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The Liberty Bell in Dayton

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on January 12, 1936

The Liberty Bell in Dayton

      For 15 minutes on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 18, 1904, Dayton gazed in patriotic interest on America’s most treasured historical relic – the Liberty Bell. Though more than 30 years have passed since that colorful episode in the city’s history, mention of will bring to scores of local residents vivid memories of that brief but colorful event.

     The historic bell had been on display at St. Louis, during the world’s fair held there in the spring and summer of 1904 and when that exhibition closed dozens of cities and towns along the route over which it was to be taken on its return journey to its permanent home in Philadelphia requested that the train be stopped at their respective stations long enough for citizens and school children who had not seen it in the Quaker City and who had not been in attendance at the St. Louis fair to view it.

     It was routed back by way of the Pennsylvania railroad and only the day before its departure from St. Louis was it known that a stop would be made in Dayton. Charles Snyder was the mayor of Dayton at that time and he delegated foremost citizens, to make proper arrangements for the reception of the historic relic. Clark faced a tremendous task and with short time in which to accomplish it. But he had a happy thought and putting it into execution, he enlisted the cooperation of Harry Feight, famous along about that time as a showman of unusual ability. Feight had achieved national fame as the first man to bring actual photographs of the “Passion Play at Oberammergau” to this country. He exhibited these pictures in every section of the United States, traveling under the name of “Harry Ellsworth.”

     Feight promptly visited “Bill” Lander, who was conducting a printing office on St. Clair st. near Third, and had him donate 10,000 copies of the national anthem, “America.” These were hurriedly printed and placed in Feight’s hands. Then the showman prevailed on Gov. Thomas of the Soldiers’ Home for the loan of the brass band at that institution, and that there might not be a last-moment slipup in his plans, he had General Manager Breen of the People’s railway furnish a special street car in which to transport the band. Then word was sent into every public and parochial school in the city that the Liberty Bell would stop in Dayton and could be viewed at the Union depot for a period of 15 minutes.

     The special train bearing the bell was scheduled to arrive at the station here at 3:10 but as early as noon interested local citizens had started wending their way toward the railroad station. By 2:30 thousands were on the scene and the traffic congestion was something never to be forgotten by those who participated in the rush. A semblance of order was maintained, however, through the experienced showmanship of Harry Feight, and when the train rolled in, accompanied by a number of world’s fair officials and Philadelphia dignitaries plans were moving smoothly as though they had been rehearsed.

     The train came to a halt, the covering quickly removed from the Liberty Bell, the band struck up the national anthem and the voices of many thousand school children were blended into one great chorus. Our old files assure us that it was an inspiring scene and one with few parallels in the history of the Miami valley. There was the usual “pushing and shoving,” but Chief Whitaker’s bluecoats were on the job and succeeded in maintaining a high degree of order. Within the brief space of 15 minutes every eye in the vast assemblage had been trained for a second on the bell that first proclaimed liberty in the land of which they were a part.

     At 3:25 the old bell was again on its way to its permanent resting place in Philadelphia, while on down the line, in Xenia, South Charleston, London, Columbus and other Ohio cities scenes similar to the one at Dayton were enacted.

     It was a red-letter day in Dayton, forgotten through the years that have brought other events to crowd out memory of it. But the old newspaper files do not forget. They stand as mute witness of Dayton activities, her joys and her sorrows, her progress and steady advancement as time has marched on. And the day Dayton greeted the treasured Liberty Bell is one of the many happy and inspiring chapters contained in that record.