The newly asphalted streets and the wide spaces of the fresh poured concrete sidewalks in Hannibal’s Historic District lent an amazing backdrop to the annual Folklife Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
For three and a half decades, this festival has served as a calling card to citizens and out of town visitors alike to come downtown and take a walk along memory lane – or more commonly referred to as Main Street.
The festival strives to re-enact an early period in this town’s past, when steam was used to power engines, horses pulled wagons, livestock moseyed along Main Street en route to market, and steamboats docked on the riverfront, bringing passengers and supplies, and serving as a vital communication link for the settlers.
The earliest merchants along Main Street sold essentials and luxuries ordered from distant ports and delivered exclusively by riverboat.
In 1852, Main Street merchant T.B. Stevens advertised in Orion Clemen’s Western Union newspaper a fine selection of breastpins, earrings, finger rings, pencils, lockets, gold fob, vest and guard chains and bracelets.
Collins & Breeds, doing business on the southeast corner of Main and Bird, was selling “Fine Gaiters” for women, to be worn over the shoe and lower leg for protection from the mud, and excrement left behind by the horses and livestock meandering along Main Street.
This dry goods store also sold gingham fabric, satin and mantua ribbons, French worked collars and capes, bleached and brown muslin fabric, and black lace veils.
T.R. Selmes, a major merchant on Main Street, offered for sale mackerel, brought direct from Boston via steamboat, in barrels.
Two doors east of T.R. Selmes building was P.A. Saul’s marble business, selling Italian and American marble to the Hannibal market.
A new brick livery stable opened on Main Street in 1852, by Webb and Kunkel, capable of accommodating 150 head of horses, and well supplied with carriages, hacks and buggies.
Carter W. Bryan & Robert W. Summers operated The Stove Store two doors north of the Brady House on Main Street, featuring the prize premium cook stove.
At midday Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, reminiscent of 1852, a riverboat docked on Hannibal’s riverfront, bringing passengers to the heart of the historic festival where they could shop in booths lining all of North Main and side streets for handmade jewelry and carvings, pork rinds and popcorn, original art and pottery.
No cattle roamed the streets – only a few dogs linked by leash to their owners. No need for “gaiters” to protect women’s shoes, because the streets and walks are pristinely paved now, as compared to the dirt, dust and mud of 1852.
The link that ties yesterday to today is topography. Main Street means commerce, and commerce consists of ordinary people plying their wares along this same river parallel since this town’s inception. Everything changes with time, but in this respect, nothing really changes on Hannibal’s Main Street, and that’s a tradition worthy of a grand autumn celebration.