In their own words...

“War satisfies neither the victors nor the vanquished. Perfect peace alone satisfies.” 

 

—  Samuel Hill, 1921, Peace Arch Founder

In their own words...

“War satisfies neither the victors nor the vanquished. Perfect peace alone satisfies.” 

 

—  Samuel Hill, 1921, Peace Arch Founder

Our History

More to come in the near future!

On June 14, 2015, the Hands Across the Border Revival is held at the Peace Arch at the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Blaine (Whatcom County).  It's a celebration of the return of the Hands Across the Border celebration, which had been abruptly cancelled after the 2012 event.   Sunshine and smiles abound as the crowd celebrates the celebration's comeback.

 

How Could We Not Bring it Back?

 

The Peace Arch was built to commemorate 100 years of peace between Great Britain and the United States, but the theme of the annual Hands Across the Border celebration was to celebrate the historically peaceful and friendly relations between the United States and Canada. The celebration had been a popular draw since its 1937 inception, so it was a shock in February 2013 when the announcement came that it had been cancelled.  It had been temporarily cancelled a few times before, but this time it was supposedly permanent. Organizers blamed rising costs and fading volunteer interest.  Many thought Hands Across the Border would fade into memory as have many parades and celebrations which were popular in the twentieth century.

 

It didn't.  Though it wasn't the celebration's sponsor, the United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association (USCPAA) had posted the initial cancellation notice online. So many people then contacted the association to ask what could be done that in 2014 the USCPAA surveyed 530 prior participants to gauge interest in reviving the celebration. The response was overwhelmingly positive. USCPAA founder Christina Alexander explained, "We saw how much people loved it and what it meant to them. OK, there's the historical component, but it really means so much more than that to people, especially the kids. How could we not bring it back"(interview).

 

Smiles and Songs

 

The USCPAA established a first-ever website for registration and a fee of $15 per person to cover costs. (Previously the celebration had been funded by donations and souvenir sales.)  Eventually more than 1,600 registered.  The event has long been a favorite of the boy and girl scouts from both the U.S. and Canada, and many of the registrants were scouts; one troop came from as far away as Arizona. Hundreds more unregistered visitors joined them at the Peace Arch on June 14, 2015.

 

The weather was perfect, the crowd happy, the grins the same as in years past as the procession paraded through the Peace Arch portal at the traditional 1 p.m. hour.  Songs were sung, speeches spun, memories made. (And lots of scout patches swapped.)  The ceremony was slightly abbreviated from recent years, and the nearby border crossings weren't closed as they had been during previous ceremonies. But these subtleties didn't matter. People were just glad to be there.

 

Spiritual and Ethereal

 

What is it about the Peace Arch and this celebration that has such an impact on people? A few quotes from the USCPAA survey tells it from a scout's view:  "It was an excellent experience as a youth and I believe it helps to broaden horizons and open up your world view... It is important as a young person to see that people who you believe to be so much different from you really aren't that different at all," one wrote. Another added, "I loved getting to know new cultures, troops from far away, and visiting the border of another country. As an adult, I see how this experience shaped who I am" ("Help Reestablish…").

 

To some it's almost spiritual. The Peace Arch was dedicated by Sam Hill (1857-1931) in 1921, shortly after the 1918 American victory in the War to End All Wars (World War I).  Hill -- and others -- dreamed of a perfect world peace following the war, and his arch is a symbol of that vision. History hasn't played out that way, and it won't.  But if you walk through the portal and come out the other side or stand in the accompanying park and look out at the water and mountains stretching into forever you can almost believe that it will; it's an ethereal feeling, one that doesn't always lend itself to words.

 

by Phil Dougherty        

June 25, 2015

Sources:  "Hands Across the Border 94-Year Tradition Ends," News 1130 (Vancouver, BC) February 3, 2013, website accessed June 7, 2015 (http://www.news1130.com/2013/02/03/hands-across-the-border-94-year-tradition-ends/);  Alyssa Pitcher, "Hands Across the Border to Return This Summer," The Northern Light (Blaine, WA), April 22, 2015, website accessed June 7, 2015 http://www.thenorthernlight.com/2015/04/22/hands-across-the-border-to-return-this-summer/);   Tracy Holmes, "'Hands' Annual Tradition Up in Air," Peace Arch News (Surrey, BC), February 7, 2013, p. 3;  HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "The annual Peace Arch celebration returns on June 13, 2010" (by Phil Dougherty), http://wwwhistorylink.org (accessed June 7, 2015);  "Help Reestablish Hands Across the Border," United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association website accessed June 7, 2015 (http://www.handsacrosstheborder.info/);  Phil Dougherty interview of Christina Alexander, June 14, 2015, Blaine, Washington.

Hands Across the Border Revival is held at the Peace Arch on June 14, 2015.

By Phil Dougherty

Article courtesy Washington State History link

The first Peace Arch Celebration was held on November 11th, 1937, as a
 joint U.S.-Canadian Armistice Day Celebration.

History Brochure download

History Brochure download

American & Canadian Scouts

American & Canadian Scouts

Peace Portal Arch, Tuesday Sept. 6th, 1921, at 2p.m. Dedication. Canadian Boy Scouts on left United States Scouts on right. Fred H. Bates Asst. Commissioner North Vancouver, S. M. Parks Scoutmaster Surrey Troop. Photo courtesy Vancouver City Archives

September 6th, 1921

September 6th, 1921

Youth from the USA & Canada wave flags celebrating the arrival of the dignitaries at dedication ceremony.

Blaine Juvenile Band

Blaine Juvenile Band

Blaine Juvenile Band helped provide music at the dedication ceremony on Sept. 6th, 1921

Archive Photo May 22, 1956

Archive Photo May 22, 1956

A crowd estimated at 20,000 watched as Canadian & American Veterans & School Children conducted the Peace Arch Ceremonies at the annual celebration.

Lady Baden Powell

Lady Baden Powell

Lady Baden-Powell of England, en route from Canada to the 33rd Girl Scout National Convention in California, paused at Blaine, Saturday, October 22, 1955,where she dined with a welcoming committee at the new Border Café, and addressed some 300 Girl and Boy Scouts, Cubs and Brownies and their leaders, gathered at the Peace Arch that afternoon.

Dedication September 6th, 1921

Dedication September 6th, 1921

View north on September 6th, 1921

President Lyndon B. Johnson & Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Signed the Columbia River Treaty at the Park in 1964.

"The Peace Arch Rises  -  22minutes

as seen on the History Channel History Explorer 

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The International Peace Arch Association (IPAA) is a privately funded nonprofit organization dedicated to the heritage and preservation of the International Peace Arch and parks. 

The International Peace Arch Association (IPAA) IRS TAX ID 91-1677620 formerly known as the United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association P.O. Box 2564 Blaine, WA 98231- 2564 USA | 360-332-7165 info(at)Handsacrosstheborder.info Copyright © 2020 International Peace Arch Association (IPAA)

Archive Photo May 22, 1956

A crowd estimated at 20,000 watched as Canadian & American Veterans & School Children conducted the Peace Arch Ceremonies at the annual celebration.