This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News in 1970
50 Years Ago: City’s Greatest Day
By George Alford
Dayton’s greatest parade started 50 years ago in San Francisco. The year was 1920. San Francisco was the site of the Democratic National convention and the party’s choice of candidates was about to throw Dayton into a state of ecstasy. After 44 ballots, delegates chose as the man who would represent the party as a candidate for president of the United States, three-time Ohio Gov. James M. Cox of Dayton.
Word of the July 6 Cox choice for president swept into the city the same day Cox himself received word of the victory from his Youngstown campaign manager, Edmund H. Moore. The city had never before received such national attention as it did on Aug. 7, 1920- Notification Day. Cox and his choice for vice president, Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, led a parade of some 50,000 people from Monument Ave. down Main St. to the fairgrounds. Flags were displayed on every building, people dressed in top hats and bonnets lined the streets along the line of march. The pavement thundered under the footsteps of 40 marching bands. Dignitaries from all parts of the country were present to hear Dayton’s joyous uproar.
All hotels, rooming houses, and boarding places were filled with notables in the ranks of the Democracy. Most stores gave Notification Day sales the day before and closed for the parade. Huge pictures of Cox were displayed on both sides of the street en route to the fairgrounds. Cox, owner and publisher of The Daily News, was the pride of the city. He had been governor of the state for three terms, and had managed a series of progressive acts during his governorship. His career had been marked with the passage of workmen’s compensation law, adoption of a budget system, reorganized of the rural school system, reform of the prison system and the writing into the statutes the mother’s pension law, child labor act, “blue sky” law, Warnes tax reform law and other measures.
A large delegation of Democrats from Marion, home town of Cox’s Republican opponent, U.S. Sen. Warren G. Harding, were shouting an anti-Harding slogan, “It’s getting hot on the front porch.” Harding had become noted for his front porch campaign. Others in the parade sang “Ohio, Ohio, We’ll Elect Jimmie Cox or Know the Reason Why” half-a-hundred times to the tune of “Oh, We’ll Ramble, We’ll Ramble.” It took the parade more than two hours to file past the fairground speaker’s stand. Wilbur and Orville Wright’s public celebration honoring their flight had drawn some 40,000 people. William Jennings Bryan’s speech here had pulled 50,000 people. Goldsmith Maid, world’s trotting champion horse, drew some 65,000 people.
But Dayton’s Notification Day parade ending at the fairground, had topped all other fairgrounds activities. An estimated 80,000 people were present. Dayton’s James M. Cox was only one of three candidates from Ohio running for president. Aaron S. Watkins, running on the Prohibition ticket was from Germantown. Harding, was publisher of the Marion Star. A total of five major candidates were registered for the coming elections. But this was Cox’s day. Dayton was his town.
Cox lost the November election to Harding by 277 electoral votes and 7,004,847 popular votes. Watkins managed to poll 189,408 popular votes. But the people of Dayton didn’t forget the pride that had been instilled in the city. The national attention that centered on the Buckeye state and the Gem city 50 years ago never has been recaptured.