The Sesquicentennial celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the University lasted for five sunny days, October 11 to 15, 1914. No expense was spared and Friends of Brown contributed the entire cost of the festivities. College Hill was festooned with ropes of laurel draped from the trolley poles. Japanese lanterns lit up the campus, and fence posts sported wooden tubs of evergreens and autumn berries. University Hall was illuminated as it had been for earlier celebrations.
On Sunday afternoon, October 11 President Faunce preached the anniversary sermon. Monday’s exercises reflected the religious history of the university with speakers representing the four religious denominations associated with the founding. Also the “Pageant of Warren” was performed at “Maxwelton” in that town where the college was first located.
Tuesday was a day for class reunions, capped by what must have been the most spectacular event of the week, the torchlight parade. Led by mounted police, the National Guard, the First Light Artillery, the Varnum Continentals, and the American Band, alumni and students in costume marched downtown through throngs of spectators. First came the classes of 1870 through 1899 in caps and gowns of white and brown, then the classes of 1900 through 1905 in the Puritan garb of the first settlers of Providence, followed by the classes of 1906 through 1908 as Quakers in gray. The classes of 1909 through 1914 dressed as the French soldiers who had occupied University Hall during the Revolution, while the senior class of 1915 were soldiers of the Continental army. Juniors wore uniforms of the War of 1812 and sophomores were French sailors of the Revolution. The freshmen as Narragansett Indians were dressed, according to a contemporary account, “in gaudy red blankets, their faces copper-color and a single feather stuck jauntily in their simple head-dresses.” Costumed representatives of special events came next, the crew of 1873, the 1870 baseball team, Colonial and early nineteenth-century gentlemen, and finally, those marchers of other days, a recreation of the Junior burial with coffin and books on their way to a “cremation.” The glorious procession returned from parading through the Van Wickle gates, decorated with laurel and electric lights, for a concert and book-burning which concluded the festive day.
On Wednesday an academic procession of twelve hundred, including many notable representatives of American and foreign educational institutions, marched to the Meeting House to hear the Historical Address by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes 1881. On Thursday there was an address by William Peterson, principal of McGill University, followed by the conferring of honorary degrees upon thirty-eight distinguished gentlemen. Celebrators could also enjoy three performances of “The Provoked Husband,” a play within a play “In Colony Times,” by Henry A. Barker and A. E. Thomas, which recalled the first production of “The Provoked Husband” in Providence in 1762, complete with John Brown and his trusty cannon in front of the improvised theatre, ready to ward off colonists who were protesting against the ungodly performance.
All of Providence joined in the celebration on Thursday. There was a pageant by grammar school children followed by relay races for high school students and dinner for four hundred at Churchill House.