The cannon that started the first Red Rose Five-Mile Run in July 1977 infamously shattered the display windows of three stores in the first block of North Queen Street.
That fiasco disturbed the late Mayor Richard M. Scott, but drew chuckles from many bystanders. No one was hurt. The windows were insured.
That was not the first time a cannon fired downtown broke glass. Celebrants firing cannons in Centre (Penn) Square in May 1862 blasted at least seven plates of glass out of their frames.
We know that because George H. Bomberger paid Steinman Hardware, a business on West King Street, $1.79 to repair the damage. That included 84 cents for seven plates of glass, 8 cents for half a pound of putty and 87 cents to Jacob J. Etter for performing the repair.
All of this is detailed in an insurance receipt dated May 7, 1862. Former Lancaster Mayor Charlie Smithgall, owner of an enormous number of cannons, recently received the receipt from a friend.
A tiny notice in the Lancaster Intelligencer of May 6, 1862, explains why cannons were fired in the square.
“A salute of thirty-four guns was fired last evening in Centre Square,” the newspaper reported, “in honor of the evacuation of Yorktown and the bloodless, though highly important triumph of General McClellan and his brave army.” Also, bonfires blazed, flags flew and bells rang throughout the city.
Imagine 34 cannons blasting away in Penn Square. If a single artillery piece could do so much damage in 1977, one has to wonder whether there was more breakage in 1862 that does not appear on this receipt.
The explosive celebration was premature. After Gen. George B. McClellan captured Yorktown, Virginia, he began moving his army up the Virginia Peninsula. He was roundly defeated during the Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1) by the Army of Northern Virginia under its new commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Back in Lancaster, the man who paid for local window repairs — George Bomberger — was a prominent city resident, proprietor of a dry goods store on East King Street, loyal Democrat and temperance advocate.
He was the husband of Henrietta Steinman Bomberger, a daughter of John Frederick Steinman Jr., the first president of the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mill Co. and an ardent Democrat himself.
One of Henrietta’s brothers, George Michael Steinman, was operating Steinman Hardware (on the site of the current Pressroom Restaurant) when Bomberger paid to replace the glass. Another brother, Andrew Jackson Steinman, was instrumental in purchasing the Intelligencer (one of LNP’s ancestors) two years after the cannon fiasco.
Smithgall, who has fired cannons in Penn Square several times without damaging anything, has added this historic receipt to the museum collection of cannons, firearms and other equipage on his farm in Drumore Township. He will open the museum to the public for the first time Nov. 22-24.
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler” column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at email@example.com.