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Top 10 Biggest and Best Parties in History
Almost everyone likes a good party, and Cydro is no exception. It is common for even the most lavish parties be absent in history books, and this is probably because school kids are the primary audience. This trend, however, is somewhat extended to the internet. Perhaps it is because we never heard about them in class, or perhaps it is because historians collectively hate parties. This hub was written with the intention of not letting these parties be forgotten to history. If you just googled "best party ever" because you think that last night you made history, or that your party will go down as a historic rager, take into consideration these 10 gatherings that I have stumbled upon (and comment if I missed any):
Number 10: London Beer Flood: October 17, 1814
A peaceful scene on Tottenham Court Road in the parish of St. Giles in London, England was suddenly delivered into chaos on the morning of October 17th. With the advent of the industrial revolution, a vast urbanization took place that rapidly grew London's population. Industrial processes led to a rapid rise in beer production, and "beer Barons" started to develop in the city. One such beer Baron, Sir Henry Meux, had recently completed a brewing vat that was 60 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall. This was a culmination of a one-upping contest, where beer Barons constantly tried to out-do each other like modern day neighborhood dads buying obscenely large TVs. On the vat's completion, he dined with 200 guests inside the vat, and then had it filled with porter liquor. Unfortunately for Meux's Horseshoe Brewery, a corroded hoop on this particular vat failed and the whole structure gave way. The overwhelming force of beer on surrounding vats caused them to fall apart as well.
In the end, 1,470,000 L (or 100,215 1/4 kegs, or 7,516,132 beers) flooded the streets of St. Giles, causing at least 7 drownings. What causes this event to make the list, rather go down in history as a disaster, is because of the chaos that ensued. Rescue attempts of the injured failed because thousands of people came from surrounding areas to drink from the streets. More injuries came from this free-for-all because the whole parish was completely intoxicated. When the injured were finally delivered to the hospital, they reeked of beer. This caused the hospital patients and hospital workers to also riot because they thought they were being cheated out of free beer.
So there had to be repercussions for Sir Henry Meux, right? Wrong. The court ruled that the beer flood was an act of God. Then again, wouldn't you assume 7,516,132 free beers to be an act of God as well?
Number 9: Andrew Jackson's infamous White House House Parties
Andrew Jackson, a war hero, was one of the first presidents to run on a populist platform. He took populism to a whole new extreme, and when he handily won his first term in 1828, his ensuing inauguration was sure to be a party. It took him three weeks to make it to the capitol, but 10,000 people came from around the area to witness the event. By the time he made it to the White House around noon, 21,000 people were inside and on the lawns. Originally there had been ship cable tied around the perimeter to block crowds from entering, however the crowd managed to break through earlier that morning. To the freaking White House.
The crowd was at one point so rowdy that Andrew Jackson had to climb out of a White House window to escape the mob. There seemed to be no way to disperse the mob, that is until someone had the bright idea to place large tubs of punch and liquor outside.
Jackson continued this trend of throwing occasional house parties at the White House throughout his presidency. As one Supreme Justice sarcastically put it, "The Reign of King Mob seems triumphant." Times have changed, and I don't think it would help politically if Obama started to throw open house parties. Not to mention the Secret Service probably wouldn't want to take on the added responsibilities (although they would have no problem hiring the strippers).
Number 8: Sultan of Brunei's 50th Birthday
Today's movie stars and pop stars are known for throwing outlandish and extravagant parties. After all, Kim Kardashian spent over $1 million on a cake, and Simon Cowell hired a fleet of limos on his 50th birthday. So why aren't their birthday parties on this list? Because don't know how to party like Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien (often referred to as anything but that) knows how to party. I will call him the Sultan of Brunei.
Instead of ordering pizza and beer like you might do, everyone in attendance (all 10,000 or so) was treated with the most expensive caviar and champagne. Instead of plugging in an iHome or whatever you have as a poor excuse for music, the Sultan flew in Michael Jackson for $16 million. Like a professional money-waster, he didn't even attend the concert. He later flew in Whitney Houston for his daughters birthday too. I guess that's what happens when you're one of the world's last absolute monarchs.
Anyway, the final total came to $27.2 million in 1996 money. Keep that in mind when you're trying to decide on whether or not you should rent a limousine for your next birthday.
Number 7: Admiral Russell and perhaps the Largest Cocktail Ever
In 1694, Admiral Russell invited 5000 of his closest sailor friends to come partake in a large drink-like-a-sailor bash. 5000 people is a lot of people, but hey, let's be honest, that alone won't make it on this list. You have to do something BIG. Well, the party lasted longer than expected. In fact, it lasted a week. That's because Admiral Edward Russell, then commander of the Mediterranean fleet, had filled up a large fountain with 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of Malaga wine, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 5 pounds of nutmeg. One can only imagine how rowdy a group of 5000 sailors (whom I assume were mostly men) with that much alcohol were, and it took them a week to drink it.
Worried about hygiene issues dealing with a massive communal punch bowl? Don't fret, because the whole thing was covered in an elegant tent to block rain and prevent evaporation. Admiral Russell, like any good host, had to have bartenders as well. It was hard for that to physically be possible due to the walls of the fountain. So the only solution was to have a couple of bartenders paddle around in a canoe floating on the Cognac and serve the drinks that way. Naturally, the two bartenders had to take 15 minute shifts because of the fumes. I'm sure falling overboard was not ideal, either.
Number 6: Founding Fathers celebrate a new Nation
What happens when legendary historical figures sign a world-changing document? They celebrate in a way that makes historians blush of course. After about 4 months of relentless debate, the 42 or so remaining members of the constitutional convention decided to indulge on the night of September 15th.
When they hit the local Philadelphia tavern they drank "54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch." That comes out to enough alcohol on average for each individual to pretty much sweep each man off his feet. Not only that, but the innkeeper had to charge extra for damages caused during the night.
What sets this night apart from other nights was the historical context. How often have you celebrated becoming a founding member of a government for a baby nation alongside war heroes, authors, politicians, and everything else? Not only that, but it was likely Ben Franklin, George Washington, and James Madison were all having the time of their lives together. It seems unfair that Samuel Adams, who was not in attendance, had a beer named after him.
Number 5: Woodstock
You might've expected that this made the list, but it is hard to deem where. Some of the older readers might have placed it at number one, but I think we'll have to wait a few years to make that determination. Anyway in 1969 over half a million people congregated in what was essentially a dairy farm with a small lake on one end of it (which soon became a popular skinny dipping destination). Even more were stuck on the roads coming into the city of Bethel, NY where it was being held. It became physically impossible to drive there because of the overwhelming traffic coupled with abandoned cars; and so many never even made it to the farm.
Woodstock has become legendary as both an event and a cultural movement. Although the Bohemian style and peace signs eventually gave way to big hair and black leather, hippies still made their mark on history. Few modern events have left such a legacy in American culture.
It is hard to describe Woodstock without the images. 500,000 people packed into one farm is no small task, and it was considered an achievement by many that no riots or significant altercations took place. Peace, Love, and Happiness seemed to prevail. Also, hunger, thirst, and drugs prevailed, but those usually fall secondary in first hand accounts. There was simply no practical way to feed and provide water for all those people fast enough because of the immense traffic. An average trip to the bathroom or to scavenge for water usually took about thirty minutes to an hour. On top of that, steady rain fell upon already soggy ground creating mud pits throughout the farm. Patrons didn't seem to mind, and hygiene fell in priority to playing in the mud.
As many drugs, people, and food shortages there were, only two deaths were recorded at Woodstock. One was from a tractor accident and the other from an overdose. There was, however, a mother that gave birth as well.
The real draw was the music. The cast list included:
- Grateful Dead
- Jimmy Hendrix
- The Who
- Janis Joplin
Perhaps pop culture will never come close to outdoing the festivities at Woodstock. There were, however, other parties in history that make even Woodstock look relatively tame:
Number 4: A Royal Throwdown: The Field of the Cloth of Gold
What happens when two kings decide to throw a party? Even better, what happens when they try to out-do each other?
It's a jolly ol' time, that's what. And that's exactly what happened for 17 days from June 7th to June 24th in the year of 1520.
The British and the French were getting along for the first time in hundreds of years and for the last time in hundreds of years. No, seriously. It was the first time since they tried to end the 100 Year's War in 1398 that the monarchs had met (which also involved a huge party, but only for 3 days). It was the last time they would meet until 1848, 328 years later if my math is right (except for one small meeting 16 years later). Political relations in that time period often reflected personal relations of the monarchs, in this case Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. What brought them together? Love? Peace? Hippies? No, it was the Ottomans invading into southern Europe that caught their attention.
So why was this number 4 when Woodstock was number 5?
- Temporary Castles
- Hundreds of tents made of silk and gold thread
- Royal clothes made with silk and gold thread
- Archery Contests
- The British brought 2,200 sheep
- Week long feasts
- 17 days
But there was music at Woodstock...
The best music that England and France had to offer in 1520 was there, too. However, Jimi Hendrix almost made up for all of those things I just listed.
Like I've already mentioned, for some reason all this partying still did not maintain peace between the nations. Rumor has it that Henry VIII challenged Francis I to a wrestling match that ended poorly for Henry VIII. He stormed off and within a month or two they were back at war.
Number 3: Nero's Attempts to be Popular
The Great Fire of Rome was kind of a big deal. Ten out of the fourteen districts of the world's mightiest city were severely damaged; the fire lasted six days and completely destroyed three of the districts. The public rumor soon afterwards was that Emperor Nero had started the fire, however, this has been thoroughly debated and contested. The closest thing we have to a consensus is to say that it is unlikely Nero actually started the fire.
And this is where the partying comes in. Nero built a gigantic villa called Domus Aurea that had one sole purpose: partying. Oh, and he did it immediately after the fire. Oh, and he emptied Rome's treasury and built upon the ashes of the houses of the district that was completely destroyed. Oh, and some of those houses belonged to Nero's closest enemies. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why some citizens were upset about all this. It also fueled the rumor that Nero started the fire.
What was this building like? It was vast, on the order of 300 acres, which included a man-made lake. Domus Aurea was comprised of 300 rooms, none of which included petty things like kitchens, bathrooms, or bedrooms. It featured a gigantic 30-35 meter tall statue of Nero himself portrayed as the Sun god Sol. The walls, ceiling, and floor were covered in gold leaf, glass mosaics ahead of their time, and rooms featured fountains, pools, and everything else a Roman could imagine. The biggest architectural feat was the ceiling that, when cranked by slaves, rotated like the stars in the heavens while simultaneously flower petals and perfume filled the spacious central room.
Drinking, orgies, animals...
Nero knew how to party.
However, he also had a bad case of crazy ancient dictator syndrome. Not only was he tyrannical, but he also murdered his mother and stepbrother out of fear of assassination. Also, he persecuted Christians to a genocidal degree. In 68 A.D. he committed suicide, perhaps out of guilt but more likely because he feared assassination.
Rome celebrated Nero's death except for those lucky enough to profit from his excesses.
Number 2: VJ-day and VE-day!
Q: What was worse than the Great Fire of Rome?
When radio stations across the world broadcasted messages of Germany's surrender on May 8th and 9th in 1945, the whole world (well, the allies) began to simultaneously celebrate. After all, it isn't every day that the proponent of the costliest war in human history surrenders.
City squares in the United States, France, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union all packed with people. In fact, almost two million half starved British flocked to the street. The New York mayor had to encourage people to leave Times Square.
Ships issued rum rations, soldiers went AWOL, small European towns held parades, and soldiers were shipped alcohol from command posts. Unlike any other party on this list, it also involved masses of people going to church.
Perhaps the largest feat occurred in Russia when Moscow ran out of liquor. Many venues served free drinks for the celebration, and streets literally flooded ankle high in vodka.
The headlines in Australia read differently however. The Sydney Morning Herald's headline read "Since when has it been customary to celebrate victory halfway through a contest?"
About the time Russia was recovering from its hangover, America had delivered two nuclear bombs to Japan. On August 9th, the second of those bombs had been detonated, and Russia also declared war on Japan. August 10th, Japan promptly sent the United States its intention to surrender.
Riots, kissing, and parades made headlines. There has never been so many people crammed into Times Square since.
Number 1: Opening of the Roman Colosseum
If Nero's Domus Aurea wasn't enough to showcase Rome's power, its architecture, and its splendor....Only a few years later, in AD 80, the Colosseum was completed under Titus.
It was a 10 year project that included 50,000 numbered seats, a covered dome, and intricate mechanical relays that provided world class (yet incredibly bloody) entertainment. Perhaps the opening ceremonies in particular will never be matched again.
For 100 days straight (the second most on this countdown is 17 days) Rome celebrated the completion. Ancient Roman celebrations were different than modern day parties too. Liquor and orgies were commonplace, just as in Nero's festivities.
Did I mention bloody? In displays that would stop a member of PETA's heart, 9,000 total (mostly exotic) animals were killed. The Colosseum wouldn't slow this trend down, and some species are actually believed to have become extinct as a result of these gladiator displays.
It is estimated 2,000 gladiators died in the opening ceremonies alone. This doesn't include the thousands of men who were slaughtered in a Naumachia outside the stadium. What's a Naumachia you ask? It was a tradition that started under Julius Caesar where thousands of prisoners or slaves would fight to the death in a mock naval battle. Mock ships, mock waterways, and mock shipwrecks would be constructed and then turned into a bloodbath. There was also a smaller Naumachia put on inside the Colosseum, but historians are unsure whether they filled the amphitheater with water or not.
The tales of this festival has been preserved in history for almost 2,000 years. So has the foundation of the building they took place in. Next time you suggest that you are about to throw "the best party ever," you will have an idea what weight that phrase carries.