How the City’s Carnival Queen in Sept. 1900 Was Chosen

In the fall of 1900, a local newspaper noted that in some countries, a few girls were born to wear crowns, but in America all of them were born queens, but only a relatively few were selected to wear crowns. Johnson City had her quota of uncrowned queens and was called upon to select one to wear the ornamental head covering during the Carnival that had come to town. 

One young lady, Miss Gordon Henderson, was awarded the honor. The selection was of no surprise because she was one of Johnson City's most endearing and popular society young ladies and one of the prettiest girls in the state. Her being chosen reflected much credibility upon the city.

Miss Henderson then selected, as maids of honor, the following young ladies: Misses Eva Carr, Willie Cox, Sanna Biddle, Fannie Bolton, Lizzie Carr, Mae Jones and Nell Rains. These girls were popular among their peers and it was stated that the South could not produce seven more beautiful young ladies than those chosen. Their corresponding outriders were young society men: Messrs Will Johnson, Frank Miller, Andy Spencer, Will Harris, Bob Martin, Horace Miller, Sam Millard and James Summers.

Johnson City's distinguished townsman, the Honorable Alf A. Taylor, was unanimously chosen and consented to crown the Queen. The event took place in Johnson City's Public Square (renamed Fountain Square after a water fountain was installed there) at noon on Tuesday before the parade formed. On Tuesday night, there was a Carnival fancy dress masquerade ball in Jobe's Opera House on Spring Street. Admission was 50 cents and parties desiring to dance had to obtain special tickets to be admitted to the floor. All dancers were masked and no one was admitted without an identification card.

The Greeneville, Tennessee Band was contacted to furnish music for the Fair and readily accepted the request. It was described as being one of the best bands in the state, being comprised of 20 talented musicians. The band also had a superb orchestra, which furnished music for the ball.

With all the positive aspects of the event, one critic, known only as “Spinster” sent a note to the newspaper's editorial page inquiring how the Carnival queen was chosen:

“Please state in this week's paper, for the benefit of an inquiring public, how the queen of Johnson City's Carnival is chosen? If this power is vested in a committee, please publish names of members of this committee. If this is Johnson City's Carnival, should not Johnson City be interested in the choosing of her Queen.”

The newspaper responded without delay: “In reply to Spinster, we want to say that the Queen of the Carnival has been selected by a committee of young men who are to serve as outriders, or escorts, and who are to pay for the float and the decorations. The selection was made in this identical manner the prior year (the subject of a previous column) and it gave general satisfaction to all, and there seemed to be no good reason for not following that precedent this year.

“No other mode for choosing the Queen was suggested by anyone, regardless of how much interest they may have had in the event. Any suggestions would have been gladly received and carefully considered. The manner of selecting the Queen for similar occasions differ in all cities, and there is no custom to follow.

“It seemed to be absolutely fair to allow the young men who were to 'pay the fiddler' to select someone acceptable to themselves, and this has been done. The Queen and escorts have, in a like manner, selected seven maids of honor. We can assure Spinster that it has been the desire of the management of the Carnival, if such a thing exists, to please all and offend none.

“It is not Johnson City's Carnival in the sense that Johnson City pays for it, for there is no fund provided for this purpose. Each merchant or individual pays for his float or decorated vehicle in the parade and the Queen's float is provided by her escorts.”

The paper concluded with these brief words: “The newspaper is pleased to know there is so much interest in the matter and trusts the selections will be as satisfactory as they are well chosen.”¬†