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November 03, 2016

Earl Brooks Photography: Political Fun in 1900

Earl Brooks Photography: Political Fun in 1900

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Politics seems to be on everyone’s mind these days and so, avoiding modern contests, I thought I would look at an event in Noblesville from 116 years ago. The Brooks collection – featured in previous posts here, here, here, here and here – has some photographs labeled “Republican rally 1900”.  The rally occurred on October 2 and, upon investigation, turns out to have been quite a large affair. It received coverage in the Indianapolis papers, the Noblesville Ledger and the Noblesville Democrat.

The 1900 election was between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. Their vice-presidential candidates were Theodore Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson (grandfather of the later presidential candidate).

At that time, Noblesville was in the Ninth congressional district, (now it’s in the Fifth) and was represented by Charles Landis, who wasn’t at the rally. State Attorney General W. L. Taylor and Anderson Mayor M. M. Dunlap were the main speakers. The issues on everyone’s mind were economics and imperialism (i.e. foreign policy).

rally-2The event was held in a new factory – the McElwaine-Richards Enameling Works – which was on the south side of town by the railroad tracks. The building was finished but the machinery had not yet arrived, making a space that could hold hundreds of people. The crowd began assembling on the square at 6:00 where the parade was to march to the factory. Dr. E. C. Loehr’s musket club provided some noise.

When the special train came from Indianapolis arrived at 8:00 with participants, hundreds of roman candles were set off. The parade started on the north side of the square with the band from the When Store in Indianapolis and included the Marion Marching Club, the band from Omega in White River Township, the Arcadia Drum Corp, the Indianapolis Drum Corp, Loehr’s musket brigade and the highlight of the parade – 200 mounted member of the Marion County Rough Riders Club with “Colonel” Cyrus J. Clark leading. These were not actual members of the Rough Riders troop who had been led by Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba, but were a sort of a tribute group put together for the election. They can be seen in dressed in copies of uniforms of the actual soldiers. They can be seen in above and here in copies of uniforms of the actual soldiers. Clark had never served in the military, but had been born and raised in Hamilton County, so he was quite popular.

Picket signs can be seen in the second photo. Unlike modern ones, they were four sided and made of cloth stretched over a frame. A lantern could be put in the center to highlight the message. Slogan written on them reflected a variety of contemporary issues and included: “Republicans open factories, Bryanism closes them”; “Colored voters, remember North Carolina”; “The issues are prosperity and patriotism”; “In McKinley we trust, in Bryan we bust”; “Remember our dead lie buried in the sands of Luzon”.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-11-40-49-am The parade did have some diversity to it. Curiously, one group mentioned in the Democrat, but unmentioned in the Ledger, was Reverend Barney Stone and his group of African American drummers. At this point in history, the Democrat party and media were anti-civil rights. Several women spontaneously marched with the parade and highly decorated wagons and carriages filled with women can be seen in the photo above. The Democrat newspaper was condescending about the drummers and the women. The parade took a looping route from the square, going down 9th Street, turning east on Walnut to 10th, going north to Hannibal, then east to 8th Street, and down to the factory.

When the parade reached the factory, the meeting began. It opened with a song by the Marion Glee Club, which was so enthusiastically applauded that they had to do an encore. Then the speakers had their say, with Mayor Dunlap being judged later as the better speaker of the two and the meeting was closed with some well-received songs from the four members of the Noblesville Glee Club. In the end, there were hundreds of people in the parade and thousands of people watched it. Even the Democrat newspaper had to acknowledge that it was a success. It’s great that today we have Earl Brooks’ photographs to get a sense of what they might have seen.