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100 Years Ago Today Dayton Went to Town For Columbus Day

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News
on October 10, 1992


Roz Young


            Monday is the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, and here in town we will celebrate by having no mail delivered and keeping the banks closed.
            But oh, boy, the celebration Dayton put on 100 years ago for Columbus Day really did the town proud.

            Dayton had planned its observance for October 12. President Benjamin Harrison and Congress, however, changed the date for the national holiday to Oct. 21 when Chicago dedicated the World's Fair buildings, although the fair itself would not be ready until the spring of 1893.

            Teachers in every school in the United States read Harrison's proclamation to their classes. It said, in part:

            "Columbus stood in his age as the pioneer of progress and enlightenment. The system of universal education is in our age the most prominent and salutary feature of the spirit of enlightenment, and it is peculiarly appropriate that the schools be made by the people the center of the day's demonstration. Let the national flag float over every school house in the country and the exercises be such as shall impress upon our youth the patriotic duties of American citizenship.

            "In the churches and other places of assembly let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer and for the Divine care and guidance that has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people."

            Dayton switched dates, and posters advertising the greatest civic celebration in Dayton history went up in every town and village within a 50-mile radius.

            The parade route was on Main Street from First to Fifth, east to Jefferson, Jefferson to Third and east to Cooper Park, where stands for 20,000 people had been erected for the program. Streets along the entire route were crowded with 150,000 citizens, many of whom stood on boxes to see over the heads of those in front. The parade began at 10:25 a.m. and lasted two hours and 35 minutes. Mayor G.C. McMillen was commander-in-chief, with J.M. Hassler chief of staff and Dr. J.S. Beck assistant.

            The order was as follows: First came the mayor and his staff, followed by militia from Dayton, Covington, Springfield, Gettysburg, Urbana, Piqua, Hillsboro, Georgetown, Troy, Sidney, Sabina and Hamilton.

            Then came many fraternal groups: Odd Fellows, Washington Camp of Patriotic Sons of America, German Union Veterans' Society, Letter Carriers' Union, Knights of Pythias, Senior and Junior Order of United American Mechanics, Knights of St. John, the Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Dayton Bicycle Club, the Young Butcher's Society, many local labor unions and the entire fire department.

            More than 20 bands marched in the parade, and each of the city's 21 public and parochial school districts had marchers and floats.

            One school, for example, was represented by a drum corps followed by two cavaliers carrying the school banner, 20 Zouaves and 20 uniformed schoolboys on horseback, 125 boys with red and white caps and red, white and blue sashes marching in the form of a diamond and carrying red, white, and blue umbrellas, 18 schoolgirls in red, white and blue marching in the form of a living flag, and a float, "Columbus Protecting the Nations."

            At Cooper Park Professor William L. Blumenschein directed the Metropolitan Band and a chorus of 600 singers. Following an overture by a brass band, A.W. Gump. president of the board of education, introduced the program. The Rev. William Macafee, Grace Methodist Church, read a scripture lesson, and the Rev. M.E. Wilson, First Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation. After the entire audience sang America, W.C. Kennedy, a law student, read an ode composed for the occasion by Mary Dean Proctor.

            Lucia May Wiant, recently appointed head of the elocutionary department of the Dayton public schools, gave an address, "The Swing of Four Centuries." The Rev. A.A. Willits, Third Street Presbyterian Church, spoke on "America - Her Development, Resources, Influences." A chorus of school children sang Fair Land Forever and the Rev. C.L. Work, Fourth Presbyterian Church, presented 21 flags, one to each school in the city, a gift of the various patriotic societies of Dayton.

            They were accepted by Col. William H. White, superintendent of schools, who then proposed three cheers for the flag. "The lustiness of the response," reported The Evening News and Times, "was almost sufficient to raise the canopy of heaven."

            The Rev. Lewis Bookwalter, First United Brethren Church, pronounced the benediction. "It was," said the newspaper, the largest, most patriotic and most orderly assemblage ever seen in Dayton."