Spotlight Collection

The Floral Fête Collection

This month, New York Heritage Digital Collections proudly spotlights the Floral Fête Collection from the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

From the collection description:

On September 14, 1893, a wealthy Boston hardware merchant and summer resident of Saratoga Springs, Franklin W. Smith, presented plans for "A Greater Saratoga" that would make the small upstate village "the summer capital of the United States." His blueprint included a floral parade and battle of flowers to top off – and elevate – the gambling-oriented summer season. Smith’s vision blossomed on September 4, 1894 when Saratoga Springs held its first floral fête with a grand ball in the evening at Convention Hall. It was reportedly "one of the grandest and most successful events of the kind ever held in this country" with over 25,000 in attendance. It became an annual event, growing from one day to four and adding bicycle races, golf and polo matches, fireworks, and fancy-dress balls at Saratoga’s grand hotels.

In 1901 and 1902 representatives from the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, which benefited from the annual crowds, and the Saratoga Floral Association visited New Orleans to purchase Mardi Gras floats to be used in the floral fêtes. The events were spectacular and drew large crowds but the cost bankrupted the Floral Association, which dissolved in 1905. The Saratoga Chamber of Commerce held a one-day revival in 1924, and in 2013 Saratoga Springs held a floral fête as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of thoroughbred racing in Saratoga, drawing a crowd estimated at 40,000.

The Floral Fête Collection housed in the Saratoga Room at the Saratoga Springs Public Library contains souvenir programs, photographs, postcards, stereo views, articles, and ephemera from Saratoga’s floral parades. The items in the collection were donated by a number of individuals. Some items were purchased by the library to add to the collection. The digital collection also contains images from private collections and non-profit institutions in Saratoga Springs.

In 2013, Jeff Durstewitz and Teri Blasko contributed an article detailing this unique story to Saratoga Living magazine. The full PDF version may be viewed and/or downloaded from the collection page.

About the repository:

Located in historic downtown Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Springs Public Library serves over half a million visitors each year. The present library building, one block from Broadway between Putnam and Henry Streets, opened to the public in August 1995. A highlight of the collection is the Saratoga Room, specializing in printed materials about Saratoga Springs' colorful and unique past. Audio-visual materials which help bring this history to life complement the print collection.

In 1950, the library was chartered to serve the residents of the Saratoga Springs Enlarged City School District, and the original library building opened at the corner of Broadway and Spring Streets. That building is currently home to the Saratoga County Arts Council. The Saratoga Athenaeum, a private subscription library founded in 1885, preceded the public library.


The Saratoga Springs Public Library is a member of the Capital District Library Resources Council, a member of the Empire State Library Network.