From the July 7, 1931 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Memories of a Fourth of July in Edgartown many years ago are contained in a faded program in the possession of Mrs. Walter S. Osborn. The date of the observance in question was 1889, and on that Independence Day the Sons of Martha’s Vineyard were honored by a reception and a procession. The program, single sheet printed on one side, reveals that the parade formed, or was supposed to form, on Main street in front of the town hall at 10:30 a.m. It was due to move at 11:15, led by the chief marshal, his aides, the reception committee, the Cambridge Band, children of the public schools, Sons of Martha’s Vineyard, invited guests, executive committee and citizens on foot. Apparently the last category was all-inclusive.

All carriages intended to take part in the parade formed on North Water street, facing toward the bank. The route led down Main to Water, along South Water to Commercial, through Commercial to Maple, along Maple to Main, down to Main to Water, and along Water to Starbuck’s Neck.

At Starbuck’s Neck, a “tent with a seating capacity of 1,000” was erected and tables for dinner were provided for all who came. Free transportation was supplied for lunch baskets, also, but only the Sons of Martha’s Vineyard and other guests were entertained at lunch with food prepared by a committee of Edgartown ladies. All others were asked to bring their own food.

John N. Pierce was chairman of the executive committee, and Rev. Daniel W. Stevens of Vineyard Haven delivered a welcoming address. Daniel H. Huxford, president of the Sons, made a response. The toastmaster was the late Judge Dunham. Band selections and the vocal selections of “talented soloists” were interspersed through the period of the collation.

There was a regatta in the afternoon, a baseball game, and a whaleboat race from Harbor Light to Tower Hill buoy and return. In the evening a reception, fireworks and a promenade concert filled up to repletion a gala day.

The Navy Department has finally extricated itself from a jam by announcing that the Constitution will again sail the ocean in the fall. The famous frigate will be towed upon her tour of the coast this summer, but only in order to maintain something like a steamboat schedule. Later she will take to canvas and go into commission in a real instead of fictitious sense.

A series of explanations put forward by Mr. Jahncke, assistant secretary of the navy, as to why the frigate had to be towed, availed little in the face of a profound public conviction that Old Ironsides ought to sail. The period of debate, however, was interesting and educational to Mr. Jahncke. He found out, for instance, that the Constitution had sails. This might be termed the first essential bit of information preliminary to sailing the famous old vessel.

The belief that the Constitution could proceed under canvas was stronger on the Vineyard, probably, than in most places. A strong inclination for seamanship persists here. In this issue of the Gazette an interview with William A. Guerin develops some facts and views which are much to the point. There is satisfaction, therefore, that canvas has won.

“Shades of Stephen B. Luce!” was the exclamation of William A. Guerin, upon reading various comments by the New York papers regarding the movements of the frigate Constitution.

“Can’t visit some New York ports because the bridges are too low for her masts, hey?” demanded Mr. Guerin heatedly. “Too bad those newspaper men couldn’t learn something about the square-rigged navy of a few years back! It took us just a minute and a half to house the light yards and t’gallantmasts, in my time!”

And Mr. Guerin speaks with authority for, young as he is, he sailed the seven seas in the old square-rigged navy that is now classed with the antiques, but in reality was doing business with the best navies in the world no longer ago than 1887.

“There are men enough right here on the Vineyard to man the Constitution and sail her anywhere,” says Mr. Guerin, “and they could take her anywhere on the coast. For that matter, they could find a crew on Nantucket, for that is the breeding-place of naval officers, among them that famous admiral, Stephen B. Luce.”

Admiral Luce, according to Mr. Guerin, wrote a text-book on the handling of light spars which was the standard of service in the American navy as long as sail was carried on any of the ships of war.

Mr. Guerin is emphatic in declaring that it would be perfectly feasible to sail the old frigate into Buzzards Bay and up to New Bedford, or in any similar body of water, always provided that an experienced man was in command.

“We used to sail right up our mooring buoy in Newport harbor with a full-rigged ship,” he says, “and picked up the boat without dropping an anchor or lowering a boat.” He points out further that whalers and other square-rigged craft sailed in and out of docks in older days, scorning the use of tugs.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox