On the glorious late autumn afternoon of Oct. 25, 1848, Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy Jr. looked up from the text of his speech and surveyed the enormous crowd assembled around the Frog Pond on the Common. His listeners, including many visitors who came for the day from nearby towns, numbered in the tens of thousands. With coy courtesy, he asked “if it were their pleasure” to witness the arrival of the city’s newest resource. The response was an overwhelming “Aye!”
At Quincy’s signal, a valve slowly opened, releasing thousands of gallons of water from the city’s waterworks, just constructed, into a splendid fountain in the pond. As a reporter breathlessly observed, after “a moment’s pause...there was a gush of rusty-looking water, small and doubtful at first, then spreading, and gathering strength, then rising with beautiful gradations higher and higher, until it towered up a strong, magnificent column of at least seventy feet in height, flashing and foaming in the last crimson rays of the setting sun!” Spontaneous cheers accompanied the booming of cannons and the igniting of fireworks. People laughed and shouted, men threw their hats in the air, and some even broke out in tears.