A MISSOURI SOCIETY NOW
Organization in This City Formed at a Banquet.
Representative Missourians, According to Mark Twain - Augustus Van Wyck's Plan for a National Transportation System.
The men who hail from Missouri and who make New York their home, organized a society last night to be known as the "Missouri Society of New York." They began with a banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria. Augustus Thomas, the playwright, presided, and the opinion was generally expressed that he will be the President of the organization when it reaches the point of the election of officers.
This inaugural meeting was made the occasion also for booming the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which is to be opened in the City of St. Louis in 1903, and which it was declared would be "the finest that this country has ever seen." In the end, entirely unannounced and unheralded, the committee which arranged the banquet sprang Mark Twain upon their guests, and when his bushy white hair was caught sight of he was treated to an ovation.
The humorist had a rival in Augustus Thomas for a little while. Mr. Thomas, after reminding his fellow-Missourians that they were a little tardy in forming their society, since one from nearly every State already existed in New York, launched out into such pleasantries as this:
"I have been informed that Missouri is great for its production of zinc. Now I didn't know exactly what zinc was used for until a friend of mine explained it all to me. I think I was proudest, however, after he had made the statement that Missouri produced the grandest galvanized fronts in the world." [Tumultuous applause.]
After Mr. Thomas had given the Missourians several more slaps like that, using the Missourian mule, which he explained was he finest in the land, as a vehicle for his humor, the reading of the letter of regret from ex-Gov. David R. Francis was ordered to be read. Mr. Francis stated in his letter that his duties as President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition would not permit him to be present at the banquet, much as he desired to be.
C. H. Spencer, Vice President of the Exposition, responded to the toast which had been intended for the ex-Governor, and said pretty much the same things which Mr. Francis said in his letter of regret. They were mostly along the line of the progress being made financially with the Exposition. This is a part of Mr. Spencer's speech:
"It has been said that St. Louis had a project on hand that it could not carry out successfully. Note what has been done. The City of St. Louis has raised by private subscription $5,000,000, the city authorized by an almost unanimous vote an increase of its municipal debt also of $5,000,000 more, the Legislature of the State voted $1,000,000. Congress has voted $5,000,000 and we feel confident of getting at least $25,000,000 before the exposition opens. This may not seem much to New Yorkers, who are accustomed to transactions involving many millions, [laughter,] but we propose to expend more money than Chicago spent in 1892-3."
Mr. Spencer also went into statistics and figures regarding the output of lead and zinc in Missouri.
Mr. Clemens, who followed Mr. Spencer, took up the matter of statistics in this wise:
"I have been as much impressed as has the chairman by Mr. Spencer's speech, and confused also. Statistics always have that effect. As they rise higher and higher to the sky, they become in the same proportion more and more inexplicable. I was glad when I heard it stated that Missouri had turned out 25,000,000 mules. [Roars of laughter.] It's from Missouri, and it is expected to be believed. When I was young and in Missouri, I could believe such things. It was a habit, but now that I have come to this grave part of the country, where the people rely largely upon truth, it is not to be expected.
"I don't know what this Louisiana Purchase is, but if they have appropriated in some questionable manner twenty-five millions, I suppose they propose to use it for the purchase of Louisiana. They ought to know that they can't have Louisiana for this money. This glorifying of St. Louis is likely to have a bad effect upon you, because it is likely to raise your pride in your state. But there is room for it between here and the zenith. [Laughter.] You must keep these things in bounds.
"George Washington was a Missourian. He was that, not by accident of birth, but by his primacy in the achievement of liberty and the other great things he did for his country. That made him a Missourian. Caesar was a Missourian. They are all Missourians by right. Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, General Grant - they are all Missourians by right of their achievements. We have soldiers in plenty by that right. John Hay has by that right become a half Missourian. He lived in that state for a short time. I, in my quality as lay preacher, say live your lives in virtue, that when you come to lay your life down you shall not descend, but ascend - to Missouri.
August Van Wyck responded to the toast, "The New York Southern Society." He said, in part:
"Community of blood and nativity is sufficient to keep alive such social institutions as these, the glories of which add fame, patriotism, and progress to the grandeur of our country. Community o blood, birth, sentiment, emotions, and property interest has built nations in the past, preserving them in the present, and supported today by the largest accumulation of wealth known to history.
"Why can't the people create a community of interest in the field of transportation by uniting through the aid and under the control of our Governments, State or National, all the internal water highways of the world? Might this not be accomplished by a ship canal connecting the great chain of unsalted seas of the interior with the rivers, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, and their tributaries and the Gulf of Mexico - the commerce-breeding Mediterranean of this hemisphere - and another ship canal connecting these fresh water seas of the North with the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean?
"Then the Nation would control its waterways through which the freights of every hamlet almost of the country east of the Rocky Mountains could reach gulf and ocean at the minimum rates of freight and would forever bar the possibility of corners in freight carriers, of which the shippers - the commerce makers of a country - are always short, and, like all shorts, are constantly liable to be squeezed by the long interests in a settlement upon terms which at best simply permit them to start anew."
Bainbridge Colby responded to the toast "Missouri - Her Loyal Sons." W. M. Chase, the artist, responded to the toast "Missouri's Contributions to Art." He said, among other things, that the time had arrived when the citizens of this country had been to look upon art not as a luxury, but as a necessity.
At the conclusion of the banquet a resolution was adopted to appoint a committee to draft a constitution for the new society. Augustus Thomas was made the Chairman of that committee. Four hundred men are already enrolled. Permanent organization will be perfected in the Fall.
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