It was the nation’s history of four hundred years that passed in effigy on the floats. Pocahontas again interceded with her father Powhatan for the life of Captain John Smith. Balboa caught sight of the waters of the Pacific. The tea was dumped into Boston Harbour. The Minute Men stood fast on the Common. Mad Anthony Wayne stormed Stony Point. Molly Stark’s husband said, “There are the red-coats. We must beat them today, or Molly Stark’s a widow!” Cornwallis surrendered his sword at Yorktown. Somebody in the Mexican War said, “Give them a little more grape, General Bragg!” and Dewey said: “You may fire when you’re ready, Gridley!”
In some of these events of the later years the writer had a personal share. From a seventh-story window at Twenty-first Street he looked down on the procession in honour of Admiral Dewey. From a vantage point at Thirty-fifth Street he witnessed the passing of floats in the Hudson-Fulton celebration. But there was one day on the Avenue, perhaps the greatest and most inspiring of them all, in which he did not share. That was the day that saw the visit of the Allied Commissions, the day of the coming of a Marshal of France. About the time that the guns on the warships and land batteries at Hampton Roads were thundering out their message of welcome to the distinguished guests, the writer in company with six other Americans who had been with the Commission for Relief in Belgium was entering French territory, after a never-to-be-forgotten journey through Germany. How such of us who claimed New York as our own thrilled as we pictured three thousand miles away the city’s greeting to the grave, silent man whose cool genius had hurled back the Teuton hordes at the very gates of Paris! How we built up on the limited descriptions that had been cabled across the Atlantic! We saw the sweep of the procession up the Avenue, the thousands upon thousands of flags, the densely packed throngs lining the sidewalks, the eager faces in the windows of the tall buildings, and in the motor-car, for which all eyes were searching, the smiling, saluting Marshal.
“About now,” said one of us, “he should be passing Madison Square.”
“I can see the people on the sidewalks and crowding the windows and the housetops,” said another.
“And I,” said a third, “can hear the roar that goes up from the Avenue when the people catch sight of him.”
“When he hears that roar,” said a fourth, “he will recall the guns of the Marne as gentle zephyrs.”
To that last statement and sentiment we all proudly agreed. For despite the three thousand miles of intervening ocean it was our New York and our Fifth Avenue.
Some Avenue Clubs in the Early Days