Categories: Hartford, Politics and Government, Social Movements

Hartford Wide-Awakes – Today in History: July 26

Wide Awakes banner

Wide Awakes banner – Connecticut Historical Society

On July 26, 1860, the Hartford Wide-Awakes welcomed the Newark, New Jersey, Wide-Awakes to a banquet and ratification meeting at Hartford’s City Hall. The Wide-Awakes in Hartford were a political club organized in March of 1860 in response to Connecticut’s spring election between Republican Governor William A. Buckingham and his challenger, Democrat Thomas Seymour. The Wide-Awakes’ success in rallying the Republican party behind Buckingham and promoting an anti-slavery platform quickly spread to the wider efforts to elect the “old Commoner” Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of the United States.

The Hartford Wide-Awakes welcomed the 125 Newark Wide-Awakes and their followers at Chapin’s wharf as they arrived on the steamer Josephine. The ceremony included rockets and the firing of the national salute, after which the New Jersey visitors were escorted by carriages to city hall. The hall had been decorated lavishly by the women of Hartford with flowers and political mottoes hung from the balconies. One motto read: “We will Lincoln such an army of Wide-Awakes in November that our opponents will not be Abe’l to carry a Free State.” The tables laden with refreshments for the visitors included a cake with 100 American flags protected by a miniature split rail face and axe.

The following evening a large torchlight procession of the Hartford Wide-Awakes led by the Hartford Coronet Band made its way through the city streets. Wide-Awake groups from across the state, including East Hartford, Unionville, and Thompsonville, and the visitors from Newark, Boston, and New York, all dressed identically in the Wide-Awake uniform of black capes and caps and wore the symbol of the open eye, representing Republican solidarity and principles. The number of Wide-Awakes was estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000 men.

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Documents

Republican Wide-Awake Club Hartford. “Free Speech, Free Soil, Free Men. Membership Certificate for Wide-Awake Club, Hartford,” 1860. Connecticut History Illustrated and Connecticut Historical Society. Link.
Hitchcock, Henry W., and Republican Wide-Awake Club Hartford. “Hartford Wide Awakes Records and Memorabilia, 1860-1917.” Connecticut Historical Society, 2012. Link.
“Wide Awake Club Ribbon and Handwritten Note.” Wide Awake Club, 1860. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Link.
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