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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, August 25, 1864


The great Union Hall, in Howard street, yesterday afternoon, was swarming with a busy hive of ladies and artisans, hurrying up the decorations and working against time in the effort to get all things in readiness for the great Fair in behalf of the Christian Commission, which was to begin in the evening. The chaos of flags, evergreens, frame work, timbers, etc., was already be ginning to take upon itself outlines of grace and forms of beauty, under the deft handling of the ladies and their assistants. A charming floral temple stands in the centre of the Hall; it is octagonal in shape, is composed of a cluster of evergreen arches which come together at the top like the rafters of a dome, and are surmounted by an eagle - not a live one. The bases upon which these arches rest, form counters, whereon are displayed baskets of fresh flowers for sale; one or two larger bouquets among them are perfect miracles of beauty. A succession of ample arches, swathed in evergreens and draped with flags and embellished with various designs, extends entirely around the sides of the hall; under these are miniature shops, in which the loveliest possible clerks will stand and dispose of all manner of wares at ruinously moderate prices, considering the object to which the profits are to be applied. There is one arch which bears this motto: "Santa Clara's Offering to the Soldiers," and under it were five handsome young ladies and two pretty glass work-baskets laden with fresh flowers - a most extraordinary offering to an army of wounded soldiers, it occurred to us. Over other alcoves were such mottoes as "God is Our Trust;" "M. E. Churches;" "In hoc signo vinces," surmounted by a stately cross; "Union is Strength," etc. No. 1 of these alcoves will be occupied by ladies from Oakland; No. 2, by Miss Baker and her School, of this city; No. 3, by members of Dr. Wadsworth's and Dr. Anderson's Churches, (Presbyterian;) No. 4 is erected by Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians of Santa Clara; No. 5, by the United Methodists of San Francisco; No. 6, by the Congregationalists; No. 7, by the Episcopalians; No. 8, by members of Mr. Kittredge's congregation; No. 9 and 10, by the Baptists. At the left of the stage, under a splendor of silken flags, the smallest and fairest of hands will dispense some of the most useful and useless things to be found in the Fair - cigars and soap. (That sentence does not seem to sound right, somehow, but there is no time now to skirmish around it and find out what is the matter with it.) At the other corner of the stage is the Christian soda fountain. At the right of the entrance door they were building a "moss covered well" around an old oaken bucket which is to be filled with lemonade; (why not bay rum, or Jamaica rum, or some thing of that kind?) This is "Jacob's Well," and will be carried on exclusively by Rachel, in the costume of her day. On the left of the entrance is a cool, dripping grotto, built by some counterfeiter of Nature, out of pasteboard rocks; the effect is heightened by pendant sprays of Spanish moss, and a stuffed duck sitting placidly on a shelf in the grotto, renders the deception complete. No duck could look more complacent or more perfectly satisfied with his condition, or more natural, or more like a genuine stuffed duck than he does. It was hard to resist the temptation to squeeze his shelf, to see if he would squawk. One of the reception rooms was filled with fine oil paintings, loaned by the artists and picture dealers of the city.

THE OPENING. - By half-past eight in the evening, Union Hall was pretty well crowded with gentlemen and ladies, and the handsome decorations of the place showed to all the better advantage by contrast with the shifting panorama of life and light by which they were surrounded. The famous Presidio Band opened the ceremonies with superb music, after which the Rev. Mr. Blane, pastor of the Howard street Methodist Church, offered up a fervent prayer for the success of this effort in behalf of the Christian Commission. Mayor Coon was then introduced, and delivered an earnest and eloquent address in which he set forth the objects had in view by the Commission, and urged the importance of extending to it a generous aid and encouragement. W. H. L. Barnes, Esq., followed in a stirring speech of some length, which was well received. The several speakers labored under great disadvantage because of the immense space it was necessary to fill with their voices, and the noise and confusion consequent on such a vast gathering of people, but a fraction of whom were seated, and who were too impatient to stand still many minutes together. After a short interval, a fragile young man appeared suddenly in the centre of the stage, dazzled the audience for a single second, like a spark, and went out. Previous to going out, however, he whispered something, and immediately after ward the "Euterpeans," who have so often delighted our citizens with their music, stepped upon the stage and sang a beautiful quartette about The Flag. During the course of the evening, Mrs. Grotjan sang twice, as did also Mrs. Tourney. The singers found it as hard work to sing in such a place as the speakers did to talk. Great credit is due the Presidio Band, the Euterpeans and the two ladies, for volunteering their services last evening without compensation. To-night the grand feature will be a series of beautiful tableaux, in which the most lovely young ladies and gentlemen in the city will appear. Charles Alper's Band have volunteered for this evening, and there will doubtless be some fine vocal music in addition.

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