravishing beauty of a Highland lassie; the very King of the Devils in hideous yet brilliant attire, leading the personification of modesty, a gentle American shepherdess; French fisher girls and Spanish dancers, Cardinal Wolsey and Charles I; great, stupid boys, with their whistles and marbles. And vivacious school girls trundling their hoops; dominoes of every color and size, dominoes in black, and dominoes in white, in crimson and in yellow, in mauve and in cuir, in gray and in green, hobgoblins of all degrees, fortune-tellers and fortune-hunters, the grave and the gay—all ‘lively,’ none ‘severe—a veritable Noah’s ark of curiosities in the shape of men and women, all determined to enjoy themselves and contribute to the general hilarity, and, as a matter of course, succeeding heroically in the attempt.
At midnight the long roll sounded, and the transformation took place. Then, mystifications were duly explained, errors corrected, general amusement created by the ‘developments,’ and those who had, in the galleries, been awaiting the moment very patiently, made their appearance on the floor in evening dress, and thenceforth the masquerade ceased as a specialty, and the ball assumed all the features of a successful ‘affair’ in some private residence. Owing to the scrutiny exercised with regard to the distribution of tickets, nothing but the most pleasant spirit pervaded the assembly, all being pretty well mutually acquainted, and introductions being dispensed by the Committee, so that the stiffness so detrimental to all pleasantness at these gatherings was unknown, and all went even as merrily as marriage bells are reputed to ring…
In fine, taking the Ball in its entirety and in detail, it was a splendid success throughout, and we congratulate our Hebrew fellow-citizens on the high tone their social gatherings assume--on this ‘Masquerade’ in especial. It might be as well to add that another Fancy Dress Ball, on a still grander scale, will be given at the Academy of Music in the latter part of March, in commemoration of the well-known festival of ‘Purim.’"
[Final section on “The Costumes;’ provides the initials of many guests and the costumes that each wore.]